The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route offers stunning views in any season. The Snow Walk in the spring, with its towering snow walls, is especially impressive!
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
This area is known by many different names: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the Roof of Japan, the Alpen Route or simply the Japanese Alps. Each season offers so much to do and see for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers or anyone willing to make the trek to these stunning mountains.
During the summer you can enjoy hiking, mountaineering and rock climbing; during the winter, skiing, snowboarding and various snow activities. From late September to mid October, the mountains come alive with all hues of red, yellow and orange and is a popular place to view the fall leaves changing colors.
Spring at the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route was what piqued our interest the most. While watching a promotional video on Japan we saw the incredible snow walk and decided it was a must see. The snow wall reaches an average of 16 meters or over 50 feet! Towering over buses, taller than many houses, the icy walls will make you feel small as you walk through this incredible corridor of snow.
Tateyama Snow Walk
We showed the kids pictures of where we were going and they were so excited. Making plans to make snowmen and have a snowball fight, they were anxious to get there!
The bus ride to Murodo Station Square takes 50 minutes and begins at a lower elevation, where the snow is scarce, but snow increases as the bus rapidly climbs. The walls on either side of the road continue to get taller and taller until you’re craning your neck to see the tops!
Once we got out on the snow the kids quickly figured out that it was slippery. The first item of business was to make snowballs, next the snowball fight. Without gloves, it didn’t last too long! Every once in a while I would get hit with snow and hear peals of laughter.
We felt like we were on top of the world! We were 2450 meters above sea level, and only the tips of the mountains were above us.
There were many people carrying their skis and snowboards, and even some with sleds. We felt a little underdressed as we were just wearing tennis shoes and light jackets. Most everyone else had hiking boots and full on hiking gear, but the weather was super warm and we were just fine for the activities we were there to do.
Tateyama Snow Maze and Other Activities
The snow maze was a fun little course right before the snow wall. This was the first maze the kids have done and they really liked taking turns deciding which way to go at each fork in the path.
We saw the remains of the snow hut. As a kid growing up in Montana, my brother and I would dig snow huts after a big snowfall. We would military crawl in to pull out the snow and back up into the hole we made and lie there – it was so much fun. This was a much larger type of hut – we could walk into this cave. It probably won’t be there much longer though!
There is also supposed to be a snow slide that we didn’t see. If you bring your own sled, all you need to do is climb the mountain and you can slide down from there!
Plan Your Trip
How do you get to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route?
The night before we stayed in Toyama, and from there it was a 50-minute drive to the Tateyama station. We did not buy tickets in advance, but we recommend you do if there are tickets available – check out their website for information. We got to the Tateyama station at 6 a.m. just to be the first in line since we didn’t have tickets, and bought round-trip tickets for the first trip up at 7 a.m. By the time we could purchase tickets at 6:20, the line was full of people!
At the Tateyama Station, you take a cable car up the mountain. It’s incredibly steep with an elevation change of about 500 meters. It takes you to the Bijodaira station where you get in line for the bus (your ticket will cover the bus fare), and the bus takes you on a 50-minute drive to get to Murodo Station for the Snow Walk.
Winding back and forth up the mountain, the views on all sides are incredible, but our favorite view was of Shomyo Falls. The tallest waterfall in Japan was raging with the melting snow, giving us a bonus view of Hannoki Falls, a seasonal waterfall that you can see to the right of the above photo.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route will amaze you – the massive cliffs, unreal Snow Walk, and stunning scenery were some of our most memorable views of Japan. Go each season and let us know which is your favorite! Check out what else we did in the area from Lake Biwa to Tateyama.