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Japan’s huge concrete utilities

 
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Dr. N. Subramanian
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 5:08 am    Post subject: Japan’s huge concrete utilities Reply with quote

Beauty’ of Japan’s huge concrete utilities pulls in tourists
By RISA YUSE/ Staff Writer
March 10, 2017


A massive surge tank at the end of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel in Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture, also known as “The Underground Temple,” (Risa Yuse)
KASUKABE, Saitama Prefecture--They may not be examples of traditionally beautiful architecture, but massive, industrial reinforced concrete structures across the nation are attracting tourists from inside and outside Japan in surprisingly large numbers.

Major structures to control water--bridges, breakwaters, dams, ports, canals and water and sewage systems--have been built all over the relatively mountainous islands of this country.

An Asahi Shimbun reporter joined a free tour of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel in the city of Kasukabe that explores a hidden wonder of the greater Tokyo area.

The discharge channel, built 50 meters underneath the city, is an artificial waterway, 10 meters in diameter and 6.3 kilometers long, to take in excess water from smaller rivers in the region when typhoons or torrential rains hit, and release it to the larger Edogawa river.

After walking down 116 steps, an enormous, dimly lit underground space opened up.

This cavernous place is a surge tank, nicknamed “The Underground Temple,” located at the end of the channel. Its ceiling is 18 meters tall, equivalent to a five- or six-story building. At 78 meters wide and 177 meters long, it occupies an area bigger than a soccer field.

Apart from 59 columns that weigh 500 tons each supporting the ground above, the space was completely empty.

Looking up in silence, the tour participants seemed overwhelmed by the enormous void.

Then, they started to scatter off with cameras and smartphones in their hands. Some crouched to capture the expanse as much as possible.

Construction of the discharge channel was completed in 2006 to prevent flooding in the eastern part of the prefecture, including the cities of Satte and Kasukabe, where small rivers are concentrated in low-lying land. The area was historically prone to floods, but their frequency has been significantly reduced since the discharge channel went into operation.

The utility is used seven to eight times a year on average, and when it is not in use, free public tours are organized usually on weekdays to teach them about water control and disaster prevention.

Tour participants are allowed to go inside the surge tank only, with visitor numbers capped at 25 at a time.

Almost half of the tour group the reporter joined were overseas tourists.

A group of seven who work together in welfare-related jobs came from Taiwan. They said what brought them to such an unusual place was searching on the Internet for something they can see only in Japan.

“The Taiwanese are the largest overseas group,” said tour guide Kuniharu Abe, 46, who also heads the infrastructure ministry's branch office that manages the channel.

Visitors from Taiwan are followed by others, in descending order, from the United States, China and Australia. Survey papers from the past five years revealed that foreign participants from about 80 countries have attended the tours.

About 30,000 people visit the facility every year, not just out of curiosity, but also for official inspections, as well as for film shoots.


Numerous tours are offered around Japan at large-scale utility structures, and many of these are water-related, such as dams, bridges and ports, and an increasing number of tour companies are selling tickets to visit them.

The infrastructure ministry responded to the trend by launching a website in 2016 that contains a comprehensive list of free and paid tours of that ilk all over Japan.

Hiromichi Yoshikawa, a professor of urban engineering at Tokyo City University, has set up a website that showcases about 500 photos of large utility structures.


The Ikina Bridge is a three-span continuous steel/concrete composite cable-stayed bridge



Yunishigawa Dam
Yoshikawa has been disappointed that so few students are interested in civil engineering, unlike architecture, even though Japan is a world leader in utility construction.

“I hope to entice younger people into the world of civil engineering with the beauty and awe-inspiring presence of utility facilities,” said Yoshikawa.
Source: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703100008.html
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