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【Fare for oneway yen】Children's(6-12) fare are half price
|Hirayu Onsen Gezanguchi
【Fare for round trip yen】Adults 2,500 yen（Hirayu Onsen or Honokidaira～Norikura）
※The round trip ticket is valid for 7 days.
About an hour and a half one way on foot from Tatamidaira,and the altitude is 3,026 m
Mt. Kengamine is the highest peak of Mt. Norikuradake, one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains and a popular mountain where people can easily challenge climbing a 3,000-m mountain. Mt. Yarigatake (3,180 m, 5th highest mountain in Japan), Mt. Okuhotakadake (3,180 m, 3rd highest mountain in Japan), Mt. Hakusan (2,702 m), Mt. Ontake (3,067 m) or even the far away Mt. Fuji (3,776 m, highest mountain in Japan) can be viewed from the mountaintop on a bright sunny day if you are lucky. The mystical deep blue crater lake, Gongen Pond, can be also observed on the way.
About 15 minutes one way on foot from Tatamidaira,and the altitude is 2,763 m
Mt. Maoudake is the nearest mountain from Tatamidaira and you can climb to the mountaintop relatively easily as steps are prepared close to the top. Mt. Kengamine and the Hotaka mountain ranges, and the vast panoramic, curvy Norikura Skyline below can be viewed from the mountaintop.
About 20 minutes one way on foot from Tatamidaira,and the altitude is 2,772 m
Climbing Mt. Daikokutake became easier than before as the climbing route to the mountaintop was maintained from the bus stop "Mt. Daikokutake trailhead" newly established in September 1, 2016. From the mountaintop, you can enjoy the view of Mt. Yakedake (2,455 m) smoking, the majestic Hotaka mountain ranges or the mystical rising sun early in the morning.
About 25 minutes one way on foot from Tatamidaira,and the altitude is 2,817 m
Although the climbing route is arranged to the mountaintop in Mt. Fujimidake, you may have to pay attention to the rock-strewn part near the top. The mountains of Northern Alps, Kiezugaike Pond with snow remaining in the gorge depending on the season and the Tatamidaira area can be observed from the mountaintop. Also, this is the viewing spot of the rising sun.
About 5 minutes one way on foot from Tatamidair
Tsurugaike Pond is located near Tatamidaira bus terminal, it became popular as its shape looks like a "Tsuru" (crane). You can view its beautiful shape reflecting the blue sky on its surface on a bright day.
Ohanabatake, meaning “field of flowers,” is Mt. Norikura’s alpine flower paradise. Just a few minutes’ walk from the Norikura Bus Terminal, this natural garden is nestled in a hollow between two peaks. Its level terrain and wooden boardwalk give easy access to visitors of all ages and ability levels. Many flower varieties are in bloom during Mt. Norikura’s short summer, from mid-July to mid-August.
One of Ohanabatake’s most prominent species is the deciduous shrub known as Aleutian avens (chinguruma), whose flowers have creamy white petals and a bright yellow center. Like many alpine plants, it is small and appears delicate, but is actually hardy enough to withstand the severe winds, deep snows, and intense sunlight of an environment 2,680 meters above sea level. In autumn, Aleutian avens is transformed: its green leaves turn red, and the developing seeds sprout pink-and-white, frond-like filaments reminiscent of waving sea grasses.
The narcissus anemone (hakusanichige), another yellow-and-white flower, grows in clusters reaching 30 to 60 centimeters high. The white “petals” of its blooms are actually sepals—the leaf-like structures at the base of flowers where the stem attaches. The sepals of most flower species are green, not white, but those of the narcissus anemone have evolved to mimic white petals. There is also a rare form of the plant with sepals that retain patches of greenish-yellow. Narcissus anemone is a favorite of bees and butterflies.
The Kamchatka lily (kuroyuri) is easy to spot. Its tall stems are topped by blackish-purple flowers, sometimes dappled with yellow. In English, the species is known by many different names, not all of them flattering. In addition to “chocolate lily” and “wild rice,” it may also be called “outhouse lily,” “skunk lily,” and “dirty diaper.” These nicknames come from its smell, which varies in strength but is generally unpleasant. Even so, the odor serves a useful purpose—it attracts flies, which are the flower’s main means of pollination.
