Tateyama mountain range in Toyama Prefecture has long held a special place in the hearts of Japanese. It is one of the country's three sacred mountains, along with Mount Fuji and Mount Hakusan.
Ancient Japanese believed they had located the gates of hell in Tateyama. Indeed, Satan reportedly has a penchant for fire and brimstone--elements not in short supply in this land of volcanic activity.
Tread lightly if you dare through Jigokudani, literally Hell's Valley. Watch as steam rises amid the rocks in the barren valley. If you survive this encounter, you are ready to visit the small marshy lakes nearby--lakes filled with blood. Well, maybe not anymore, if ever, but the high iron content in the water certainly gives that impression.
While Tateyama was once given the reverence due a mountain god, it now is more of a magnet for highland trekkers who come to enjoy the abundant mountain flora and fauna.
Trekking paths in the range can be reached by the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, a combination involving walking, buses, trains, ropeway and cable car services.
Certainly, the deep gorge Kurobe Kyokoku is worth a look if you are in the Tateyama area. It was created by the Kurobegawa river that runs between the Tateyama range and the Ushiro-Tateyama range before pouring into the Sea of Japan.
A great deal of rain falls in the area and aided by the steepness of the mountain slopes, the region generates much hydroelectric power.
The biggest producer is the underground hydroelectric station powered by water from the infamous Kurobe Dam. Rarely do dams achieve stardom, but the construction effort was so huge and the toll in human lives so disheartening, that a hit movie recounting the "20th century's greatest construction work" was the result. The dam was completed in seven years in 1963, but not before 171 workers lost their lives.
A railway, originally built for dam construction along the gorge between Unazuki Onsen and Keyakidaira, now takes tourists to scenic spots in the area. There are also the usual hot springs in the region. Serious mountain climbers begin their journeys from Keyakidaira before ascending high into the mountains.
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To reach Tateyama mountains from the Nagano Prefecture side, take a bus from JR Shinano-Omachi Station and get off at Ogisawa. From there take the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, a combination of trains, buses, ropeways and cable cars.
From the Toyama Prefecture side, take the Toyama Chiho Tetsudo from JR Toyama Station to Tateyama Station to take the same alpine route.
To reach Kurobe gorge, take the Toyama Chiho Tetsudo to Unazuki Onsen Station and take the Kurobe Kyokoku Tetsudo.
Visit (www.town.tateyama.toyama.jp) and (www.pref.toyama.jp).
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