雲上と峡谷で出あう自然の神秘――立山と黒部(富山県)

[From July Issue 2012]

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Kurobe Gorge
写真提供:黒部峡谷鉄道株式会社

 

Toyama Prefecture is located along the Sea of Japan, just about in the center of Honshu (Japan’s main island). Located in the Northern Alps, it’s surrounded on three sides by steep mountain ranges like Tateyama, and is blessed with an abundance of beautiful nature. The Kurobe Gorge is a deep v-shaped gorge that runs between the Tateyama Mountain Range and the Ushiro-Tateyama Mountain Range.

The distance between the mountaintops and the bottom of the gorge can be as much as 1.5 to two kilometers, and until around 1927 the area was a secluded region, off limits to tourists. Today, however, trains nicknamed “Torokko Densha,” run through the area, allowing anyone to easily visit the Kurobe Gorge. Torokko are carts used to carry dirt and stones from construction sites. Torokko Densha have roofs, but unlike normal trains, they have no windows, enabling passengers to get a physical sense of the vast wilderness. A one way trip is an adventure of about 20 kilometers, through 41 tunnels and across 22 bridges, and takes about one hour and 20 minutes.

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Yuki no Otani / Tateyama Mountains

 

A trip on the Torokko Densha starts out from Unazuki Station, Kurobe Gorge Railway. In the vicinity is the hot spring town of Unazuki, bustling with tourists who have come to enjoy the onsen. A characteristic of Unazuki Onsen is its smooth, transparent water, which has been long been known as “hot water for beautiful skin.” As much as 3,000 tons of hot water bubbles out of the spring each day, and you can see 60-degree hot spring water shooting up like a fountain in front of Unazuki Onsen Station, Toyama Chihou Tetsudou Honsen Line.

After departing from Unazuki Station, the Torokko Densha travels through some spectacular scenery, stopping at Kuronagi, Kanetsuri, and Keyakidaira stations. Kuronagi has the oldest open-air baths in the gorge, and in Kanetsuri there is an observation deck which commands a view of “Kurobe perpetual snow” – mounds of snow that have accumulated from avalanches. At Keyakidaira, the last stop, there are paved walkways so that visitors can enjoy seeing the Kurobe Gorge up close. Around each station, there are hot spring inns, which are popular because they can only be accessed by Torokko Densha.

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Unazuki Onsen Station / Unazuki Onsen Town

 

Walking up a gentle slope from Keyakidaira Station for about 50 minutes, you arrive at Babadani Onsen. The name “Babadani” (baba means an old woman) comes from a legend about an old woman who went up the mountain to look for her adulterous husband, but she died without finding him and her flames of jealously caused a hot spring to bubble up from the ground. On the banks of the river in Babadani, hot water can be seen boiling up everywhere.

Along with the Kurobe Gorge, the most famous scenic spot in Toyama Prefecture is the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Running through the Tateyama Mountain Range – which comprises of mountains that reach 3,000 meters high – this world famous mountain trail connects Tateyama-machi, Toyama Prefecture, with Omachi, Nagano Prefecture. Although it’s just less than 25 kilometers as the crow flies, it should be noted that it spans 2,000 kilometers from its lowest to highest points, offering fantastic and beautiful views from above the clouds.

One of the charms of the Alpine Route that it’s impossible to overlook is its many unusual modes of transport. On these you can enjoy rides unique to the Alpine Route, such as: the Tateyama Cable Car, which goes up slopes as steep as 29 degrees; the Kurobe Cable Car, the like of which cannot be found anywhere else in Japan, which runs underground for its entire route; and a trolleybus that passes through a tunnel that is situated at the highest altitude of any other in Japan. The Ropeway in particular has been called a “moving observation deck” and offers panoramic views of the magnificent scenery.

Starting from Tateyama Station, this cable car travels for about one hour until it gets to Murodo Station which sits at the highest point of the Alpine Route. There are a number of must-see spots along the way. On the Midagahara Plateau, located 1,600 to 2,100 meters above sea level, you can enjoy a stroll while looking at the Alpine flora. At Shomyo falls, water collects from the Tateyama Mountain Range and flows down rapidly in four stages from the Shomyo Gorge; taken as a whole this is the biggest waterfall in Japan and has been designated as a national natural treasure.

