“Mizubering”, the new movement along the riverside in Ichinomiya

Background of the case study

The “Mizubering” project is an effort to renovate Japanese riversides that have lost their former attractive features.  We can interpret the artificial word “Mizubering” as “riverside development” if we see it as a combination of the word “mizube” which means “riverside” and the “ring” that points to the circular district around the river.  Or it can be interpreted as “renovation of a riverside in progress” if one sees it as a combination of “mizube” and “r” for “renovation” and “ing” which means “under process”.  It is used to define a movement that generates prosperity, creates beautiful urban landscapes through the development of riversides and the city, using collaborative partnerships between three stakeholders: citizens, businesses and the government.

Ichinomiya’s Mizubering 138 project serves as the channel for sending out information on activities along the Kiso River, and offers support to businesses with interests to support the cause (e.g. issuing licenses, inviting them to participate in discussions on changes in river management). Such activities should support groups and citizens who collaborate with the private sector to conserve the riverside, to make Kiso River even more attractive, and reestablish its value.

From the view point of Ichinomiya City, the Kiso River’s natural resources should be utilized, and walk paths, cycling roads developed, to allow people to enjoy a casual stroll or a bike ride along the river.  The cycling road is being developed beyond the city together with the neighboring districts and will be used for mobility over a large geographical area.

Our case study

One of the visions stated in the “Seventh Basic Plan of Ichinomiya”, which is the primary strategy for urban planning, is to develop “a dynamic and exciting city along the banks of a beautiful river”, The Kiso River is a symbolic natural landmark that runs from north to west over an extended distance of 18 kilometers. It is where the city’s history and culture was originated.  As seen in Japanese pictures that express everyday livelihoods in the edo-period (i.e. ukiyoe) the riverbed was not only important to transport cargo but was also a space for citizens to entertain and cool down in the evening breeze.  Historical monuments, and festivals related to the river have been passed on from generation to generation for years, and the Kiso River Park 138 Tower Park represents public facilities located along the river where citizens enjoy entertainment.  Such festivities are, however, not held on ordinary days, and these public facilities are unfortunately quite artificial.  Hence, the Kiso River’s natural resources are not fully utilized because the river embankment which was initially developed to guard citizens from floods also resulted in giving limited access to the river.

In other words, the city needed to address the following challenges: raise the attractiveness of Kiso River’s natural environment; gather citizens to the riverside and generate prosperity; draw attention to the riverside; and create ideas for new business opportunities or activities.

Such challenges were the reasons for the development of the Mizubering 138 project, the cycling road and a large geographical network.

Recently Japan develops beautiful riverside cities by deregulating and allowing easier access to the river. For example, private sectors can now obtain licenses for open cafes along the riversides for an extended period of 10 years, which was once only 3 years.   Furthermore, the government has opened an easily accessible inquiry counter available for the private sector.  People in general are fixed in thinking that riversides are national and prefectural government properties and cannot be used for economic activities by the private sector, which is why the number of people submitting ideas to the government used to be quite limited.  The Mizubering 138 project was developed due to changes in national policies that allowed easier access to riversides permitting activities by the public and also the private sector.


The development of cycling roads and walk paths along Kiso River, made the river become a vibrant location where environment conservation, history and culture all come together.  We can see this through the rise in the number of bicycles rented at the 138 Tower Park from approximately 5000 (2001) to approximately 20,000 (2015).  We can also see people are using public facilities (e.g. 138 Tower Park, Flower Park Konan, and Ichinomiya Gymnasium) more frequently.  A 40 year old gentlemen and resident of Gifu City has mentioned, for example, that “cycling along the river while feeling the tailwind on my back is soothing.  I like to stop by for a short break to see from a distance the train crossing the bridge, and the river flowing downstream”.

Meetings for the Mizubering 138 project have been convened twice.  Participation of citizens, businesses and the government have generated new ideas on how to utilize spaces on the riverside, and more institutions are interested.  Here are some examples (Games: develop a secret base for children to play, turn the river’s small islands into jungles.  Enjoy nature: operate water traffic system similar to those found on the River Seine, develop a bookstand or an observation point for fireflies on the river’s small islands.  Gather: utilize the river for musical performances or wedding ceremonies.  Eat: develop a food stall for grilled salted sweet fish, boat bars, boat food stalls for Japanese traditional fast food “oden”).  The number of participants to the Mizubering 138 meetings increased from the initial 130 participants to 146 in the second round.

The municipality has pursued promotional activities at riverside festivals held at the 138 Tower Park during the holidays in May.  Furthermore, a campaign “Toast the riverside in 2017” was held on July 7th at 7:07 in the afternoon where participants brought a drink of their choice to toast the Kiso River.  On August 5th an event “Let the brave souls who support the Kiso River gather during the summer!” was designed to develop interest for the river with families catching and learning about the fish inhabiting the river. People who showed interest in riverside activities received support from the government.

The private sector has been active by clearing the contaminated beach and holding stand up paddleboard (SUP) meetings for citizens under a project named “Mizubering Owari Ichinomiya”.  Furthermore, the Nobi Firework Festival was held along the river at which participants enjoyed wrestling matches, musical events, SUP onsite training events and cuisines served at the food stalls. 

In addition to what has already been accomplished, the city still needs to raise awareness of the “Mizubering 138” project among local institutions and the private sector.  Such promotion activities will allow the areas in which cycling roads have been developed, and parks along the riversides renovated, be utilized efficiently.
The Kiso River will become more attractive, once we see more collaboration and cooperation between the municipalities and private sectors along the Kiso River.

Challenges and the way forward

It is now clear that effective use of Kiso River will require collaboration and cooperation between the Kiso River Management Office that regulates upstream districts (under the jurisdiction of the national government) and the municipalities along the Kiso River.  We hope to work together with these institutions.

The second Mizubering 138 meeting was participated by people from various backgrounds and resulted with an idea of creating a “Cycle Café” that would develop workshops and holiday camps in which collaboration between cycling and a project to revitalize the Koigahama Beach was envisioned.  New ideas for promoting riverside use will continue to be implemented, and future infrastructure development will promote attractive development of the riversides. The private sector’s efforts to utilize the Kiso River, combined with promotional activities under the Mizubering 138 will inform people within and outside of the city of the beauty of the river. 


Mr. Kazuyoshi Nishiki
Deputy Head
Ichinomiya City, City Planning Division
2-5-6 Honcho Ichinomiya City
E. tokei@city.ichinomiya.lg.jp