Protecting Kiso Valley And Its Rivers In Central Japan

I like rivers, and moreover, I like people who care about rivers...

Kiso River and the entire system that forms the Kiso Valley in Nagano, Gifu and then all the way down to Aiichi prefectures - such a treasure.

Earlier this year, I went to Magome and visited the small towns like Tsugamo that remain intact since the Edo era. I hope you can stay there and enjoy the tranquility of ancient Japan.

Just a couple of hours from some of the busiest cities on Earth, such rural places remain to inspire and educate.

These towns do a lot better than some of the "shutter towns" in more urban settings. Why? Because of tourism? I don't think so. The secret is in the appreciation of the values that have been a cornerstone of life here, for a long time.

Kiso Valley is located north east of Nagoya, a couple of hours by train, in Nagano-ken. In the old days, when voyagers were taking weeks to travel from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto, and all the way to Nagasaki, one of the main roads, the Nakasendo was going through the Kiso Valley

Some small towns have been kept more or less as they were a hundred years ago, in an impressive effort, with walking routes that are easy yet take you back to the age-old "sendo" paths.

Tsumago and Magome are 2 of the 69 road stations (post towns) of the Nakasendo, which were build to ensure safety of the travellers. 

Want to know more about protecting Kiso Valley? Care to participate? Do join the action-oriented Kiso Valley Min-Min no Kai:

水源の里を守ろう 木曽川流域 みん・みんの会  〒464-0075 名古屋市千種区内山3-7-11 TEL.052-745-1001 FAX.052-741-2588

Their grass root campaigns include efforts to bring kids to the river, learning about biological diversity, and growing local soy beans!

Top image from Kiso Voluntary Neighbors, or Kiso Ryuuiki Shimin Housoukyoku

Update: You know of course that you can click on any "labels" like Rivers here on Kurashi to connect to all kinds of entries - from 10 years or so of blogging.


Anonymous said…

This post hits close to home for me!

Apart from the life that this massive watershed sustains, the potential for river-economy is paramount here.

A. In 2006 I wrote a piece on "Rafting Forestry" and proposed reviving the art for the Kiso Three Rivers. These swift waterways were used by the Japanese in as early as the 15th century to ‘timber raft’, or ‘log drive’timber down stream to lowland shipyards.

Modern day business creed:

"Helping to bring an end to Japan’s pampered conifer plantations and keeping people downstream warm since Heisei 2o.

B. In 2010 I wrote up a big piece for my own town called An Energy Descent Townscaping Overview, with three big sections, one of them being for Water Way Usage.


Riverbend (My town) is located on three rivers and, in the case of the Shin and Shonai Rivers, there is much potential there for not only an immediate water source, but a transportation/commuting route, a riverside food bearing forest, and energy production (1).

A. Transporter
B. River Longorchards・Wildlife
C. Riverside Energy Farming


Riverbend's two main waterways, the Shin and Shonai River, are probably the most forgotten and neglected elements in our local bio-region and transportation system. Who, living in the year 1918, would ever have believed that the entire water front would be devoid of commercial docks and or even wildlife at the end of the twentieth century? After all, these two rivers are somewhat big, and flow directly into the mouth of the Ise Bay. If Riverbend wants to conduct trade further along in the twenty-first century, whatever our commerce consists of, it will probably have to rely much more on water transport. It will be slow, but it will be doable, and surely dependable. It could be integrated with small-scale rail systems that of which softly slope down from the river levees into the neighborhoods of Riverbend (See Human-powered Handcars below). Both rail and waterway as transport could make up revenue for the town – in terms of jobs and business.

River Longorchards・Wildlife

Open public space for planting trees in Riverbend is limited, so the riversides should not be forgotten. On either side of each levee that lines both the Shin and Shonai rivers, there’s ample space to plant an edible woodlot, forthwith creating a place for wildlife to flourish. Types of trees to be planted are in the many and, to name a few food-bearers, trees such as Fig and Mulberry and Persimmon and Chestnut and Quince and Gingko are very prolific, hardy, and low-maintenance. The sides of the Shonai offer the most space, because for the most part the levee isn’t entombed in cement, but even along the sides of the Shin River, whose sides are cemented, holes could be opened up just big enough to plant trees. These riverside food forests could be deemed the “orchards of Riverbend”, or whatever phrase is of the day, and could make up both diet and revenue for the town – in terms of jobs and business and food and orchard by-products, including leaves and wood.

Riverside Energy Farming

We all know that one day centralized nuclear electric will fail, and if in the future we expect to use even a fraction of the amounts of electricity we do at present, it’s important that we set up an alternative to nuclear electric — preferably something less scary. This could be a number of local and decentralized things ranging from wind to biomass to hydro to solar. All four of these, theoretically, could be done mainly alongside the Shonai river, especially at its flood banks. Stable energy could be produced through the growing of quick-cycling biomass crops and wind turbines and solar panels and micro-hydro turbines. This could represent an entirely new economy: Riverside Energy Farming.


adams guild™
Tom O said…
Re Kiso/Tsumago/Magome - three words: no telegraph poles.

Alas (or possible otherwise!) tree trunks being floated-transported downstream tends to be a featured image of the logging of the Amazon etc. However, have read recently that 80% of the Amazon area remains intact, with a caveat that it is only because it is so large that the '20%'figure so 'small'.
Martin J Frid said…
Thanks guys for comments (hrm) and do we ever need a revival of river basin systems. Riverbend sounds a lot like my town (which will remain un-translated, the educated guess is that the ancients had no idea what kanji they used when putting the name together here). Lots of wood from them hills around here sent to Edo after the many fires there, using the rivers. The local museum even has a huge display about it.

Amazon - huge issue and I especially hate the fact that forest is cut down as land there is used to farm - soybeans.
Anonymous said…
Some more facts and figures on major water flow in Central Japan:

Rivers, Dams, and Sabo in Central Japan {pdf}


Raw timber from central Japan, too, used to flow East from here but not first before it came down The Kiso Three Rivers (Kiso, Nagara, Ibi) plus the Tenryu, flowing down through western Shizuoka.
In The Pines [blog] used to write about it at his blog.

If you've got 10 minutes to spare, here's the full text for my Townscaping Plan, with pictures.

adams guild™
Martin J Frid said…
Excellent, excellent links. Thanks a lot. Quite true that the river banks can be more useful with fruit trees and as space for gardens/orchards. Imagine the fun factor for kids too!

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