Curzon visits Yamba Dam

Last week, I took a day trip out to see the Yamba Dam, a planned 130 meter high dam that would flood a small rural village snuggled in a valley in western Gunma. The primary motivation for the plan is to stop flash floods that rage through the Tonegawa River and cause havoc in Gunma, Saitama and Tokyo once a decade or so, and also to control and manage the water supply for the Kanto region and to generate power. If constructed it would only be Japan’s 25th largest dam and 10th largest reservoire, but it has turned into one of the more costly projects because of the massive peripheral infrastructure built to appease fierce local opposition.

The project has long been controversial and has dominated the headlines since the DPJ took power last month and announced the project would be cancelled — despite the fact that the project has burned through more than 70% of its US$4 billion budget.

As a student in the Robert D. Kaplan school of national policy, I wanted to see this project with my own eyes, and see the entire surrounding landscape, not suddenly arriving by train or car. So I took my bicycle by shinkansen out to Karuizawa in Nagano, from where I traveled north over the ride of Mt. Asama, then down into the valleys of Gunma and east into the valley, for a total day trip of more than 100 kilometers. This post summarizes my trip.

Traveling to the Dam
It’s easiest to feel the scale of the project by traveling from the west of the dam, down the river valley north of Mt. Asama in Nagano. As you approach the project, there are suddenly new bridges, most complete or near complete, covering imaginary areas of water. There is also the classic concrete lining of a natural water source that can be seen all over Japan. There are also brand new buildings sitting on the side of what will be a new lake.

Yamba Dam2

Traveling towards the dam brings the existing road “deeper” into the future lake, which brings us to the representative structure of the project, the No. 2 Yamba Dam bridge. The bridge is unique for its hollow structure and that they are building simultaneously out from the supporting stems. This bridge will permit road and rail to cross the lake and connect the two halves of the community. At present, there was also a JR line running through the town, which was also to be relocated up the mountain.

Yamba Dam1

You may notice that construction on the bridge is proceeding. The reasons for that soon became clear.

“Yamba Kan” (やんば館)
At the foot of the No. 2 Yamba Dam bridge sits a two-story facility called the “Yamba Kan,” built in 1999 by the Ministry of Land and Infrastructure to explain the dam’s purpose and its construction to locals and other interested visitors. Like a typical Japanese shiryoukan, it is a small but carefully organized and boasts an impressive set of topographical maps, audio-visual media, photographs, and information regarding the history and construction of the dam. There are also guides on hand to answer questions about the project.

Interest has exploded since the DPJ took power and have announced the cancellation of the dam. According to the informational (and pro-dam) website, the number of visitors to the “Yamba Kan” hit a record in September, receiving three times as many visitors as in August. When I arrived on a weekday afternoon, the 40 car parking lot was full, and included a chartered tour bus.

The guides were busy answering visitor questions. I patiently waited my turn to ask questions and finally got to ask: “The government has said they will stop construction on the dam but the bridge is still being constructed, why is that?” I asked in the most neutral of tones, but the guide answered on the assumption that I was an anti-dam fanatic — she responded, “They have to finish it! There is no other option! Otherwise are community will be split in two! There are already people living in homes on both sides of the mountain!”

Her explanation and the Yamba Kan maps made the overview of the project more clear. Before the dam could be built, the government had to relocate all 355 households whose homes would be submerged by the lake created by the dam. After decades of fierce opposition, it was only when the central government conceded on a costly compromise to relocate the villagers up the mountain up the mountain from their homes did they finally agree. This is more expensive than it sounds, and calls for massive earthworks and bridges. It would have been easiest to move the people up or down the valley to join their neighbors.

Yet the project is even more expensive than just moving people up the valley mountains. The mountains are too steep to be flattened to accomodate the whole community on one side of the steep valley, so construction has taken place on two sides of the lake, with massive bridges being constructed to connect the two sides of the lake. The government is of course footing the bill to construct the new houses, schools, roads, bridges, and other facilities for the relocated community.

