Mount Norikura and Shinhotaka ropeways are the two snowy mountain areas situated near Takayama of Gifu prefecture operating during the spring and early summer seasons. Both these places have hot natural springs(Onsens) at the mountain tops.
A trip to the Mount Norikura, situated at Nagano-Gifu border area after the winter, starting from May offers a great experience for snow lovers. It is one of the most famous mountains of Japan. Numbered as the third tallest mountain of the Northern Alps, it is a famous hiking place. This place can be easily accessed from Takayama and Matsumoto. There are many bus tours conducted from the month of May to this area. Traveling through the steep roads with the mountains filled with snow on both sides, is interesting as well as slightly terrifying. The snowy great mountains on one side and the deep valleys on the other side sometimes scared us while looking outside. As we reach near to the Mount Norikura, there were snow walls between which our vehicle was passing through. And this was one of the most beautiful sceneries of this place. This route is called ‘The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route’. The snowy mountains hugging the sky and the white clouds kissing the mountain tops create a feeling that you have just reached the sky.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is famous for its snow walls. The highest wall is about 10 meters high and can be seen along the Echo line road of Norikura. Walking between these small and big snow walls is interesting. We could see a lot of names written by the visitors on these snow walls. There are a lot of skiers enjoying their trips on the mountain slopes. They seem to move like dark spots over the mount tops. The heavenly Marathon of Norikura conducted in the month of June is a summer event, popular among the runners in Japan. They run between the snow walls, up to 2700 meters altitude, halfway up the Mount Norikura. “All Japan Norikura Cycling Race ” is also held here in June.
There is also a famous Onsen here, the Norikura Kogen Onsen. This is known for its warm natural water coming from the mountain. There is a place called Norikura Onsen Kyo. There are a lot of hot springs in this area. During this time, people enjoy skiing, hiking, snowshoeing etc. There are many natural attractions in this place during other seasons. This place is said to be one of the most beautiful spots during autumn.
Shinhotaka Ropeway is said to be the largest ropeway in Asia. It is located near the Takayama. This place is also filled with snow during the spring and early summer times. These mountain ranges include Japan’s third highest peak. There are actually two ropeways here. It costs 2900 yen for the adults and 1600 yen for the children round trip for the two ropeways. The first one has single storeyed cable car from the bus station to the Nabedaira Kogen. There are restaurants, souvenir shops, art gallery etc. present at this place. The art gallery has beautiful paintings, wood carvings etc. There is also a beautiful garden in front of the building. We could see most of the visitors relaxing in the garden dipping their feet in a mini natural hot spring.
The second ropeway starts from Nabedaira Kogen. The special gondola cars climb over 800 meters up to the Hotake Mountain Ranges. The ticket from here costs 2800 yen for the adults and 1500 yen round trip for children. The double decker gondola cars present here can accommodate 70 people at the bottom and 50 people at the top in a single ride. Throughout the 6 minutes journey to touch the clouds, the guide inside the car gives various information like a commentary. This steepest ropeway trip creates a scary experience in the beginning. But the panoramic view of the thick woods which gradually changes to the snow filled ground beneath us is interesting and gives a really nice experience. The parking places and the vehicles could be seen like perfectly arranged matchboxes as the height increases and further disappears from our sight as dark spots.
The observation deck is on the fourth floor of the upper station at an altitude of about 2156 meters. From there, we could enjoy the majestic view of the snowy mountains and the valleys with coniferous tree heads peeping out through the snow. There is a postbox and some cute deers made of wood, arranged in front of the board containing the altitude information.
At the observation deck, there are boards installed on all sides consisting of the information like names, pictures and height of the surrounding mountains. There are also restaurants, souvenir shops etc. The Shinhotaka Onsen is also attracting many visitors to this place.