Dam Tourism in Japan

Dam Tourism in Japan

Dam tourism has become a popular thing in Japan as outlined in the following article (copied from Mainchi, Japan). Perhaps some more of this in NZ would help raise the awareness in NZ of the benefits of dams to our communities….  Contact Energy made a good start with their very popular open day at Clyde dam last year!

Dam picture cards a hit with collectors, tourists

Like baseball cards and other collectibles, “dam cards” — cards with pictures and descriptions of dams in Japan — distributed to visitors at dams are finding popularity as a new novelty item.

The number of dams issuing such cards is growing and reached 500 in August this year. At first the cards were just a souvenir known among dam aficionados, but now there are said to be people whose main reason to visit a dam is to get one of the cards. A representative for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism says, “There are all kinds of dams, just like with trains, and there are no two that are exactly alike. This may be why people find collecting the cards fun.”

The cards were planned by a ministry employee who had heard that dam enthusiasts wanted some kind of proof they had visited a particular dam. Meant to serve the role of small-sized information pamphlets, the cards were designed with large pictures of the dams on them, as well as basic information such as what kind of architecture the dams employ. Cards were made for 111 dams at first, mostly ones managed by the national government, and distribution to visitors began in 2007 at places like the dams’ offices.

The basic rule on the dam card collections is that the cards can only be obtained by visiting the dams, and only one is handed out per person. An official with the project says, “It’s good that we did not overly advertise the cards,” suggesting that as a reason for their popularity.

There are around 2,700 dams in Japan, 500 of which are distributing cards. One of them, the popular Miyagase Dam in Kanagawa Prefecture, which releases water in a show for tourists, gives out about 60,000 to 70,000 cards per year. Recently, in addition to the uniformly designed cards produced by the land ministry, there are also ones designed by municipal governments and local tourism associations.

Since fiscal 2014, the ministry’s Chugoku Regional Development Bureau in the city of Hiroshima has been giving “certificates” to dam enthusiasts, based on the number of dam cards in the Chugoku region they have collected. The certificates for this fiscal year were distributed until the end of August, with 630 issued, about 1.6 times the 384 of the previous fiscal year.

“Most of the men (who apply for the certificates) are in their 40s or 50s, but women range more widely, with many fans aged 19 and younger or in their 40s,” says a spokesperson for the bureau.

There were 61 people this fiscal year who were certified as having visited all 76 applicable dams in the Chugoku region.

Saki Miyajima, 44, a dam enthusiast who has written about the cards, says, “Just from looking at such a huge thing (as a dam), you can experience a sense of getting away from the ordinary and be moved.”

Regarding the popularity of dam cards, he says, “There are some collectors who go to a dam to get one of the cards and view the dam as a secondary activity.”

There are also more shops around dams offering plates of curry and rice designed to look like a dam. At his restaurant in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, Miyajima also has had “dam curry” as a regular menu item since 2007.

He says, “Many areas with dams are dealing with the problem of a sparse population. Dam cards and dam-themed curry are contributing to helping these areas economically.”