Most of this construction is completed, as evidenced by the almost finished No. 2 Yamba Dam bridge. But once all this is done, I started to ask myself,

What happens now?
Frankly, no matter how hard Transportation Minister Maehara and the DPJ hold out on refusing to construct the dam, I can’t possibly see how the project cannot be finished. At best the DPJ can delay the plan a year or two. Here’s why:

* All the preliminary infrastructure is complete. Learning more at the Yamba Kan, my understanding of recent news stories where the DPJ said that they would continue to invest in “lifestyle” construction became clear. The DPJ will only halt construction on the dam itself, which was scheduled to commence shortly, but will continue construction that affects the lives of the locals. In other words, the bridge will be finished, as will the rest of the construction, but the dam for which all the construction was invested will not be built. What this means is that billions will be spent relocating a community for no reason whatsoever.

* It could cost votes in important prefectures. The DPJ probably isn’t too worried that the conservative, LDP-allied governors of Nagano, Gunma, Chiba and Tokyo are opposed to halting the project. But the governors of Saitama and Tochigi are independents close to the DPJ. The DPJ caucus of legislators in the Saitama prefectural assembly is vocally opposed to the cancellation. The six affected prefectures together comprise more than 25% of Japan’s total population, and the DPJ has strong voter support in Tokyo, Chiba, and Saitama. The only people firmly opposed to the plan appear to be environmental interest groups. Who knows, it could cost the DPJ votes and they may decide to proceed because of it.

* A future LDP administration may turn things around. Even if the Hatoyama administration does refuse to proceed with the plan, the LDP could always pick up where the DPJ left off.

40 thoughts on “Curzon visits Yamba Dam”

  1. “…despite the fact that the project has burned through more than 70% of its US$4 billion budget.”

    I admit that I am not well versed in this project, aside from the generalities, but I was under the impression that to actually finish the project, It is going to cost way, way more than 30% of US$4billion.

    I was also under the impression that it would be cheaper to stop and deconstruct and even partially payoff existing contracts, rather than continue.

    Am I completely and utterly incorrect? Probably… Usually am… (when it comes to this sort of thing at least)

  2. “That construction would cost $850 million, in addition to the $3.6 billion spent on the project so far. This, and about $1.8 billion in compensation that Tokyo might end up paying to Gunma Prefecture, where Naganohara is located, and other local governments could mean that canceling the dam would prove more expensive than completing it.”

    actually, perhaps I have it backwards. I guess it depends on how much compensation must be paid out.

    google “Japan Rethinks a Dam, and a Town Protests” for the NYT article I quoted this from. I’d paste the link, but I doubt my post would make it through the spam filter if I did.

  3. The reasons for completing the dam are certainly important, but I think they are counterbalanced by other reasons:
    1) The dam is widely panned as wasteful and unnecessary. Tokyo no longer needs any of the proposed benefits of the dam save for flood protection. But flood protection can be achieved through alternative means.
    2) Even though cancelling the construction will cost more than completing it, not having a dam there means none of the expensive maintenance or risk of deterioration should Japan’s economy take a turn for the worse. If the dam bursts it would probably cause flooding and death on par with any typhoon. There are so many concrete structures in Japan that maintenance is a serious concern.
    3) Now that Maehara has stuck his neck so far out on this issue, the DPJ may stick its heels in the ground just to avoid saving face. Also, a win on this issue will play to the DPJ’s core base of unaffiliated voters who care more about the big picture than parochial interests.

    Maehara has received a shitstorm of criticism for coming out and announcing his decision on day one. As someone who is not of the “there’s no turning back” persuasion, on principle I think airing this issue in public is a great idea. It forces all the players to come out and make their case in public, for one, and turns enough media attention on the issue that it won’t simply fade away.

