【Echigo Tsumari】Kiyotsukyo Gorge “Tunnel of Light” – A fantastic art space in Nature
The next day when I stayed at Akakura Kanko Hotel, I visited Echigo Tsumari area, the location for the “Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale”, about 2hours drive from the hotel.
The “Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2021” was planned from 25th July 2021 until 12th September 2021 but considered to COVID-19 situation, it decided to postpone in the summer 2022. By the way, I went there in September 2020.
On my trip to Echigo Tsumari area, the highlight I was really looking for was an artwork in Kiyotsukyo Gorge called “Tunnel of Light”
Kiyotsukyo Gorge had been a national park since 1949 but after a fatal incident involving falling rocks in 1988, the Kiyotsu Gorge valley was closed to the public. The Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel construction started in 1992 and was opened in October 1996, so that people could enjoy the magnificent nature more safely and with peace of mind.
After an extensive renovation and turned into a work of art by Ma Yansong / MAD Architects , it reopened as “Tunnel of Light” for the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale.
Entrance and Viewpoints
When you park your car in the parking lot, you will first walk in the village toward the Kiyotsu Gorge tunnel. There were some souvenir shops along the way.
After a few minutes walk, I arrived at the entrance of the tunnel and bought the admission ticket.
There is a map of the tunnel on the wall of the entrance and for the first time I realized there is a considerable distance to the panorama station I was looking for. I thought I could see it as soon as I entered the tunnel! !!
The passage in the tunnel was well maintained, so it was easy to walk. The flat road allows you to go through even with a stroller and several wheelchairs are also available at the reception.
On the way to the Panorama Station (the final goal), you will pass through three view points, each with its own unique charm.
I didn’t take pictures, but I was interested in “The second view point -invisible bubbles”. There is a mysterious object in front of the vantage point, but it was actuhally a toilet. I didn’t notice it because I couldn’t get inside the toilet, but it seems that the system is such that you can enjoy the view space and the valley of Kiyotsu Gorge from inside the toilet. I should have entered!
The photo below is “Third View Place -Shizuku-“, which is the closest to the final destination, Panorama Station. Drop-shaped mirrors studded on the curved walls capture the outside landscape and reflect it inside.
To the final point / panorama station
Continuing walking inside the tunnel, I finally got to the panorama station.
The wall and ceiling are entirely covered with mirrors and the basin’s water reflects the scenery of Kiyotsu Gorge. What a fantastic sight!
You can actually enter the basin and walk in the water. As I was wearing sneakers, I walked on the shallow edge and did not get wet. You also can walk in the center, but the water depth is about 15 cm, so it’s better to come with cloths that can get wet. I think it would be nice to take off your shoes, because you can directly feel the coldness of the water in the canyon.
If you walk further and stand in front of the canyon, you will feel as if you are one with nature, part of this fantastic piece of art – satisfied.
“Tunnel of Light” – was THE place I had been wanted to visit. Because of that, my expectation was high but I was glad that it met my expectation.
However, the walking distance to reach the panorama station is 750 m and it felt quite long. I often thought “Haven’t we arrived yet?”. Including the time to look at artwork, take pictures etc., it takes about 40 to 60 minutes for a round trip.
I got where I wanted to go, this is it! I was able to enjoy it a lot, but I also thought that if I didn’t have enough enthusiasm, I might have the impression that “why did I walk this much?”
Also, although it was a weekday outside the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, there are quite a few people visiting here, so it is expected to be crowded during weekends, holidays and during the Triennale.
It is recommended for those who think “I want to feel this scenery directly!” and “I want to take a picture here!”, but it takes a certain amount of time, so if this is not a “must-do” for you, you can skip it.