The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (館山黒部アルペンルート, Tateyama Kurobe Alpen Route) is a unique and spectacular route through the Northern Japan Alps which is traversed by various means of transportation including cablecars, trolley buses and a ropeway. Completed in 1971, the route connects Toyama City in Toyama Prefecture with Omachi Town in Nagano Prefecture. The section between Tateyama Station and Ogizawa is closed to private vehicles. It is completely inaccessible from December to mid April.
In 2015, the entire route is open from April 16 to November 30.
The main attraction of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is the magnificent scenery of the Tateyama Mountain Range, part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park. Visitors can enjoy varying vistas during different seasons of the year. In spring, accumulated snow, especially around the upper sections of Midagahara and Murodo, form a majestic snow corridor whose snow walls reach up to 20 meters high. A section of the snow corridor around Murodo is open to pedestrians usually from mid April to mid June.
In 2015, the snow corridor is open to pedestrians from April 16 to June 22. On the opening day, the snow walls reached a height of up to 19 meters.
Summer and autumn attract visitors with beautiful landscapes, alpine flowers (especially around June through August) and autumn leaves. The fall colors typically reach their best around Murodo and Daikanbo from late September to early October, and they gradually descend the mountain slopes, arriving at the lower elevations from late October to early November.
Autumn colors can be seen along the Alpine Route from late September into early November
The highest point along the route, Murodo offers a variety of hiking trails that cater both to serious hikers and to those looking for a leisurely walk. Other highlights along the route are the single-span Tateyama Ropeway that provides great panoramic bird's eye views of the surrounding mountain scenery, and the 186 meter tall Kurobe Dam which is especially spectacular when it discharges water between late June and mid October.
From mid June through September temperatures along the Alpen Route are mild, and it rarely gets too hot either. From April to early May and from mid October through November, temperatures are cool and it might get chilly on windy days. Just one layer of clothing is enough for summer, while an additional sweater or jumper is recommended for spring and autumn. Good walking shoes are advised if you plan on hiking beyond the easy walking trails in the vicinity of respective stations along the route. Accommodation in form of hotels, mountain huts and camp grounds is available along the route, especially around Murodo.
The following is a list of transportation and attractions along the Alpine Route, in order from west to east:
Toyama Chiho Railway
Running through rural Toyama Prefecture, this train gets you from Dentetsu Toyama Station (next to JR Toyama Station) in central Toyama City to Tateyama Station in about one hour. It runs around the year. The one way fare is 1200 yen.
The Tateyama Cablecar ascends from Tateyama Station to Bijodaira Station in only seven minutes. The one way fare is 720 yen. This is the only section of the Alpine Route for which it is possible to make advance reservations (in direction of Murodo only).
This bus requires roughly 50 minutes for the journey between Bijodaira Station and Murodo. The one way fare is 1710 yen. There are a few bus stops along the way. During spring, the bus runs along the Tateyama Snow Corridor.
From April to May, the road from Bijodaira to Murodo runs between up to 20 meter high snow walls. The snow corridor is most spectacular around Murodo, where an approximately one kilometer passage is open to pedestrians from around mid April to mid June.
Murodo offers fantastic views of the Tateyama Mountain Range. In summer and autumn, hiking trails lead to the surrounding peaks and to the nearby Jigokudani "Hell Valley". Volcanic activity can be observed at the valley, although the trails in the area can get closed due to high concentrations of volcanic gases. The Murodo Station complex includes Hotel Tateyama, Japan's highest located hotel.
Tateyama Trolley Bus
Electric powered buses transport travelers through the tunnel between Murodo and Daikanbo. The one way journey takes 10 minutes and costs 2160 yen.
This is the transfer station between the Tateyama Trolley Bus and the Tateyama Ropeway. The small station has an observation deck with great views of the mountains.
This 1.7 kilometer long ropeway operates without any support towers between the lower and upper stations, making it Japan's longest one-span ropeway. The one way trip takes seven minutes and costs 1300 yen. Due to the ropeway's relatively small capacity, it tends to be a bottleneck on busy days.
Kurobedaira is the transfer station between the Tateyama Ropeway and Kurobe Cablecar. The station offers a restaurant, souvenir shop and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
This cablecar runs entirely inside a tunnel, which is a rarity among cablecars. The one way journey between Kurobedaira and Kurobeko Station (next to Kurobe Dam) takes five minutes and costs 860 yen.
Kurobe Dam, with a height of 186 meters, is Japan's tallest dam. From late June to mid October, up to 15 tons of water per second are spectacularly discharged through the dam. Sightseeing cruises are operated on the lake from June to early November.
Kanden Trolley Bus
Electric powered buses transport travelers through the tunnel between Kurobe Dam and Ogizawa. The one way journey takes 15 minutes and costs 1540 yen.
A regular bus service connects Ogizawa with JR Shinano-Omachi Station via Omachi Onsen. The one way trip takes 40 minutes and costs 1360 yen.