    But it is very risky for Maehara – he now owns this issue, and it could backfire on Maehara if he loses the argument or he wins and a typhoon wipes out Tokyo under circumstances where Yamba could have saved the day. Indeed, if it turns out you are right and the argument for finishing the dam truly is overwhelming, Maehara will have a repeat of the e-mail scandal on his hands.

    Today newspaper reports say Maehara is considering a new study into this problem. Though Maehara and the DPJ already have a conclusion in mind, if they can produce a reasonably objective report that answers all the questions behind this dam, maybe this study can cut through the propaganda for and against the dam and serve as a template moving forward when assessing the other projects slated for possible cancellation.

    In a perfect world decisions on dams should be made by a process of objective cost-benefit analysis, regardless of support from the locals (who can be bought) or the general public (who are clueless about specific projects). Japan has a clear history of politicians using public works as bribes writ large to mobilize votes, and if Maehara has chosen Yamba as his example to try and right things I think I can support it.

  4. Stevicus: Thanks for that. The article sounds wrong because it uses a western journalist trick to use the name of the capital city, in this case “Tokyo,” to refer to the central government. In fact, Kasumigaseki (the local word for central government) could end up paying $1.8 billion in compensation to Tokyo and Gunma, and other prefectures involved.


    1) That the “dam is widely panned as wasteful and unnecessary” is true if you look at the entire project from start to finish. Not that it’s 70-80% done, I’m not so sure.

    2) Flood protection is less for Tokyo and more for Maehara, which has a history of being wiped out every decade or so by a flood. To wit, see: 1999. Your assertion that “flood protection can be achieved through alternative means” is lost on me. Pray tell, how?

    3) Your comment on dam maintenance and accidents is a straw man that lacks technical and historical perspective. First, the cost of dam maintenance is not a cost that Japan couldn’t afford to cover if the economy goes for the worse. Even places like Iran and Bangladesh are building and maintaining dams. As for dam accidents, there is no history of dam accidents in Japan, nor, indeed, in anywhere in the developed world in the modern era, that have killed people. The last dam accident that I can find which resulted in fatalities in modern era was the St. Francis Dam that failed in the US in 1928 and which resulted in 450 deaths.

  5. hi there,
    one thing that concerns me as an anti nuclear minded German living in Japan is what it means when DPJ representatives say they’d halt many dam projects. It means that Japan will need more nuclear power plants.
    Hitachi and the other big players in electromachinery business will be very happy to be (with arguments provided by DPJ) able to change their production from simple dam dynamos to more costly whole nuclear plants.
    This is am “unspoken truth” behind that dam construction debate in my opinion.
    Prost! (Cheers)

  6. Sounds like an interesting bike ride, Curzon. I disagree with your conclusion that the damn should be completed. What you’re saying is that scrapping the dam would mean the money invested would be wasted. This is the fallacy of sunk costs in action. While it’s true that the money would not ultimately produce something concrete, continuing an unnecessary project is irrational. The time and effort invested in the project does not justify that more time and money to be invested. In other words, there’s no need to throw good money after bad.

  7. @Lord Curzon/Adamu In 1975 there was a dam accident in China that killed 26,000 people as a result of flooding and another 145,000 from disease and famine.

    Though it had not much to do with maintenance so I don’t think that this is the type of accident Adamu was thinking of. But it is still a good disaster to know about.

    @Johannes I don’t know if more nuclear plants will have to be built. I think the dams that are being canceled are known by experts not to serve any real purpose at all. They were proposed decades ago and are being built today for the sake of construction companies.

    Japan has built 3,000 major dams and 500,000 smaller dams on its 35,000 rivers. Not all of them are hydroelectric dams but I don’t think the handful of dams the DPJ wants to cancel is going to change too much in the overall supply of electricity generation.

  8. Imagine that in a drunken rage you decide to build a Fart Museum in the square in front of your local town hall. You’re insanely wealthy so you bribe enough people to start constructing the Fart Museum. You’re almost done and then you have a moment of clarity: “oh no, a Fart Museum would be a really bad idea!” Do you keep going or cut your losses and quit while you’re ahead?

