Late last month we had the opportunity to visit Shinhotaka Ropeway, which is located in the Okuhida Hot Spring Village in northern Gifu. As I had already visited last year in December, this was my second trip. Even though only a month or two had passed since the first time, the difference in the amount of snowfall was quite astonishing.
We had a representative from Shinhotaka Ropeway accompany us during our visit so we were able to obtain a lot of useful information. I will start with a brief introduction: the Shinhotaka Ropeway takes guests to a height of 2,156 meters above sea level using two different lifts, with the total ride-time from top to bottom taking about 25 minutes. The facility boasts the only double-decker gondola in Japan and runs all year long (weather permitting).
One of the distinct features of the Shinhotaka Ropeway is that depending on the season, the available activities and surrounding scenery will change. This means that even if you have visited before, the next time you go it could be almost a completely different experience. During the winter there are guided snowshoeing tours, a snow wall that builds up just outside the top Nishihotakaguchi station, and a hot spring facility located in the Sangakukan Visitor Center. When snow melts in May, the Shinhotaka Ropeway becomes a gateway into the surrounding Japanese Alps for hikers, nature-lovers, and tourists alike. And at last during the fall, the foilage on the surrounding mountains turn bright with warm shades of orange, yellow, red and brown There are so many trails and activities available here that I will probably end up writing more posts at a later time.
The day before our visit, Shinhotaka was experiencing heavy rain and snowfall so we were pretty worried about what the weather conditions would be like. Luckily for us the weather cleared up on the morning of the visit, and we experienced a relatively clear Shinhotaka. Between the top and bottom stations is an elevation difference of about 1,000 meters, so it would be normal for the weather at the top and bottom stations to be completely different.
When we arrived at Nishihotakaguchi Station located at the very top, the weather was still relatively clear so we headed to the observation deck. Even in the bright, clear weather the temperature was a frigid -13℃ so make sure to dress appropriately when you go. We were outside for about 15 minutes before retreating back inside the station to warm up with some coffee. Located in the station is a gift shop, bathroom, and small cafeteria with plenty of stoves, so it definitely possible to take some time and relax up at the high altitude.
I tried to go outside to the snow wall, but because of the rainfall the night before it was deemed unsafe and I was unable leave the station (I guess I will have to leave it for another time). By the time we had left the station the weather was starting to get snowy so the timing was perfect.
On our way down the lower lift we happened to see a deer from the gondola, which according to the Shinhotaka Ropeway representative meant that the weather the following day would be stormy. He followed up on that statement by explaining how the deer in Okuhida have a good instinct for sensing when a storm will come, allowing them to hunt for food the day before so that they can wait out the worst of the weather the following day.
We were able to see some breathtaking views during our excursion to the Shinhotaka Ropeway, and I can’t wait for the next time I am able to go. If you are looking for some great views, or just enjoy being out in nature then the Shinhotaka Ropeway is a place that you want to visit, just make sure to check the weather forecasts before you go. If you go to their website(down below) you can see live footage of the weather conditions from the observation deck. Safe Travels!