If you're planning to visit Japan's southwesternmost island this autumn, you may already have included some of Kyushu's most famous fall tourist attractions, such as soaring in cable cars above the forests of Mt. Unzen Nita Pass in Nagasaki, marveling at the cliffs and stone pillars jutting out from the crimson forest canopies of Shinyabakei in Oita Prefecture or gazing at the fall foliage from scenic suspension bridges in Gokanosho, Kumamoto Prefecture.

Situated near Shiiba Village

Particularly inviting in autumn, the majestic Kamishiiba Dam in Miyazaki Prefecture is also highly recommended. Japan's first large-scale arch dam which opened in 1955, the Kamishiiba Dam 上椎葉ダム is situated near Shiiba Village 椎葉村, which should be included in your itinerary for the day. Known as one of Japan's "three great out-of-the-way places" nihon dai-san hikyō 日本大三秘境 (the other two being Iya Valley in Tokushima Prefecture and Shirakawa-gō in Gifu Prefecture), the village has been designated a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Majestic Kamishiiba Dam in November

Kamishiiba Dam stretches across the Mimi River, which flows eastward to the Pacific. Standing 110 meters high at its tallest point and spanning 341 meters, the majestic dam is respectfully called "Her Honor" kyakka 閣下 within Japanese dam enthusiast circles.

If you visit in November when the fall "color line" reaches Kyushu, you can be guaranteed a beautiful sight as you observe the yellows, oranges and red hues of the fall foliage against the impressive backdrop of the Kamishiiba Dam.

Special Floodgate Opening for Tourists

If you can time your visit for November 16th, Kyushu Electric Power will be conducting a special floodgate opening for the benefit of tourists.

If you attend, you'll understand why Kamishiiba Dam was awarded the top prize in the "Water Release" category at the 2016 Dam Awards. You'll surely be impressed as floodwaters gush from the ski-jump-shaped ramps at either end of the dam and collide, a system designed to reduce the force of the flow as the waters of Hyūga Shiiba Lake, the reservoir behind the dam, spill into the Mimi River.

In a mere 70 minutes, no less than 96,000 cubic meters of water, or the equivalent of 40 Olympic-size swimming pools, will be released.

Here are the details of the event:

  • Date: November 16th (Sat.), rain or shine
  • Time: 11:30 to 14:40 (test from 10:00 to 12:00)
  • Water release rate: 10 to 40 cubic meters / second
  • Details on Kyushu Electric Power's website here

Kamishiiba Dam All Year Round

Not planning a fall foray into Miyazaki Prefecture? No worries! Whether it's cherry blossoms in spring or beautiful fireworks launched from the dam heights in summer, you can still count on Kamishiiba Dam to provide a memorable and scenic side trip during your visit to Shiiba Village.

By - Ben K.