A full circuit of the boardwalk takes 30 to 40 minutes, but visitors may wish to spend longer examining and photographing the more than 30 alpine species at close range.
Since before recorded history, mountain ascetics, monks, and devoted laypeople have climbed Japan’s high peaks to meditate, pray, and witness that most uplifting and spiritual of sights: the morning sun rising above the clouds in a flash of golden light.
Viewing the sunrise from a high mountaintop holds significance in both Japanese spiritual belief and the national consciousness. In Shinto, the sun is revered as Amaterasu Ōmikami, ruler of the heavenly realm and ancestress of the imperial family. In Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, the sun is associated with Dainichi Nyorai, the Cosmic Buddha, whose name means “Great Sun.” Furthermore, Japan’s well-known moniker “Land of the Rising Sun” has a surprisingly ancient history. As early as 607 CE, ruling regent Prince Shōtoku (574–622) wrote to the Chinese imperial court using the salutation “From the Sovereign of the Land of the Rising Sun.” Fourteen centuries later, veneration of the rising sun remains a part of the country’s cultural, historical, and spiritual identity.
Today, visitors can experience a mountaintop sunrise from the highest point of Mt. Norikura without facing the dangers or hardships experienced by early climbers. Sunrise shuttle buses run from late July to mid-September, departing well before daybreak from bus stations in both Nagano and Gifu Prefectures. The ride to Tatamidaira Bus Terminal near the summit takes between 50 and 60 minutes from either prefecture. From Tatamidaira, a comparatively easy hike to the mountain’s highest point (Mt. Kengamine, 3,026 m) takes about 90 minutes. Trips are timed so visitors can arrive by sunrise.
English-language announcements on the bus offer advice on mountain safety and tips on which items to carry to the summit. (Unneeded gear can be left in coin lockers at the Tatamidaira Bus Terminal.) When packing for the experience, visitors should note that mountaintop conditions can be quite chilly even in midsummer.
In 1949, cosmic ray researchers at Osaka City University searched Japan’s mountains for the perfect location to conduct experiments monitoring the farthest reaches of space. They ultimately chose Mt. Norikura’s alpine plateau, Tatamidaira, for its high altitude and exceptionally clear skies. In 1953, the Cosmic Ray Observatory of the University of Tokyo (now the Norikura Observatory) was built on the site. Since then, Mt. Norikura has been a favorite destination for professional and hobbyist astronomers seeking extraordinary views of the night sky.
When the weather is favorable, the conditions for stargazing on Mt. Norikura are perfect. Tatamidaira is in a basin surrounded by mountain ridges, so it is shielded from the nighttime lights of neighboring cities like Matsumoto and Takayama. Compared to similar high-altitude sites, access to the plateau is also excellent. Regular buses run from both Matsumoto and Takayama to the Norikura Bus Terminal (2,702 m).
The last buses depart Tatamidaira before dark, so hopeful stargazers should plan on an overnight stay at one of the mountain’s lodgings: Norikura Haku’unsō, Norikura Ginreisō, or Kata no Koya Mountain Hut. The accommodations are affordable, comfortable, and convenient, and some have telescopes and star charts available for visitor use.
Visibility and photography are best when the moon is new.
Norikura Skyline is the 14.4 km mountain tourist road from Hirayutoge Pass, 1,684 meters high, to Norikura mountaintop Tatamidaira. It was a toll road for 30 years from 1973 but became open to the public at no charge on October 31, 2002 and restricted the private vehicle use in 2003 to eliminate the traffic congestion and to protect the natural environment allowing only buses, taxis and bicycles to pass through.
The main sanctuary of Norikura Hongū Shrine is located at the top of Mt. Kengamine (3,026 m), Mt. Norikura’s highest peak. It is an ancient spiritual site, revered by centuries of pilgrims and hikers. The simple wooden structure enshrines Amaterasu Ōmikami, goddess of the sun and the most important Shinto deity. Amaterasu is thought to protect those who climb to the summit and pay homage at the shrine. Many hikers ascend before dawn to watch the sunrise and feel the deity’s presence as the sun’s first rays light up the mountaintop.
