Industrial Night Views – Beautiful Japanese sights in the darkness of night

Toa Oil Keihin Refinery
Toa Oil Keihin Refinery

Industrial Night Views

Beautiful Japanese sights in the darkness of night

Words: Ryoji Yamauchi
Photographs supplied by: KMC Corporation
(Tel: +81-45-290-8377, Web: reservedcruise.com/e, Email: info@reservedcruise.com )


Industrial night views, created by the lighting up of industrial complexes and factories using industrial night lights, has a deep-rooted popularity in Japan spanning over 10 years. I set off to cover these sights through various activities and track down the charms of these unconventional night views.

INDUSTRIAL NIGHT VIEWS TRENDING IN JAPAN

Are you familiar with the active efforts of fanatics in Japan who love industrial complexes, illuminated night-time factories, chimneys, and other beautiful structures? The view of the night sky from mountaintop observation platforms or towers differs from that of the industrial night views. In fact, this rather niche night sight has garnered attention for quite some time now. During the daytime, these industrial complexes and factories possess not much more than inorganic external appearances, but come nightfall the industrial lights illuminate them to create a beautiful, fantastical sight akin to that of a science fiction movie scene. It is these industrial night views that have garnered much gushing and comments about how calming the sights are, and have turned them into popular, yet littleknown night-time scenic hot spots.

The industrial night view boom started in the mid 2000s. The person who lit the fuse to the boom was Tetsu Ishii an illustrator who shared his blog about industrial night views on social media. He made appearances on Japanese variety shows in 2006 to profess his love for these factories, before releasing a photobook in March 2007, followed by the sale of industrial nightview- themed merchandise. In 2010, the first ever Japanese “industrial night view calendar” was released with the official recognition and complete support of the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture. After its release, the calendar gained increased exposure on TV, newspapers, radio and other media outlets, making it a staple calendar sold every year. The beauty and wonders of industrial night views continue to be spread to many to this day.

Local municipalities have also hopped aboard the factory night view train by organizing different activities. In 2011, the first “Industrial Night View Summit” was held in Kawasaki to get cities thinking about how to promote local growth through industrial night views. The first iteration of the summit only consisted of four cities – Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture; Muroran, Hokkaido prefecture; Yokkaichi, Mie prefecture; and Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture. By the ninth summit in 2018, the number of cities had increased to 11. The increasing number of cities pushing their industrial night views just goes to show how important of a tourism resource these views are to Japan.


THE PIONEERING CITY AND THE CHANGING IMAGE

Admiring industrial night views all around Japan has now become a popular sightseeing option, however, as can be drawn from the previously mentioned first “Industrial Night View Summit”, it was the city of Kawasaki (Kanagawa prefecture) that spearheaded this movement. Kawasaki is home to Japan’s largest industrial area – the Keihin Industrial Area.

Yokohama Bay Bridge
Yokohama Bay Bridge

This industrial area spreads from the west part of Tokyo Bay through to Kawasaki, with Yokohama in the centre and Saitama prefecture to the north, and consists of steel, oil-refining, petrochemistry factories and other heavy chemical industries. Factories have and continue to support the Japanese economy, however, the 1960s saw these industrial areas stamped with negative imagery due to the major environmental problems arising from the waste water and smoke produced by them. The industrial night view boom has helped to completely flip this negative image into a positive one, and there also happens to be a certain activity created in order to support this image change – sea cruises.

Flare stacks
Flare stacks

It may sound a little excessive to go cruising just to admire the night scenery, however, this actually serves as the most logical way to see the sights. This is because industrial complexes and factories are surrounded by confidential matters by nature, and are difficult to get close to on land due to counter-terrorism measures. The Keihin Industrial Area is particularly difficult to approach due to large number of factories in the area surrounded by clusters of trees or fences. Sailing by the factories lining the coastline offers an unobstructed view – the perfect way to enjoy the night scenery. The glow of the lights reflecting off the water is also a lovely sight that cannot be enjoyed on land, and another reason that makes admiring the sights on a cruise so enticing.


A JAPAN-FIRST FACTORY NIGHT-VIEW CRUISE

Higashi Ogishima Oil Terminal
Higashi Ogishima Oil Terminal

I set out to cover the “Factory Night View Jungle Cruise” offered by KMC Corporation for this article. This is the original industrial night view cruise, and also happens to be the previously mentioned method of cruising around the Keihin Industrial Area.

The Night View Jungle Cruises started operating on 7 June 2008. A small boat with a capacity of 30 people was originally used to ferry industrial-night-view fanatics around the bay, before the boost in popularity saw a waiting time of up to four months the following year. Currently, the cruise operates on weekends from Friday to Sunday, on a 50-person capacity boat (with this number possibly increasing depending on the time of the year).

Showa Denko (Okawa-cho)
Showa Denko (Okawa-cho)

This cruise ship sets sail at sunset from the Red Brick Warehouse Pier near the “Minato Mirai 21” Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. There are also other companies that offer the same service, but the fact that this particular cruise times its departure with the sunset is a plus. Who doesn’t appreciate the opportunity to watch the sun set, or the night sky fade from deep blue to pitch black before admiring the night views? The cruise runs for one and a half hours, and visits 13 night-view spots (or 14 on the special Friday course), with a sail through an almost maze-like canal part-way through. As you cruise through the forest of factories, you come to understand how the cruise tour got its name.

Immediately after departing, passengers will be greeted by the impressive sight of the iconic Yokohama Bay Bridge and Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge. On a lucky day, there might also be the sight of a brightly lit-up luxury cruise liner anchored at the port for passengers to awe at.

Keep reading for my focus on a few of the spots the Night Factory Jungle Cruise happens to sail by. It goes without saying that every one of the spots is unique in its own way owing to their different illuminations and patterns. There are different charms to discover along the way.

Let’s start with the Higashi Ogishima Oil Terminal at the very beginning. The giant oil tank found here is already impressive in itself, however, the sight of the numerous white lights reflecting brightly off it is simply incredible.

Prepare for the eye-catching sight of flare stacks (industrial chimneys) emitting flames towards the middle of the cruise. These structures are used to de-toxify excess gases produced by gas processing facilities and refineries by burning them off. The sight of these flare stacks on approach is remarkable, and even inspired movie director, Ridley Scott, who incorporated this sight into a scene of Blade Runner.

Showa Denko (Ogimachi)
Showa Denko (Ogimachi)

Be sure not to miss the Toa Oil Keihin Refinery and the Showa Denko power plant (there are two plants, one in Okawa-cho, the other in Ogimachi) at the very end of the cruise. Both of these spots are absolutely stunning for the brilliant concentration of lights on display. The ship used for the Night View Jungle Cruise has two levels. The bottom level is completely enclosed, whereas the top deck is where I would recommend passengers set up base for this section and the previously mentioned flare stacks. This is because being out in the open allows you to see the billowing smoke, hear the mechanical sounds of the facilities in operation, and smell the wafting oil in the air, amongst other sensory experiences. Using your senses, other than sight, to experience these night views will make you almost feel as though these inorganic structures have some form of life within them. These mysterious experiences an only be had when gazing upon industrial night views.

After viewing all of the spots on the cruising course, the ship is greeted by the dazzling lights of Minato Mirai 21 as it returns to port.

Admiring the industrial night views on a sea cruise offers the unique experience of seeing the shining beauty of night lights illuminating industrial complexes and factories, and the opportunity to enjoy their industrial beauty. It also brings you up close to what makes Japan the great manufacturing nation. Make some time on a weekend during your stay in Japan to see the industrial night views and enjoy the mysterious beauty they have to offer.