After two autumn color reports from Daisetsuzan, which is the first place in Japan to see autumn colors, in Hokkaido, today's report is from the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, a popular route to see panoramic views and seasonal foliage. The autumn color season along the route, which spans an elevation of almost 2000 meters, is particularly long, and the colors start at the top of the route at approximately 2450 meters around the end of September and move down the mountains by the end of October. I started my journey from Ogizawa in Nagano Prefecture at about 1430 meters and took the various transportation systems to Murodo, the highest point on the alpine route at 2450 meters in Toyama Prefecture. This year, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is open from April 15 through to November 30, before closing for the winter.

On my trip, I found the colors to be at their best viewing at Murodo. While the colors have trickled down below the 2400 meter level, the areas around the 1800 to 2300 meter elevation range need a week or so before the colors get punched up more. Lastly the leaves are still green at the 1500 meter level.

Kurobe Dam

Still Green

From Ogizawa, an electric bus took me to Kurobe Dam, the tallest dam in Japan at 186 meters, which sits at an elevation of 1454 meters above sea level. From June 26 to October 15, visitors can see approximately ten tons of water being discharged per second into the river below. Today, the trees around the dam were still very green with only hints of orange and yellow.

I then walked over the dam, which took about ten minutes, to take the Kurobe Cablecar to Kurobedaira.


Approaching Peak

The Tateyama Ropeway is the longest single-span ropeway in Japan, traversing 1.7 kilometers in about five minutes. A single-span ropeway means there are no support poles between stations. Kurobedaira is the lower station, which stands at an elevation of 1828 meters, and Daikanbo is the upper station at 2316 meters. A valley separates the two stations, and there were more yellows than green in the valley when I crossed it today. The small garden beside Kurobedaira Station also had some colors, but they were not quite at their best yet. I expect the colors here to improve over the next few days and the best viewing to start after another week or so.

From the upper station of the ropeway, I continued by trolleybus to Murodo.


Peak Color

At an elevation of 2450 meters, Murodo is the highest point along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. The station is a typical starting point for those who want to venture higher up into the mountains, in particular Mount Tateyama, whose peak can be reached in about two hours. Autumn colors along the route typically start from here, with the alpine vegetation like nanakamado bushes turning fiery orange and red as well as the tiny chinguruma shrubs characterized by their delicate flowers and leaves that turn red in autumn. Today, I found the colors at Murodo to be at their best viewing and expect the colors to remain for another week or so.