Rising through rugged terrain to the heart of Japan's Northern Alps, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route offers sweeping alpine views and the chance to experience a side of Japan's natural beauty seldom seen by casual visitors. The Kurobe Dam is a spectacular feat of engineering well worth a visit.
At the mid-point of the 90-kilometer Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is Murodo, an area which is home to both Japan's highest altitude hotel and transit station. Throughout summer the Murodo area welcomes adventurous visitors looking to explore the area's many weaving hiking trails.
Opening in mid-April and closing at the end of November, the Alpine Route offers such seasonal highlights such as the Murodo Snow Corridor with its 18-meter tall snow walls and a period of fall foliage when the Tateyama range is ablaze with reds and yellows.
This unique and naturally spectacular journey through Japan's Northern Alps is so high it's often called the ‘roof of Japan'. Wander though the towering snow walls, jump onto a cable car and witness the magic of Toyama from up high.
You can see evidence of the volcanic upheaval, which shaped the geography of the area in the sulfurous crags of Jigoku-dani (literally, “The Valley of Hell”) and the nearby Tateyama Caldera.
Famous peaks like Tateyama, the holy mountain which gives the area its name, and Mount Tsurugi, one of Japan's foremost winter climbing destinations, are visible from various angles as you hike around Murodo.
Towering at a massive 186 meters, Kurobe Dam is Japan's tallest dam and is overflowing with stories. After seven years of construction, the dam was finished in 1963. Today it supports a hydropower plant and helps supply electricity to the Kansai Region. Scale the concrete-covered mountain slope, get a full view of the massive dam and its surroundings.
The full route is open from around April 15 to November 30, closing for winter during the remainder of the year (exact dates may vary slightly). The peak period to visit the snow corridor lasts from the opening in April to early June, with the latter being recommended for anyone wishing to avoid cold weather.
Peak fall foliage appears in stages, with higher altitudes showing the most vibrant colors in October and lower altitudes peaking in November.
Summer is a good time to attempt the long hike in the Northern Alps as all of the mountain lodges will be open. Snow on the ridges has mostly melted by August, eliminating the need for specialized winter gear.