Elevation: 2,612 m! What is Senjojiki Cirque?
Take the Komagatake Ropeway to Senjojiki Cirque
Enjoy majestic winter-only views at Senjojiki Cirque
Not only snowy landscapes! You can also enjoy delicious food!
Hotel Senjojiki’s hot delicious food
Have a cup of coffee made with clear snowmelt water at 2612 Cafe
Hotel Senjojiki: a place you've got to stay for stargazing
Conclusion
Access

The Chuo Alps mountain range stretches along the western side of Komagane city of South Shinshu, and including includes the several mountains such as Kiso-Komagatake and Hokendake that stand above 2,500 in elevation. Senjojiki Cirque is located directly below the mountain range. When thinking of Senjojiki Cirque, there might be an image of the bright colors of summer alpine plants or autumn leaves.  However, also during winter you can enjoy the great scenery.
This time I ride the ropeway and report about the unique spectacular winter views of Senjojiki Cirque, different from summer or autumn.

*At the time of this article (January 16th, 2020) the ropeway, Hotel Senjojiki, and event reservations are closed due to ropeway repairs. Please check the official website (https://www.chuo-alps.com/) for future schedules and details.

Elevation: 2612 m! What is Senjojiki Cirque?


Early summer at Senjojiki Cirque (photo: Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd.)
Senjojiki Cirque is a U-shaped cirque formed by glacial erosion about 20,000 years ago. The name Senjojiki (thousand tatami mats) Cirque comes from the landform’s wide space, that looks able to hold a thousand tatami mats. The elevation is 2,612 m, which is even higher than 4 Tokyo Skytrees.

The biggest attraction of Senjojiki Cirque is how the dramatic changes of nature during all four seasons can be experienced. Each year about 200,000 visitors are fascinated by this gorgeous landscape. The spring time offers brilliant views as you ski or snowboard, summer gives life to a variety of alpine plants, and autumn brings a captivating view of tri-colored autumn leaves that change with elevation. Finally, Senjojiki Cirque in the winter is an endless vista of pure-white snow.


Snowy mountains and cityscape at the foot of the mountain

Take the Komagatake Ropeway to Senjojiki Cirque

 
Ropeway climbing towards Senjojiki Cirque in winter  (photo: Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd.)

Because of the Komagatake Ropeway, it is possible to visit to the high altitude of 2,612 m during winter, even for those who are not alpinists.

When going to Senjojiki Cirque in the winter, it is necessary to prepare for the severe cold with equipment such as a down jacket, knitted hat, and gloves. It is recommended to wear snow boots to prevent your feet from getting wet or slipping. For skiing or snowboarding, please prepare ski wear. For those not climbing the mountains it is not necessary to prepare any special gear.

Let’s go and see the spectacular Senjojiki Cirque!


Bus stop for the ropeway is right next to the parking lot

This time Mr. Kobayashi from Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd., escorted me.
First, it is necessary to ride a bus from the “Suganodai bus center”. The bus center has a parking lot at which cars can be left. Senjojiki Cirque has a prohibition on private cars, so you will have to take this bus to get to the ropeway.

It takes about 30 minutes by bus to get to the ropeway platform “Shirabidaira station”. While driving up the narrow mountain road, visible from the bus windows are mountains straight ahead and beautiful crystal clear creeks.
Mr. Kobayashi, the guide, recommended to sit at the very front left side seat. He said there is a great view from the window and a thrilling feeling as if you are running on a cliff.

【Bus fare (round trip)】*Operates at hourly intervals during the winter season

<From JR Komagane station (when using train) >
Adult 2,100 yen / Child 1,060 yen

<From Suzuran street (when using the highway bus and getting off at Komagane Bus Terminal)>
Adult 2,100 yen / Child 1,060 yen

<From Nyotai entrance (when using the highway bus and getting off at Komagane interchange) >
Adult 1,920 yen/ Child 960 yen 

<From Suganotadai Bus Center (when using private car)>
Adult 1,660 yen/ Child 840 yen 

Take the ropeway from Shirabidaira station to the world of 2612 m


Take the ropeway at Shirabidaira station.

The elevation at Shirabidaira station is already as high as 1,662 m. The temperature is noticeably much lower, and you will see snow on the ground. 


Getting on the ropeway gondola.

