Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, one of most spectacular sightseeing route in Northern Japan Alps

Chubu Area
Famous snow wall is almost same height as 10 stories building. (C) Jonathan Ayre
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Famous snow wall is almost same height as 10 stories building. (C) Jonathan Ayre

This post is written by Mr. Jonathan Ayre. He is one of the frequent visitors. He offered me some images, writing articles such as Managing baggage during trip, Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. I would like to thank you again, Jonathan for sharing your experience.

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The Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is one of Japan’s famous sightseeing routes. It passes through the Japanese Alps to a height of 2450m above sea level, and often snows well into May and begins to snow in October. The Alpine Route includes famous places such as Kurobe Dam, Japan’s highest dam and Murodo, featuring the famous 20m high snow walls. There are also opportunities to experience natural surrounds, go skiing, and stay at resorts high in the mountains.

The Alpine Route only operates from mid-April to the end of November. Conditions are cold in spring and autumn and cool in summer. The area around Murodo is one of the the snowiest in Japan, and Kurobe Dam is equally spectacular in summer and autumn. As a destination, it is a great place to travel either through from Matsumoto to Toyama, or as a round trip from either city.

Orientation of Alpine Route


View Alpine Route in a larger map

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route official website

The Alpine Route runs from Toyama Station, in Toyama Prefecture, through to Shinano-Omachi Station in Omachi, Nagano Prefecture, on the JR Oito Line. The route consists of eight individual transport components, and a 15 minute walk. The cost for a full one-way trip is just over 10,500 yen and can take anywhere from 6 to 9 hours, depending on your pace and how busy each transport mode is. You can do the Alpine Route from either direction or even loop from one side to the major points and back to the starting point again.

Unfortunately, the entire route is private and no section is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The most convenient ticket is a combination ticket that saves a bit, and is valid from Toyama all the way through to Ogizawa (second last station), and gives you your cablecar reservation. If coming from Shinano-Omachi you need to take the bus to Ogizawa, where you can buy your combination ticket to Toyama.

There is a convenient baggage forwarding service if you are travelling in one direction, allowing you to drop your bags at Dentetsu-Toyama Station (the private line station) or select hotels in Toyama City, and pick them up at a kiosk attached to Shinano-Omachi Station at the other end. From Matsumoto, you will have to bring your bags to the same kiosk at Shinano-Omachi Station to get them transported to Toyama. The service is very affordable and the staff are happy to help with your luggage. (link for baggage forwarding)

Toyama Chiho Railway

Toyama Chiho Railway Tateyama line goes along Jouganji river near Tateyama station. (C) Jonathan Ayre

Toyama Chiho Railway is a private railway company in Toyama. JR Pass do not cover this train service.

From Toyama, you start by taking the private Toyama Chiho Tateyama Line (staff are happy to direct you) from Toyama to Tateyama Station (about one hour). The trains are generally local but there is the occasional rapid service. From Tateyama, head upstairs to the gates for the cable car. If you don’t have a combination ticket you will need to purchase a ticket for the cablecar. Tickets are reserved for a time so be sure not to miss it. The cablecar will take you to Bijoudira Station, and takes about 10 minutes.

Tateyama Cablecar and Highland Bus

Tateyama Cablecar at Tateyama station (C) Jonathan Ayre

When you arrive at Bijoudaira, you will have to change to a bus. The buses are relatively frequent, but often busy, and depart when filled. If it is busy, you may have to wait, but it will give you an opportunity to stretch your legs outside, and a good chance to relax if you are taking it slow. The bus from Bijoudaira to Murodo takes just under an hour, and if you’re in the right season, will drive straight through the famous snow walls, and pass through 1500m of elevation and a pleasant forest view along the way. When you arrive at Murodo, you have the chance to walk a small section of the snow walls yourself, and experience being surrounded by up to twenty metres of snow! Murodo is also the highest point of the Alpine Route, at about 2450m.

