Hidden and scenic, Kurobe route to accept more annual visitors from 2024

JIJI, Kyodo

Kansai Electric Power Co. and the Toyama Prefectural Government have agreed to open a route between Keyakidaira Station, the terminal station of the Kurobe Gorge Railway, and the famed Kurobe Dam to more of the public by at least fiscal 2024.

The 18-kilometer Kurobe route, which connects the station in the city of Kurobe with the dam in the town of Tateyama, is now used by Kansai Electric to transport construction materials.

“It’s an valuable industrial tourism route where you can learn about the history of electric power development,” Toyama Gov. Takakazu Ishii said at a news conference in Tokyo. “It will contribute greatly to (the government’s push to develop a more) tourism-oriented nation.”

The route was established in 1963 after difficult construction work by the electricity supplier as it looked to develop the Kurobe River as a power source.

The route includes a tunnel featured in Japanese author Akira Yoshimura’s nonfiction work “Konetsu Zuido” (“High-temperature Tunnel”) and the Kurobe River No. 4 power plant. Visitors take a trolley train, a funicular train and a bus to get to the dam.

Currently, Kansai Electric accepts some 2,000 tourists annually for the route through a scenic mountainous area. The prefectural government had demanded that the power firm open the journey to the broader public.

In the last fiscal year, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, a tourist route that passes through the Hida Mountains, also known as the Northern Alps, attracted some 930,000 domestic and international visitors.

Ishii and Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane signed an agreement in Tokyo last week to further open the route to the public.

“I want many people to feel Kurobe,” Iwane said at the signing ceremony. The power firm and the prefectural government plan to accept up to about 10,000 visitors per year on the route, and Kansai Electric is now set to proceed with safety work to prevent a cave-in.