From here you will ride the ropeway and quickly rise to Senjojiki station.
This ropeway has the highest elevation gain in Japan, which measures 950 m from Shirabidaira station to Senjojiki station although it only takes 7 minutes and 30 seconds. You should be careful about altitude sickness due to the sudden elevation change. If you feel sick, do not hesitate to immediately notify the staff.

【Ropeway fare】
Round trip: Adult 2,540 yen/ Child 1,260 yen
One way trip: Adult 1,370 yen/ Child 680 yen 
*Operates at hourly intervals during the winter season
*Overseas visitors will receive a 20% discount of the ropeway fare upon presenting a passport.

Enjoy majestic winter-only views at Senjojiki Cirque.

Finally, we arrive at Senjojiki station. Already the elevation is 2,612 m. This is the highest station in all of Japan.
The atmosphere suddenly changes, presenting visitors with an expansive panorama full of snow. All but the whistle of the wind is enveloped in silence, creating the illusion that the place is severed from your daily life.  In front there is the towering Hokendake Mountain, while below is a view of the town. All of the views are first time experiences.
Now, I will introduce the spectacular scenery of Senjojiki Cirque that can only be seen in winter. 

Hokendake Mountain


Senjojiki Cirque and Hokendake Mountain (Photo: Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd.)
Hokendake Mountain is very beautiful with the contrasting black mountain surface and white snow. Add the blue sky to the mix, and you will have a picturesque vista straight out of a painting. Since mountain weather can change on a dime, in only a few minutes the sky color and position of the clouds will present a new mountain tapestry.

Hoarfrost 


Like flowers on branches.

Aside from the leafless branches being covered in snow, you may also see a phenomenon in which a hoarfrost referred to as “Muhyo” coats tree branches. They look like blooming small white flowers, and make for a beautiful sight.  

Komagane cityscapes 


Komagane cityscapes seen below from Senjojiki Cirque

If you move to the east side, you will look down on Komagane city. From here you can feel how high you have climbed. If it is good weather, the far mountains in the background can be clearly seen for a wide vista.

By targeting the timing for the gondola which arrives every hour, you can catch a sight of the gondola looking as if it is floating in the snowy mountains. Please do not miss this rare photo chance, as it only comes once an hour.

Season-limited! Walk with snowshoes at Senjojiki Cirque


Snowshoes allow you to walk on top of the snow. (photo: Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd.)

Only in the winter time, you can also explore rare experiences with snowshoes.

Usually, Senjojiki Cirque is covered with alpine plants that block you from walking off trail, but but snow covers the ground during winter, allowing you to walk through the cirque. This experience is only possible for a short time when there is no avalanche danger. This period is between December and January when the snow has just started to accumulate, and in spring after avalanches have settled down. This timing might change due to snowfall or the weather, so please check the website for details. If you participate, please do not forget to wear ski wear or otherwise warm clothing.

There is also a snowshoe experience near Shirabidaira station that allows you to walk through the forest covered in snow. Why don’t you try this too?

【Snowshoe trial experience】
Rent snowshoes and walk around areas that are usually closed. Elementary student age or older can participate. Please visit the official website for current schedules.

Place :Senjojiki Cirque: Until mid January 2020. Scheduled for spring too.
       Shirabidaira: Saturday 18th January, 2020 ~ Sun 29th March, 2020 
Fee :1,000 yen per one person/ 1 hour (including snowshoes, stocks, boots)

*To register for insurance coverage plus 200 yen
Reception time: 10:00~14:00

A sky full of stars stretches overhead at night


Hotel Senjojiki and starry sky (photo: Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd.)

During the night, there is another spectacular view at Senjojiki: the starry sky!

Even in summer, you can enjoy the beautiful starry sky but the best season is winter. The air is so clear and you can even find tiny stars. Furthermore, around the Senjojiki area there are no lights and sounds. It is the perfect spot to see the stars. You can enjoy more than 3,000 stars twinkling in the night sky. 


You can enjoy the Milky Way too. (photo: Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd.)

At the time of the new moon and the days before and after, there are events such as a star photography party, viewing party, and others. You can enjoy the starry sky for a long time, accompanied by an expert’s commentary. How about attending winter-only special events until the end of March?

【Winter 2612 starry night experience】
Star sky photography party or watching party with an instructor and staff. This is a set plan that includes hotel accommodation and meal fee. (Reservation required.) 