    The alternate flood-stopping mechanism is some kind of floodgate. It’s all there in Wikipedia…

    You are right that among other things I don’t know what the real technical impact of dam maintenance would be. So I am looking fwd to seeing that Maehara report.

  9. The US is actually in the process of removing a lot of smaller dam projects because of damage they did to local ecosystems. By blocking upstream access, many varieties of fish that return to spawning grounds (salmon being the best known) are unable to reproduce properly. Chinese river dolphins have also been driven at the very least to the brink of extinction, if not over it, largely due to dam projects (although industrial pollution has certainly played a huge part as well). There are definitely valid ecological arguments against unnecessary dams.

    @Johannes: I’m as against nuclear weapons as anybody, but after reading various arguments over the years I simply don’t buy the arguments against nuclear power. The danger of a meltdown in a modern nuclear power plant is virtually zero (remember that Chernobyl was a piece of shit lacking even the most basic of safety features, most notably the giant concrete encasement around the cooling towers that the Simpsons has made so famous), and while radioactive waste is a concern, I simply don’t believe that overall it is MORE of a danger than the environmental damage caused by the fossil fuels that nuclear power replaces when it is used.

    But as for the Yanmba dam’s ability to help alleviate the need for nuclear power, well, it’s electrical output is estimate at 11,700 kilowatts (

    By comparison, the Tsuruga nuclear power plant ( has two reactors online, the first one of which produces about 30x that amount, and the second of which produces over 100 times as much as Yamba would. There is also another reactor under construction, and a fourth one planned, each of which is rated to produce nearly 150x as much power as Yamba. While I’m sure that it is probably economically worthwhile to add the hydroelectric plant to the dam if it is already going to be completed, the idea that electric power is actually any justification for building it in the first place seems to me to be an absurd proposition.

  10. treblekickeresq, Banqiao was built in China, and in 1950 — hardly a dam in a developed country, and only barely in the modern era. The country with the biggest history of dam failures is India, but again, I simply don’t place them in the same category of technical sophistication and reliability as the developed world.

  11. “I’m as against nuclear weapons as anybody.”

    I guess you deserve a Nobel Prize too then.

    “The danger of a meltdown in a modern nuclear power plant is virtually zero.”

    I go either way on nuclear power, but there are certainly more dangers that go along with it than simply whether plants melt down or not. Transportation of nuclear waste to be reprocessed elsewhere has always been a bone of contention between the Japanese government and the greenies. Meanwhile, the fact that it has stockpiles of plutonium and the ability to produce weapons-grade uranium fairly easily have often led policy scholars (and regional rivals) to refer to Japan as a “virtual nuclear weapons state”. (Although this ignores Japan’s resident IAEA inspectors who would quickly blow the whistle if Japan were to take part in any clandestine nuclear monkey-business.)

    But to go back to Johannes’ point, I’m not sure how much a dam whose primary function is not power generation would go to displacing potential power generated by any nuclear power plant. Also, hydropower in Japan has just about run its course. Where are you going to find more rivers to dam up? If the nuclear power industry wanted to find an argument for more nuclear generation, it is hard to go past that one. They don’t need the Yamba dam to make their case.

  12. Unfortunately Japan has very few options for large-scale power generation other than nuclear power. They have very scant native supplies of fossil fuels, and their imports can be cut off far more easily than most (if not all) other highly developed nations that also must import most of their fuel. While uranium also has to be imported, it takes up relatively little space and can therefore be stockpiled for years ahead of time, unlike fossil fuels. And then of course there’s the relative environmental costs and dangers.

    Nuclear waste is certainly a very serious potential danger, but as long as that waste is well guarded it doesn’t hurt anything. Concerns about the dangers of transporting the waste are definitely valid, as the transport stage is the time when an accident is actually most likely, since the route between the nuclear plant and the secure storage facility is way harder to secure than either end. But Fossil fuels, on the other hand, produce both conventional air pollution and greenhouse gases no matter how you use them. Some (like natural gas) may be cleaner than others, but they all produce CO2 emissions.

