Photo:Surreal Sights - Looking Out Over Kurobe Dam

The Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route: A True Wonder of Japan

Scenic and serene, this breathtaking journey through the mountains of Japan is certainly a unique experience not to be missed. The Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is a delightful trip which takes travelers, and keen hikers, up into the Northern Japan Alps that lie across the Toyama and Nagano prefectures. The route can be accomplished over a day or, for those who have a little extra time on their hands, an assortment of accommodations are available along the way. Visitors may wish to begin their journey at either Shinano-Omachi, in Nagano prefecture, or in Toyama.

The alpine ascent–the view from the top of the ropeway.

The following is a brief guide which outlines the main highlights of the Alpine Route, and its extensive yet impressive transportation system, starting from Shinano-Omachi Station. The trip will end in Toyama.

From Nagano City, a series of three limited express trains can be taken to Shinano-Omachi Station. This first stretch requires roughly two hours of travel time so it pays to start the day off reasonably early to make the most of a great day out. Better yet, accommodation is available near Shinano-Omachi which will significantly cut down on travel time. A bus can be taken from this station to Ogizawa. This takes approximately 35-40 minutes and tickets can be purchased here for a small fee.

Upon arrival in Ogizawa, one-way through-fare tickets are available at the ticket office. From this point is where the Alpine Route officially begins. This singular ticket grants travelers the opportunity to hop on and off at their leisure. Travelers may now embark on their ascent deep into the lustrous mountain ranges. Aside from the profuse nature and remarkable views, the journey comprises of multiple means of transport. This highlight certainly adds to the excitement of it all.

Where it all begins

Trolley buses operate through the long tunnel that terminates at Kurobe Dam. The dam sits at an altitude of 1450 metres making it the highest in the country. The vast amount of water that can be seen rushing through its gates is astounding. From this point, a restaurant and souvenir shop reside on the mountainside, overlooking the canyon. The restaurant’s in-house “dam curry” is well worth a try. Cruises down the river are also on offer and provide an alternative means of viewing the pleasant scenery.

Mountains surrounding Kurobe Dam
The novelty “Dam Curry” is a must

A cable car carries travelers up the next incline to Kurobedaira; a nice pit stop for refreshments such as a redbean ice-cream sundae. The ropeway which connects Kurobedaira with Daikanbo boasts some truly magnificent views of the lush valleys below. The ravine looks particularly striking in the autumn months of October and November. Next, another trolley bus guides travelers through a slightly shorter tunnel to Murodo.

Why not stop for a redbean sundae?

The highest point accessible to public vehicles is Murodo which stands at a whopping 2450 metres. Temperatures can drop dramatically at this point of the route so it pays to pack a pair of warm gloves and a windproof coat. The wildlife here is flourishing and many native birds can be spotted among the abundant vegetation.

Indulging in a spot of bird watching at Murodo

The road from Murodo to Bijodaira weaves its way through a rather impressive ice wall known as the “Snow Corridor”. The height of the wall varies depending on the season so it is recommended to visit in April or May to really see it at its best. The bus ride down poses the opportunity to view the ice wall and other scenery at close range. As bus drivers appear to stop frequently, this is a perfect time for photos.

Outlook from the bus window

The Highland Bus exports travelers from the top of Murodo all the way down to Bijodaira where a second cable car awaits for Tateyama Station. Here lies the end of the alpine route where a local train departs for its way to Toyama, transferring once along the way.

The Alpine Route is an unparalleled and unforeseen adventure, presenting travelers with a striking glimpse of Japan’s natural beauty whilst relishing in various sorts of novelty transportation. The cable cars, trolley buses and audacious ropeway all do their part in contributing to a truly spectacular experience.


Toyama to Nagano ~ Nagano to Toyama
April 10 - April 14
April 15 - November 5
November 6 - November 30

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