Visiting the Kurobe Dam had been my dream for many years. However, the biggest barrier was the complicated route to visit. It was the most difficult to understand how to access and how much time we needed to visit the Kurobe Dam. Once we traveled through the Toyama Kurobe Alpine Route to the Kurobe Dam, I found it was easy to access and well organized by the Tateyama Kurobe Kanko Transportation company. It was also the perfect transportation for rail fans.
We organized it by ourselves, but there are various kinds of tours from Toyama Station or Nagano Station to visit Murododaira, the entrance of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. There are two gates to access to the Kurobe Dam from Toyama or Nagano Prefectures and you can have several choices of where to stay or how to visit, so tours might be the most efficient way to visit. Kurobe Dam, nestled between 3,000 m high mountains, is one of the symbols of Japan’s high economic growth after WW Ⅱ.
Kurobe Dam was constructed over a 7-year construction period by more than 10 million workers and was completed in 1963. Since I was a child, I have heard lots of stories of how hard it was to build the Kurobe Dam.
It used to be so difficult to visit, but after opening Toyama Shinkansen bullet train in 2015, it has become much easier to access. From Toyama Prefecture, Tateyama Station is the starting point to visit by using Trolley, Cable Car, Ropeway and Bus. It takes 3 hours to go through from Tateyama Station in Toyama to Ougisawa Station in Nagano with 6 types of public transportations not including sightseeing. Recommended time is about 8 hours to visit and see around Kurobe Dam. A one night stay would be much preferable.
1. Cable Car from Tateyama Station
From Toyama Station, it takes one-hour to go to Tateyama Station by car or public transportation. We took the Cable Car from Tateyama Station to Bijodaira Station. It takes 7 mins and the time interval is 20 mins.
From Bijodaira Station, we took the Tateyama Kogen Public Bus to Murododaira. Murodo Station is located at the height of 2,450m and it is the key station from which to climb Tateyama Mountain Range and to visit Kurobe Dam. It takes 50 mins and the time interval is 30-40 minutes. We enjoyed the cloud sea as we went up higher and higher near to Murododaira.
2. Tateyama Trolley from Murodo Station to Daikanbou Station
The Trolley goes through Tateyama, bypassing under Mt. Oyama (3,003 m) from Murodo Station to Daikanbou Station. It takes 10 mins and the time interval is 30 minutes.
3. Tateyama Ropeway from Daikanbou Station to Kurobedaira
Daikanbou Station is located at 2,316 m elevation. There is an observation deck to enjoy Kurobe Lake and Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Outstanding views can be seen from the observation deck at the top of the station, including a wide panoramic view of the Japan Alps and Kurobe Lake. From Daikanbou Station to Kurobedaira, we took the Tateyama Ropeway. It takes 7 mins and the time interval is 20 minutes. Tateyama Ropeway is the longest onespan type Ropeway in Japan at 1.7 km.
4. Kurobe Cable Car from Kurobedaira Station to Kurobe Lake Station
At Kurobedaira (Elevation 1,828 m), we can see the Tateyama Mountain Range and Kurobe Lake. The botanical garden near Kurobedaira Station gives excellent views of the scenic mountain range and Kurobe Lake. You can enjoy high altitude plants and picturesque scenery. We hadn’t reached Kurobe Dam yet at Kurobedaira Station.
We still needed to take the Kurobe Cable Car, passing through the steep slope from Kurobedaira Station to Kurobe Lake Station. It takes 5 mins and the time interval is 20 minutes. The difference of elevation is 373 m and the maximum gradient is 31 degrees. The cable car goes underground to be protected from natural disasters.
5. Trolley from Kurobe Dam Station to Ougisawa Station
Finally, we arrived at the Kurobe Dam. We walked through the dike of the Kurobe Dam to Kurobe Dam Station. It took about 15 mins. We fully enjoyed the Kurobe Dam, then we took the Trolley from Kurobe Dam Station to Ougisawa Station. It takes 16 mins and the time interval is 30 minutes. The Trolley runs through Kanden Tunnel to Nagano Prefecture. Taking the Trolley to Ougiswa Station was a highlight for us, along with researching the Kurobe Dam’s history.
The length of Kanden Tunnel is 5.4 km under Mt. Akazawatake and it was constructed to transport building materials for the dam project. It took 19 months to connect Toyama and Nagano. People used to assemble logs to be carried through the valley to the Kurobe area from Ougisawa town and it took 2-3 days. It took 7 months to tunnel through the fractured zone, blowing out cracked rocks and 4 degree water, due to its soft surrounding stratum. Digging the Kanden Tunnel was said to be the hardest part of the Kurobe Dam construction project.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route round ticket is available and the valid period is 5 days. Along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the connection is very smooth and we can easily transfer.
It takes 105 mins from Nagano Station to Ougisawa Station by public bus. From Tokyo Station to Nagano Station, it takes about 105 mins. You can visit there from Kyoto Station, but it also takes time to transfer. Car Rental is not necessary to visit Kurobe Dam only. If you travel in Toyama and Nagano Prefectures too, renting a car is much more convenient.