After admiring the beauty of Japanese Alps from afar at Kamikochi, I decided that I need to have a closer look at the mountains. Hiking is not an option, for one I am not an experience hiker to conquer any trail covered in snow or any trail without any wooden planks to guide me thru. So, I settled for the next best thing- taking the ropeway that will ascend me to 2,156 meters above sea level vantage point. Cheesy right? I know.
Consider as Japan’s most unique ropeway, climbing an elevation of over 1000 meters up and featuring double-decker gondola cars, Shin-Hotaka Ropeway offers an excellent view of Hotake Mountain Range including Oku-Hotadake, the country’s third highest peak.
A round trip ticket for the price of 2800 yen will allow you to gain access on two rope ways and back. The first rope way is only a 200 meter climb to Nabedaira Kogen, where restaurants, shops and a public foot bath are located. The second rope way will climb over 800 meters to the main observation deck.
The upper deck offers a panoramic view of Northern Japan Alps, a small art gallery, souvenir shop and restaurants. There is really nothing much to do at the upper deck, except gaze at the mountains. My afternoon visit turns out to be cloudy; visibility is poor and no blue skies to complement the white snow scenery.
Taking the Shin-Hotaka ropeway should be plan as a half-day affair or less, but a good side trip if you are already on the region. If you are commuting via bus, the easiest access is from Hirayu Onsen terminal, where you can buy a roundtrip ticket for 1500 yen. From there it will be a 45 minutes ride only and the bus departs on an hour interval, so be aware of the schedule.
As much as I briefly enjoyed the view on the cable car and observation deck, what I like the most is the bus ride to Shin-Hotaka. Who would have thought that in-between these mountains are small towns consisting of Japan’s most expensive and exclusive hot spring resort. An outdoor bath surrounded by the mountains, it has to be the most relaxing golden week break anyone can ask for.