NOTE: This entry is about the Alpine Route! Toyama was one of the few cities on the route that registered on this site as a location. If you're looking for Toyama-specific activities and experiences, this isn't the post for you!
Day 12 - Alpine Route to Tokyo
First off, OMG, the Alpine Route was a huge stress point for me until we were actually on it. From planning, to getting stuck in Kanazawa, to missing the window for the cheaper passes (Tateyama Kurobe Route Tourist pass), etc. But for some reason, I couldn't NOT go. No idea why. From the start of planning the trip, I was weirdly obsessed with on going on this mountain trek I didn't even know existed until a week before setting plans. My husband felt the same way. I think we're both just really stubborn and like snow, lol.
SO we got up insaaaanely early and power-walked from K's House to Kanazawa Station, to catch one of the first trains to Toyama, then to the adorable mountain town of Tatayema. I was worried that the route would as confusing as navigating the towns we'd been to so far had been (I'm really bad at Hyperdia / Google Maps and had only barely started getting confident in picking the right buses / trains to get around on the first try) but what I didn't realize is how insanely straightforward it is. You literally can't mess it up. Not only are there signs EVERYWHERE to tell Alpine Routers where to go next, but once you're on the route, there's no where else you can physically go, lol. It's the next stop, or stay where you're at, or turn around. Easy!
We packed extremely minimalist, so didn't have much cold weather gear and were relying on layers of our basic clothing to get us through. The station has its own little shop with only slightly overpriced gloves, hats, scarves, etc. We each got a cute knit hat, my husband got a scarf, and that was about all we needed. We had gotten up so early that we welcomed a nap on the cozy Highland Bus as it climbed to Murodo (the regular cable car normally used on this stretch of the route was down for maintenance), but tried to catch bits and pieces of the very nice audio / video tour along the way as well.
In Murodo, we poked around in the snow just long enough to see some awesome volcanic steam vents and get ourselves nicely chilled by the mountains of snow piled all around, then snuck inside to have piping hot curry lunches at the station's restaurant.
We hopped along the Alpine Route without rushing, but also without lollygagging, more or less sticking with the rest of the small group who had also started the trip as early as us. Kurobe Dam was gorgeous, and the whole route was awesome!
Thanks to our rush, we reached Omachi in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, we got too distracted playing Pokemon Go and missed the first train out of town (lol) so had a solid hour or so to kill in what must have been the quietest town we saw all trip. Super adorable, though, and we got some ridiculously tasty dango from a sweets shop we passed. We didn't partake, but there was also a tiny noodle bar right inside the station that smelled great. After a long day, we got to Tokyo and made our way to Hotel Aurora in Ikebukuro.
Hotel Aurora, for the record, is just OK. It's safe and private, and VERY conveniently located, and its fine if you're traveling light and don't need much space. It's not super clean, but it's not dirty either, and it's got 24/7 staff, which is nice. Our worst problem is that the fire alarm randomly went off one night and the staff had NO IDEA what to do about it, so we had to go hang out at 7-11 for a few minutes while they called a manager to come fix things.
There are easier, faster, cheaper ways from Kyoto to Tokyo, but we found our detour up to Kanazawa and through the Alpine Route to be a really worthwhile and unique experience, and I can't recommend it enough to travelers looking for something memorable and exciting!
#Toyana #Tateyama #Kurobe #KurobeDam #Murodo #Omachi #Shinanomachi #Shinanoomachi #AlpineRoute