    It would be great if Japan could run on solar power or something, but even if the technology were ready for that scale, does Japan have the environment and geography for it? I can picture the very flat and virtually cloudless American southwest, or the deserts of western China, being coated with hundreds of square miles of solar panels, but where exactly would you put a facility like that in Japan? Tidal power probably has a strong place in Japan’s future, but the technology isn’t quite there, and I don’t believe there are any installations of significance. Japan is also seriously deficient in wind power, which would probably be fairly well suited to much of the country.

  13. “Unfortunately Japan has very few options for large-scale power generation other than nuclear power.”

    People are talking about a massive leap in the effectiveness of solar power coming soon – and Japan is already a world leader.

    A giant Fart Museum could also be effective.

  14. What exactly is a secure storage facility and how long must the facility be able to safely store such waste. 10 years? 100 years? 1000 years?… 1,000,000 years? How in the heck do you regulate on that time frame? What about active faults under the site? Where do you find a geologically quiescent area in Japan for long term secure storage of waste?

    Having said that, I believe that from a carbon emission standpoint, nuclear is the only technically viable option for increased output. Solar technology just doesn’t yet cut it, unless clearing out an area the size of Montana and covering with solar cells is an option.

    Of course, we could always more efficiently distribute what is being generated now.i

  15. Japan is a world leader in the development and production of solar powers, but what about the deployment? And like I said, Japan isn’t exactly brimming with flat, empty, agriculturally unproductive land that can be used for solar power. Sure, it’ll be a big help when every roof is made of solar cells (which I think we can safely expect to happen within a few decades, if not sooner), but I don’t think that geographically Japan will be able to deploy solar power on the massive scale that the US or China will. I can certainly imagine half of Arizona being covered in solar panels in 50 years, providing power for some large percentage of the country, including those high speed rail lines that will actually be running by then. I don’t think something similar would be remotely possible in Japan.

  16. “What exactly is a secure storage facility and how long must the facility be able to safely store such waste. 10 years? 100 years? 1000 years?… 1,000,000 years?”

    That’s easy. 1000 years from now Japan will have a space elevator running from somewhere down around Okinawa, the nuclear waste will be sent up that, and it’ll be kept on the moon or shoved on a collision course with the sun if they really want to get rid of it. While we absolutely have the technology to launch waste into space today, launching nuclear waste in rockets would be FAR too dangerous, since the failure rate of a rocket is high enough we’d be almost guaranteed to have one explode in the atmosphere and cause a serious disaster.

  17. Well, there is already talk about transparent solar panels so every window could be pumping. There is also a chance that solar power could change the whole game. Canada or Russia, for example, could end up selling electricity cheaply abroad as they have the space and do not have the massive domestic economies to power. Think about the potential for North Korea, Mongolia, etc.

  18. Canada and Russia are also pretty far north. They get substantially less sunlight per day than their neighbors to the south, and also lack arid regions devoid of cloud cover. On the other hand, solar cells-like most electronics-are also more efficient in colder temperatures, so maybe it works out. I’m sure the math has been run and the numbers are out there somewhere.

  19. All you need to power the entire United States is a 100 mile x 100 mile square of photovoltaic cells.
    National Geographic, Sept. 2009.

    Not sure about Canada and Russia. In addition to the longer winter nights (offset by the long summer days) the engery per square metre of solar is less. Personally I foresee rafts of solar panels floating on the sea. And if you add in wave energy converters, tidal energy converters, those energy thingies that rely on the heat difference between the sea surface and the depths, plus the odd windmill, I think that will cover pretty much everything except my wife’s electricity use in winter….

  20. “All you need to power the entire United States is a 100 mile x 100 mile square of photovoltaic cells. National Geographic, Sept. 2009.”

