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. Merlin says:

    Hi….. I’m going to Tateyama Alpine Route on Nov, 18th. Is it possible to start from ogizawa to murodo and then back to where we start? I’m afraid the ticket is for one way only.
    Thank you so much

  2. Sok Huang says:

    Dear Takeshi-san
    Thank you for your speedy reply. I have another question.
    We are group of 7. Do we need to reserve seats on the alpino bus from ogizawa to nagona for the last bus at 1630 hrs. Also , for this part of journey, is the fare covered by the tateyama kurobe option ticket. 87AA

  3. Kim Teo says:

    Hi Takeshi san,
    I’m going for the Alphine route on Mid Oct. In total I wish to spend 9 days in japan. I am taking Nagoya as my base. I want include Takayama and Shirakawago in the trip . Please advise of the fast way to get from Nagoya to Takayama , Shirakawago, Alphine route and back to Nagoya.

    Thank you!

    Kim

  4. ms kuan says:

    Hi Takeshi san,

    We have 14 days in Japan.
    We will arrive at Tokyo on 23 Oct morning and plan to visit Tateyama, Nikko and Mt Fuji. Kindly advise the sequence for visiting those places and how many days we should send on each itinerary? How to reach those destinations?
    Should we buy a 14Days JRPass or any other pass?
    Thank you for your kind attention.

    Regards,
    ms kuan

  5. Chris Foong says:

    Hi,
    Greetings from Singapore
    I’m planning to visit Alphine route coming early November. (Around 8-9 Nov)

    The night before I will stay one night at Hotel in Omachi.
    Next day, I want to start from Ogizawa and end at Toyama.

    Please advise whether the baggage delivery service from Hotel in Omachi to Hotel In Toyama.

    Thank you
    Regards

  6. Shan says:

    Hi, I am going to Kurobe from Tateyama station. After thr one way Alpine route, I want to go back to Tateyama station from Ogisawa station. What kind of transportation I can take grom Ogisawa station to Tateyama station?

  7. Rabia Yildirim says:

    Hi Takahashi-san,

    I’m trying to create a good “first timer” Japan itinerary for 19 day-18 night. Because I really want see so many different side of Japan, I search a lot. With every new source, I’m becoming more and more confused. I know even one month sometimes not enough to explore a whole city, but at least I want to balance my itinerary with highlight experiences; temples, castles, museums, aquarium, alpines, gardens, food (especially food haha), tech etc.

    I’ll be in Japan between 19 September and 7 October. I would like to see autumn colours but Daisetsuzan is so far away and since we have no night train option it can coast so many time (I know it deseve this but still) So please give me direction to see autumn colour when I have time in Japan.

    I want to share with you one of my itinerary plan

    19-22 Sep. Tokyo (with one side trip, possibly Kamakura)
    23-26 Kyoto with Nara side trip (it would be nice if I can find sleeper train to Okoyama than go to Osaka from there and use Osaka for my night leg for Nara and center kyoto, i would concider to take two nights in Kyoto for other places)
    27- Mt Koya
    28- Koya- Hiroshima-Miyajima (stay in here)
    29- Miyajima-Osaka (I can stay in here today, and can go to Kazanawa, I have no idea timeline)
    30- Kazanawa
    01 Oct-Kazanawa- Shirakawago-Takayama
    02 Takayama-Toyama (stay here)
    03 Alpine route- -> (stay in matsumotoo ?
    04 Kamikochi (I think transportation would be difficult, I can’t drive, and after one trekking day in Alpine route this could be tiresome. I will spend 10 days in Thailand rurals since I love nature, but I will see already so many mountains, with your suggestion I can spend my 4th and 5th days of October different places. Maybe going Shima Peninsula (I won’t see the ocean even in Thailand, Peninsula could be good choice to add different experiences on my list) or other near peninsulas? Or tohoku area for good autum wiew since it’s already first week of October? I wait your suggestions.
    06- Nikko (with nikko pass) I read Ryuzu Waterfall gives some good autum spot at the first week of October. That’s why I decide to go Nikko later on. I’m chasing my oportunuties.
    07-Nikko to Tokyo (my departure at 21:20) make some combini shopping for my family and friends

    I’m concidering to buy 14 days JRpass. But I have concerns to use them effectively; from 30 Sep to 5 Oct I will spend so much money for busses and other things. Also I don’t know if I can use JRpass for the everywhere in Kyoto+Nara+Osaka area (I’m not concidering to go Kobe at all. I can choose to head both Tokyo and Osaka. I wonder if there is pass to cover for Kansai area and my other Center Japan plans. I wonder if I chose 7 days Jrpass and other area passes and tickets and got more coverage for the same/less or little more money.