Tateyama Trolleybus, Tateyama Ropeway and Kurobe Cablecar

View from Tateyama Trolleybus (C) Jonathan Ayre

In summer season, it is packed at Daikanbo station. (C) Jonathan Ayre

From Murodo, you walk into the mountain for the Tateyama Trolleybus, one of only two trolleybuses left in Japan. This electrified bus runs entirely inside Mount Tateyama through to Daikanbo Station, gateway to Kurobe Dam, in only 15 minutes. Exiting the trolleybus, you can change soon after to the Tateyama Ropeway to descend to the dam. Daikanbo Station is only small, and consists of only a waiting room and souvenir shop.

View from Tateyama Ropeway (C) Jonathan Ayre

The ropeway is unique in not having a support tower in the middle, making for a panoramic experience as you descend almost 500m to Kurobedaira Station in only 7 minutes. Once you arrive at Kurobedaira Station, you change again to the Kurobe Cablecar, Japan’s only all underground cablecar, for another 400m descent to arrive finally at Kurobe Dam.

Kurobe Dam

Kurobe Dam is sometimes called Kuroyon Dam. Means Kuro(=Kurobe) yon (=4) because it is Kurobe River No.4 hydro powerplant.

Breathtaking valley view from Kurobe Dam. (C) Jonathan Ayre

Kurobe Dam is another scenic spot on the Alpine Route. Japan’s highest dam at an elevation of 1500m, the damn walk reveals an amazing construction looking down over the river and valley and is famous for its autumn colours. A 15-minute walk across the dam leads to a rest house, access to an observatory, and a lower deck walk on the mountainside near the dam, as well as access to the Kanden Trolleybus for the descent to Ogizawa Station. With less frequent departures of the trolleybus, Kurobe Dam is the perfect place to enjoy a meal and take a walk around this amazing combination of nature and engineering.

Ogizawa to Shinano-Omachi and Matsumoto

After the 15 minute trip to Ogizawa, there is only one more change before arriving at Shinano-Omachi Station on the JR Oito Line. Exiting the trolleybus, simply go downstairs and exit to find the bus platform for the bus to Shinano-Omachi (some buses go to Nagano, too). Here is where the combination ticket ends, so you’ll have to get a new ticket (1,480 yen) from Ogizawa to Shinano-Omachi Station. The final trip takes 40 minutes, and at Shinano-Omachi Station you can get frequent connections to Matsumoto and Tokyo, or less frequent connections to Minami-Otari and Itoigawa.

Comments

  1. Leony says:

    Hello….
    I will start the kurobe alpine route tour from kanazawa. Could you give me the itinerary suggestion?
    Thank you

    • Hi Leony,

      Please find the info at the link below:
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7552.html

      Kanazawa is only 20 minutes away from Toyama by Shinkansen. So you can make full day trip from/to Kanazawa. Or you can go through it to Shinano-Omachi.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Leony says:

        hi Takeshi…. I’ve checked the link before. What make me wonder is from kanazawa should i go to shinano omachi then ended up at toyama or should i start from toyama-shinano omachi then return to kanazawa? I only have 1 day for this scenic route

        • Hi Leony,

          If you have only one day and make a day trip, I don’t think you cannot go through it. I recommend you to visit Murodo and return to either Kanazawa or Toyama. If you want to see whole part of this route and start from Toyama or Kanazawa, I think you need to stay at other side, Shinano-Omachi or Matsumoto. It’s not realistic to go back to Kanazawa or Toyama from Shinano-Omachi.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Monita Khow says:

    Hi,
    I want ask if I want if I want to go to Alpine Route from Tokyo.
    how to go? please help.

    Regards,
    monita

  3. Winnie says:

    Hello,

    I will travel with my parents who are over 70. I would like to know which train/bus is the most suitable for the itnerary below –

    Day 1 – land in Nagoya airport at 3pm; aim to arrive Takayama for overnight. Should I take JR train or bus?
    Day 2 – Takayama to Shirakawa-go by Nohi bus
    Day 3 – Shirakawa-go – Ogimachi Village and Ainokura Village (by Nohi bus?)
    Day 4 – from Shirakawa-go tranfer to Takayama to Toyama by JR Limited Express Hida 1 (correct me if this is not the right line)
    Day 5 – Alphine Route to Shinano-Omachi. Heading back to Nagoya by which line of JR train?
    Day 6 – Nagoya airport

    I have no idea which kind of ticket I should get. Please advise and provide the URL if possible. Thank you very much

    • Hi Winnie,

      I think train (Wide View Hida) is better choice. There is no direct access to Takayama from airport by both bus and train anyway. I think train is more comfortable. There are 17:43 and 19:43 departure at Nagoya station. If flight is on time, I think you can catch 17:43 departure, Wide View Hida 13.