    And that’s using current technology!? Japan may be fine after all. Something to do with all of those unused fields. There is also the potential to use Hokkaido or shave down a few islands. Or build a massive series of artificial islands.

    Roy, I see your point on Canada and Russia. Both, however, have uninhabited areas nearly as large as India so I think it balances out the sunlight issue.

  21. Jade, yes that is true. Btw, the original reference is:

    Turner, J.A., 1999, A Realizable Renewable Energy Future, Science 285 p. 687-689.

    Also a bit old but one of the best summaries I’ve seen is:

    Hoffert, M.I., et al., 2002, Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet, Science 298, p. 981-987.

    “The electrical equivalent of 10 TW (3.3 TWe) requires a surface array ~470 km on a side (220,000 km2 ). ”

    This is not so different from the total area of Arizona. And then you still need to efficiently deliver the energy.

  22. Hi all!
    First: sorry Curzon that my post turned the bias of your story a bit off topic!

    Just like Steve wrote: I do not know (and who ever can say he/she knows) if nuclear power is “safe”. It’s a matter of perspective on time spans.
    I just wrote in spite of a nuclear power plant (hereafter abbr. NPP) adjacent to a coastal village i wrote my dissertation about. And, of course i know that one in Tsuruga, too, but, wasn’t that one quite old?

    In the case of “my village”, the construction project for the NPP involved a lot of comensation to local people, just like it is the case with Yama, i suppose.
    The crux with NPPs lies within juridical details of the so called san-den-hô (the electrical laws; i think that was the right name… i could look it up, but, i’m too lazy now) concerning payments to neighboring communities.
    Sortly said, the surrounding communities around a NPP (within a circle of 25 km) get ¥100 for each 1000kWh produced. However, this money can only be spent for “projects for public purposes” like hospitals or sports centres etc.. Another aspect is the fact, that those payments are made only within a period of 20 years after completion and first operation NPP to produce electricity.
    Now, just imagine a community that built several health care institutions, let’s say a hospital. NPPs are usually built in remote areas with a low population density. And, such areas are in fact facing the problem of a shortage of medical specialists. A young doctor would only go there for work if his position (and salary of course!) is somehow more attractive than in more urban areas, i.e. a lifelong position is granted.
    But, how could such a community pay that staff 20 years after the run-up of a NPP? The is no cash flow anymore from the electicity company.
    In case of “my village” it had to conglomerate with others to a newly founded city to get the staff paid. The other side of that medal was the loss of former “independency”. I could go further, but, that’s reality there.
    Again and again we see a top-down structure of local opinion making when it comes to large scale projects like in Yanba or “my village”.
    The 上方 style attitude of Japanese bureaucrats is not only disgusting, but, ridiculous despite calls for “more regional autonomy”. We should listen more to the local people. Maybe the decisionmakers will do sooner if we all do more.

    If someone’s interested, i can post some bibliographic material concerning NPPs and fisheries (my main study is fisheries anthropology).

    Have a nice day (and sorry for my “Germanized” English)!

    ps: AFAIK, dams also serve the purpose of water control. Wittfogel’s theory on the so called “hydraulic society” might be an interesting starpoint for a sociological analysis of the dam problem in terms of (political) power.

  23. I see the answer: Japan recaptures Takeshima and uses it as the base for a gigantic solar panel field. Then repeats the process on each outlying rock and uses that to claim a bigger EEZ.

  24. Johannes, I would definitely be interested in some of those links. Interesting stuff about the payments to localities from nuclear plants, I didn’t know about that.

    And Tsuruga’s original reactor is pretty old, but like I mentioned there is a new, larger, reactor under construction and another one planned for the future.