Originally known as Kuragamine Shrine, Norikura Hongū Shrine has existed in some form for over 800 years. In 1181, a retainer of the renowned military commander Kiso Yoshinaka (1154–1184) climbed the peak and enshrined a golden statue there, praying for luck in the Genpei War. Ascetic priest, poet, and sculptor Enkū (1632–1695) is also said to have climbed the peak to offer his prayers. The shrine was renamed Norikura Hongū Shrine in 1949, the same year the current structure was built.
The hike from Norikura Bus Terminal to Norikura Hongū Shrine takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, roughly 3 hours roundtrip. Alternatively, visitors can pay their respects without climbing Mt. Kengamine. Within the bus terminal parking area is another small shrine—Norikura Hongū’s yōhaisho, a worship site created for those unable to make it to the mountain peak. Also known as Naka no Yashiro (“middle shrine”), it was built in 1953 to offer prayers for the safety of climbers and visitors to Norikura. The current structure dates to 1974.
The high mountain slopes of Mt. Norikura teem with mammals, birds, and insects that have adapted to survive at high altitude. Most celebrated is the protected rock ptarmigan (raichō), but there are dozens of alpine species to admire.
The rock ptarmigan is the prefectural bird of both Gifu and Nagano Prefectures. These largely ground-dwelling birds rely on ground cover and camouflage for defense, changing plumage with the seasons. In spring, male birds are easier to spot than females. Their upper half is splotched gray, brown, and black, while their belly and wings are white; they also sport a red comb. Females in summer plumage are almost entirely a mottled brown. In winter, both sexes turn white apart from a black eye stripe and outer tail feathers. Males give an unusual croaking call.
The brown-and-white spotted nutcracker (hoshigarasu) depends heavily on shrub-like Siberian dwarf pines for food. The bird has a throat sack below its bill that can carry up to 200 pine seeds at once, allowing it to forage at length before returning to feed its young. The bird hides food across the mountain in places that it can later detect with 70 to 80 percent accuracy. The seeds that it misses germinate and grow, giving it the nickname “dwarf pine planter.”
Japan’s smallest bird is the goldcrest (kikuitadaki), which has white around its eyes and a striking yellow crest that is brightest in males; they raise the crest when disturbed or when seeking a mate. Though it weighs only about 5 grams, it can survive in this harsh climate.
Other species to seek out are the shy Japanese accentor (kayakuguri), which hides in the dwarf pines, and its lookalike, the yellow-billed alpine accentor (iwahibari), a gregarious bird that is little bothered by the presence of humans.
Mammals on Mt. Norikura include the ermine (okojo), which is brown with a white belly in spring, but turns entirely white in winter except for a tiny black spot on the tip of its tail. Asiatic black bears (tsuki no waguma) are also frequently spotted, and lodgings on Mt. Norikura often post charts with recent bear sightings. If you encounter a bear, keep a distance of at least 100 meters and be sure to avoid flash photography, which could prompt an attack.
Two restaurants are located at the Tatamidaira parking area on Mt. Norikura—one in the Norikura Bus Terminal building, and the other on the second floor of Norikura Ginreisō. Both serve light meals such as ramen and udon noodles, as well as heartier set lunches (teishoku) and local specialties. Because Mt. Norikura straddles the border between Gifu and Nagano Prefectures, its dining facilities offer dishes from both regional cuisines.
The Hida region of Gifu is famed for its high-quality beef, known as Hida gyū. On Mt. Norikura it is prepared in croquettes, on noodles, as grilled beef (yakiniku), and in savory buns (nikuman). Hida gyū also features in the signature local delicacy hōba misoyaki. In this rustic dish, beef and locally grown vegetables are topped with sweetened miso sauce and grilled atop a magnolia leaf (hōba), which imparts a delicate woodsy aroma to the ingredients.
Sukuna nabe, another Norikura offering, is a miso-based hotpot dish that includes more than 10 slowly simmered ingredients, including pork, leeks, and daikon radishes. It is traditionally cooked in the town of Nyūkawa (northern Takayama, in Gifu Prefecture) to celebrate the fall harvest. The dish is named for a local divine warrior with two faces, four hands, and four legs described in the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720 CE).
Nagano cuisine is best known for its buckwheat noodle (soba) dishes, most notably those containing wild mountain vegetables (sansai). Asian royal ferns (zenmai), slender bamboo shoots (hosotake), Japanese spikenard (udo), butterbur (fuki), and nameko mushrooms are common additions.
