Exploring Japan’s Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Embark on this one-of-a-kind mountain course journey like never before.

If you’re a fan of stunning alpine landscape, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which runs across the Northern Japan Alps in central Japan, is a must-see. The entire route, which runs from Tateyama Station in Toyama Prefecture to Shinano-Omachi Station in neighboring Nagano Prefecture, is 90 kilometers long and climbs to an elevation of 3,015 meters when it traverses Mount Tateyama’s top.

Ropeways and cable cars may be used to travel this stunning path, making it accessible to children and anyone who aren’t avid hikers. The largest stations along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route are Murodo, Daikanbo, and Kurobe Dam, though each place where you change conveyance has something to see and do.

 

Murodo

Encircled by snow walls on Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan.

The fabled Snow Corridor begins in Murodo, at a height of 2400 meters on Mt Tateyama, and can be reached by taking the “Highland Bus” from Bijodaira Station. It’s only the width of two vehicles, carefully carved out of meters-high snow amid one of the world’s heaviest snowfalls. During peak season, this section of the route is perhaps the most well-known and photographed, attracting both foreign tourists and domestic visitors. The road opens in mid-April, allowing tourists to stroll between the sheer snow walls, which can reach heights of up to 20 meters.

During the summer months, serious hikers and mountaineers flock to Murodo’s numerous hiking trails. The spectacular alpine and volcanic scenery are reasons for its popularity with families and more leisurely hikers. The bus station is only a short walk away from thermal pools, hot springs, and glacial water-filled craters.

The restaurant serves day-trippers economical and well-portioned hot meals, and the hotel is the only accommodation on the entire road. Take the Tunnel Trolley Bus from Murodo to Daikanbo, where the Tateyama Ropeway begins, which is powered by electricity supplied by the Kurobe Dam.

 

Daikanbo

Take the Tateyama Ropeway to see some spectacular views.

A few vendors at Daikanbo sell souvenirs and refreshments like onigiri (rice balls) and soft-serve ice cream, which you can eat while admiring the surrounding mountain peaks from the observation deck. To continue on the trip to Kurobedaira, tourists must board the Tateyama Ropeway. Daikanbo on Mount Tateyama is connected to Kurobedaira on the neighboring peak by a 1.7-kilometer ropeway. This is Japan’s longest one-span ropeway, with no supporting towers in between.

The Tateyama Ropeway offers magnificent views of the surrounding alpine scenery, including tundra and snow-capped peaks in the spring, alpine flowers and abundant foliage in the late summer, and vibrant fall colors. Just for this section of the journey, the trip is worthwhile.

 

Kurobe Dam

Kurobe Dam, Japan.

The 186m high Kurobe Dam—Japan’s tallest—is a five-minute cable car journey away from Kurobedaira. Visitors can get up close and personal with it. View the amazing construction from viewing platforms cut out on the top and sides of this monstrosity, which discharges up to 15 tons of water every second from Kurobe Lake!

Aside from viewing the dam from above, sightseeing excursions are available on the lake in front of the dam from June to November, making it the country’s highest altitude boat ride. The dam is accessible by foot, and there are a few stores providing hot meals and souvenirs.

You must cross the dam to reach Akasawadake, the final peak on this path, which is only a short distance away. The second Tunnel Trolley Bus travels from here to Ogizawa on the other side of the mountain, as well as being the last stop on the route for taxis and local buses serving the Nagano area. Taking a bus from Ogizawa to Shinano-Omachi Station, which has numerous convenient rail lines and buses waiting to transport you to your next destination, is a popular option.

 

What You Should Know

Access
Private vehicles are not permitted on the route. The only way to get there is to take the designated public transportation.

When to visit?
The months of April and May are ideal for viewing the most dramatic snow barriers. Mid-September to early November is the great time to visit for the best autumn scenery.

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