    Incidentally, I’ve been to the Tsurugra plant, and saw their “PR Pavilion” designed mainly for elementary and middle school class trips. It’s full of propaganda exhibits about how safe nuclear power is. I mean, even though I agree that it’s generally safe, some of their propaganda was just absurd. My favorite part was the cosmic ray detector that you could look in and see the little flashes whenever a cosmic ray passes through it (I think it was around once or twice per minute). The implication was “look, radiation is all around us and it’s perfectly safe, no need to worry about the nuclear reactor next door!” The problem should be obvious. Nuclear power is safe NOT because the radiation is safe; unlike the cosmic rays that reach ground level, the radiation inside a reactor is insanely dangerous-the reactor is only safe because none of the radiation escapes! While I do support the use of nuclear power, I found the unscientific propaganda in their “PR Pavilion” rather troubling.

  25. Johannes, don’t worry about leading the discussion off topic. This happens often on this site and, as far as I can tell, is a good thing.

  26. Roy,

    on the Fukui NPP there exists an older, but, rather in-depth study by

    Ōtsu, Shōichirō (1981): Gendai gyosonmin no henbō katei [Development and Change of Nowadays Fishing Villagers]. Tōkyō: Ochanomizu shobō.

    Another nice, but, rather journalistic study is

    Watanabe, Tsuyoshi (1999): Onagawa genpatsu. Chiiki to tomo ni [The Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant. Coexistence with Local People]. Tōkyō: Tōyōkeizaishinpō-sha.

    For compensations of fishermen look for:

    Hamamoto Yukio (1989): Gyogyō-hō shiriizu, 2. Umi tte dare no mono darō? Gyogyō-hoshō to gyogyō-ken [Series: Fishery Risghts, Vol. 2. Whom belongs the Sea? Fishery Compensations and Fishery Rights]. Tōkyō: Suisan-sha.

    Hamamoto, Yukio (1997): Saishin. Hayawakari “Gyohyō-hō” zen kaisetsu [Introduction and Complete Commentary of Fisheries Laws]. Tōkyō: Suisan-sha.

    I could provide a PDF of Ōtsu (1981) if interested. If so, let me know via my homepage (, but, it is a rather difficult and voluminous book.

  27. Yeah, the tangential discussions often end up being at least as good as the original topic!

    Johannes, thanks very much for those citations, but I think from the titles they look to be a bit more heavy for me at the moment. It’s interesting stuff, but it’s wayyyy too unrelated to my current studies to make the time to read it. Well, the Watanabe book looks more approachable. Is it a typical easy to read journalistic style, or dense academia?

  28. I have learned through experience that when Johannes says, “read this on fisheries,” the most prudent course of action is to run away, very quickly.

  29. Not to derail further but “”!?!? So funny to see Geocities still running in Japan when Yahoo! killed it in the US.

  30. Huge thanks to Curzon for this informative post and the trek to the dam. The comments have been excellent. It’s my first time on this blog and it’s got the most well-prepared commenters I’ve seen so far 🙂 Everyone comes complete with a bibliography.

    Anyway, keep it up for those of us just watching and learning. This issue still makes my head spin.

  31. Having served as Lord Curzon’s lowly sherpa on this expedition, let me highly recommend the bike ride from Karuizawa. Much of the initial 40km is uphill–not for the ill-prepared–but the views from the path are breathtaking. I’d love to do the trip again should any other nobleman require my services.

    In fact, I’d love to do it again real soon! When we went, the leaves were just starting to change color so the whole area probably looks amazing right now. Tip for anyone who’s going–get on the shinkansen earlier than you think you need to. Taking a bike bag through a crowded Tokyo station is not fun.

    The best part of the trip for me was getting to the Yamba-kan and seeing that the parking lot was full. The local fruit-seller said that this happens almost every day so apparently the kan is a pretty big draw. I was particularly amused that there was a tour bus in the middle of the lot. Apparently the second floor of the Yamba-kan is a conference room and local and national policy makers use it for their deliberations, taking a tour bus to get there.

  32. Wow, I was Curzon’s sherpa when he took me to the supermarket the other day. Guess he needs kind of a lot of sherpas!

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