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Tateyama Ropeway / Cable car

 

Located at the highest point of the Alpine Route, Murodo is extremely popular with tourists and mountaineers who use it as a base. From there, you can enjoy views of 3,000-meter-high mountains, including three mountains in the Tateyama range. You can also walk around a variety of tourist spots like Mikuriga Pond, one of the most beautiful sights in Murodo, and Jigoku-dani (Hell Valley). About a two hour climb up from Murodo is the highest point of the Tateyama mountain range (on Mount Oyama). At the summit of Mount Oyama is a shrine, Oyama-jinja Mine-honsha, from which you can see Mt. Fuji far in the distance as well as Mt. Ontake and the Toyama Bay.

The Alpine Route has attractions unique to each of the four seasons. April begins with walls of snow that have built up during winter along the Alpine Route. In years when there have been heavy snowfalls, these walls can be as high as 20 meters, giving the route its nickname “Yuki no Otani” (Great Valley of Snow). In summer, the alpine plants on the plateau begin to simultaneously burst into bloom. When the short summer is over, the whole mountain range turns yellow, heralding the arrival of kouyou, or autumn leaf viewing, season. When the autumn leaves have all gone, the first snow of the year falls, and silence returns to Tateyama.

Tateyama is a mountain range high above sea level where a wide variety of animals and plants can be seen. Bijodaira is known as being a treasure trove of wild birds and many kinds of birds can be spotted there, such as the Bush Warbler, the Robin, and the Blue-and-white Flycatcher. The sight of alpine plants like Cotton Grass and Tateyama-rindo (Gentiana thunbergii var. minor) delights tourists. In Murodo, if you are lucky, you might encounter a Japanese ptarmigan, a bird that has been designated as a special national natural treasure.

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Japanese ptarmigan / Shomyo falls

 

Flowing through the 3,000-meter-high Tateyama Mountain Range and running along the Kurobe Gorge, the Kurobe River is one of Japan’s major rivers, and has been chosen as “the clearest stream in the country.” The snow falling deep in the mountains of Kurobe doesn’t melt until early summer, bringing with it an abundance of water even in midsummer. A wide range of products unique to the region, that are popular as souvenirs, are made using this famous water, including local beer, sake, and curry.

It takes about one hour to fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Toyama Airport. From the airport, located in a suburb of Toyama City, it takes approximately 25 minutes by bus to Toyama Station. If you’re travelling by JR railways, it takes about one hour to get to Echigo-Yuzawa Station by Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, transferring there to the Hokuriku main line, you arrive at Uozu Station in roughly one hour and 50 minutes. To access the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and the Kurobe Gorge, transfer at Uozu Station to the Toyama Chihou Tetsudo Line and get off at Tateyama Station and Unazuki Onsen Station, respectively. 

Official site Tourism Information in Toyama
Kurobe City
The Kurobe Gorge Railway Co., Ltd.

Text: HAMASAKI Yayoi

[2012年7月号掲載記事]

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黒部峡谷
写真提供:黒部峡谷鉄道株式会社

 

富山県は、本州日本海側のほぼ中央に位置しています。三方を北アルプス立山連峰などの険しい山岳地帯に囲まれ、美しく豊かな自然に恵まれています。黒部峡谷は、立山連峰と後立山連峰の間にある深いV字形の大峡谷です。

山頂と峡谷の落差は1.5~2キロメートルになり、1927年頃までは人が立ち入ることのできない秘境とされていました。現在はトロッコ電車が走っていて、誰でも気軽に黒部峡谷を訪れることができます。トロッコとは、工事現場から土や石を運ぶときに使用する貨車のことです。普通の電車とは違い、屋根はありますが窓がないので、大自然を体いっぱいに感じることができます。片道約20キロメートルの間に、41のトンネルを抜け22の橋を渡る、約1時間20分の冒険です。

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雪の大谷/立山連峰

 

トロッコ電車の旅は、黒部峡谷鉄道本線、宇奈月駅から始まります。周辺には宇奈月温泉街が広がっていて、多くの温泉客でにぎわっています。宇奈月温泉は、透明でなめらかなお湯が特徴で、昔から「美肌の湯」といわれています。1日に3,000トンのお湯がわき出ていて、富山地方鉄道本線、宇奈月温泉駅前では、60度の温泉が噴水のように上がっているのを見ることができます。

