|Magnificent Views of Mountains and Valleys
Since ancient times in Japan, mountains have been regarded
as places where the gods lived, and even just 100 years ago, ordinary people
still feared to venture very far into the mountains. Only those mountains
which had been climbed and consecrated by early Buddhist priests were open
for devout ascetics as pilgrimages. Tateyama Mountains in Toyama Prefecture,
one of the Three Sacred Mountains in Japan along with Mt.
Fuji (on the border of Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures) and Mt.
Hakusan (Ishikawa Prefecture), comprise of steep 3,000-meter-class peaks
soaring with dignity. Among them are Mt. Oyama, where a shrine was built
in the 8th century on summit, and Mt. Tsurugidake (meaning "sword mountain")
which, named after its sword-like sharp points, is popular with serious
The deepest gorge in Japan, Kurobe Gorge, sits to the east of Mt. Tateyama. In the gorge area that extends 80 kilometers (50 miles), the peaks plunge into the bottom of the gorges some 1,500 to 2,000 meters (4,921 to 6,562 feet) below. At the south end of the gorge lies Kurobe Dam, the fifth largest arch-type dome dam in the world. Construction started in 1956 and, after seven years of difficult work and with the loss of 171 workers' lives, it was completed in 1963. From the walkway on top of the embankment of the dam, pedestrians can enjoy magnificent views of the Tateyama Mountains rising around the huge artificial lake filled with green water. The scenery in autumn is at its best when the mountains are aflame with the colors of fall.
Although Mt. Tateyama has long been respected as the sacred, it is much more accessible nowadays. The Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is a popular tourist route that extends 90 kilometers (295,272 feet) from east to west connecting the major scenic spots of the Tateyama Mountains and Kurobe Gorge. Tourists can tour along the route by several different means of transport. In order to preserve the scenic beauty a cable car was built to run underground; a ropeway connects a 500-meter (1,640-foot) height difference, and the only electricity powered trolley bus in the country runs through the tunnel for environmental protection, and the list continues. Many people can thus enjoy these unique vehicles as well as the grand views of mountains and valleys.
Photos: (Top) Lake Mikurigaike reflecting Mt. Tateyama (JCIC); (middle) Kurobe Dam (JCIC); (bottom) The ropeway, Tateyama's "moving observatory" (Nagano Prefecture).
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