The Japanese Alps
From Matsumoto you can take the Alpine Kurobe Route through the freakin’ Japanese Alps to get to Kanazawa.
IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO SPEND THE TRANSIT DAY.
Why? Because you get to spend all day in the mountains and the mountains breathe life into you! In the Japanese Alps you are going to see BEAUTY. I promise it will be your favorite day, you can wander through the snow and see some of Japans greatest feats. The process can be a little confusing though so let me walk you through it.
Omachi Onsenkyo Train Station
I started out taking the train to Omachi Onsenkyo and from there I dropped my luggage off to have it transported to the Tateyama train station. FOR JUST $15 YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR LUGGAGE AND THEY WILL TAKE IT TO TATEYAMA FOR YOU!!! Just pick it up at the train station at the end – it’s pretty awesome.
The Local Bus to Ogizawa
From there I hopped on the local bus to Ogizawa. To drop off your luggage you need to go right and then the bus stop is directly across the lot. You will buy your bus ticket from someone sitting in the window and then line up and wait. You do need to get a move on during this process because if you miss a bus you have to wait an hour for the next one and that’s quite some time between buses.
Kanden Tunnel Trolley Bus
You will then jump on the Kanden Tunnel Trolley Bus to the Kurobe Dam, the only Trolley Bus in Japan! Get on that!! You will be at 1470 meters high and you can start by checking out the views from above the Kurobe Dam before walking across it.
The Kurobe Dam is 186 meters high making it the tallest dam in Japan. The Dam was built after WW2 when Japan had an energy crisis. The government then invested in hydroelectric power. At least 10 million people worked on the Dam during its construction and 171 died during the process. There is a movie made about the process called “Sun over Kurobe”.
I didn’t get to see the dam in full force, but I did get to see videos and it is pretty powerful. In the winter it isn’t pumping out water though – for obvious reasons…
After taking 1.2 million photos of the breathtaking view of these alps, I then headed into the cafe to get a fresh strawberry soft serve. You cannot go a day in Japan without eating soft serve ice cream. (And if you do, consider that a day wasted)
After viewing the Dam as famous as the American Hoover Dam, you can walk across it to the Kurobeko station and take the Kurobe Cable Car to Kurobedaira. From Kurobedaira you will be 1828 meters high and hopefully you will have great views of Mt. Tateyama.
Mt. Tateyama is one of the three holy mountains in Japan. At one time people believed that a God resided on the top of the mountain. They would climb to the top of the mountain overlooking what they considered the valley of Hell, so of course it came to represent Heaven. I was lucky to be there on a very clear day had I had great visibility.
Next hop on the Tateyama Ropeway, the longest unsupported ropeway, up to Daikabo at a height of 2316 meters. There will be a fantastic view from the observation point on top of the station.
Take the Tateyama Tunnel Trolley Bus under Mt. Tateyama to Murado at a height of 2450 meters. Here I was able to do the Snow Walk. Which is an INCREDIBLE walk through a giant snow wall. The cool thing about the snow wall is that you get to see the patterns of the snow throughout the winter. You can see the density of the snow at different points and it just drives it home how much snow they really get up there. It is a pretty unique thing to see.
The Tateyama Highland Bus
After frolicking in the snow for a while I hopped on the Tateyama Highland bus for the ride down to Bijodaira. There are a couple stops that you can make along the way but during the winter, it was basically just a ride down to the bottom, unless you were staying at one of the resorts along the way. We did stop to look at a really beautiful waterfall. And if you have more time then I had, one of the resorts has an onsen that you can have dip in.
Tateyama Cable Car
Finally you get down to Bijodiara station. I headed upstairs to the roof of the station for a few more pictures, and just to enjoy the sunshine for a minute. While it was cold all day, it was still warm once you sat out and soaked up up the sun. At the station they sell tons of Japanese treats, I suggest wandering around and eating the samples of them all.
Once you get to Bijodaira you just have to take the Tateyama Cable car to the Tateyama station where you will pick up your luggage and head on your way to the Kanazawa station. I stayed in Kanazawa for 2 days, it was beautiful and I wish I could have stayed longer. There is a lot to do around there, and it is a traditional Japanese style city.
In the end, when you are planning your trip, I hope you choose to take this route because after a day in the AMAZING Japanese Alps, you will be feeling 100% rejuvenated and it’s always a nice escape from the city life for a while. If you end up going more in the summer time – let me know! I want to see your photos of how different it is.
If you want to know my itinerary for my whole solo trip to Japan – You can check it out here!!
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