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The Shinano, at 374 km the country’s longest river, empties into the Sea of Japan at Niigata City. Salmon still migrate back from the open ocean to this river of their birth to breed and die, but a few decades ago they would arrive to spawn not only in the main river but also in its many tributaries, way inland.

The Torii River is one such tributary — one which flows just meters from my study window up here in the northern Nagano Prefecture hills. The Torii is a fast, usually clear, and very cold mountain stream that rushes down from 2,053-meter Mount Kurohime and its slightly lower neighbor, Mount Togakushi, to join the Chikuma River — which flows into the Shinano.

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