The autumn color season has once again arrived on the Japanese mainland, with the first few of the island's highest and most northerly areas beginning to see color as the 'front' sweeps down the country from north to south and from high to low elevations. The autumn color season lasts for many weeks in Japan, with the popular color spots in Tokyo and Kyoto typically reaching peak viewing period around mid to late November.

Following Andrew's opening of coverage this year with his recent trip to Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido, yesterday, I took a trip to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route to see how the colors were faring here.

Straddling Nagano and Toyama prefectures in the Northern Japan Alps, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a popular autumn color spot, attracting thousands of visitors every year who flock to take in the stunning scenery. The area is comprised of spots that span a broad range of altitudes and this means that it has a relatively long color season as the colors move from high to low elevations. This process can be enjoyed by color chasers for around two months here, typically from late September onwards.


Peak Color

After arriving early at Ogizawa on the Nagano side of the route, I made my way along to first investigate the colors at Murodo, from where I came back on myself. Murodo sits at 2450 meters above sea level, making it the highest point along the Tateyama Alpine Route. Upon arriving at the area, visitors are afforded great views of the Tateyama Mountain Range, which can be enjoyed while traversing the network of hiking trails that snake around the area.

Murodo typically hits its autumn color-viewing peak around late September, and this year is no exception, as the plateau and surrounding mountains were alive with color. I made a short hike up to a couple of the smaller peaks in the vicinity and noticed that the colors became slightly more intense up the slopes. With some green patches remaining, it appears that the area has just entered peak, and I suspect that that in the absence of any extreme weather the colors should be great here for the next week or so.

Tateyama Ropeway

Approaching Peak

In working my way down from Murodo, my next point of exploration was along the Tateyama Ropeway, which, at 1.7 kilometers long, this the longest one-span ropeway in the country and attracts many tourists through the breathtaking views that can be had from aboard the cars or from its lower and upper stations.

The valley that the ropeway spans typically hits peak colors around early to mid-October and again, that appears to be the case this year, as the colors were just starting to pop but hadn't quite gotten to their most spectacular yet, especially at the ropeway's lower levels. Despite this, the area is still worth a visit right now for color chasers, and I expect that the higher elevations of the ropeway will come into their vibrant peak next week and from there the colors will trickle downwards.

Kurobe Dam

Still Green

The final spot of the day's autumn color investigation was at the majestic Kurobe Dam which proudly holds the title of Japan's tallest dam. As far as the colors, there still wasn't much going on down here on my visit, with just a couple of odd smatters of yellow beginning to emerge whilst the area still predominantly retained is summery green hue. I expect that the dam still has two to three weeks to go before we see some serious color here.