Whilst Manila was experiencing the peak of summer last April, we flew four hours to Nagoya with Jetstar Japan and traveled another few hours over land to experience snow—yes, snow. Sure, it was already springtime in Japan, but in Chubu Sangaku National Park, also known as the “Northern Japan Alps,” a copious amount of snow still accumulated on the slopes of its mountains. Thus, we journeyed across the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the best sightseeing trail that encompasses the alps, and we surely had a memorable time.
From Matsumoto, our bus drove us under an hour and a half to Ozigawa Station. Part of the snowy alps was already visible from the parking lot, so that made me giddy—though I know full well that it was merely a glimpse of what was to follow.
From Ozigawa Station, we took the trolley bus across Kanden Tunnel, and despite it being a Tuesday, the buses were packed to the rafters.
The ride to our next stop, Kurobe Dam, took about 15 minutes, and at the station, we were met with a challenging set of stairs—two hundred strenuous steps took away most of the energy I got from breakfast. But once we were at the deck, the majestic panorama of Kurobe Dam and the snowy mountains behind made the ascent worthwhile.
We had much ground to cover, so we didn’t stay too long. We walked across Kurobe Dam and made our way to Kurobeko to ride a cable car (which was more like a funicular) for about five minutes to Kurobedaira.
At Kurobedaira was another observation deck, but that time, there was snow beneath our feet, and of course, I wasted no time playing and making snowballs. Afterwards, we proceeded to the restaurant and feasted on a traditional Japanese lunch.
One of the most thrilling portions of the traverse was taking the Tateyama Ropeway from Kurobedaira to Daikanbo. Sure, the ride only took seven minutes to ascend 490 meters, but the vistas were gorgeously scenic. After alighting, we stopped for a few nice snaps of the mountains from the deck of the ropeway station, then it was back to the trolley bus again to get us to Murodo.
We were already 2450 masl at Murodo, just about 500 meters below the peak of Mount Tateyama. Murodo was our jump-off point for that day’s highlight, the “Yuki-no-otani” snow wall. According to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route website:
Tateyama has some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world. An average of 7 m accumulates every year. In heavy years up to 20 m can accumulate! That’s as high as a 10 story building! You can walk 500 m between the walls of snow and enjoy sledding in April. You can also watch the snow being removed from the road. Impressive views can be seen just after the road is opened at the end of April until June. After July the walls of snow become shorter but some snow remains even in August. You can play in the snow.
Walking along the snow corridor was exhilarating! Add to that, the sun was shining fully, so it was the perfect day.
There was also a long scenic route, where snow beautifully engulfed an entire expanse of land, but since I regrettably was wearing sneakers and not snow boots, I was only able to observe it from the perimeter.
After enjoying Murodo, it was time for us to start our descent. We took a 50-minute scenic bus ride to Bijodaira, quickly stopping by a waterfalls. Then, it was a seven-minute cable car ride down to Tateyama Station. where our tour bus was waiting to take us to Toyama.
In all, the traverse from Ozigawa Station to Tateyama Station took about seven hours, including wait times and lunch. Granted it was tiring, but I will count it as one of my most memorable travel experiences. And by the way, as I write this, I still couldn’t believe there’s something like that in Japan, four hours away by flight from Manila.
PLANNING A TRIP
Jetstar Japan flies from Manila to Nagoya, Tokyo, and Osaka. These three cities can be a starting point for a tour of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, and websites claim that a day trip can be done from these cities. From whichever of the three, make your way to Toyama or Matsumoto. From either of these cities, trains or buses can be taken to the starting points in Ozigawa Station (from Matsumoto) or Tateyama Station (from Toyama). You may start or end your traverse in either stations, without returning to the other end (i.e. Ozigawa Station to Tateyama Station or vice versa—the most commonly-used routes), but it is also possible to do a round trip from Tateyama Station to Kurobe Dam, or from Ozigawa Station to Murodo on the same day. For more information on access to the route, check out this link.
As mentioned in the post above, traversing the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route involves several modes of transportation, and each one has a charge. For instance, we went from Ozigawa Station to Tateyama Station, and that involved taking two trolley bus rides, two cable car rides, one ropeway ride, and one regular bus ride. The one-way fare total for all these is 8,290 JPY (~3,700 PHP). For more details on fares, check out this link.
Klook offers the “5 Day JR Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Pass” that includes rides on JR trains between Nagoya and Toyama, JR trains between Nagoya and Shinano-Omachi (including Matsumoto), and transportation along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (trolley buses, cable cars, ropeway, and regular bus). The pass costs 7893 PHP (~159 USD), and given that it covers Matsumoto and Toyama, which on their own are also nice places to visit, it’s a great deal. For more details and to purchase, check out this link.
For 2017, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is open from April 15 to November 30.
For 2017, the “Yuki-no-otani” snow wall is open to pedestrians from April 15 to June 22.
There are no admission fees to be paid for the route, only the fares described above.
There aren’t many restaurants or dining options throughout the route, so it would be prudent to bring a packed lunch and snacks.
There are drinking fountains, so it’s optional to bring water—or perhaps an empty bottle would do.
There also are souvenir shops selling an extensive array of Japanese goodies to pass the time while waiting for transportation.
The weather in spring isn’t too frigid, but it would be advisable to wear a sweater and a jacket.
There are accommodations within the route, but as expected, these are pricier than options in the city.
Jetstar Japan flies from Manila to Nagoya up to four times weekly. For “all day, every day, low fares,” book flights at jetstar.com. For promos and updates, follow Jetstar Asia on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.