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Monday, 16th November 2015
In General Japan News,

Japan's oldest hydropower plant open to the public

Guided tours to the oldest hydropower plant in Japan are proving popular after the destination started welcoming the public last spring.

The Miyashiro No 1 power plant has been in operation for 111 years, helping to bring electricity to Japan from its location in Azumino in the Nagano Prefecture.

Anyone thinking of adding a trip to the industrial site into their itinerary of Japan can combine it with a day exploring the hiking trail of Mount Tsubakuro in the Northern Alps.

The first clue to the activity that is carried out at the power plant comes from the sound of rushing water, which drives the water wheel and generator.

One of the highlights for visitors is seeing the original metal plates stating the year of manufacture as 1903 in Germany.

Most water wheels do not continue operating into their 111th year, as by the time they have been used for around 80 years, sand and gravel in the river will have worn it down.

Takeshi Yajima, manager of the Hydro Power and Substations Maintenance Department at Chubu Electric Power Company’s Oomachi Local Maintenance Office, told the Japan Times: “But this one is thick and durable like a German car. The casting is also well-made.”

When the plant was constructed more than a century ago, the machinery was brought from Germany by sea and then along the Shinonoi Railway Line, which is no longer in operation.

The final part of the journey involved transporting the important elements on the back of an oxcart.

At its height, the facility was producing 250 kilowatts of energy and was one of the leading generators in Japan.

Susumo Kitano, a former teacher, realised it was the oldest generator in Japan and presented a case to the Japan Industrial Archaeology Society for it to be recognised in 1982.

By the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry added the generator to the list of Heritage of Industrial Modernization, recognising its importance to the country.