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. Nurul says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    May i ask is it good to go Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route early November? Do you think it might close due to weather?

  2. Ellisa says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    I plan to do Tateyama Kurobe Alpen Route this autumn, thinking of entering from Tateyama Station and exiting from Ogizawa. I tried to find out about the last local bus running from Ogizawa to Shinano Omachi station, and found this link:

    http://www.alpico.co.jp/access/hakuba/ogizawa/

    I cannot read Japanese, but is it correct to assume that the latest bus leaves Ogizawa station at 17.55?

    Thank you so much for your help in advance!

  3. Doris Ho says:

    If I get the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Kippu via the Shirasagi Course ie via Hokuriku/Chuo Line)
    does it allow me toI stopover at Kanazawa (2 nites) and Toyama (1 nite) before making the Alpine Route?
    Thanks n hope to hear from u soon.

  4. Richard says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I would like to ask if the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Ticket is still available for 2015? Here is the sample brochure of the ticket im talking about.

    http://www.centrair.jp/en/resource/doc/03_07_shoryudo_en.pdf

    Thank you.

    • Hi Richard,

      This deal is available. But I think it’s slightly different. I couldn’t find the detailed info of updated deal.
      Anyway the price is 21850 yen for Shirasagi and 18610 yen for Hida. I think these deals may be same as type-B, but not 100% sure.

      Cheers,

      Takehsi / JP Rail

      • Richard says:

        Hi Takeshi,

        We will visit japan this October 3-11, 2015. I would also like to ask your opinion for our planned itenirary. We will be using the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Ticket I asked you earlier.

        Oct 3: Arrival in Nagoya
        Oct 4: Buy the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Ticket at JR Nagoya Station and ride the train. Go down at Gero to visit the Gassho Village. Get back to JR train at Gero to Takayama.
        Oct 5: Ride Nohi Bus to Shirakawa-go then go back to Takayama
        Oct 6: Ride Nohi Bus to Kamikochi, stay overnight
        Oct 7: Ride Nohi Bus to Takayama
        Oct 8: Ride JR train from Takayama to Toyama. City Tour in Toyama
        Oct 9: Start Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Get down at end of Alpine Route in Shinano Omachi. Ride JR train in Shinano Omachi to Matsumoto. Get down in Matsumoto.
        Oct 10: ride JR train in Matsumoto to Nagoya
        Oct 11: City tour in Nagoya

        Thank you very much in advance for your repy.

  5. Zrey says:

    Hey, kind of confused. What is the recommended total duration neede for the Alphine route? Beginning at Toyama, how can I be able to get to Nagoya after the trip?

  6. Linda says:

    Hi Takeshi / Hong,

    I would like to comment regarding the train from Toyama to Kanazawa (or vice versa). I have just been there in May and if we use Ainokaze Toyama / IR Ishikara, there is NO NEED for you to transfer at Kurikara. You just stay on the train and the whole journey takes around 1 hour. I take this local train instead of shinkansen due to cheaper pricing (whilst time saving using shinkansen is not too significant).

    • Hong says:

      Dear Linda,

      Thanks for sharing. It is useful and also share with you not worth the money for shankensen from toyama to kanazawa.

      May I know where is the Toyama ststion of Ainokaze Toyama, share the same station of JR toyama station?

      Thank you

      • Linda says:

        Dear Takeshi,

        Yes. It is the same with JR Toyama station.
        I departed from Kanazawa station and arrive in JR Toyama station by using the local train without any difficulties. By the way, your site has been very helpful to plan my visit to Japan last May. I did go to Murodo and it is very beautiful. Japan is really a nice country.

        Thanks.

        Thanks,
        Linda

        • Hi Linda,

          Thank you very much for sharing very useful info. As I have never tried those trains before, my knowledge is not enough to tell. I always welcome adding information!
          I’m also happy that you enjoyed your trip very much! I hope you will go back Japan and visit many other places.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Hong says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    We plan to visit Alpine Route in early June 2015 from Nagoya via Matsumoto and Shinano-Omachi.
    May I know if the train from Nagoya station to Shinano-Omachi (via Matsumoto by Wide View Shinano) cover by any pass?

    After completed the Alpine Route, we will stay in Toyama. After that we will travel Toyama -> Kanazawa -> Takayama (visiting Shirakawago and Okuhida via bus) -> Nagoya. We will complete the entire journey by 16 June 2015.

    May I know the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist 5 days pass cover all our travel Kanazawa -> Takayama (visiting Shirakawago and Okuhida via bus) -> Nagoya? Including the Nohi bus from Kanazawa to Takayama; and the bus to Shirakawago and Okuhida?

    And may I know if this pass cover the train from Toyama to Kanazawa?

