The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a dynamic passage that passes through the Japanese Alps connecting Toyama and Nagano Prefectures. Requiring multiple modes of transport to traverse with an elevation change of 2400 meters, it has something refreshing to offer regardless of what season you visit.
Spring (April to June)
From mid-April to late June, you can marvel at what is perhaps the Alpine Route’s most famous attraction – the towering walls of the snow corridor. These natural walls can reach up to 20m high, and have been literally carved through to form a road for vehicles to drive through and people to walk.
Japan’s highest altitude dam at 186m. Although the water discharge only happens in summer, the sight of this impressive man-made structure against a backdrop of snow-peaked mountains will take your breath away.
With the temperatures well below 10 degrees and close to zero at night, the weather at the top of the route is pure winter, even if temperatures in Toyama and Nagano cities might suggest otherwise. Ward off the cold with a soak in Japan’s highest altitude natural hot spring, Mikurigaike Onsen.
Summer (July to August)
Tateyama Kurobe boasts Japan’s highest altitude waterfall Shomyo Falls at 350m.
Kurobe Dam Water Discharge
The peak season for visitors to the dam.
The areas covered in snow come alive in rocky greens, making it the perfect place to do some trekking in cooler temperatures even in the middle of summer. Lover of flora can also enjoy many unique flowers and plant-life that thrive only in certain altitudes.
The route is famous for a number of animals native to the area, the most easily spotted being the white bird known as ptarmigan. Other cute animals include the ferret-like stoat and Japanese antelope, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find them.
Autumn (September to November)
Possibly the most popular season for Japan after cherry blossoms, the vivid hues of oranges, reds and yellows up in the route will not disappoint.
Torokko Electric Train
A picturesque sightseeing train route that runs a total of roughly 20 km and passes over the Kurobe Gorge towards the famous Unazuki Onsen. It can be taken all year round but is particularly spectacular during the fall season. Plus soaking in a hot spring as temperatures drop is the perfect indulgence.
Winter (December – March)
The Alpine Route is closed.
Modes of Transport
One of the main attractions of the Alpine Route is experiencing the diversity of the transport used to traverse the route. The infographic and table below should give you an idea of just how complex it can get.
|Mode of Transport (Route)||Journey Time||Frequency|
|1) Tateyama Cable Car (Tateyama Sta – Bijodaira)||7 mins||Every 20 mins|
|2) Tateyama Highland Bus (Bijodaira – Midagahara – Murodo)||50 mins||Every 40 mins|
|3) Tateyama Tunnel Trolley Bus (Murodo – Daikanbo)||10 mins||Every 30 mins|
|4) Tateyama Ropeway (Daikanbo – Kurobedaira)||7 mins||Every 20 mins|
|5) Kurobe Cable Car (Kurobedaira – Kurobeko)||5 mins||Every 20 mins|
|6) Kanden Tunnel Trolley Bus (Kurobe Dam – Ogizawa Sta)||16 mins||Every 30 mins|
|7) Local Bus (Ogizawa – Shinano Omachi Sta)
(Ogizawa – Nagano Station)
Option 1 are for those who wish to start the Alpine Route from the Toyama side, while option 2 are for those coming from Nagano side.
Option 1: Tokyo Station -> Toyama Station (2 hours 8 mins on the Shinkansen)
Option 2: Shinjuku Station -> Matsumoto Station -> Shimano Omachi Station (4 hours 30 mins on JR Limited Express & local trains)
Option 1: Osaka Station -> Kanazawa Station -> Toyama Station (3 hours 4 mins on the JR Limited Express + Shinkansen)
Option 2: Shin-Osaka Station -> Nagoya Station -> Matsumoto Station -> Shimano Omachi Station (4 hours 30 mins on Shinkansen + JR Limited Express & local trains)
Option 1: Nagoya Station -> Maibara Station -> Kanazawa Station -> Toyama Station (3 hours 30 mins on the Shinkansen + JR Limited Express)
Option 2: Nagoya Station -> Matsumoto Station -> Shimano Omachi Station (3 hours on JR Limited Express & local trains)