As many hikers know, cooking at high altitude brings challenges. The dining facilities at Tatamidaira are at an elevation of 2,702 meters, and the lower air pressure means water boils at roughly 91 degrees Celsius. This can make cooking even plain rice more difficult, extending its cooking time and lowering the cooking temperature, which can alter the rice’s texture. Furthermore, because of the long distance to town and the restrictions on vehicle traffic to the mountaintop, bringing in ingredients and carrying down waste has added complications. Despite it all, the chefs on Mt. Norikura succeed in satisfying a regular stream of hungry visitors.
Sleeping at high altitude and waking to see the sun rise above a sea of clouds is an experience usually reserved for only the most intrepid hikers. Mt. Norikura, however, has unrivaled accessibility for a mountain of over 3,000 meters, and excellent accommodations are available within a short walk of the Norikura Bus Terminal at Tatamidaira. Everyone from casual tourists to seasoned alpinists can stay overnight in safety and comfort, then wake to begin a full day of mountain recreation.
There are three places to stay near the summit: Norikura Haku’unsō, Norikura Ginreisō, and Kata no Koya Mountain Hut. All of them are open for the summer season—roughly mid-June to mid-October—but close for the winter snows. Haku’unsō and Ginreisō are located at the Tatamidaira parking area and cater to both casual visitors and hikers looking for the comforts of a typical lodging. The two facilities even provide hot baths, which at this altitude was considered a luxury for many years. Water is precious here, and both establishments use collected rainwater, snowmelt, and water from the nearby Kiezu Pond.
Kata no Koya Mountain Hut is located a 30-minute walk south of the Tatamidaira parking area. Like many mountain huts in the region, Kata no Koya is designed to provide no-frills shelter and hearty meals to hikers completing multi-day hikes. The hut is closer than the other lodgings to Norikura’s highest peak, Mt. Kengamine (3,026 m); it is also next to Daisekkei (Big Snow Valley), where permanent snow allows skiing and snowboarding even in mid-summer.
Each of Mt. Norikura’s accommodations offers comfortable facilities and good meals, as well as a wealth of local wisdom and experience. Staff can provide advice on the weather, hiking trails, and how to spot mountain flora and fauna. They are also equipped to deal with minor medical emergencies and altitude sickness.
Lodging high on Mt. Norikura has a long history. Mountain ascetics (yamabushi) such as Enkū (1632–1695) and Mokujiki (1718–1810) visited Mt. Norikura on spiritual journeys, lodging in huts or rock shelters. Mokujiki is said to have dwelled in a small cave that is still visible near the top of Mt. Dainichi (3,014 m), Mt. Norikura’s second-highest peak.
Many people think altitude sickness only applies to bold mountaineers braving the blizzards of Everest and Annapurna. However, altitude sickness is also a concern in the higher regions of the Northern Japanese Alps. Cold temperatures, fatigue, and the lower oxygen saturation of the air are key factors in altitude sickness. It is important to know its causes, symptoms, and how to deal with it.
The temperature drops dramatically in the high mountains, falling by 0.6 degrees Celsius for every 100 meters of elevation. The ascent from the city of Takayama (570 m) to Tatamidaira on Mt. Norikura (2,702 m) is over 2,100 meters. When the wind is strong, the mountaintop can feel wintry even in July or August.
The air is also much thinner above 1,500 meters. If the air pressure is 1,000 hPa at sea level, it is around 730 hPa on Mt. Norikura—enough of a reduction that the air in a bag of potato chips will expand to the bursting point. For humans, the lower pressure means less air and less oxygen reaching the body’s circulatory system. When this reduced oxygen supply is compounded by physical exertion and fatigue, people can suffer altitude sickness. Symptoms include shortness of breath, headache, and nausea.
Preparation is key. Make sure to bring warm, waterproof, and windproof clothing. Arrive refreshed, avoid extreme physical exertion, and stay warm and dry. Although altitude sickness at this elevation is unpleasant, it is rarely fatal.
If you do feel ill, experts offer the following advice. Inhale deeply, then slowly breathe out as if blowing out a candle. Repeat several times. This re-oxygenates the blood, and symptoms should subside. If you need further assistance, mountain huts have emergency oxygen supplies and experienced personnel.
