Crossing the Japanese Alps gives you a great overview of the impressive nature Japan has to offer. Following the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route is a convenient and easy way to achieve this in one or two days.
Take at least a full day for the crossing. If you want to get away from the crowds, stay the night at Hotel Tateyama in Murodoro-daira (2,450m) or the hotel at Midagahara (1930m). This way you can explore the area before the crowds arrive. It also gives you more overall time for the different stages of the crossing, allowing you to go on longer walks. Once you’re off the beaten track, you’ll soon find yourself alone in the wilderness.
This journey is also a good opportunity to experience different kind of transportation vehicles. On offer are busses, trains, boats, cable cars and a ropeway. You can start your journey on both ends, the best option for you depends on your travel schedule. Ending at Tateyama gives you the option to spend the night in Kanazawa at the west coast. Here you can visit one of the best Japanese gardens. At the other end, Ogizawa provides you with the option to go to Matsumoto or Nagano. We start our journey from Ogizawa.
The eastern start of the route is accessible by bus from Omachi train station. At Shinano-Omachi station you can forward your luggage to Toyama or Tateyama and vice versa. The first leg of the crossing will be by trolley bus, going through the mountain to Kurobe Dam.
Kurobe Dam (1470m)
The dam provides you with some stunning views of the lake, the dam itself and the surrounding mountains. Fans of the anime show Kuromukuro will recognize the Dam from the series. You can go for a boat ride on the lake, which is the highest boat tour in Japan. Or continue the crossing by cable car to Kurobedaira.
The cable car ride is through a tunnel so no nice views here. When you arrive at Kurobedaira go straight to the line for the ropeway. There isn’t much to do at this station, only an Alpine garden. You have the same views from the ropeway car and the next station anyways.
At Daikanbo you’ll have a last opportunity to get a spectacular view across the eastern ranges of the Japanese Alps and the Kurobe dam lake. When you’re finished admiring the mountain views, take the trolley bus through Mt. Tateyama. This is the highest mountain of the crossing with 3.015m. At Murodo there are climbing trails to the top.
This is the highest station of the crossing. From here you can go on different hiking trips. Go and explore the volcanic area, see the earth steaming, smell the sulphur, enjoy the blood red ponds or climb a mountain. If you’re here before the snow has melted, you can admire the snow wall.
Far fewer visitors got off at this station of the crossing. This allows for more peaceful walks through these high wetlands. Wooden walkways provide easy access to the area. From this station, there is also a quick walk to a viewpoint of the Tateyama Caldera. The walk itself is less impressive then the walk to the other Caldera viewpoint from Murodo station. So, decide on time and effort, but don’t miss the Caldera viewpoint. Forests fill the ancient crater and clouds race through it, making it a truly breath-taking place.
While descending to Bijodaira station our bus drove into the clouds. Obscuring the views of the ancient cedar trees but at the same time adding more mystery to the forest. We arrived here at the end of the day with the crowds gone and the forest abandoned. Eerie silence surrounded us and the continuous bear warnings kept us on edge. The cedar trees are more than 1,000 year olds and reach to the sky. Depending on the time left, you can make some great walks here.
Descend by cable car to Tateyama. Mountains slowly make way for hills and trees make room for more open spaces. An epic journey had sadly come to its last stop. From here the train brought us to our luggage in Toyama where we collected it and continued to Kanazawa. Meanwhile the sun was setting on the rice fields.