Mt. Tate (立山) to Mt. Tsurugi (剣岳)

Easily my favorite mountain range in Japan, it is also a very nice mix of touristy and serious hiking (very technical!). The trailhead is at around 3,000 meters, with nice hotels and bus access. Hence the number of people coming to see the mountain ranges. Yet once you start hiking past the main shrine, you get the peace and quiet, and the solitude a lot of hikers need with their escape. Either way. It is also very logistically challenging to do from Tokyo in a weekend, and I strongly suggest you only do it on a long weekend.

Budget: JPY18,333/person
  • JPY8,533 – Roundtrip bus, allocated using Willer Bus Pass
  • JPY9,800 – Alpine pass, exclusive to tourists
  • *JPY300 - Camping fee, but only if you go during the summer season
Hike Date / Difficulty (Elevation: 3015m /9892ft)
  • Hike date: November 1-4, 2019
  • Mt. Tate’s elevation: 3015m /9892ft. A decent 3 of 5. It’s a chill hike, though at higher elevation.
  • Mt. Tsurugi’s elevation: 2999m /9839ft. A full 5 of 5. Highly technical, and one wrong step means a pretty good fall down a cliff.
  • Route below is around 16.5kilometers, with an elevation change of ▲2087m/ ▽2233m
  • PDF Map Link
When to go

April 15ish to November 30th, when the buses are still running. There is also avalanche risks, so please take note of this timeline. Beacons are highly recommended outside of the hiking season.

Special Note
  • A couple of possible wrong turns, so PLEASE check the map. I have attached a pdf map above.
  • No water source for winter, other than snow, of course.
  • Harness is highly recommended for Mt. Tsurugi. There are a couple of big vertical drops – I’m talking cliffs. Safe enough but 100% concentration, good grip and footing are life saving. There are chains so plenty of places to affix your harness. Again, life saving.
  • Items marked with * are covered by the Tateyama Alpine Route pass, exclusive to tourists, covering a one way trip from Toyama to Nagano (or vice versa). It costs JPY9,800. Otherwise, the regular fee is JPY12,660. I’d recommend it even just for simplicity – tickets are no longer needed to be bought at Toyama.
  • Buses to and from Tokyo are covered by the Willer Bus Pass (JPY12,800 for three days, weekends included). Otherwise, normal reservations can be made via the Willer website.

  • 22:10 Bus from Tokyo Station Kajibashi Parking lot to Toyama Station (JPY8,000 ish if you don’t have the Willer Bus Pass)
  • 06:05 Arrival at Toyama Station
  • 07: 00 Train from Dentetsu-Toyama to Tateyama Station*
  • 08:12 Arrival at Tateyama Station*
  • 08:20 Cable car: Tateyama to Bijodaira*
  • 08:27 Arrival at Bijodaira*
  • 09:00 Bus: Bijodaira to Murodo*
  • 09:50 Arrival at Murodo*. We then signed up with our hiking route, filled up our bottles, etc.
  • 10:30 Start Hike. See the PDF Map Link above for the timing.
  • 09:00 Onsen near Murodo
  • 10:00 Snack at the Onsen place
  • 11:15 Tunnel Trolley Bus: Murodo to Daikanbo, 10:45 if possible.*
  • 11:25 Arrival at Daikanbo*
  • 11:30 Ropeway: Daikanbo to Kurobedaira*
  • 11:37 Arrival at Kurobedaira*
  • 12:00 Cable car: Kurobedaira to Kurobe Dam*
  • 12:05 Arrival at Kurobe Dam*
  • LUNCH at Kurobe Dam*
  • 14:05 Kanden Tunnel Electric Bus: Kurobe Dam to Ogizawa*
  • 14:21 Arrival at Ogizawa *
  • 14:40 Local bus: Ogizawa to Nagano*
  • 16:25 Arrival at Nagano Station
  • Explore Nagano Station – just eat at the station. There’s nothing around the area.
  • 18:00 Bus from Nagano to Shinjuku (JPY3,100)
  • 22:35 Arrival at Shinjuku Station
The trip up to the trailhead was gorgeous by itself, and we enjoyed the bus ride to Murodo, appreciating the autumn foliage. 

The trailhead! There's a beautiful marker of Tateyama, and I look forward to the marker at the top!

We started the hike and the backdrop is just gorgeous. 

Close to the shrine is mountain hut (?), and plenty of flat spot. It was a nice place to take a breather and continue taking in the view. 

The top of the shrine! Normally, there's an entrance fee but for winter, everything is not open for business, so the entrance was free. The store right there was also fully closed, and everyone had their own stoves. This is not the summit though, so we continued on. 

The view from the summit is such a juxtaposition - snow up here, autumn down there. 

This is it! The marker! Wait, what? 

Huh. Yeah, this little thing here marks the highest point of Tateyama. 

We continued on, and it was mainly walking across the ridge. 

Well, with its share of ups and downs...

....and walk on the edge else you fall and die. 

It took us a bit longer than expected, but wasn't the sunset just beautiful?

I feel like that's Tsurugi, but I probably am wrong. 

This is a new day - we started our hike up Mt. Tsurugi way before the sunrise. 

And thus enjoyed the sunrise in the middle of a mountain. 

Chains! I was warned about this, but I figured this was doable. 

Until I saw this. It is a cliff. So I basically had just enough space for my foot, and a wrong step will be a couple hundred meters' drop. I don't know exactly, coz I took a quick peek down and remembered I am afraid of heights. In hindsight, harness was definitely needed for this hike. 

After a couple more of those chains (one of which was a vertical rock climb that I wasn't able to take a photo of coz I was busy staying alive), we finally made it to the summit!

Here's the marker. 

We enjoyed the view a bit more, but we can't take too much time. It was sketchy enough that there were very few people hiking, which means if something happens, nobody would be there to call emergency. 

This is the hike down. Just beautiful.

After a couple of these markers, I realized that these mark the chain sections. 

And this was extremely scary to pass, as passed it going down. Which means I barely can see where my foot will go, and I was just holding on for dear life on the chains. I remember being told "DON'T YOU DARE LET GO OF THAT CHAIN". Verbatim. 

...This is why. It's another vertical drop. Hundreds of meters down.

Either waaaaay. We made it safely back to the camping spot in Tateyama. 

There normally is running water but since all businesses are closed, there's no water either. No worries, there's a river right next to the camp area. Oh, but no toilets either, so find your own hidden spot. 

Before we left, we went to the onsen, had a nice soak, and ate the best red bean paste I've had in my stay in Japan. 

The trip down involves passing by Kurobe Gorge, and we just spent an hour walking around the lake.