4 Amazing Aerial Lifts You Should Ride in Japan

  • One of the most interesting ways to experience the beauty of Japan is through various ropeways located throughout the country.There are approximately 170 of these ropeways that transport people and goods to high elevation places. However, for “funitels”, a special type of aerial lift originating from France, only four such lifts were produced in Japan.

    If you are probably unfamiliar with the particular details of what a “funitel” is, they are lifts with a larger length in size compared to a normal gondola, and rather than carry human passengers on routes, are mostly used to transport goods instead. Many ski resorts make use of funitels to ferry large groups of people up the slopes at a greater rate than the typical ski lift system. Funitels also tend to be safer to use in a variety of weather condition, as their large size necessitate the use of a two-cable suspension system, reducing risks to the car occupants. If you’re a fan of winter sporting in Japan or just interested in visiting scenic mountain vistas, take a look at the four major funitel line services in Japan.

    1. Hashikurasan Ropeway

    Tokushima is a gorgeous prefecture that’s home to the Onaruto Bridge and the Iya Valley. Since the prefecture is located in Shikoku, an island that is sparsely populated because of its high terrain, powerful rivers, and dense forests, it’s home to some great views as a result of the lack of development.

    Mt. Hashikura in the calm and less-populated Miyoshi City is a mountain deemed sacred by many locals because of the presence of Hashikuraji Temple. To reach the top of the mountain, a 948-meter-long funitel line has been built, upon which a cabin could carry as many as 32 people at once.

    The unique thing about this funitel is that it is the only ‘aerial tramway’ operated in Japan. There are only a few aerial tramways in the world; they are operated to carry as many cabins as possible and have a continuous loop motion, as opposed to a normal lift which keeps running to and fro at the same time.

    Hashikurasan Ropeway Website *Japanese only

    2. Hakone Ropeway

    Started as a normal gondola lift, the Hakone Ropeway is now a funitel operating in the beautiful Hakone area visited by many people for its hot springs and volcanic activity. If you are based in Tokyo and planning to visit Odawara or Lake Ashi, you must ride this funitel as it offers a plenitude of views. It runs between Sounzan and Togendai, making a stop at Owakudani at a height of 1,044 meters.

    You can get more information about this ropeway by contacting the Odakyu Group, which is a very famous train company that connects Tokyo with nearby scenic spots such as Enoshima and Hakone. Extending over 2.5 miles (0.9 miles from Sounzan to Owakudani and 1.6 miles from Owakudani to Togendai), the ropeway takes you on a mind-blowing ride over some amazing spots that can only be seen from the top.

    Hakone Ropeway Website

    3. Tanigawadake Ropeway

    Mt. Tanigawa in Gunma is a beautiful mountain that looks spectacular all year round – it is covered in snow in the winter and makes a great spot for skiers and snowboarders, while it gets filled with colors during the warmer months, especially in autumn where red leaves take over the place. This 2.3-kilometer ropeway became a funitel in 2005, and it can carry hundreds of people on a magical ride that lasts approximately 10 minutes.

    Tanigawadake Ropeway Website *Automatic translation available

    4. ZAO Ropeway

    Mt. Zao is an auspicious mountain popular with skiers and tourists in the winter. As you climb the mountain, you would see hundreds of trees covered in rime, making them look like naturally carved giant snow sculptures. It makes for a fascinating view that attracts many. The slopes of the mountain are perfect for skiing, which is why lots of people visit Yamagata’s Zao Onsen, the best ski resort you can find in Tohoku.

    If you want to reach the highland view, take the Sanroku Line, which is a normal lift that is part of the ZAO Ropeway. However, if your intention is to reach the summit, take the 1.8-kilometer-long funitel ropeway called the Sancho Line.

    ZAO Ropeway Website

    Now that you know where these amazing funitels are in Japan and the views they offer, would you take a ride on one of them? Because of the growing popularity of ski resorts in Japan, more funitels may be built to accommodate this growing trend in the future.