Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kurobe Gorge and Kamikochi

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Shazza Female Malaysia 2018/09/27

Hi, I’m trying to plan a short itinerary in Chubu in Oct.  I arrive in Tokyo on 25th Oct morning and need to be in Osaka on 28th Oct night.  Currently my plan is to get the rail pass and:-

Day 1 (25th) – sightsee in Nagano, make way to Hirayu Onsen to spend the night

Day 2 (26th) – sightsee in Kamikochi, make way back to Nagano to spend the night

Day 3 (27th) – do the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, from the Ogizawa side, make way to Unazukionsen to spend the night

Day 4 (28th) – do the Kurobe Gorge rail trip and then if there is time, drop by in Kanazawa before making way to Osaka.

Some questions:-

1.Does the itinerary make sense, or can be rearranged to be more efficient? 

2. Is the Alpine Route worth doing on those dates? My objective is to see autumn foliage. Should I consider Shin Hotaka ropeway instead (as I understand it is nearer to Hirayu Onsen)?

3. Does it make a difference which direction I do the Alpine Route?  I would like to save time, and I read that there could be a bottleneck at the Ropeway.

Appreciate some guidance. Many thanks in advance!



Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/09/27

Hi Shazza,

Thanks for your comment about your trip to Japan this autumn. It looks like a great trip!

Some notes regarding your plan:

1. A JR Pass isn’t worth it based on the schedule you’ve listed. I’m not sure what sightseeing you’ll be doing around Nagano, but so far your train fare between your major destinations doesn’t add up to enough to save money with a pass (about 22,950 yen along covered lines). Below are portions of your tour which are not covered by JR passes:

Travel between Matsumoto, Kamikochi, and Hirayu is by bus and private railway, which is not covered by JR passes. (~6,180 yen per person)

Travel between Nagano Station, Dentetsu Toyama Station, and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is not covered by JR passes. There is a special Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route ticket that can save you some money on this portion of your trip.

To travel to Unazuki Onsen, you’ll be using the Toyama Chiho Railway, which is also not covered by JR passes. Traveling between Dentetsu Toyama and Unazuki Onsen via the Toyama Chiho Railway is 1,840 yen, and from Unazuki Onsen to Shin-Kurobe (to change to Kurobe-Unazuki Onsen Station for the Shinkansen to Kanazawa) is 630 yen.

2. According to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route website, autumn leaves can be seen along the majority of the route during late October. You could save money by taking the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway instead, then traveling towards Unazuki Onsen and Kanazawa via Shinkansen from Nagano.

3. No, it does not make a difference which direction you begin the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Both directions take about the same amount of time.

I hope that helps answer your question. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know.


Guest 2018/09/27

Thanks for your insights Blair!  I was of half a mind to drop the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (TKAR) but I fear i would be missing out on spectacular scenery (lol).

Some further questions:-

  1. Is Shin-Hotaka scenery similar to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (TKAR)? I would like some variety in the scenery (given we would be seeing the Kurobe Gorge, Kamikochi as well).
  2. I was thinking of skipping TKAR, and using the Shinshu 4 day pass and travel around Kamikochi, Shin Hotaka (or Norikura) and Takayama instead, and then go to Unazuki Onsen via Toyama.  But I read that the rail route between Takayama and Toyama is disrupted, so am not sure if that is doable.  Can you advise?
  3. Which would be a better choice if i only have time to do one place, Shin-Hotaka or Norikura (given the dates i will be there)?
  4. How about the Hokuriku Arch Pass? would that make more sense than the JR Pass? I thought the Toyama Chiho Railway would be covered under the Hokuriku Arch Pass.

Thanks so much!


Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/10/01

I’m glad I could be of help! Here are my notes on your other questions:

1. I believe they are different. The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route has the Kurobe Dam, one of Japan’s largest high-altitude dams, and the wide open highland of Murodo (where you can see snow during spring and summer). The Shin-hotaka Ropeway offers amazing views of the Hotaka mountain range of the Northern Japanese Alps and the valley below. Both are “mountain scenery” but each with their own charm. You may want to look at some more photos or videos on youtube to see whether or not it’s worth visiting both.

2. While the Takayama train line has been disrupted between Sakakami and Inotani stations, it is still possible to travel from Takayama to Toyama. JR buses will be traveling between the disrupted sections of the railway, and you can take the bus for no extra charge. See this notice from JR Central for train and bus timetables.

3. Norikura may be better for autumn colors in late October since its elevation is lower than the Shin-hotaka ropeway. There are also many hiking trails and activities around the mountain base that you can enjoy (for example cycling or mountain biking).

4. The Hokuriku Arch Pass wouldn’t be worth it as the Toyama Chiho Railway is not covered by any JR pass.

I hope that helps!


Guest 2018/10/03

thanks so much for the insights Blair, very helpful! Think I will give the Alpine Route a miss this time, Hope to return for it next time. 

Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/10/03

I’m glad to be of help. Enjoy your trip!


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