      When you go to Toyama, Wide View Hida 3 is a right one. #1 does not go to Toyama.

      Unfortunately there is no deal to cover your trip. Single ticket is your choice. But if you take same route from Toyama to Nagoya after Alpine route, Hokuriku Kankou Free Ticket is considerable. In this case, you cannot go to Shinano-Omachi. You have to return somewhere on alpine route.

      But this deal is not super good deal. I think you can keep original plan and use single ticket.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/for-non-jr-pass-travellers-guide-to-use-jr-single-ticket-basic-rules-validity-and-stopover.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. Nawa Ria says:

    hi,

    I will be from nagoya n planning to visit kanazawa and the alpine route. do you think we can cover this in one day trip?

    what will be the best route, given the short time we have?

    thanks!

    • Hi Nawa,

      In my opinion, it’s not feasible.
      It takes 2.5 hour to get Kanazawa by Limited Express Shirasgi and Shinkansen via Maibara. And it takes another 30 minutes to get Toyama by Shinkansen. So you will spend 6 hours for just transfer.

      I recommend you to stay in either Toyama or Kanazawa and make it 1 night 2 days trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Nawa says:

        Thanks Takeshi!

        We have a rough plan as of below. We would like to arrive in Fukuoka on Day 2 evening/night, as I know there are no overnight trains from Nagoya to Fukuoka. Let me know your thoughts, if this is possible, although I admit it is a bit tight.

        Day 1
        Morning – Leave Nagoya towards ShinanoOmachi, Alpine route towards Tateyama/Toyama.
        Evening – Proceed to Kanazawa, check into hotel, stay for one night

        Day 2
        Morning – Explore Kanazawa
        Afternoon – Return to Nagoya from Kanazawa
        Evening – Leave Nagoya for Fukuoka
        Night – check into hotel in Fukuoka

        One more question – if I already have the JR 7-day pass, is it correct that I only have to purchase the one-way ticket from Shinano-Omachi to Dentetsu-Toyama for Y10,850?

        From what I understand, the alpine route ticket is not included in the JR pass.

        Thank you 🙂

  5. ted says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    I intend to travel from Nagoya to Kanazawa for few days; then to Toyama for a night, and then take the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route; later a night at Matsumoto, thence to Nagiso to visit Tsumago and Magome, then the train from Nagatsukawa to Nagoya. But I intend to use the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Ticket (TKAT), Shirasagi type B, whole round trip within a 7 day period.

    Questions:

    1) Am I allowed to stop at Kanazawa, and later buy a separate ticket to travel from Kanazawa to Toyoma? Would this invalidate the terms/conditions of the special TKAT? Would they let me get off at Kanazawa station, or block me at Shinano-omachi/Matsumoto?

    2) Similarly, can I get off at Nagiso, and resume the journey at Nagatsukawa, instead of Nagiso, to Nagoya?

    Thank you, as these are not clearly spelt out in the website, unlike the HIDA version.

    ted

  6. Janice says:

    Dear Takeshi san, as per my previous question, i have managed to do a day trip for this route up to Murodo via Takayama. My suggestion for anyone planning to take this trip when the snow corridor is opened is to stay a night in Toyama and then go up to complete the full route.

    Otherwise it needs a early morning 5.30am train from Takayama to Toyama (only local train, many stops). I did however manage to catch the wide view hida train from Toyama back to Takayama by 4.30pm which meant i spent only 2 hours at Murodo. It was a rush trip with insufficient time to eat except on the train back.

    Also this has become a popular tourist spot with tourists from overseas, the Murodo station was crowded including the markers/spots to take pictures. So you will have to bear with all this. Also warm clothings are needed. The way to manage the bag for additional clothing you have to bring is to rent the lockers available at Murodo station.

    Having said all this, i may still consider a trip again if i have the chance but it will be probably autumn so that i can do the whole route.

