The Senjojiki Cirque boasts one of Nagano's most iconic alpine views. Accessible year-round via the Komagatake Ropeway, it's a stunning and convenient starting point for an adventure in the Central Alps.
Senjojiki Cirque is near Komagane Station in Nagano and accessible from Tokyo by express train.
From Tokyo, take the JR Azusa train at Shinjuku and change at Okaya for the local Iida Line to Komagane. The ride takes roughly 3 hours and 40 minutes. The Komagatake Ropeway Bus runs from Komagane Station and takes 50 minutes.
There are direct buses from Shinjuku, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya to Komagane Station.
Launched in 1967, the Komagatake Ropeway was the first of its kind in Japan
Senjojiki Cirque gets its name because the area covers the equivalent of 1,000 tatami mats, pronounced as "sen-jo" in Japanese
Carved out by glaciers during the last ice age, the Senjojiki Cirque epitomizes the grandeur of Nagano's Central Alps. The Komagatake Ropeway on the eastern side of the range whisks you to 2,600 meters, dropping you off right on the cirque's doorstep. From there, you enter a realm of gorgeous alpine scenery with the surrounding peaks towering above.
In the summer, alpine plants and flowers carpet the cirque, and in the fall, the slopes turn a riot of red and golden hues. Winter sees the heights in deep snow, an alpine world typically only witnessed by the hardiest mountaineers. In the spring, the snow slowly recedes, and life creeps back into the mountains. The highly regarded Senjojiki Ski Area operates for a brief window from April through the end of May.
Senjojiki Station, at the top of the ropeway, is the highest public transit hub in Japan. From here, a one-hour loop takes you around a portion of the cirque. This is an easy way to enjoy the alpine scenery with views stretching to the Southern Alps and Mt. Fuji.
With more time, proper boots and a sense of adventure, you can head for the highest peak in the Central Alps, the 2,956-meter Mt. Kiso Komagatake. It takes about four hours round-trip from the terminal. Ascend to the summit and, on a clear day, you'll be rewarded with a panoramic view of mountains stretching off to the horizon.
Another option if you have the time and energy is hiking out to the glacially-carved Nogaike Pond, famous for its wildflowers and autumn colors. It's about five hours round-trip from the terminal. The going is steep in places, but the scenery is fabulous.
While it's certainly possible to hike up to the cirque from the valley, it will take six to eight hours depending on your route. There are plenty of mountain huts on the nearby peaks if you want to stay overnight.
Another option is to hike up, and then take the ropeway down. With an early start, you could check out Nogaike Pond on the way up and still be back in Komagane in time for dinner.