    If we need to use the pass for more than 5 days? Can we buy two 5 days pass and use it?

    Many thanks
    Hong

    • Hi Hong,

      At this point, single fare is the best choice for you. Because only JR pass covers all part of your trip by train. But it’s way more expensive than single fare. In my rough estimation, total fare by train is around 16000 yen.

      On the other hand, Takayama-Hokuriku Tourist Pass covers Kanazawa-Shirakawago-Takayama-Nagoya. It does not cover Toyama-Kanazawa and Toyama-Takayama. Only bus between Kanazawa and Takayama via Shirakawago is covered. Okuhida is not covered either. Total fare is bus (Kanazawa-Takayama) and train (Takayama-Nagoya) is almost same as this deal at 10500 yen. So you can use this pass if you complete Kanazawa-Shirakawago-Takayama-Nagoya in 5 days. Okuhida is not covered but you have to complete it in this 5 days. Using tow passed do not make any senses. If you cannot, single fare is cheaper.

      Unfortunately even if you use Takayama-Hokuriku Tourist Pass, it does not give you a big saving.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • HOng says:

        Thank you

        • No problem, Hong.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

          • Hong says:

            Dear Takeshi,

            I have a question about the train between Toyama and Kanazawa. When I use Hperdia searching for the possible trains, it gives me two choices – either Shinkansen or Ainokaze Toyama Railway transferring to IR Ishikawa Railway via Kurikara.

            If we take the Ainokaze Toyama and IR Ishikawa option, does it mean that we need to take off at Kurikara, buy another ticket for IR Ishikawa going to Kanazawa? I tried to search for Ainokaze Toyama, IR Ishikawa and the transfer but not much information was. Would you mind share how to take these trains?

            Many Thanks
            Hong

            • Hi Hong,

              You can purchase tickets for both Ainokaze Toyama Railway and IR Ishikawa Railway at same time. But you have to transfer because there is no direct train. These two companies were JR lines. But when Shinkansen opened, JR lines were transferred to municipal government, and because Ainokase and IR. Technically this is not JR and a sort of private train companies.

              Cheers,

              Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Liau says:

    Hi,I am travel to Takayama on 30/5 & 31/5 from Nagoya, is it able to do a day trip to tateyama alpen kurobe route in one day? Haw far to travel from Takayama/Nagoya to Tateyama ? I am using takayama hokuriku tourist pass.

    Thanks.

  9. Linda says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    I would like to visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route on 11 May 2015 (Monday). I will start in Toyama in the morning and would like to do the full route until Ogizawa. After that, I will depart to my hotel in Tokyo (which is in Daiba Area).

    What is your suggestion route from Ogizawa to Daiba (Tokyo)?
    From my research, I may travel like this:
    1) Take bus from Ogizawa to Nagano (http://www.alpico.co.jp/access/express/nagano_omachi/)
    2) Take train from Nagano to Tokyo Station, and then train from Tokyo to Shimbashi –> Daiba.

    Do you have any other suggestion?
    Do I need to reserve the bus from Ogizawa to Nagano? Is it difficult to buy a ticket?
    As I will be travelling with four-year-old son, then I think I need to buy child ticket to ensure that he gets a seat.
    Is there any direct bus from Ogizawa to Tokyo?

    Please give me some of your ideas. The bus website is in Japanese only.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Linda,

      This is the fastest and most convenient route to get Tokyo. There is no direct bus to Tokyo as far as I know.
      You cannot book the bus from Ogizawa to Nagano. They don’t take it anyway. I think it will not be busy on May 11. It’s weekday and after golden week. Mid May to June is shoulder season.

      But this trip includes 6-7 hours sightseeing, 2 hrs bus trip from Ogizawa to Nagano and 1.5 hrs train trip from Nagano to Tokyo. Honestly it may be hard for 4 years old kid.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. Karen says:

    Hi! My friend and I plan to visit tateyama alpen kurobe route the 3rd week of May. We’ll be coming from osaka and we’ll probably stay a night at toyama to fully enjoy the course the next day then return to toyama for another night.

    I found that there is a jr kansai-hokuriku pass that covers jr trains to the above destination. I can avail this as a foreign tourist but my friend can’t since she is a foreign student in japan. I also understand that this pass does not include the route.

    May I ask, then, if there is a specific pass that includes transpo from kansai area and the whole route that we can both avail and that is economical for our trip?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Karen,

      Unfortunately there is no choice other than Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass. Your friend has to pay full fare to get Toyama.
      But there are some highway bus between Osaka and Toyama. It’s cheaper than train. But Japanese website is available only.
      I don’t know how much your friend can understand Japanese. But I leave the link just in case.
      http://www.chitetsu.co.jp/?page_id=745

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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