The Tateyama Road Gap on the famous Tateyama – Kurobe Alpine Route between Nagano and Toyama Prefectures has to be about the ballsiest leap you can make in Japan on skis or a board.
Heading along the famous tourist route you will ride on trains, ropeways, trolley buses and buses.
In spring that includes the trip through the amazing Yuki-no-Otani snow wall at Tateyama. It gets dug out every April, with the opening day depth news eagerly awaited. For 2021 it opened yesterday, at a none too shabby 14m.
This amazing route is one of the World’s best alpine journeys period, accessible to anyone.
For skiers and boarders with intent it opens up amazing spring touring options too, and the craziest road gap in J-land – if you time things right, have the skills, and get away with it. Surprise surprise, it’s not encouraged to say the least.
One of the original Aussie pioneers, who did as much as anyone to put “Japow” on the map starting 30 years ago, Hakuba based Matt Skinner from Ski Japan Holidays / Japan Specialists sent us this anecdote and pic of Gareth Mowat going huge for our feature special celebrating 100 years of skiing in Japan back in 2011.
“This story really sticks in my mind, one of the things we wait to do at the end of the winter season is head up to Tateyama. Opening in late April, the Tateyama area is located high up in the Japan Alps behind the main range of Hakuba, and has to be one of the snowiest places on the planet.”
“Every year from mid-March snow clearing begins and takes approximately one month to cut the road through to the top station of Murodo where the snow walls can get up to over 10m high on each side of the road.”
“After a night sleeping in our snow cave at Murodo the next day was to be spent exploring the unlimited skiing of the area, however some of the other boys had different agendas and jumping the famous snow corridor was one of them. I’m not sure if the bus driver knew exactly what was going on, however the local police did and kindly asked us to move on!”
The Yuki-no-Otani snow wall can reach up to 20m high, the equivalent of a 10 storey building! They excavate the road out in late April, which is not surprisingly therefore one of the peak times to experience the journey. The wall is at its highest from then into May. From June it shrinks away quite quickly, but snow for playing around in lasts most of summer.
It’s easily accessed from the Hakuba Valley/Nagano side starting with a local bus from JR Shinano-Omachi Station on the Oito Line to Ogizawa, where you can park if you’ve got your own wheels. Or using shinkansen, Alpico run express buses from Nagano Station east gate to Ogizawa in as little as 95 minutes – check times here.
You can stay in style at Hotel Tateyama right on the Murodo Station, or there’s a campsite at Raichozawa and more basic bunk accommodation at Lodge Tateyamarenpo. Coming from the Toyama side, Midagahara at 1930m has more accommodation options below Murodo to day trip from.
How long is the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route?
Doing the full trip in either direction between Dentetsu Toyama and Shinano-Omachi takes 8 – 9 hours one way.
For those with limited time keen to see most of the highlights, a round trip from Tateyama station as far as Kurobe Dam and back can be done in 8 – 9 hours, while a round trip from Ogizawa to Murodo can be done in 5 – 7 hours.
Alpine Route Ticket options and deals
Individual sector ticket costs are available here.
For full timetables and recommendations for estimated waiting times according to dates check the official route website here.
The best deal for doing the whole alpine route, giving you up to 5 days for that, is JRs Tateyama Kurobe one way option ticket for ¥9,800. This ticket can be used from JR Nagano/Shinano-Omachi Station to Dentetsu-Toyama Station on the Toyama Chiho Railway, or from Dentetsu-Toyama Station to JR Shinano-Omachi Station/Nagano Station.
It’s not valid for round-trip travel or partial trip round-trip travel. The deal is available for temporary visitors to Japan.