When I told my Japanese sensei and friends that I was going on the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route during Golden Week, I was surprised to find that they were unaware of the route, perhaps because there are so many snow destinations in Japan. It is one of the few spots in Japan which has plenty of accumulated snow in Spring, making it an ideal destination for snow-seekers like me.
The Tateyama Kurobe alpine route is a scenic mountain crossing in the Northern Alps. Spanning between Toyama City in Toyama Prefecture and Omachi Town in Nagano Prefecture, the route can be traversed from either ends using various modes of transport. I took about 6 hours to complete the route, hence it’s recommended to start the route in the morning.
The route is closed in winter and only opens in mid-April. I went on the alpine route at the end of April. The mountain top was entirely blanketed in snow and it was very cold, so do bring along warm clothes. Waterproof shoes are definitely necessary.
The route will be open from 16 April to 30 November in 2016.
Getting from Osaka to Ogizawa
I took the Willer Express Bus from Umeda, Osaka to Nagayo. There are many departures per day and I took the earliest bus out at 6.30am, arriving at Nagoya station at about 10am. From Nagayo, I took the JR Chuo Line (limited express Shinano) to Matsumoto which took about 2 hours.
I spent about half a day in Matsumoto and stayed for the night, setting off to Shinano Omachi via the JR Oito Line (1 hour) the next morning. From Shinano Omachi station, there is a local bus that goes to Ogizawa station which is the starting point of the route. The other start point is at Tateyama station and can be accessed by train from Toyama city.
Tip: Use Hyperdia for transport mapping and choose the best route based on your budget and the amount of time you have.
Tickets for all stations can be purchased at the ticket counter in Ogizawa and Tateyama. Single tickets for each transport mode can also be purchased along the route.
At a height of 186m, this is Japan’s tallest dam. Its height contributes to a spectacular scene in summer when large amounts of water are discharged from the gates into the dam. When we went in April, we were treated to a majestic scene of the vast Kurobe Lake blanketed in snow.
Murodo & Tateyama Snow Corridor
Murodo is the highest point along the alpine route, at 2450m above the sea level. The star attraction at Murodo is the snow corridor made of snow walls towering at 20m. The snow corridors can be viewed from the bus running between Murudo and Midagahara. What’s exciting is that a short passage is open for pedestrians to walk on in mid-April. Due to the high altitude, harsh weather conditions can be expected and it’s important to come prepared with the right clothes and footwear.
In 2016, the snow corridor is open from April 16 to June 22.
We ended the route at Tateyama station and took a train from there to Central Toyama. It was an enjoyable scenic ride as the train brought us through the rural countryside. Look at those snow-capped mountains in the background!