Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

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Mt. Tateyama is part of the Northern Alps located in Toyama Prefecture in Japan. Together with Mt. Fuji and Mt. Haku, this mountain is considered as one of the three sacred mountains of Japan. Kurobe, on the other hand, is home to the largest dam in Japan, the Kurobe Dam. These two places are part of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which connects Toyama Prefecture with Nagano Prefecture.

During the Golden Week celebration last year (around first week of May), I, together with my Thai classmates, Kate and Winai, took a trip to this place. We left Tokyo at around 6am via the shinkansen or bullet train. Before reaching the next station, we realized we boarded the wrong train. Oops! So we had to change bullet trains in Saitama Station. Because it was Golden Week (an important long holiday for Japanese), all public transportations going out of Tokyo were jampacked, including our bullet train. So we had to sit on the stairs for almost an hour.

Shinkansen (taken May 3, 2008)

After an hour, we arrived at one station (forgot the name sorry) and changed to an express train to Toyama Station. As I've mentioned earlier, trains were jampacked so we had to stand for about an hour. Luckily, we found empty seats in the middle of the trip, and we were told we can take those seats, so we did. Unfortunately, we did not know that we would be charged extra for it, so we have no choice but to pay (boo).

Packed Train from Toyama Station (taken May 3, 2008)

After 2 hours, we finally arrived in Toyama Station where we changed into a local train which would take us to Tateyama Station.

Local Train to Tateyama Station (taken May 3, 2008)

The train ride took more than an hour, and at around 1130am, we finally reached Tateyama Station. But we were just halfway through our journey up the mountain. From Tateyama Station, we needed to ride a cable car and a bus to reach the peak. However, because there were so many people, we were not able to catch the next cable car. We had to wait for about an hour more and this ruined our schedule. We were afraid that we would not be able to catch the last train back to Tokyo.

Since we had no choice but to wait for our cable car, we walked around Tateyama Station and absorbed the beauty of the surroundings. We also had our lunch there.

Creek in Tateyama (taken May 3, 2008)

After the long wait, we were able to ride the cable car which took us to the bus station. From the bus station, we rode the bus which took us up Mt. Tateyama. The view from the bus was just amazing. We were surrounded by the Northern Alps and the sides of the road were covered with snow. The higher we went, the higher the snow walls became. It was such a memorable bus ride for us because this was the first time we were seeing that much snow (since we all live in tropical countries).

View from bus (taken May 3, 2008)

View from bus (taken May 3, 2008)

View from bus (taken May 3, 2008)

After about an hour, we finally arrived on the peak. All we saw is snow and this made us very happy :D We walked along the snow corridors in Murodo which is available to pedestrians only during the months of April and May. We also played with snow and I even made my first tiny tiny snowman! yey!!!

Snow Corridor (taken May 3, 2008)

Snow Route (taken May 3, 2008)

Because we lacked time, we had to leave Tateyama and hop into the bus which would take us to the Tateyama Ropeway. So, we spent more than half the day getting to Tateyama but we only stayed there for around 30 minutes.

Upon arriving in the station of the Tateyama Ropeway, we were once again greeted by crowds of people. So, we had to wait again. This time we were really panicking since we knew we would definitely not make it to the last train back to Tokyo. We had no choice but to hope for the best and expect the worst. By around 5pm, we boarded the ropeway and then transferred to a cable car which took us down to Kurobe Dam.

Ropeway to Kurobe Dam (taken May 3, 2008)

Cable car to Kurobe Dam (taken May 3, 2008)

At around 5:30pm, we arrived at Kurobe Dam. This dam was magnificent and the view from there was just amazing.

Kurobe Dam (taken May 3, 2008)

From Kurobe Dam, we took a trolley bus which brought us back to the bus station. As expected, the bus to our original destination, Shinano-Omachi had already left. So we were advised to ride another bus which would take us to another JR station and we were told to ask directions from there. So we followed and arrived at a JR station (forgot the station name already) and fortunately the station manager told us there was another way back to Tokyo via Matsumoto Station in Nagano. Not only that, we also received a refund since the ticket price is cheaper than our original ones. We were so happy!!! We arrived in Tokyo Shinjuku Station at around 10pm.

There was an important lesson I learned from this trip: Do not underestimate the number of Japanese taking advantage of long national holidays to see more of their country. So, if you must travel on long national holidays such as the Golden Week, Obon and the Year-end break, make sure you have all your seats reserved and leave early! If possible, make your itinerary flexible so as to cover schedule changes. Or better yet, stay overnight if you have the time and money.

When I look back to this trip, I realized that we spent almost the whole day traveling. We only got down to see Tateyama and Kurobe or to change buses or trains or cable cars. But I love road trips and the view is just amazing so it was all worth it.

JR Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route Pass: Includes single journey tickets for buses, cable cars, ropeways in Tateyama-Kurobe and roundtrip train tickets from your place of origin to Tateyama-Kurobe.

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  1. Hi how much did you spend from the whole trip? TOKYO to the tateyama and then back to tokyo?

  2. Awesome work.Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading.Thanks for the share