宇奈月駅を出発したトロッコ電車は、迫力ある景色のなかを黒薙駅、鐘釣駅、欅平駅の順にとまります。黒薙には峡谷最古といわれる露天風呂、鐘釣には雪崩によって積み重なった雪のかたまり「黒部万年雪」が見られる展望台などがあります。終点の欅平には遊歩道が整備され、黒部峡谷の景観を間近で楽しめます。各駅の周辺には温泉宿もあり、トロッコ電車でしか行けない温泉として人気があります。

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宇奈月温泉駅/宇奈月温泉街

 

欅平駅からゆるやかな上り坂を約50分歩くと、祖母谷温泉に着きます。「ばばだに」という地名は、あるおばあさんが浮気性のおじいさんを探しに山に入ったものの、見つけられずに亡くなり、嫉妬の炎から温泉がわいたと伝えられています。祖母谷の河原では、あちこちで湯がわき上がる様子が見られます。

黒部峡谷とともに富山県を代表する景勝地といえば、何といっても立山黒部アルペンルートでしょう。標高3,000メートル級の山々が連なる立山連峰を貫き、富山県立山町と長野県大町市を結ぶ世界的な観光山岳ルートです。直線距離にすると25キロ足らずですが、注目すべきは約2,000メートルにもおよぶ高低差で、雲の上から幻想的で美しい景色を眺めることができます。

アルペンルートの魅力として見逃せないのが、珍しい乗り物の数々。最大29度もある急な坂を一気に登る立山ケーブルカーや、日本でもここにしかない全線地下を走る黒部ケーブルカー、日本で一番高い場所にあるトンネルを走るトロリーバスなど、アルペンルートならではの乗り物が楽しめます。なかでも「動く展望台」とも呼ばれるロープウェイは、雄大な景色を大パノラマで見渡すことができます。

起点となる立山駅から、アルペンルート最高所である室堂駅までは約1時間。その途中には多くの見どころがあります。標高1,600~2,100メートルにある弥陀ヶ原高原では高山植物を眺めながらの散策が楽しめます。立山連峰の水を集め、称名渓谷から4段となって一気に流れ落ちる称名滝は落差日本一で、国の天然記念物にも指定されています。

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立山ロープウェイ/ケーブルカー

 

アルペンルート最高所にある室堂は、観光や登山の拠点として最もにぎわう場所です。立山三山をはじめとする3,000メートル級の山々の眺望、室堂を代表する美観のひとつ、みくりが池や地獄谷など散策スポットも豊富です。室堂から約2時間の登山で、立山山頂に到達します。頂上の雄山には雄山神社峰本社があり、遠くには富士山を、また、御嶽山や富山湾を眺めることができます。

アルペンルートには四季折々の楽しみがあります。4月、アルペンルートは冬に積もった雪の壁とともに始まります。積雪が多い年は高さ20メートルになり、「雪の大谷」と呼ばれています。夏、高原の高山植物がいっせいに咲き始めます。短い夏が終わると山全体が黄色に染まり、紅葉シーズンが始まります。紅葉が終わる頃、初雪がやってきて立山に再び静けさが戻ってきます。

標高差のある立山では、たくさんの動植物を見ることができます。野鳥の宝庫として知られる美女平では、ウグイスやコマドリ、オオルリなど多くの野鳥が観察できます。ワタスゲ、タテヤマリンドウなどの高山植物は観光客の目を楽しませてくれます。室堂では運がよければ、国の特別天然記念物である雷鳥に出合えるかもしれません。

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雷鳥/称名滝

 

3,000メートル級の立山連峰の間を通り、黒部峡谷を縫うように流れる黒部川は、「清流日本一」に選ばれたこともある、日本を代表する川のひとつです。黒部奥山に降る雪は初夏にようやく溶けるため、真夏でも豊かな水量をもたらしてくれます。この名水を使った特産品には、地ビールや日本酒、カレーなど様々な種類があり、お土産として人気があります。

富山市郊外にある富山空港は、東京・羽田空港から約1時間。空港から富山駅まではバスで25分くらいです。JRの場合は東京駅から上越新幹線で越後湯沢駅まで1時間、越後湯沢駅で在来線の北陸本線に乗り換えて、約1時間50分で魚津駅に着きます。立山黒部アルペンルート、黒部峡谷へは、魚津駅から富山地方鉄道に乗り換え、立山駅、宇奈月温泉駅でそれぞれ下車します。

富山県観光公式サイト
黒部市
黒部峡谷鉄道株式会社

文:濱崎弥生

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