Japan is a land of beautiful and mighty mountain peaks. While there are many ways to see these mountains at their best, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is one of the best and most famous.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, commonly called the “Roof of Japan“, runs 37 kilometers between the town of Tateyama and the city of Omachi. While short, it has a vertical interval of 1,975 meters.

View of Mount Tate (Tateyama) from Mount Harinoki. Photo Credit: Alpsdake at Wikimedia Commons.

There are five different ways to travel along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route: bus, trolleybus, aerial tramway, funicular (cable car), and walking. If you plan on traveling the whole route, be prepared to make at least 6 different transfers along the way.

If you are planning to visit this awe-inspiring landmark in the Northern Japan Alps, the following guides certainly going to be a treasure for your upcoming trip to the route. Shall we start now?

Tateyama (Mount Tate) and Kurobe Alpine Route

Map of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Photo Credit: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

Tateyama is one of Japan’s three holy mountains along with Mount Fuji, and Mount Haku. In the Hida Mountains range (Japanese Alps), Tateyama is the 4th highest mountain peak. For any nature enthusiast a trek through the mountain is a must thing to do. The mountain is packed with beautiful surrounding vistas and interesting landmarks.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route without question is one of the interesting highlights the mountain could offer you. This sightseeing route was first opened on June 1, 1971. It’s been specially constructed so that the environment is not damaged. This is also a part of why the transportation methods along the route are all public transportation.

The Hida Mountains. Photo Credit: Σ64 at Wikimedia Commons.

The vehicles are all made so that they make a minimum impact on the environment. The entire route is meant to be in harmony with nature as much as possible. As always, be respectful of posted signs, others and nature as you travel along the route.

The section of the route between Ogisawa and Kurobe Dam was originally built for the construction of the dam. The section between Kurobeko and Tateyama was built for tourism, which is the route’s primary use now. It is the only direct road between Nagano and Toyama, but it takes about 5 hours for someone to travel the route in its entirety, with 6 transfers, making it impractical for non-sightseeing use.

Things to do at Tateyama Kurobe Alpen Route

Yukino otani – the snow wall, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Photo Credit: Uryah at Wikimedia Commons.

Along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, you can see a number of the most scenic mountainsides in Japan. The route goes through the Hida Mountains. A number of the stations along the routes have hotels since they are also used as bases for mountain climbing or longer hikes. Some of the highlights along the route include:

1) From around the middle of April to the middle of June, there are sparkling, massive snow walls (Yuki no Otani) along the road leading up to Murodo station. These snow walls can be anywhere from 15 to 20 meters high. Once you walk the snow corridor, you can imagine why the area is considered one of Japan’s most heavy snowfall areas. You will also figure it out why the snow wall is said one of the popular attractions at the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

Murodo in Autumn. Photo Credit: くろふね at Wikimedia Commons.

2) Summer and autumn feature some of the most beautiful scenery. Alpine flowers bloom throughout this time, though they are at their best June through August. The autumn leaves are amazing there. From late September to Early October, the autumn leaves near Daikanbo and Murodo are a sight to behold. The colors will typically move down the slopes throughout the rest of the season, reaching lower elevations sometime in late October to early November.

Check out the autumn leaves forecast for 2018.

3) At Oyama peak is Oyama Shrine. Visitors to this shrine can receive a blessing and some warm sake from a priest there.  There is also a rest area located nearby that sells food, drinks, and souvenirs.

Kurobe dam and surrounding mountains. Photo Credit: Tak H. at Flickr.

4) Kurobe Dam, Japan’s largest dam, is located along the route. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the Kurobe Cable Car station nearby. This hydroelectric dam stands 186 meters tall. It was built between 1956 and 1963. And it’s said that about 10 million people were employed to complete its construction. Between late June and the middle of October, water is released from its spillway to give a show for onlookers.

Mikurigaike and Mount Tate (Tateyama) Photo Credit: Saigen Jiro at Wikimedia Commons.

5) At the highest point of the route, Murodo is the starting point for many hiking trails. The trails range in difficulty from a relaxing walk to a serious hike. A walk around Murodo does not only offer you to see the beauty mountain range but also a scenic spot called Mikurigaike. This is a beautiful crater lake formed by volcanic eruption. The surface of the lake is smooth enough to reflect the Mount Tateyama peak gorgeously.

Midagahara, Toyama Prefecture. Photo Credit: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

5) You can visit the walking area of the Midagahara wetlands. This area is quite flat and features many ponds and picturesque viewpoints to enjoy the wilderness. It’s a striking and calming bit of nature.

