CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH BANCROFT
Don’t you just love it when you stumble upon a hidden gem? This happened to my husband and I when we journeyed up to Nago to see some castle ruins. We thought we were headed in the right direction, but alas, we were not. Not wanting to give up, we continued on our way just to “see what we see.”
We drove along a road that climbed the mountains just northeast of Nago. The views were wonderful but there was very little space to pull off and snap a photo. (This is hard for me because “snapping” soon turns into a long photography session as I get more and more inspired by the area.) Continuing along this road, after going through two tunnels, we spotted a little roadside pull off. We stopped to get our bearing and hiked up to the viewing area. This is what we spotted off in the distance. A striking red, pink, and white bridge. How do we get there? We wondered.
We decided to continue along the road and right before the entrance to a third tunnel we saw a sign for Haneji Dam. Lets go for it! We took the left hand turn at the last minute. The road twists and turns along a series of lakes that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. We determined that they existed because of the dam.
Looking for an opportunity to get some pictures of the lake, we spotted the red bridge again! This time it was closer — this must be the road to reach it! As we got closer to the bridge, we pulled off into a small parking lot and got out to explore. There was a nice little hut and paved paths that, although the grounds were overgrown with weeds, offered up great views of the lake and the bridge. A large stone statue was in the little park as well. We are guessing it is some sort of marker for the bridge. Our curiosity pushed us forward across the bridge, where we eventually tumbled upon the Dam. Haneji Dam.
It was a wonderful secluded area. You are surrounded by mountains, water, and it seems so far away from the city that is so close. There is ample parking for the Dam, both on the bridge level and below. There is also a soccer field and another field in front of a building we think serves as dam headquarters as well as nice bathroom facilities.
The first thing we did was walk across the bridge on top of the dam. It is very beautifully designed. The path way is stone, and there are interesting and colorful design elements in the lights and other pillars. Little touches that make a difference.
There were also plaques lining the bridge railings that, we believe, tell the story of how Haneji Dam came to be. Once across the bridge you can see the area where the water pools on one side of the Dam, and then turn around and see where it empties out on the other side. You can also see the little creek that is fed by the Dam.
It is truly a wonderful sight and I hope the pictures can do it some justice. Our last stop was to see the dam from the bottom. There is a parking lot with access to the creek and you get a good view of the dam from below. Haneji Dam was truly a wonderful place stumble upon.
Directions: Take the Expressway to Nago. Follow 58 to Nago proper. Take a Right onto 84 (same way to get to the Orion Brewery). Continue straight, past the Brewery. The road then turns into 18. You drive on a bright green bridge and then cross over an expanse to a hill. The road climbs, twists, and turns up the hill. Next comes two tunnels, back to back, after the second tunnel is the little turn off on the right for the look out spot. Stop if you want, or continue on 18. The road will still be twisting and turning and descending a little. Soon you will see a tunnel off the in the distance with an intersection slightly before. There is a sign pointing Left to Haneji Dam over the intersection (before the tunnel). Turn Left at this intersection. The road again climbs, twists, and turns. You will see the red bridge in the distance, and will be getting closer and closer to it. There is a parking area slightly before you go over the bridge, stop if you want or continue over the bridge. You will go around a curve and you can sort of see the dam around it. Once you round this corner there will be a sign pointing to the Haneji Dam to the right. You can’t miss it at this point. There is not much else in the area!
Hours: We are not sure of the hours, most likely the same as any park, sun up to sun down. As far as we knew, it was free. There are bathrooms and two vending machines as well.