One of my most memorable visits to Japan would be the trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Travelling to this route really does require much effort in planning as it consumes much time and energy. It took me approximately eight hours to complete this alpine route and it was the longest duration I ever spent just to visit a single destination. Now, let me briefly introduce this route and some of my experiences.
What is Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
It is a route that requires you to travel from Point A to Point J, which made up of;
H) Kurobe Dam
The journey can be completed by using eight different modes of transportation, which takes you through stunning and unique landscapes of Mt. Tateyama. The highlight of this route would be the highest point at Murodo (2450m) where you could witness the infamous snow wall.
You can travel vice versa from Point H to Point A (Nagano to Toyama), depending on your preferred starting point. My journey commenced at Toyama.
My Alpine Route Experience
Point A – Dentetsu Toyama Station > Point B – Tateyama Station (475m)
Transportation: Toyama Chiho Railroad
It was a slow moving, old-school looking train that brought me to the suburbs. The train is clean but it has a strong musty smell, which you will eventually get used to during the 60-minute journey.
Toyama Chiho Railroad
Ticket sales counter
The ticket sales counter was located on the left as you walk out of the station. This is where you could buy your day ticket to the next destination.
Some destinations along the alpine route.
One of the main attractions is the Shomyo Falls – the highest waterfall in Japan. However, bear in mind that you would need to schedule an additional 2.5 hours to visit this waterfall.
The bus schedule heading to the Shomyo Falls and information on the fare.
Point B – Tateyama Station > Point C – Bijodaira (977m)
Transportation: Tateyama Cable Car
The cable car I took to reach Bijodaira resembles the Peak Tram in Hong Kong, which travels up the slope steadily at a relatively steep gradient, allowing you to admire the scenery along the way.
Tateyama Cable Car.
Inside the cable car.
Finally reached Bijodaira.
A notice board with information on the walking trail.
If you are interested in nature observation, heritage trees and forests bathing, you might be keen to opt for a walking trail through the primaeval forest from the Bijodaira Station. Do keep an eye out for the legendary Bijosugi Tree, also known as the Beautiful Woman Cedar.
There’s a huge Bijosugi Tree right outside the train station.
Point C – Bijodaira > Point D – Murodo (2,450m)
Transportation: Tateyama Highland Bus
My next mode of transport brought me to Murodo. The bus driver played a video showing scenes of the alpine route and highlighted beautiful views to look out for during the bus journey.
The highland bus will make a stop at Midagahara, nearby Midagahara Hotel. This is not part of the alpine route so don’t alight unless you want to take a break at the hotel or visit the nearby wetland. I made a mistake in alighting and my whole journey was disrupted as I wasted 45 minutes for the next bus to Murodo.
Restroom at Midagahara.
The bus schedule to and fro Bijodaira
Midagahara is 1,930-metre above sea level. It is a wetland and if you follow the boardwalk, you will reach an observation deck for a caldera – formed during a volcanic activity 200,000 years ago.
Midagahara was an unexpected stop, but it was nice to be surrounded by nature.
Finally, the next bus came and I continued my journey to Murodo.
As I approached my destination, snow became visible in the highlands. Soon, it felt like I transcended from summer to near winter.
Then I saw a building and the setting somewhat looked like the Swiss Alps.
While en route to this building, the bus went passed by the snow wall. Unfortunately, the snow wall was disappointing as it was mid-June. I should have arranged to visit this place in April instead.
My bus terminated at Murodo Station, the highest train station in Japan, which also houses Hotel Tateyama. There are a few eateries within the complex, a tourist information counter and ticket counters to get to the next destination.
Tips on Preparation before visiting Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
- Decide where you want to begin your trip (Nagano or Toyama?)
- Purchase your ticket
You can choose to buy your day ticket at each destination point. Alternatively, you could buy an advanced ticket here. If you have the Hokuriku Arch Pass, you could buy the complementing Tateyama Kurobe Option Ticket which is valid for five days.
- Visit their official website
Find out about the destination point that you are interested to visit. You could download this pamphlet guide as a reference.
- Refer to the schedule for different modes of transportation
- Pay attention to the transportation’s departure timing at each point
This is important if you plan to complete the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in a day. For example, if you would like to visit the Shomyo Falls, you have to factor in an additional 2.5 hours for the round trip to Shomyo Falls and back to the Tateyama Station.
Note: Unexpected situation may occur so it’s recommended to be more generous in your time estimation.
- Plan your attire
I visited the place in mid-June and it is quite cooling, but the highest point at Murodo is relatively cold at 7-degree celsius. I did not want the hassle of bringing my winter wear just to wear it for one day so I layered myself with a few jackets. It was also the rainy season and I was glad to have an umbrella with me.
What did I do after seeing a disappointing snow wall? Find out Part 2 of my adventure here.