    Cheers
    janice

    • Hi Janice san,

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience.
      I have never been there in fall foliage season. But I have heard many positive comments. I really want to go there in that season too.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Giang says:

    Hi Takeshi & Jonathan,
    If we are first time travellers and can only speak English, do you think we can manage ourselves to travel from Tokyo to this Route? Thanks. Giang

    • Hi Giang,

      I think you can. Most of tourist from oversea who come to Japan cannot speak English at all.
      There are lots of English signage. Even though most of Japanese cannot speak English very fluently, they try to communicate. Especially Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is very famous and popular destination. There are lots of tourists who come from overseas.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Janice says:

    Hello Takeshi san and Jonathan

    i plan to do this route from Takayama next month on a day trip. After looking at the time tables including the connections to return to Takayama by evening, i think the best way would be to do a return trip up to Murodo only. My plan is to take the bus all the way up to Murodo, do the walk including the short circuit for the lake and then return with a short stop at Bijodaira (if sufficient time) to view the weeping widow and then back to Toyama. Is this a better way or i shld do stop over at Bijodaira first and then to Murodo and return? i have read the most important sights are at Murodo. Would appreciate your comments and advise.

    Thank you.

  9. Alia says:

    Hi,

    I’ve been trying to find bus schedule for Ogizawa to Nagano. We’re probably going to finish the Alpine Route by 5pm on 18 April. Do you know if there is any bus left to go to Nagano at that time?

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Alia,

      As long as I know, you have to go to Shinano-Omachi. Bus runs between Shinano-Omachi and Nagano. But the last bus leave Shinano-Omachi at 15:35.
      It’s Japanese site, but you can find timetable at the following link:
      http://www.alpico.co.jp/access/express/nagano_omachi/

      Second table is for bus from Shinano-Omachi to Nagano. But this timetable is valid until Apr 15. They may change it and hopefully later bus trip will be available.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. Gunawan Hidajat says:

    How do I go keTateyama-Kurobe Alpine from Tokyo? Can it be taken in one day, leave early to go home at night, because I live in Tokyo.

    Thanks

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Gunawan,

      You can get Shinano-Omachi from Shinjuku via Matsumoto and Toyama from Tokyo via Echigo-Yuzawa. See these following links:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/guide-for-train-access-to-nagano-matsumoto-and-other-places-in-shinshu-and-surrounding-area.html
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-get-kanazawa.html
      *This above post shows you to access to Kanazawa. But Toyama is on the way to Kanazawa.

      Technically you can do it one day. But it will be very tight tour.

      Takeshi / JP Rail

    • JAyre says:

      Hi Gunawan,

      It is also possible to do an Alpine Route round trip. For example, you can buy the ticket from Ogizawa – Murodo – Ogizawa. I have not checked the times, but it might be faster to go back to Shinano-Omachi and Matsumoto, as long as you are willing to miss the forested section between Murodo and Bijoudaira. You can still see the snow walls in the correct season and will of course pass Kurobe Dam. However there is only one limited express train per day between Shinano-Omachi and Matsumoto. You will probably have to take a local train on this section.

      You can find the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route Timetables at:

      (Toyama to Shinano-Omachi direction)
      http://www.alpen-route.com/english/Access/img/pdf01.pdf

      (Shinano-Omachi to Toyama direction)
      http://www.alpen-route.com/english/Access/img/pdf02.pdf

      I think it would be a big day (maybe 14 hours). I just did alpine route with my family in single direction from Chiba. We caught Azusa 3 (from Chiba at 06:30) and did not arrive at our destination of Kanazawa until around 6:30PM. We only had stops of any length at Kurobe Dam. All other stops were 15 minutes or less.

      I think if you left early you could arrive at Shinano-Omachi from Tokyo around 10:30. If times lined up you might get to Murodo by 1:00PM (onto Toyama around 4:00PM), or turning around back to Shinano-Omachi around 5:00PM. I don’t see you getting back to Tokyo before 8:00PM at the earliest.

      If a long day is not a problem for you, the Alpine Route is certainly worth your while. It reopens on April 17 as it is far too snowy during winter to be open.

      Best regards,

      Jonathan Ayre

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