The Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, or TK Alpine Route as it is also called, runs from Ogisawa in Nagano prefecture, through several mountains, across the Kurobe Dam and over to Toyama prefecture.
To get from one side to another, you need to take 5 different modes of transportation--electric trolley bus, cable car (finicula), ropeway, your feet, and bus.
The thing about this route is that you need to take it from one side or the other you can't start in the middle or part of the way.
Our day started at 5:30 a.m. in order to catch the bus with everyone at 7:30 a.m. to Ogisawa in Nagano.
We then stood in line to ride the electric trolley bus, a 16 minute ride (and it is exactly 16 minutes!) from Ogisawa to Kurobe Dam.
When you reach the dam, you walk across it to get to the next mode of transportation.
The dam was finished in 1963, is 186 meters high (610 feet) and is 1470 meters above sea level.
I remember visiting Hoover Dam, but I don't think we were able to walk across it.
During the summer months, you can see the water flowing from the dam. It was something to be able to walk across it.
The next mode of transportation is a cable car (finicula) and runs from Kurobeko to Kurobedaira.
Exactly 131 passengers including the driver take the 5 minute ride...though 5 minutes seemed longer when you are packed into a vehicle as tight as sardines. (you should know that the passengers to the left of the car are all gonna fit...)
The grade was 31% though it seemed more like straight up.
One thing we tried was oyaki. This is a famous food item in Nagano prefecture made from fermented buckwheat dough.
It is filled with veggies, fruit or sweet bean paste and then roasted in a pan. After it is roasted, it is then steamed and served hot.
This particular oyaki was filled with nozawana (mustard greens), a popular vegetable in Nagano prefecture.
Piping hot, this was delicious!
From Kurobedaira, we then took a ropeway to Daikanbo.
If you notice atop the cable of the ropeway, a worker is "riding" on the wires.
He actually rode this from Daikanbo to Kurobedaira, a 7 minute ride, to check the cables. We found out that they do this once a day to make sure the cables are in check.
I wouldn't want his job!
If I am not mistaken, 120 of us rode in one car at once! I'm glad the cables were checked right before.
The view from Daikanbo is spectacular! The Alps of Japan as well as many other mountains can be seen.
From Daikanbo, you take a 10 minute electric trolley bus ride to Murodo.
Amazingly, we were able to sit on this part of the trip.
When you reach Murodo, you are 2450 meters above sea level.
One reason of going this high up is to see the yuki ootani (snow gorge). This is a man-made gorge that runs from Murodo down the winding mountain road to Bijyodaira.
The gorge is cut with snow plows and other machinery and this year the highest area reached 17 meters (56 feet). (some other years it went as high as 24 meters! (78 feet))
They allow you to walk 500 meters (1640 feet) of this gorge and boy, is it something to see!
We then took a bus down through the gorge to Bijyodaira, it was kinda scary and kinda neat to ride through the gorge (I have a little video attached at the end).
At Bijyodaira, we had to wait for our turn to ride the cable car (finicula) down, so while we waited we checked out the station.
There are two large cedar trees in front and there is a legend that Saeki Ariyori fell in love with a princess. She climbed up Tateyama (Mount Tate (ta-tay)) to see him but he said he would not see her again until he developed the land in the area. So, she made her way down the mountain and on the way, she prayed to a sugi (cedar tree). After praying to the tree, they were married.
It is said that if you pray 3 times to a cedar, your love will bloom. For this reason, cedar trees in this area are also known as "bijyosugi".
Finally it was our turn to ride the cable car down the mountain to Tateyama station.
The grade was 29% and seemed steeper than the first cable car ride.
This particular cable car route was used to haul materials for the building of the dam, and they still have a freight car attached.
From Tateyama, it was back to Osaka. Dinner was on the fly at about 9 at night! What should've taken us 5 hours, took us longer and we made it home just as the day changed to the next.
Even though the traffic was really bad, we were happy we got to experience the TK Alpine route...for all the modes of transportation (one way) it cost 8060 yen (about US$80.60).
If you get a chance to, this is one thing you shouldn't miss!
I've uploaded several videos from Murodo (the snow gorge) here, here, and here.
Since I didn't upload all the food we ate, you can also check out some more photos on my Flickr Nagano and Toyama sets.
Hope you enjoyed our adventure as much as we did!