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.
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. So here’s a quick guide for first time visitors to Kurobe Dam to ensure you know how to go through!
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.
Time: It takes 7 mins and the time interval is 20 mins.
From Bijodaira Station, we took the Tateyama Kogen Public Bus to Murodo Station. Murododaira 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. We enjoyed the cloud sea as we went up higher and higher near to Murododaira. Time: It takes 50 mins and the time interval is 30-40 minutes.
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.
Time: 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 Station, we took the Tateyama Ropeway. Tateyama Ropeway is the longest onespan type Ropeway in Japan at 1.7 km.
Time: It takes 7 mins and the time interval is 20 minutes.
4. Kurobe Cable Car from Kurobedaira Station to Kurobe Lake Station
At Kurobedaira Station (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. 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.
Time: It takes 5 mins and the time interval is 20 minutes.
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. We fully enjoyed the Kurobe Dam, then we took the Trolley from Kurobe Dam Station to Ougisawa Station. Time: 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.
How long to stay
Recommended time is about 8 hours to visit and see around Kurobe Dam. 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. One night stay would be much preferable.
Where to stay
There are various hotels and lodges around Murododaira and Midagahara areas to climb Mount Oyama and hike at Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.We stayed at Hotel Tateyama for two nights. It’s better to make reservations sooner during peak season for tourists especially in July and August.
How to get there
From Toyama Prefecture, Tateyama Station is the starting point to visit by using Trolley, Cable Car, Ropeway and Bus. From Nagano Prefecture, Ougisawa Station is the starting point and it takes 105 mins from Nagano Station to Ougisawa Station by public bus. From Tokyo Station to Nagano Station, it takes about 105 mins by Shinkansen bullet train.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route round ticket is available on website and the valid period is 5 days.
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.