Capturing Kawasaki: City on Kanto Plain offers diverse activities for day trip
Snapping artsy shots of factories at night is a trendy activity among Japanese these days. The artificial, somewhat surrealistic views of the various shaped factories created by lights, the orange of fire and grey smoke from chimneys, together with a backdrop of a port with gigantic tankers and cargo ships is considered “cool.”
About a one-hour drive from Yokosuka Naval Base and Camp Zama, and situated between Tokyo and Yokohama, Kawasaki City forms the center of the nation’s largest Keihin industrial zone, and offers an ideal location to enjoy unique night views.
The Kawasaki factory area was expanded to 7,000 acres with the addition of seven artificial islands, which accommodate more than 50 large factories and 15,000 workers. The factories include power plants, petrochemical complex, steel manufacturing facilities, along with oil and gas refineries.
Many probably remember Kawasaki as a symbol of contaminated air, polluted water, unbearable noise and disease. In fact, in 1970s, more than 4,000 Kawasaki residents were killed due to contamination-related diseases.
To cope with the environmental pollution, Kawasaki City established a pollution monitor center and research laboratory, implemented antipollution measures and then enforced it by signing an air pollution prevention agreement with 39 major factories in the district. The agreement introduced “steam net” (reuse generated steam in thermal power plants among neighboring factories) and eco-town project aiming at zero emissions and the reuse of industrial wastes, according to Kawasaki City.
When I recently visited the industrial area for the first time in more than 30 years, the area was clean, free from the stench of exhaust, smog and soot.
A 30-minute bus ride from JR Kawasaki Station to the factory area provided a fun and cheap tour of some of the unique structures and buildings. Because the area is made up of islands, the bus went through underwater tunnels from island to island. The trip is pretty unusual, and I’d highly recommend it.
Located in the center of the industrial area, Kawasaki Marien is considered one of the best night view spots in the district, and was nominated as a Japan night-view heritage site in 2014. The community facility offers various types of conference rooms, a gym, tennis and beach volleyball courts, and bicycle trails for free.
The observation platform on its 10th floor (167 feet high) provides a panoramic vista of the entire Kawasaki factory area; packed with power plants, chemical and metal factories and oil refining factories. I saw a large container ship was berthed to the port where thousands of cars were parked waiting for their loading.
The 5-meter wide georama on the observation deck showed me actual aero view look of the industrial zone, and that helped me to recognize each factory when I checked out from the deck.
As the sun began setting, photographers came up to the observation platform for night view. The night view of the factories was almost unearthly and eerie, which reminded me of a gigantic spaceship from a sci-fi movie.
If you make the trip for some unique photo shooting, be sure to bring a tripod and telephoto lens to capture the surreal views.
Population: 1,528,118 (as of June, 2019), - 7th most populated city of Japan
Location: Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture (40-minutes from both Yokosuka Naval Base and Camp Zama)
Attractions: Kawasaki Daishi, Kanayama Shrine, Korean Town, Kawasaki Marien, Kawasaki Horse Racetrack
Tel: 044-200-2111 (Kawasaki City Hall)
Open: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: 38-1 Higashi Oogishima, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture
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