Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is the most famous tourist destination in Toyama Prefecture and one of the highlights in Japan, too.
The history of Alpine Route
The route opened in 1971. Eight years before that, the highest dam in Japan was constructed. It is called Kurobe Dame (or Kurobe Fourth Dame). There was a shortage of electricity and Japan needed to build power stations to meet the demand caused by the high economic growth. So they made it in the mountain using the bountiful snow meltwater from the high mountains. The dam was finished in 1963. The style of the dam is a combination of arch and gravity. The height of the dam is 186 meters which is the highest one even today.
The tunnels were constructed to make dam, so they plan to use it for the tourists. Then in 1971, the whole route was made between Toyama and Nagano Prefecture.
You can start from either side of the route. I will show you the example starting from Toyama side.
Toyama Station to Tateyama Station
Take Toyama Chiho Railroad. It takes about an hour. You will enjoy the rural scenery with rice fields.
Tateyama Station to Bijodaira
Take Tateyama Cablecar. It goes up 500 meters higher. The angle of the railway is 24 degrees. It takes only 7 minutes.
Bijodaira to Murodo
Take Tateyama Highland Bus. The bus runs through the beautiful scenery. It goes up 1,500 meters higher. It takes 50 minutes. You can get off the bus on the way and enjoy hiking at Midagahara. Before reaching to Murodo, you may see the high snow wall in April and May. The maximum height can be over 20 meters!
Murodo is the highest point of the Alpine Route. The height is 2,450 meters. You may see snow even in summer. There are some hotels and huts, so you can stay overnight and enjoy hiking. If you are fit, you may try to climb to the highest point of the area, the summit of Tateyama Mountain which is 3,015 meters high.
Murodo to Daikanbo
Take Tateyama Tunnel Trolley Bus. It goes through the tunnel made under the highest Tateyama Mountain. This is the only trolley bus in Japan now. It takes 10 minutes.
Daikanbo to Kurobedaira
Take Tateyama Ropeway. You will enjoy the amazing view from the gondola. There are no supports for 1,700 meters long to preserve the nice view. It takes 7 minutes.
Kurobedaira to Kurobe Dam
Take Kurobe Cablecar. The whole route is underground which is only here in Japan. It takes 5 minutes.
You have to walk about 15 minutes to the next bus station passing the walkway made on the dam. From there you can see the both sides, dam and the downstream. From late June to mid October, they release the water from the dam, so you can see the dynamic waterfall just below you.
Kurobe Dam to Ogisawa
Take Kanden Tunnel Electric Bus. This bus goes through 6.1 km tunnel. It runs by the electricity but not the trolley bus. It takes 16 minutes.
Ogisawa to Shinano-Omachi
Take a local bus. The bus goes down to the city. It takes 40 minutes. There are some buses going to Nagano Station from where you can take Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. It takes another 75 minutes from Shinano-Omachi to Nagano.
Access to Toyama Station (JR): Take Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo. It takes about 2 hours by the fastest shinkansen Kagayaki.
Ticket from Toyama to Nagano: 21,210 yen for adults / 10,620 yen for elementary school students
Operation period: From mid April to late November