Monday, May 12, 2014

tateyama kurobe alpine route

Yesterday I saw the Northern Japan Alps via the Kurobe Gorge Railway while today I will check out these same Alps via the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Although located near each other they have different access points. This route consists of several different types of transportation from railway, rope-ways, buses and even cable cars. Private transportation isn't allowed so you can imagine how crowd and how long the wait times were for certain vehicles. The route is only opened from mid April to the end of November and I chose to go now because the famous snow corridor is only opened from around April to June. Depending on when you go you will get to see snow as far as the eye can see, which is what I saw, or autumn leaves, which is also an awesome sight.

The first part of the route consists of the Toyama Chiho Railway and offers magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and endless fields of farmland.

fields or mirrors??

Next up is the Tateyama Cable Car which marks the ascent of Mt. Tateyama.

After the cable car you'll end up at Bijodaira Station which is known for its beech and cedar trees. There are walking paths people can take but no one was venturing out into the snow. The next part of the journey involves a bus which takes you all the way to Murodo, where the famed snow corridor is located.

view from the bus - going up the mountain the left side has better views
the snow corridor was 13m high that day
snow corridor
Also managed to see the rock ptarmigan called raicho (thunder bird) in Japanese. There are only 240 birds in this area and they are designated as a Special Natonal Treasure. Two Japanese ladies I met later were very jealous that I had seen one and were happy to be able to see the birds via my pictures.

After trampling around in the snow, I hopped back on the bus to go back to Midagahara which has one of the largest wetland areas in Japan. Unfortunately I forgot about the snow so of course there wasn't any wetlands to be seen. I did manage to check out the caldera formed by the eruption of Mt. Tateyama but the path to the caldera was very obscure. Firstly I couldn't find the start of the path and ended up wandering around and around the only visible buildings even entering them and getting strange stares from workers. Finely I had to give up and ask for directions and I ended up following these footsteps up a steep side of the mountain. When I finally realized I had followed the wrong footsteps I had to slip and slide down the steep mountainside. Pretty treacherous considering there wasn't anyone around. I was also afraid there might be wild animals - pretty sure I saw animal prints in the I spoke to myself to scare them off.

the caldera
I opted not to do the whole route since it would have taken 6-8 hours one way. After getting back to Tateyama I took the bus to visit the nearby Shomyo Falls. Shomyo Falls is the highest waterfall in Japan at 350 meters and is actually more awe aspiring than I could capture with my camera. There is quite a walk from the bus stop to the falls so plan accordingly and leave enough time to catch the bus. There were only two other people on the bus heading to the falls, the two women I mentioned earlier. They were surprised I walked ahead by myself, they had gone and changed into waterproof clothes because it had started sprinkling, because recently a person got attacked by a bear nearby. Then they insisted that we walk to the bus stop together. It was funny because I couldn't speak any Japanese and they couldn't really speak English but we still managed to have a "conversation."

shomyo fall and its twin hannoki

The Details
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Operation Period: Mid April to end of November
Access: Dentetsu Toyama Station or from Ogizawa Station in Nagano
website - fares, schedule, highlights, a lot of helpful info!
Japan Guide page on the route

Snow Corridor: Mid April to end of June
Caldera at Midagahara - There is a building across from the bus shelter, the "path" to the caldera is to the left of this building entrance. It won't look like a path but there is a wooden sign with an arrow and Japanese pointing up. I had to climb over the snow bank and what looked like an inaccessible area to find it. 

Shomyo Falls
Bus located outside of Tateyama Station
Fare: 500 yen one way 
Bus Schedule to Shomyo Falls:

top is to shomyo falls; bottom is from shomyo falls to the tateyama train station

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