I was in a dream, standing on a vast plateau of snow, 2.5km above sea level, looking up to Mount Tate (3015m) and the surrounding alps. In every direction, as far (and high) as the eye could see, there was blinding ‘whiteness’. Snow-covered mountains sparkled under the bright sun. Clouds, although deceivingly soft and delicate looking, would roll by at such a high pace that in a matter of minutes, the striking blue sky would be smothered in a complete white-out.
On one side of the plateau, the mountains reached up to the heavens. Though, with no trees to contrast against the white slopes, it was hard to grasp just how massive these mountains were. It wasn’t until I discovered that those tiny black moving dots on the side of the mountain were actually skiers, that I realised the true scale! By the way, this is no ski resort… there are no ski lifts. The only way to ski down the mountain, is to first trek to the top! Those guys are tough!! I love snow sports, but that is taking it to whole other level!
The opposite side of the plateau is where most visitors tend to go. Beyond a pretty crater lake (which is frozen and covered in snow until June) and ‘Hell Valley’ where volcanic gas constantly billows out of the ground, there is actually a ryokan hotel with restaurant and indoor hot springs. It seemed a bit weird to see a man-made object plonked in the middle of the natural surrounds, but where there are people, there will be buildings!
Besides all of that, however, is something that stands on its own as the main attraction. Something that had been on my bucket list for ages, and is the reason I came to know about the whole place… the Tateyama Snow Corridor.
After five months of closure during winter, a narrow road is dug out for the opening of the alpine route which is accessible from April to November. They use machinery that cuts away at the compacted snow, and shoots it up in the air away from the road. At the deepest point near the Murodo Plateau, the height of the wall has been known to reach up to 20 metres after a harsh winter with heavy snowfall!
It’s a place I would highly recommend if you enjoy being in the great outdoors. So let me show you how to get there.
After an overnight bus ride from Tokyo, we arrived very early in the morning (around 5:30am) in Toyama on Japan’s west coast. After grabbing some breakfast, we went from Toyama Station to Tateyama Station via the Toyama Chiho Railroad and Tateyama Cable Car. Even at 6 in the morning, there were plenty of other people all headed for the same place, so we basically just had to follow the crowd. Along the way we passed beautiful, clear rivers and so much vibrant greenery!
The next leg was from Tateyama Station to Murodo Plateau via the Tateyama Highland Bus. Here, we travelled through a cedar forest full of ancient trees and wild animals. Some cheeky monkeys were playing on the road, grinding all traffic to a halt. When the coast was clear, we continued up the winding road through thick fog – sometimes we couldn’t see anything at all out the window. As we got higher up the mountain, the banks of snow on either side of the road got higher and higher, until we literally couldn’t see over the top of them.
And finally, we made it! The mighty snow corridor! The walls towered over the people and buses, stretching 13m straight up. One section of the wall is designated the ‘graffiti wall’ for aspiring artists such as myself :-P You can see messages written by people from all around the world!
The wall was very cool, but the best part for me was the spectacular plateau and mountain range. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
And finally, a postcard sent from the highest post office in Japan (2,450m)! The lucky recipient should get it soon!