The Shin-Hotaka Ropeway is one of those experiences that are worth it no matter the time of the year with spellbinding views of seasonal vegetation. Make snowmen atop the white wintery peaks or enjoy views of a sunset ropeway trip over the crimson leaves of the Japanese maples in autumn. The park even boasts it's own flower calendar and a small selection of mountain animals such as flying squirrels and antelope. The Shin-Hotaka Ropeway is the only double decker ropeway in Japan suitable for both young and elderly visitors eager to capture views of the Northern Alps from 2,000 meters above sea level.
The first ropeway from the base of Shin-Hotaka Ropeway will take you to Nabedaira-kogen station and there are tickets available for those who don't wish to pay the full price to get to the top terminus. Shirakaba-daira station is a short stroll from Nabedaira-kogen and is where you board for the second ropeway. Between these two stations there is an open air footbath as well as Kamitakara-no-Yu hot spring that is open to the public from 9:30am to 3:00pm with a small entrance fee of 600 yen. There is a beautiful garden and a restaurant with a nice terrace view. A nature trail wraps around the middle stations with a mapped out route winding down the mountain from the base to the second ropeway station.
The ropeway is open year round, however the timetables shift significantly depending on the time of year, with the last ascent from Shin-Hotaka onsen leaving as early as 3:30pm in winter. The latest descent from the top of Nishihotakaguchi is 5:15pm in the summer so we suggest you take a look at the timetable provided when you buy tickets and plan accordingly. Round-trip tickets right to the top cost 2,900 yen and alternatively, there are package tickets available that include a return ropeway ticket, hot spring access and a dining coupon for 5,000 yen per person.
The unique double-decker carriages can accommodate up to 45 people on the first ropeway and 121 in the second. The first ride takes under five minutes and the second just under ten, so the cabins move quite quickly despite their large capacity. As you soar Shin-Hotaka, look to your right to see Mount Norikuradake in the far distance- a giant mountain peak with a height of 3,026 metres above sea-level.
Once reaching the ropeway terminus, staff dressed in suits welcome you to the visitors centre and guide you through to the main building. It is at least 10ºC colder atop of the peak so remember to bring a light jacket even if you happen to be visiting during the scorching Japanese summer.
The view from the upper deck is worth the steep journey up the ropeway, and there are telescopes for those who wish to get closer views of the mountainscape. There is even a postbox and stamps available for you to send a message home straight from the upper deck of the building. Postcards are available for purchase from the souvenir shop which also offers Shin-Hotaka kodawari cake; a light, fluffy sponge cake flavoured with locally grown pepper.
The Shin-Hotaka ropeway is a great attraction for budding mountaineers with a special route that opens up in spring through to autumn. The hiking route is also a great way to get your money's worth and explore the peak on foot for a couple of hours before riding down the ropeway before dusk. Experience Okuhida Onsen-go from a different angle, whilst breathing in the crisp, fresh air as you take a stroll around the northern Alps.