Despite its dangers, the high-mountain climate has an upside. In summer, Mt. Norikura is far cooler than sea-level areas, or even the nearby cities. When it is 30 degrees in Takayama, for instance, it is only 17 or 18 degrees on the mountain. Temperatures on Mt. Norikura rarely exceed 20 degrees, making it a popular destination for visitors seeking escape from midsummer heat and humidity.
It is said that the temperature will drop by 0.6℃ as the altitude increases by 100 m. The altitude of Takayama City is about 570 m and the altitude difference is about 2,100 m. When it is 30℃ in Takayama City, Norikura Tatamidaira will be 17 to 18℃ and it is very rare to exceed 20℃ in Norikkura Tatamidaira.
※You may feel cold due to the strong wind even in midsummer.
Norikura Skyline is the name given to the 14.4-kilometer paved road in Gifu Prefecture that connects Hirayu Pass (1,684 m) to Tatamidaira (2,702 m) near Mt. Norikura’s summit. Since 2003, private vehicle use has been banned on the Skyline to protect the natural environment; only buses, bicycles, taxis, and vehicles with special permits are allowed. The Nōhi Bus Company has been transporting passengers along the Skyline to the alpine peak since 1948.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the construction of such a high-altitude road must have seemed impossible, but in 1941 a project was started to do just that. The initiative was led by the Japanese Imperial Army, which had the financial resources and motivation to get the job done. With military tensions building in Asia and Japan’s entry into World War II on the horizon, the Army Aviation Headquarters initiated plans to build a high-altitude testing station for aircraft engines on the top of Mt. Norikura. Specifically, the military engineers sought to make fighter engines that could operate effectively at the same altitude as the American B-29 bombers (roughly 10,000 meters).
Construction on the road began in 1941. The army’s plan was to build the road 3 meters wide, just enough to accommodate military trucks. However, far-sighted local businessman Jojima Seiichi, the first president of Nōhi Bus Company, saw the road’s potential for postwar tourism. Jojima contributed ¥80,000 of his personal funds to the total construction budget of ¥420,000 (about ¥400 million today) to widen the planned road to 3.6 meters, which would eventually allow his buses to traverse it. By 1942, what had been a rough mountain trail just a year before had become a fully operational road, but in 1945 the war ended before it was ever put to military use.
In July 1948, the “Romance Car,” a ground-breaking vehicle with a glass roof, made its first commercial ascent of the road. Although the scenic views were superb, the Romance Car service ended after only a few years because the buses lacked a key feature: air-conditioning. The direct summer sun entering through the roof made the state-of-the-art vehicle feel more like a mobile sauna.
The Romance Car was canceled, but the bus service became a great success. Its popularity grew despite some inconveniences that might have unsettled modern passengers. For instance, the narrow switchback road was still unpaved and constantly blocked by newly fallen rocks, so the conductors had to disembark and remove them to proceed. When the buses arrived at particularly steep curves, passengers would be politely asked to get out and help push.
In 1955, Maud W. Makemson, a visiting astronomer from Vassar College, gave this account of her journey to Tatamidaira:
A string of buses moves briskly along a road hewn from the mountainside, hardly wide enough, it would seem, to avoid scraping the perpendicular wall on the one side or running off the unprotected edge on the other... At critical points, the girl-conductor stands on the rim of the road voicing encouragement to the driver in a high, singsong falsetto: “Ar-ri-i-e-e-e! Ar-ri-i-e-e-e!” until the danger is safely passed. The American word “all right” has found its way into the very heart of the Japanese language.
Records show that in 1959, 116,000 passengers used the service over 56 days of operation. With the increase in private car ownership in the 1960s, these figures fell, but the Nōhi buses remained in operation. In 1973, the road—paved with asphalt and much improved since its earlier days—was officially named the Norikura Skyline. In 2003, private motor vehicles were restricted to reduce traffic and protect Mt. Norikura’s natural environment. Consequently, Nōhi buses continue to be the principal means of traveling the Norikura Skyline.
Adult 8,000 yen～
Visit two UNESCO world heritage sites!!
Adult 3,000 yen～
The bus will take you to the “Illumination of Subzero Forest” at the Akigami Hot Spring.
Enjoy the magical scenery you can only experience in the sub-zero world!