6) Also at Murodo Station you can find a hotel called Tateyama Hotel, located 2,450 meters above sea level alongside a number of mountain lodges with many onsen (hot springs bath) and a shopping area. The onsen uses a sulfur spring, so you should be able to smell it while coming up the mountain. Visitors expecting to explore every corner of the Murodo area, they will have to stay overnight at the hotel and lodges.

Tateyama ropeway in the winter. Photo Credit: tsuda at Flickr.

7) The single-span Tateyama Ropeway is also along the alpine route. This bridge offers a panoramic bird’s eye view of the scenery nearby including the majestic Japan Alps, and the lake created by Kurobe Dam. It is Japan’s longest single-span ropeway. It only holds a limited number of people, so there can be a bottleneck on busier days. It costs 1300 yen to walk on it.

Shomyo Falls, Tateyama. Photo Credit: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

9) When it’s very clear out, you can see the Shomyo Falls from the route as you travel from Tateyama Station to the Murodo Plateau. This waterfall is the tallest in Japan. You can also take a bus to get a closer look from the bridge and two viewing platforms nearby.

10) If you get lucky there are variety wild animals and birds can be seen. When you decide to go for a hike along trails to reach the peak of Mount Tateyama, you can also expect to see flora and fauna of the Japanese Alps such as Japanese antelope, stoat, and sacred bird called Raicho (Ptarmigan).

Access to Tateyama Kurobe Alpen Route

Cable car at Bijyodaira. Photo Credit: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

If you’re considering a trip along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route to see some of these amazing sights, here are more details on your transportation options:

1) The Toyama Chiho Railway goes between Toyama Station and Tateyama Station. This trip takes about 1 hour. It runs year round and the one-way fare is 1200 yen.

2) The Tateyama Cablecar climbs from Tatayema Station to Bijodaira Station. This trip takes only 7 minutes. One way fare is 720 yen. You can make advance reservations on the Tateyama Cablecar, the only place on the route where you can do so, though you can only make a reservation if you’re headed in the direction of Murodo.

3) The Highland Bus goes between Bijodaira Station and Murodo Station. The trip takes around 50 minutes. One way fare costs 1710 yen. It makes a few stops along its route, including at the Midagahara Wetlands. It runs through the great snow walls, as well, when they are present.

Tateyama Highland Bus. Photo Credit: Alpsdake at Wikimedia Commons.

4) The Tateyama Trolley Buses are a small fleet of electric powered buses that run through a tunnel between Daikanbo and Murodo. The journey between these points takes about 10 minutes. The one-way fee is 2160 yen.

5) The Kurobe Cablecar travels entirely through a tunnel between Kurobedaira and Kurobeko Station. It takes around 5 minutes. The one-way fee is 860 yen.

6) The Kanden Trolley Buses are another small fleet of electric powered buses, this time traveling between Kurobe Dam and Ogizawa. The journey takes about 15 minutes. The one-way fee costs 1540 yen.

7) The Ogizawa-Omachi bus service runs between Ogizawa with JR Shinano-Omachi Station through Omachi Onsen. This trip takes around 40 minutes. The one-way fee is 1360 yen.

Hiking at Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Hikers can ascend Tateyama from mid April to late November. Photo Credit: Seth FJT at Flickr.

If hiking is in your blood, and you have special interest in exploring beautiful mountainous landscape, you must come to Japan to pursue your dream. Indeed, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an ideal place for you to go.

Alongside trekking in the area, you can also go on a hike. The popular hiking trails lies in the area of Murodo, the highest point along the alpine route. You have got to come here if you are to ascend Mount Tateyama.

Many tourists decide to hike along the route to make an incredible journey through beautiful mountains, and forests. This hilarious outdoor activity also allows them to witness the alpine wilderness such as various kinds of plants including beautiful alpine flowers, and wild animals and birds.

There are a variety of lodging options at various stations along the route. Considering the distance, incline, and altitude, you may only want to do this for portions of the route. If you want to do some of the more challenging hikes found at various places along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, save your energy for them when you can.

In Conclusion

Mind-boggling view from the summit of Mount Tate. Photo Credit: Hiroaki Kaneko at Wikimedia Commons.

In 2018, the entire route is scheduled to be open from April 15 to November 30, covering three seasons. The temperatures can be quite cool from April to early May and there can be quite a chill on windy days. You will probably want to bring an extra sweater or jacket for this time of year.

The same is true of the autumn months. In the summer, you are probably fine with just one layer of clothing. Make sure you wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes or even hiking boots so you can see all the wonders that the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route has to offer!

As a tourist destination, there are plenty of restaurants and shops along the route. Take your time to enjoy the natural wonders found all along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. It offers some of the most spectacular views in Japan and is a great way to experience the great outdoors.