Saturday February 20, 2021

How a Photographer changed the Wheel of Fortune for Japan’s Most Romantic Railway

The No.1 Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint is a favorite among photographers. Many photographers gather there before sunrise to capture the romantic and surreal landscape of the forested mountain and the surrounding river. Drifting river mists are a part of life along the Tadami as it flows through the Oku Aizu region of Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. According to local lore, shape-shifting mountain gods roam inside the mist. This post brings you how a Japanese photographer built tourism in Japan and the breathtaking landscapes of Japan Photography.

When all lenses are focused in the shooting mode, the photographers see the Tadami Railway line which runs for about 135km through the Tohoku region. It is the northern most part of Japan connecting the Aizu Wakamatsu, in Fukushima, with Koide, in Niigata Prefecture. The railway line is situated amongst the forested mountains which makes it ideal for a picturesque view. The region is prone to heavy snowfalls and mist. The region also suffered severe storms and floods, making the bridge along the Tadami line irrepairable. Even the local residents weren’t too keen on spending their taxes on repair. The authorities did not take much interest especially after the earthquake of 2011.

The World’s Most Romantic Railway

However, photographer Ken Hoshi was adamant that this region has great tourist potential owing to its picturesque landscapes. The 70-year-old local has been photographing the Oku Aizu area 300 days a year for 25 years, often capturing the sight of the little Tadami train chugging through misty valleys, enchanted forests and towering mountains against an ever-changing backdrop of deep winter snows, spring cherry blossoms, summer mists and fiery autumn foliage.

Hoshi San kept on posting his photographs on Facebook to popularize them and visited Taiwan a number of times, to exhibit his photos. The response was staggering!

A train on the Tadami Line crosses the No 1 Tadami River Bridge between Aizu Hinohara and Aizu Nishikata in Japan.

According to his own words, “There used to be basically no one, other than the locals, walking around the streets of Oku Aizu,” Mr Hoshi explains, via email. Recently (before international travel was brought to halt by the coronavirus pandemic), however, we’ve begun to see not only Japanese visitors but even people from abroad. Many of those visitors came from Taiwan and it was the Taiwanese who coined the title “the world’s most romantic railway”, which first appeared on Weibo and stuck. I am forever grateful to the people of Taiwan,” Mr Hoshi says. “Many of them have visited us more than 10 times.”

The Most Stunning Japan Photography

Hoshi San has been credited to revitalize the tourism of the region, including the repair of the Tadami Line. The Japan Railway East has also decided to install six new viewpoints, so that bridges are captured by photographers throughout the world. The photographer is also pushing the railway department to install elevators at those viewpoints, so that people of all ages can enjoy the scenery. This is perfect for some stunning landscape photography!

Thanks to Hoshi San’s initiative, all this will be featured in a documentary, directed by Wataru Abiko, scheduled for release this summer in Japan and at Taiwanese film festivals.

A train travels between Aizu-Nakagawa and Aizu-Kawaguchi during winter. Photo: Ken Hoshi

Photographer Ken Hoshi

I photograph the Tadami Line not because I like trains but because I want to promote the beautiful scenery of Oku Aizu,” he says. “The area was hard hit by the economic reforms of the early 2000s. The number of jobs here dropped to nearly one-tenth of the previous level. In order to reinvigorate this region, we had to entice people here somehow. I was sure that these beautiful landscapes were powerful enough to bring a lot of visitors here.”

Image result for ken hoshi photography

“I wanted to offer visitors different ways to enjoy Oku Aizu, other than just viewing the scenery or taking photos. I wanted to offer them an activity that’s only available here. So, I picked the traditional ferry boat service I used to use as a child. It takes visitors along the magical, misty river.” Mr Hoshi named the ferry service Mugenkyo no Watashi (“ferry across the magical misty gorge”).

Forest bathers hike in the beech forests around Tadami, was also added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s list of protected biospheres in 2014. Lake Numazawa, a huge caldera lake formed by multiple volcanic eruptions was also added. It is a serene spot in which you can kayak or camp.

The No 1 Tadami River Bridge in winter. Photo: Ken Hoshi

This year, the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima quake-tsunami tragedy. The government has dubbed them the Olympic Games for Recovery, referring to the regeneration of Tohoku.



Post by Today Online, 12 February, 2021.

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