Tunnel of Light

Throughout the year
Photo by Nakamura Osamu

Information and Map

About the artwork

As part of the 2018 program, MAD Architects was invited to revitalize the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel – a historic, 750-meter passageway that cuts through distinctive rock formations, offering panoramic views over one of Japan’s three great chasms. Drawing on the ‘five elements’ of nature (wood, earth, metal, fire, water), MAD’s scheme transforms points along the historic tunnel through the realization of several architectural spaces and artistic atmospheres. The designs rethink the relationship between humans and nature, and seek to re-connect locals and visitors alike with the majestic beauty of the land.

“Periscope” (wood)

Upon the approach to the tunnel, a small wooden ‘hut’ has been erected that serves as the café, souvenir shop (with locally made crafts) on the ground floor. Inside the pitched cedar roof on the upper level, is a hot spring foot spa. A circular aperture – the “Periscope” – in the ceiling opens up towards the roof. Encircled by mirrored lenses that reflect the nature of the surrounding site inwards, the subtle intervention gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the natural scenery outdoors, while they have a foot bath and relax within the warmth of the wooden interior.

 “Expression of Color” (earth)

The entrance to the tunnel has been restored to its former glory, and leads the way to the newly renovated passage. Originally illuminated through natural means, it has been outfitted with a series of different coloured lights which define each lookout point along the tunnel. Captured as “The Expression” of the space, their vibrancy, in combination with mysterious music, sets a subtle but dynamic ambiance that sparks a certain curiosity of the unknown for those who are wandering through.

“Invisible Bubble” (metal)

The first of the lookout point renovations is the “Invisible Bubble”. As if landing from another world, the capsule-like structure gently mirrors the silhouette of the tunnel itself, while reflecting its surroundings. Functioning as a toilet, the wall which faces towards the gorge is transparent. This exterior window is covered in a metallic film that only allows one-way views from the inside out, playing with the notion of public and private. Providing a quiet escape, a place of solitude, it is an intimate space that finds itself in an openly public setting. It puts into question how people react when they think that no one is watching – an ideal corner of contemplation.


“Drop” (fire)

‘Dew drops’ are scattered along the curvature of the second lookout point. “The Drop” is a series of reflective openings that are like windows of uncertainty. While they project a reality by mirroring the natural environment, they also appear surreal, like molecules of water, they are suspended from the ceiling and walls, frozen in time. As one looks into these convex mirrors, backlit by fiery, red light, they experience an alternative connection with nature – one that is at once mysterious and warm.

“Light Cave” (water)

The culmination of the restoration is expressed in the form of the “Light Cave”. Semi-polished stainless steel lines the tunnel, drawing the distinct rock formations, lush greenery, and turquoise water of the treasured terrain, into the enclosed space. A shallow pool of water gently ripples with the breeze of the wind. In turn, the images of the gorge reflected from the cave cast themselves onto the water – an infinite illusion of nature. The essence of the “Light Cave” brings both a lightness and stillness into the once dark, dewy tunnel, invoking a feeling of everlasting solitude.

■Notice of Completion of Renewal Work on Exhibition Booths
Renewal work on the in the Kiyotsukyo Gorge Tunnel has been completed and normal operations will resume on the following dates. Please note that the entrance fee will also be the regular fee.

[Resumption of normal business operations]
April 13, 2024 (Saturday)

[Entrance Fees]
Adults (high school students and older): ¥1,000
Children (elementary and junior high school students) ¥400
Groups (20 people or more): Adults (high school students and older) ¥900 – Children (elementary and junior high school students) ¥350
Free admission for preschoolers and those with disability certificates (please bring your certificate on the day of admission).

■Advance Reservation System during the Peak Season in 2024

In order to alleviate congestion during the peak season, the following restrictions will apply only during the periods listed below. During this period, no tickets will be sold on-site, and only those who have purchased tickets in advance will be allowed to enter the mine.

Please purchase a ticket in advance to enter the mine during the applicable period.

[Applicable period]

・GW period (Saturday, April 27 – Sunday, May 7)

・All Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays during the period of “Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2024” (July 13 (Sat) – November 10 (Sun))

・Weekdays from 8/2, 8/13 to 8/16, and 10/21 to 11/8

For details, please check the Kiyotsukyo website.

Information and Map

Artwork no. N079
Production year 2018 2021
Opening hours 8:30-17:00 (Last admission at 16:30)
Admission Adults: 1,000 JPY, Children 6-15 years old: 400 JPY (Group of 20: Adult: 900 JPY, Children 6-15 years old: 350 JPY)

*Admission is 500 yen (Children 6-15 years: 350 JPY) with passport during the Triennale period.
Closed *Temporary closure may occur due to snowfall conditions, etc.
Area Nakasato
Village Koide
Official website https://nakasato-kiyotsu.com/en/
Open dates Throughout the year *Advance reservation period: ② Sat, Sun, and national holidays from 7/13 to 11/10, weekdays: 8/2, 13-16, 10/21-11/8 *Entrance facilities are open until 11/30 (closed in winter)
Venue Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel(2119-2, Aoi, Koide, Tokamchi-city, Niigata Prefecture)

*During peak seasons (GW, consecutive holidays, Bon Festival, and autumn foliage season), advance reservations are required through the official website of the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel. However, this is not required for participants of the official Art Festival tours that include this work in the itinerary.

Stay In Touch

Stay connected with the ETAT official social media to receive the latest news and event information, and the many seasonal faces of Echigo-Tsumari as well as new issue of the ETAT official media, “Art from the Land”.