    This platform gives so much information and all of them like gold, thank you so much for this. But I suffer for some special needs since I’m inexperienced.. I know it’s a very long and detailed question post. I will appreciate every type of reply for this.

    Thank you in advance

    • Hi Rabia,

      First of all, early October is usually a bit early to see fall foliage. You may be able to see it at Alpine route. It may be too early to see it at Kamikochi and Ryuzu falls. I know some says it’s early October. But probably mid October is peak to see it. Shin-Hotaka is other alternative plan. It’s located between Matsumoto and Takayama. You can access there by bus (not covered by JR pass) from either side.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5943.html
      http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/matsumoto.pdf

      You also can access there from Toyama too.
      http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/okuhida.pdf

      Regarding deals, JR pass 14 days is most recommended. But you need to start using when you leave from Tokyo. That is 23 Sep. If you start on this date, JR pass is expired on 6 Oct. You have to pay extra for single fare to Narita from Nikko. Actually you can get Kanazawa from Miyajima on 29 Sep even though it will be very tight. If you do this, you can get back to Tokyo on 6 Oct and avoid paying extra.

      If you give up Kamikochi, you may be able to visit some places in Tohoku to see fall foliage. Mt. Hakkoda is on the way to Lake Towada. It’s one of the places to see fall foliage in early October. You can get there by bus but this bus is covered by JR pass.
      http://www.hakkoda-ropeway.jp/english
      http://www.jrbustohoku.co.jp/towada/index.html

      If you have decided to leave Tokyo on 23 Sep, try to come back to Tokyo by 6 Oct to save your cost. There is no better deals than 14 days JR pass for your trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • Rabia Yildirim says:

        Thank you for your kind reply, Takeshi-san.

        I think Tohoku area would be nice, too. I would like to visit Lake Towada. I have no basic knowledge for Aomori Pref. but I think there is a shinkansen line between Tokyo and Aomori, so if I’ll comeback to Tokyo after Alpine route, I can access Aomori in the morning 4 october. (four hours hayabusa, I think Jrpass covers it) and I can come back at 6th october morning and use Nikko pass from Shinjuku. I will use Haneda for departure, to access hanede is looks easy and cheap.

        I have no idea how comfortable this rail vacations. I hope it takes my tireness and doesn’t make me more tired. Is it look nice? 🙂

      • Qian says:

        Dear Takashi
        I’m doing a trip trip to Toyama from Kanazawa on 10Dec. Understand alpine route end November. How else can I see the alpine route ? Is the kurobe dam trip recommended?
        Thank you.

  8. June says:

    My proposed itinerary is Nagoya – Nagano – Tateyama – Nagoya covering Shirakawago and Snow Corridor. Please advise on suitable JR Pass. Thank you.

  9. Sok Huang says:

    Hi there! I’ll be travelling in late Aug & will be buying Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass. Considering if I should stay a night or 2 at Kanazawa before I start on the Alpine Route. I saw on Hyperdia that it takes 19 mins to get from Kanazawa to Toyama. From Toyama to Tateyama, I take the Toyama Chiho Tateyama Line (approx 1h). If I start my journey from Kanazawa at 7am, do you think I will be able to make it to catch the bus at Ogizawa to Nagano? Would appreciate your advice. Thank you.

    • Hi Sok,

      Yes, you can make it. The last bus depart at 16:30 from Ogizawa. It’s easy to take this bus.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • SOK HUANG says:

        Hi Takeshi-san! Thank you for your reply to my earlier question on the bus from Ogizawa to Nagano, is there a train that can take me to Nagano instead since I have the Hokuriku Arch Pass? Also, should I buy the Kurobe Alpine Option Ticket online in advance as I have read earlier that I can get the coupons for 20% discount at the Dentetsu Toyama Station. Will there be a queue if I only buy on the same day. I will be visiting on 1 Sep.

  10. ying says:

    Hi, I’m going for the Alphine route coming early November and am taking Matsumoto as my base. I want to start from Toyama and end at Ogizawa. Please advise of the fast way to get to Toyama from Matsumoto. Thank you!

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