Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Light and Dark Sides of the Watarase River

Railcar Watarase Type Wa 89-310 at Kami-kanbai Station

Watarase-gawa is a major river in the northern part of the Kanto Plain, north of Tokyo. It's about 100km in length and its source is at the Kanto Mountains. The river passes downward to join the Tone River and eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Watarase River reveals two faces in its basin… a light side and a dark side.

The light side is a clear stream (see the bottom photo). It's especially beautiful during April and May when all the forests along the river are freshly green, and between October and November when the leaves have changed color. Superb hot springs also spread throughout the area.

The dark side is a starting point of environmental pollution in Japan. In the basin, copper resources were found in the 17th century and had been developed for long time. But, after adopting modern mining technologies in the late 19th century, people had been suffering from mineral poison such as gas and water from ore refineries. The mine was closed in 1973 after declining the production.

To visit Watarase River area, the Tobu Railway is convenient from Kitasenju, a northern terminal of Tokyo. Then, you can transfer to a local railway, the Watarase Valley Line at Aioi Station. A lovely chocolate colored railcar will bring you to the heart of the valley (see the top photo).

There is a beautiful valley and mined land, where currently it has been changed to a Mining Museum. You can enjoy the valley and the history of the mining as well.

Takatsudo Valley near Ohmama Station

More inforormation about Watarase Valley Railway (in Japanese):