Joe's Japan Travel Journal
by Joe, staff writer of

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2014/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route

Trees in full color along Kurobe Lake

To follow up on our last report on the autumn color there, today I traveled to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route that spans both Nagano and Toyama Prefectures. After seeing Scott and Raina's photos from late September of peak colors in higher parts of the route, I was curious to see how far down the slopes that colors had come today.

My first surprise on driving to the Nagano side of the alpine route today was the sight of snow high up on the peaks of Mount Tateyama and the other North Japan Alps. With the fall color season moving a week earlier than usual all over the country this year, it seemed like winter isn't far behind this year. To get a closer look, I started my trek up the route by taking the trolley bus from the route's starting point at Ogizawa Station to Kurobe Dam (which I spent more time at later in the day), and then immediately onward to the Kurobe Cablecar.

The first leg of the route: riding the trolley bus from Ogizawa to Kurobe Dam
Mount Shirouma Dake, one of the tallest mountains in the North Japanese Alps

From the Kurobedaira cablecar station at 1828 meters above sea level, I transfered to the route's next means of conveyance, the 1.7-kilometer-long, single-span Tateyama Ropeway. On the slopes under the ropeway, the nanakamado bushes and other plants that were blazing red and yellow three weeks ago were almost all leafless today.

The colors have all but finished on the slopes under the Tateyama Ropeway
The upper Daikanbo station of the Tateyama Ropeway under freshly snow-capped peaks

From the ropeway's upper station, there is another trolley bus that runs through another tunnel to the route's highest point, Murodo, at an elevation of 2450 meters. Walking out of the Murodo Terminal Station, I was greeted by a snowscape. The highland area here was like a sanctuary, surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Tateyama Mountain Range. The alpine grasses and bushes, which were in full autumn color a few weeks ago, were poking through a few centimeters snow. The beautiful clear weather made it an ideal day to visit, and the sight of mingling autumn and winter colors made for a really rewarding journey.

Murodo, at the highest section of the Alpine Route, was covered with a fresh blanket of snow today
Golden alpine grass in the snow with the Mikurigaike Pond in the background
Autumn leaves in fresh snow
The hiking trails around Murodo were still busy with hikers and tourists thanks to the beautiful weather
The alpine grasses further down the slopes still had traces of autumn color
A hiker enjoying the amazing scenery
The moon above Mount Tateyama

After a brief hike around Murodo, I headed back down the route all the way to Kurobe Dam, at 1450 meters. It was clear that a kilometer in elevation makes a huge difference in autumn color viewing. The foliage just around the lake formed by the dam was gorgeous today.

Kurobe Dam and Lake with autumn colors at their peak
A section of Kurobe Dam
Kurobe Lake
Autumn foliage around Kurobe Lake against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains
Trees around Lake Kurobe

Still further down, back at Ogizawa (at 1433m) the foliage around the station was well into its peak. The whole valley around the Nagano entrance to the Apline Route was stunningly colored, making for a pleasant drive back down from the mountains.

The colors around Ogizawa Station, at the bottom of the route, were stunning
Beautiful color at Ogizawa

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List of Posts:
2019/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2019
2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/03/24 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Mitake
2015/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Takao
2015/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Fukuroda Falls
2015/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2015/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2015/10/13 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkoda
2015/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2015/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/04/14 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Yoshino
2015/04/13 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Miharu
2015/04/08 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Matsumoto Report
2015/01/29 - Crabs, Peonies and Castle Cruises in Shimane

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/16 - Seasonal Illumination: Osaka
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Kobe Luminarie 2014
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Ashikaga Flower Park
2014/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2014/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2014/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Shima Onsen
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2014/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/08/20 - Kusatsu Onsen Beautification