Saturday, May 07, 2011

tateyama-kurobe alpine route

trolleybus 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.

kurobedam (9) 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.

cablecar (3) 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.

kurobedaira (6) 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!

kurobedaira 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.

daikanbo (9) The view from Daikanbo is spectacular! The Alps of Japan as well as many other mountains can be seen.

trolleybus (2) 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.

murodo (23) 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!

bijyodaira (8) 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).

bijyodaira (12) 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".

tateyama 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!


Abigail (aka Mamatouille) said...

My husband did a homestay in Kanazawa before we met and his host family took him here--he was feeling natsukashii as I showed him this post! I love that snow gorge.

jalna said...

Wow, what a great experience. It was so worth the hassle of getting there.

Japan Australia said...

Looks like a great adventure and 5 modes of transport to get there is cool. Love the view of the alps you posted and also a big fan of nozawana, which is very popular in Northern Gifu/Nagano.

Japan Australia

KirkK said...

That oayki looks delicious Kat! Loved the photos as usual. Thanks for sharing.

K and S said...

aw thanks Abigail, I hope you'll be able to take the Beans here someday too :)

Definitely Jalna :)

Thanks J-A!

Thanks Kirk, can't wait to hear/see where you went :)

Take care everyone.

Deb in Hawaii said...

OK, this may have been worth all the effort it took to get there lol! ;-)

K and S said...

lol Deb in Hawaii :)

Take care.

K said...

Oh wow, what a great trip! I can remember so many vacations to Japan where there were cable cars/carts and I'd be thinking - we're ALL going to fit in there?? Haha.

Lindsay-Jean said...

What a fun unique trip! The snow gorge looks amazing!

K and S said...

sometimes I think we're breaking some kind of safety rule K :)

Thanks LJ!

Take care you two.

Rowena... said...

Mention the word alps and I'm already hooked. Really liked your travel tales for this. It's like your version of the movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles!

K and S said...

Thanks Rowena, I don't think I've seen that movie :)

Take care.

Nami @ Just One Cookbook said...

Wow what a great trip you guys had... Thanks for sharing the pictures, Kat!

Nami @ Just One Cookbook said...

I just saw the videos too! Amazing... I didn't know this place exists in Japan. So many things about Japan that I don't know about. I left there too young...(well I was 20. Haha)

K and S said...

That is funny Nami :)

Take care.

manju said...

What a cool adventure! (no pun intended)
; )

K and S said...

The adventure was cool Manju, but the bus ride to and from the place was not.

Take care.