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Alpine Route: Approaching Peak

Looking pretty at Murodo

It is that time of the year again when temperatures start cooling down signalling the change from summer to autumn. One of the events that many look forward to, is the changing colors of the leaves, also known as koyo in Japanese. The autumn color season lasts for about three months, starting from the north in Japan's highest mountains and moves southwards. Schauwecker was in the tallest mountains in Hokkaido, the Daisetsuzan mountains about a week ago and reported that the colours were at their peak in Ginsendai and approaching their peak at Mount Asahidake.

Today, I continue our chase for the autumn colors, heading to Murodo, the highest point (2450 meters) along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. The area is one of the first places in Japan to have changing colors thanks to its high elevation and is also a popular hiking spot. The seasonal colors last for a relatively long time along the Alpine Route as they move down from Murodo to Kurobe Dam at 1470 meters.

I enjoyed unusually warm weather the entire day I was there, with temperatures reaching a top of 20 degrees Celsius at Midagahara. Visitors to the area should be prepared for wet, windy and cold conditions as the weather can change rapidly in the mountains. Hikers and visitors should keep to the designated trails and take all their rubbish with them, as these help to maintain the biodiversity of the region.


Approaching Peak

To say that Murodo took my breath away may be an understatement. I could not have asked for better weather - blue sky and a slight breeze, and gorgeous panoramic views. The colors here were almost at their peak and beautiful to look at. Murodo is definitely worth a visit this coming weekend for those who want to see some autumn colors on Honshu.

Lots of early birds waiting patiently for the first trolley bus leaving Ogizawa
Walking trails in Murodo
Mikurigaike Lake
You can see patches of chinguruma
Hikers making their way up to Mount Tateyama
You could hike to the top of the mountains in the background
Alpine grass, chinguruma, and the great blue sky
Mountain porter hard at work hauling goods
Couple taking a rest
Nanakamado bushes along the way
Orangey-red nanakamado bush
Looking down the path at Tateyama Hotel
Can you spot the neon tents at the Raichozawa campsite?
It became overcast quite suddenly
Low hanging clouds just like that


Approaching Peak

Moving on to Midagahara, a highland at 1930 meters, I found the colors here to be also approaching their peak and beautiful to see. This weekend would be a good time to visit the highland together with Murodo for those who want to see some seasonal colors. The highland bus from Murodo to Midagahara takes about 20 minutes. Visitors wishing to board the bus again from Midagahara must make reservations at the Midagahara bus center. It is best to make reservations immediately on arrival as there is a cut off time for each departure.

The highland bus passes through the Tateyama Snow Corridor - a one kilometer long pathway lined with up to 20 meter high snow walls that can only be seen from April to May. It was quite something imagining how much snow the region gets when I could see all the way to the coast of Toyama.

Along the snow corridor towards Midagahara
Looking down at Midagahara Highland
Midagahara, check
Walking up to the caldera lookout point
Midagahara Caldera
Hello Autumn
The old man turns around to say something to his wife but sees this instead, forgetting what he wanted to say
Boardwalk trails into the flatlands
Fiery bushes along the way
Hello Autmn II
Bus making its way up to Murodo
That's the city of Toyama in the back
Tateyama-so surrounded by colors
Take a walk through all this color
The highland bus can get pretty crowded
Winding highland roads and the city below

Tateyama Ropeway

Starting to Change

The valley between the ropeway stations of Daikanbo and Kurobedaira is starting to take on color which is expected to develop further. The ropeway was crowded both times I boarded and everyone onboard marveled at the view we had. I am sure that everyone imagined how awesome the valley would look at its peak as we passed by.

Peeking at the ropeway
A patch of more developed colors in the valley
We could've passed by one another but never knew it, because the view around us was simply too gorgeous
Kurobe Dam on the right and the tiny ropeway station on the left
Views of the valley
Looking at the upper ropeway station
Won't be long before these look even more amazing
Trees starting to take on color at Kurobedaira Station
Reminds me of christmas

Kurobe Dam

Still Green

At an elevation of 1450 meters, the colors at Kurobe Dam where still green with hints of yellow at the tips of some trees. It wouldn't be long before the autumn colors move down here.

Walking across the dam to get to the ropeway station
Still green at Kurobe Dam
Green trees around the dam