Today Japan Railways (specifically, JR East and JR West) have unveiled a brand new ‘option’ ticket for those who want to take a scenic journey through the Japanese Alps and Mount Tateyama.
This is called the Tateyama Kurobe Option Ticket and will be sold from April 16 to November 9 of this year. The cost is 9,000 yen, and covers a ONE-WAY journey between Nagano and Toyama via the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. You may use the ticket for up to five consecutive days.
Technically the ticket is being marketed towards foreign tourists with some sort of JR Rail Pass (including the Hokuriku Arch Pass, marketed by JR East and JR West), but reading the fine print it appears any foreign tourist with temporary visitor status – i.e., “tourist” – can purchase it.
Note that it takes around 6 – 7 hours to make the one way journey through the area, NOT including transfers, rest stops and congestion delays, so if you’re considering this trip it would probably be wise to make a day out of it. For example, if you are leaving from Tokyo to travel the Tateyama Kurobe route, you’d best spend your evening in Toyama or Kanazawa (nearby on the Hokuriku Shinkansen) before continuing on your next adventure. Or, to make it easier, you can try to find accommodations along the alpine route itself… remember, you can travel one-way on the route for up to five consecutive days.
A variety of trains, buses, trolleys, ropeways and cable cars are used on the entire journey. The highest point of the trip is the bus ride underneath Mount Tateyama; the elevation at Murodo, one of the stops, is 2,450 meters or just over 8,000 feet!
To learn more about the Tateyama Kurobe Option Ticket, visit this website.
To learn more about the alpine route itself, visit this website. One tip if you’d like to plan your journey is to look at the calendar of waiting times, which indicates the days that the journey is likely to be very busy (as of this post, the 2015 dates are shown, but this will give you some sort of idea).