10 best ropeways in Japan
Commonly referred to as "ropeways" in Japan, cable cars, or aerial tramways, are found across the country thanks to its largely mountainous terrain. Ropeways serve a function -- getting people from one place to another -- but they can also offer views and heights that would not be possible from an aircraft or on a ski lift.
Just in time for fall foliage and the start of ski season we look at 10 noteworthy ropeways for an alternative travel in Japan, selected by Nikkei as the country's best.
1. Komagatake Ropeway
The Komagatake Ropeway soars within Nagano Prefecture's Central Alps. The ropeway's lifts carry you 950 meters up, the highest vertical distance of any aerial tramway in Japan.
In some ways it feels even better to ride it when there is light cloud hanging low, since you'll experience going right through them and be rewarded with delightful views across the alps.
The Komagatake Ropeway travels 2.3 kilometers horizontally one-way in seven minutes and 30 seconds and has a capacity of 61 people per cabin. One round-trip ticket costs ¥2,200.
2. Shinhotaka Ropeway
The Shinhotaka Ropeway climbs alongside Japan's third-tallest mountain, Mount Hotaka, also known as "The leader of the Northern Alps" and famed nationwide.
The Shinhotaka Ropeway system runs two lines up the mountain, with the second using the first double-decker cabin in Japan. Hotaka rises slowy with a curved top rather than a jagged peak, creating a serene view with dense forest below.
An autumn festival held through November will celebrate the ropeway system's 40th anniversary.
The No. 1 Shinhotaka Ropeway travels 573 meters horizontally and 188 meters vertically, one-way, in five minutes and has a capacity of 45 people per cabin. The No. 2 Shinhotaka Ropeway travels 2.6 kilometers horizontally and 848 meters vertically, one-way, in seven minutes and has a capacity of 121 people in its double-decker cabin.
One round-trip ticket for either aerial tram ride costs ¥2,200.
Tel: +81 (0) 578 89 2252
3. Daisetsuzan Sōunkyō Kurodake Ropeway
The Daisetsuzan Sōunkyō Kurodake Ropeway in Kamikawa, Hokkaidō, is the second-northernmost lift in Japan.
Fall foliage, powder-while snow and the Sounkyo Hot Springs draw tourists to the Mount Kuro area located in the center Hokkaido.
Mount Kuro, like the Japanese name suggests, is actually a black lava dome and is in the otherworldly Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group, which brings its hot waters and fumaroles -- breaks in the earth's crust that emit steam.
The Daisetsuzan Sōunkyō Kurodake Ropeway travels 1.6 kilometers horizontally and 629 meters vertically, one-way, in seven minutes and has a capacity of 101 people per cabin. One round-trip ticket costs ¥1,850.
4. Kankaikei Ropeway
The Kankakei Ropeway in Shodoshima Island, Kagawa sweeps through the Kankakei Gorge, which has dramatic cliffs looming over the forests below. Local tourists flock here to see the fall season colors from high above as the ropeway moves high over the trees.
The Kankakei Ropeway travels 917 meters horizontally and 312 meters vertically, one-way, in five minutes and has a capacity of 40 people per cabin. One round-trip ticket costs ¥1,250.
Tel: +81 (0) 879 82 2171
5. Hakone Ropeway
The Hakone Ropeway stands out from the rest of the Japan's aerial lifts because it is a funitel -- a lift that glides along two steel cables instead of one. It is also renowned for the views it offers of Mt Fuji.
The ropeway begins on the shore of the crystal-clear blue Lake Ashi, before ascending over the volcanic sulphur fumes of the valley of Owakudani, at which point Mt Fuji dominates the skyline.
The Hakone Ropeway travels between Sounzan, Owakudani and Togendai. The entire travel distance between Sounzan and Togendai is 3.9 kilometers horizontally and 579 meters vertically. Each cabin has a capacity of 18 people. One round-trip ticket costs ¥1,250.
Tel: +81 (0) 465 32 2205
6. The Hakkōda Ropeway
The Hakkōda Ropeway is located in the northernmost prefecture of Honshu, Aomori and takes its names after the Hakkodo Mountains where winters bring heavy snowfall.
This volcanic mountain range is popular for skiers in the winter and hikers the rest of the year but we recommend the winter months when it sails over a picture-postcard ice world.
The Hakkoda Ropeway travels 2.4 kilometers horizontally and 650 meters vertically, one-way, in 10 minutes, and has a capacity of 101 people per cabin. One round-trip ticket costs ¥1,800.
Tel: +81 (0) 17 738 0343
7. Gozaisho Ropeway
The Gozaisho Ropeway in the Suzuka Quasi-National Park passes over the stunning scenery that Mount Gozaisho offers.
Located in Komono (Mie prefecture) riders can see the port city of Yokkaiichi, which literally means "fourth-day market" and the picturesque Ise Bay with its islands sprinkled out into the sea.
The Gozaisho Ropeway travels 2.1 km horizontally and 780 meters vertically, one-way, in 12 minutes, and has a capacity of 10 people per cabin. One round-trip ticket costs ¥2,100.
Tel: +81 (0) 59 392 2261
8. Tateyama Ropeway
Absent along the Tateyama Ropeway are pylons -- an architectural wonder, considering the aerial tramway's cables span 1.7 kilometers.
Located in Tateyama, Toyama, this aerial lift treats riders to views along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which only opened in the 1970s and was carefully constructed not to damage any of the natural landscape, so perhaps provides the most untouched view of any ropeway, featuring the mountainous regions of Tateyama, Toyama and Omachi.
The Tateyama Ropeway travels 1.6 kilometers horizontally and 488 meters vertically, one-way, in seven minutes, and has a capacity of 80 people per cabin. One round-trip ticket costs ¥1,890.
Tel: +81 (0) 76 432 819
9. Zao Ropeway
Crystalline rime and stellar slopes attract tourists from all over Japan to The Zao Ropeway in Yamagata.
It gives access not only for skiers, but for rime spectators. Rime is a white ice that forms when the water droplets in fog freeze to the outer surfaces of objects, in this case, creating comb-like structures on trees.
This aerial tramway system consists of two lines. The first line is the Sanroku Line, which runs between Zao-Sanroku (The Foot of Mount Zao) and Juhyo-Kogen (Rime Highland). The second line is the Sancho Line which takes riders from Juhyo-Kogen to Zao-Jizo-Sancho.
The Sancho Line travels 1.8 kilometers horizontally and 806 meters vertically, one-way, in 14 minutes. One round-trip ticket costs ¥2,500.
Tel: +81 (0) 23 694 9518
10. Tanigawadake Ropeway
The Tanigawadake Ropeway travels up Mount Tanigawa to the Tenjindaira Ski Resort in Gunma Prefecture's Minakami City.
Since the initial exploration of Mount Tanigawa, and route-finding in the early 1930s, a total of 781 people have perished -- the highest number of climbing fatalities for any mountain in the world, including Mount Everest.
The valley surrounding Mount Tanigawa is known for its incredible fall foliage during the last half of October.
The Tanigawadake Ropeway travels 2.3 kilometers horizontally and 573 meters vertically, one-way, in 10 minutes. One roundtrip ticket costs ¥2,000.
Tel: +81 (0) 278 72 3575