This was probably the very reason why I broke our own sanction about traveling to Japan due to the radiation fears for the young kids. I had been most intrigued by the Snow Walls of Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route which was only opened from April to October. However, you could only see the snow walls from Apr-Jun and the later you came by, the lower the snow walls become as they melted for summer. We came by on 9 May, approximately 3 weeks after the Alpine route had opened in Mid April.
To be honest, it had been so warm in Kanazawa that I was wondering if there was any snow left. I also wondered if we over brought winter wear. The killer part about coming here was the planning because you had to buy the tickets from various stations and there were so many mode of transportations. It was so hard to remember all that despite reading a few blog entries from other travelers, I was still feeling quite bewildered. Thankfully, a colleague had visited in mid April and I gathered more on-the-ground information which was not found online. I took her suggestion to stay at Midahagara hotel instead of rushing through the route. I also tried to avoid the peak traveling timings as she shared the bottlenecks were actually caused by the cable cars. My concern was also arranging for lunch for the kids and my parents. You know, I always brought a cooker to cook porridge for the kids. The difference in voltage got the better of my plan. It took nearly 2 hours to cook porridge as opposed to the usual 30min.
Furthermore, by the time we packed our items to bring up the Alpine, it was so much that we had to “discard” some items from our packing list. We had to opt to forward these items to Tokyo to keep our traveling light.
We packed milk powder, water, snacks and use the vacuum bags to pack our thick coats and spare clothes which we brought as minimal as possible. Mr H & I didn’t even bring a change of clothes! However, X had 1.5 sets and Z had 1 set.
I carried my Rebecca Minkoff backpack which held a bottle of milk tea, a bag of bread, X’s diapers, wet wipes, passports, camera, wallet, charging cable and iPhone.
Mr H’s huge Nike backpack held 6-7 bottles of water/coffee/Black tea/Oolong tea, a lot of snacks and many misc items. Our Harrods shoulder bag held basic wear and simple toiletries since I read that the hotel provided amenities such as toothbrushes, body wash and shampoo. They also provided Kose makeup remover wet wipes. The only things a picky female traveler like me would need were facial wash, hair conditioner and the usual skin care. We brought a XXL long champ bag which held the 4 winter coats.
For this day, we slept in as much as we could but when X was up, it meant everyone had to be up. That was 9am. We had connecting rooms so my mom made us hot beverages and the kids had Choco Flakes for breakfast. We checked out at 1045am, had an early lunch at this restaurant that offered very good duck soba/udon at the station on level one.
We also bought sushi which could last till the next day to bring up to the Alpine (to be explained later).
We caught the 1234h train and arrived in Toyama at 1300h. We had to exit the Shinkansen station at ground level, this should not be confused with the Tateyama line. After exiting the station, we had to make an U-turn to the left and the Dentetsu Toyama station was there.
To be honest, at this point, I was panicking if we had missed the last transport up the mountain and if I had read the time table wrongly since it was all in Japanese. My Japanese was less than half past six!
I worried tremendously when the person refused to sell me the Tateyama-Ogizawa one way ticket at this point. Well, they were not supposed to! I also worried because I had wanted to buy the tickets online but the last cable car timing offered was 1140am which seemed too early cos it would mean that I could reach the hotel as early as 1230 and I would have nothing to do. Check in time was 1400h and there were no activity up at Midahagara. Granted, we could have visited Bijohara forest but it was drizzling. We could not even stop to see the Shomo falls.
Anyway, we were assigned the 1330h Tateyama-bound local train. This train ride was 1,200 yen.
It took 65min and we arrived at 1435h. I ran up to the cable car counter and was relieved to not see anyone queuing for cable car.
I popped down to the cable car ticket counter to buy this one way Tateyama-Ogizawa train ticket which would be used over 5 days but once at each point. It was 8,920yen. We were given the 1500h cable car timing.
We arrived at the station at 1507h and had to join the queue for the 1520h bus. There were 2 lanes – 1 for those going to Midahagara hotel and 1 for those going right up to Murodo. All the signages were in Kanji & Hiragana aka I could roughly understood what it said. Anyway, if you stayed at Midahagara hotel, just join the stopover queue.
It was a windy but scenic bus ride up from 977m above sea level to 1930m (where the Midahagara hotel was) and further up to 2450m for those going to Murodo.
At 1550h, we arrived at the door step of Midahagara hotel. It was drizzling so the bus actually stopped right at the door step! I heard the bus usually stopped at the official bus stop which was a 20m walk.
After checking in, we joined the walking trail organized by the hotel at 415h. Gum boots were provided for loan and sorted by S, M, L for women and men. The kids’ boots were offered in 2 sizes. The smallest was too big for X but he still could walk. The only challenge was when we carried him and the boots might slip off.
The trail was mostly in Japanese so we hanged out at the back and took so many photos that we lagged by a wide margin. The snow was more like ice but still fun for the kids to throw snow balls, slide down the slopes (unintended) and I built a snow bear for them! It was easier than a snow man and a tad more original. Haha..
We played so long that it was almost 6pm. The kids bathed while I brought their wet jeans, gloves and socks down to the drying room. It was small but functional, imagine a room-sized dryer (and we later found out was restricted to staff only. Oops!).
Our dinner was scheduled for 7pm. The kid’s meal was sumptuous! No wonder we were charged 11,000 yen for Z. The adults had to pay 22,000 yen each. The adults’ meal was not bad too – many appetizers, sashimi, soup, mini soup, western style beef cubes and free flow dessert of apple tarts, mochi, cake, grapes and strawberries.
When we left the dining hall, there was a slide show presentation about the hotel and Alpine. It featured some photos from March when the hotel was buried in snow and how the snow was cleared. It ended at 9pm.
We adjourned to our rooms to bathe and convene at my parents’ room to play card games. We could hardly tuck into our snacks because we were so full from dinner.