Monday, July 9, 2018

Japan Travel: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route 立山黒部アルペンルート

As we shared in our post 10 tips on planning Central Japan trip with children, one of the reasons why we wanted to visit Central Japan is to play with snow in summer at Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route 立山黒部アルペンルート. The highlight was to visit the Snow Corridor (雪の大谷 Yuki no Otani), which is open to public from mid April to end June. Located at Murodo 室堂 at 2450 m high, the snow wall that can be as tall as 20 m in April. By June, the height is around 11-12 m, but I thought it would still be amazing.

An overview of what Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route - you can cross the mountainous area between Toyama 富山 and Ogizawa 扇沢 via 7 modes of public transportation, which include railway, cable car, bus, trolley bus and ropeway.

source: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route official website

As the route is part of Chubu Sangaku National Park, you cannot drive your own car across it, you have to arrange it to be delivered. If you have large luggage, you can also arrange delivery from one end to the other end of the route too.

One worry that I had was that the Snow Corridor would not be open for visitors to walk through if the weather condition was poor. I kept monitoring the weather closer to the day, it was hazy on the day before, but the snow corridor was still open for walking. So the day came, I checked the official website at 7 am, the weather was still hazy, but there was no indication whether the Snow Corridor was open for walking. Anyway, we just went ahead, keeping my fingers and toes crossed that the Snow Corridor would be open.

We stayed at Toyama the night before. At Dentetsu-Toyama Station 電鉄富山, we bought the return tickets between Toyama and Murodo (6710 yen for adult, 3360 yen for child). We took 1 hour train to Tateyama 立山.

The screen at Tateyama Station displayed the live image of Murodo, it was so foggy and I started to have a bad feeling.

While we were happily tasting free sample of food at the souvenir shop, we saw a queue start to form at the Individual Gate even though it was 20 minutes before the departure of the next Tateyama Cable Car. I told the children to quickly join the queue while I quickly did my usual thing in Japan - to get the stamp on the brochure!

Tateyama Cable Car took only 7 minutes to reach Bijodaira 美女平.

According to timetable, the next Highway Bus to Murodo should be 30 minutes later, however, there was a bus departing when we were there at that time. It was great that we didn't have to waste much time waiting!

The Highway Bus took 50 minutes to reach Murodo. I read somewhere that we should sit on the left hand side of the bus so that we could look at a waterfall called Shomyo Taki 称名滝 as well as a huge Cedar tree. However, it was so hazy that we could hardly see anything.

On the way up the mountain, the scenery turned from green to white. Yes, it was summer, and there was snow!

Though we couldn't see the scenery clearly, the TV in the bus kept us entertain as the video introduced various points of interest as the bus was travelling.

Finally, the bus drove past the Snow Corridor. It was amazing to view it from inside of the bus, but I was wondering why there was not a single soul walking along the Snow Corridor.

As parents, we remembered to dress our children up like a "bak chang" (Chinese rice dumplings), but DaDi wore bermudas and I wore 3/4 pants, and I only had a thin jacket which was not waterproof! So imagine wearing this kind of clothing at 8 degrees Celsius and when it was raining!

Anyway, I forgot about the coldness as I was excited to visit the post office at 2450 m high, and sent my first post card from Japan to Singapore even though it was my 7th time visiting Japan. Remember to do the questionnaire on their official website to redeem some free beautiful postcards from the information counter!

The children kept asking me to hurry up so that they could play with snow. When we walked towards the exit of the station, a big sign made me faint - the Snow Corridor was not open for walking on that day due to adverse weather condition! We took 4 hours to travel from Nagoya to Toyama, and another 2 hours from Toyama to Murodo to see the Snow Corridor, and now we were told that it was not open for walking on that day! Can you imagine how disappointed I was?

The children were hungry and so we had our lunch at a restaurant at Tateyama Hotel located at the station. The restaurant was filled with many individual visitors and many tour groups. I thought they would probably feel the same way as I did.

We ordered Fried White Shrimp with Himi Udon Noodles set, both are local specialty in Toyama region.

I was still feeling disappointed, but I didn't give up easily, and quickly checked what else we could do there since we had already spent much effort to go up to 2450 m! I found that there was a smaller scale of snow wall behind the hotel.

The walls were much shorter than those at the Snow Corridor, but it was better than nothing. Though it was raining, the children still had fun "writing" on the snow wall using the small stones.

We were cold and wet after that, a bowl of warm zenzai (red bean soup) and buns from the eatery shops made us feel better.

Isn't this nice? Ok, I confess that I was taking a photo with a photo.

My collection from 2450 m.

On the way back to Toyama, the children said that they enjoyed the trip. I was surprised that they said that. I thought it was a disappointment that we could not walk through the Snow Corridor, but to the children, they were contented just to play at the smaller scale of snow wall. They said, "It was better than nothing!"

I learnt an important lesson from my children - look at things on the brighter side!

Tips for Visiting Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route Snow Corridor between April to June
  1. If you are visiting during April to May, it is advisable to purchase tickets online, because Tateyama Cable Car has limited seats. But of course, please keep your fingers and toes crossed that the day that you have selected would have good weather! 
  2. Bring waterproof windbreaker (don't follow the mistake that I made).
  3. Plan 2-3 days to stay in Toyama if your schedule allows, so that you can visit Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route on a day with better weather (don't follow the other mistake I made, only planned one and only one day to visit a place with highly unpredictable weather).
  4. When travelling between Toyama and Tateyama on Toyama Chihou Railway 富山地方鉄道, additional fee (210 yen for adult, 110 yen for child) is required to take limited express train.

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route 立山黒部アルペンルート

Our Central Japan Travelogue June 2018

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