Fee: Different according to the lecturer. Days led by Mr. Hiki or Mr. Miyajima: 15,000 yen / per person. Days led by staff: 13,000 yen per person
*Both events include a one-night stay and 2 meals including the experience participation fee.
*Bus and ropeway fare is excluded.
*Single-person attendance will be charged an additional 1,000 yen 

Applicable dates: Until the end of March 2020: new moon days and the days before and after.

Not only snowy landscapes! You can also enjoy delicious food!  

Senjojiki station, the ropeway departure and arrival point, is an integrated facility that includes a café named 2612 Café, Hotel Senjojiki and shop in the same building.  Except for the hotel guest rooms and public bathrooms, all of the facilities are on the first floor and can be easily accessed.


Shop in front, 2612 Café in the back」

 
On the opposite side of the shop is the hotel reception desk and entrance to the restaurant.
At the shop, in addition to the souvenirs with the altitude 2612 logo, you can buy original goods like sweets and sake. How about stopping by after your sightseeing in Senjojiki Cirque and commemorate your visit with a souvenir?

The shop sells sake or souvenirs with a Senjojiki logo

Hotel Senjojiki’s hot delicious food

After enjoying the spectacular winter view at Senjojiki Cirque, how about trying Nagano specialty food that warms your body?
I recommend eating at the restaurant in Hotel Senjojiki. Even those who are not staying at the hotel can use the restaurant. First decide your seat, then place your order and pay at the cashier, and a staff member will bring the meal to you. 

Hot mushroom soup and Shinshu goheimochi set (980 yen)

This time I had hot mushroom soup and Shinshu goheimochi set with seasonal mushrooms harvested in Nagano prefecture, with goheimochi served with a lot of sweet and spicy sauce. Goheimochi is a local food in the Nagano, Aichi and Shizuoka areas. The sweet and salty sauce is a flavor that keeps you coming back, and makes a great snack. The mushroom soup was served in a pot with a small stove underneath, so you can enjoy it steaming hot until the end of your meal.
In addition, Komagane specialty sauce cutlet pork bowl, the “furusato gozen” group menu, and many other dishes are available.

Have a cup of coffee made with clear snowmelt water at 2612 Cafe


2612 Cafe counter. There is a special menu you can enjoy only here.
At the 2612 Cafe, you can relax for a short break with the café menu.
2612 Premium Coffee is brewed with water thawed from Chuo Alps snow. You can clearly taste the rich flavor of the coffee.
During the winter season, only from December until the end of March, there is a 2612 Cafe lunch plan which includes the fare for the ropeway together with delicious sandwich and coffee from 2612 cafe. (Reservation required)

【2612 Cafe Lunch Plan】
Fee: Adult 4,700 yen / Child 2,900 yen
Implementation date: until Tuesday, March 31, 2020 
Combination plan contents: Bus and ropeway round trip tickets plus 2612 Cafe lunch.

  • Lunch can be chosen from three choices of “Croissant with Shinshu Salmon“ or “Croissant with Komagane Plateau ham & egg” or “Shinshu smoked sausage hot dog” and a cup of coffee (Children can change to a cup of juice.)
    *Reservation required.

Hotel Senjojiki: a place you've got to stay for stargazing

 
Hotel Senjojiki in winter (photo: Chuo Alps Kanko Co, Ltd.)

Hotel Senjojiki is the hotel with the highest altitude in Japan.


Standard guest room. You can see snow scenery from the window.
All guest rooms are Japanese style with bathes and restrooms shared except for two special guest rooms. Since all of the guest room have a nice view, the winter mountain scenery can be enjoyed from the warm inside.  The hotel’s public bath is drawn from clear alpine water. Wi-fi is available too.

Enjoy dazzling sceneries at Senjojiki Cirque, that can only be seen in the winter!

Senjojiki Cirque is a rare location over 2,500 m in altitude, in that it can be visited during winter. Furthermore, a wonderful feature is that you do not have to climb the winter mountain, but can easily scale it by riding the ropeway. You would be hard-pressed to find anyplace like this all over Japan. I recommend for those who have already visited during the summer or autumn, to also enjoy the spectacular scenery of winter. I believe you would feel purified when surrounded by the cool air and pure white world. 

*As of the writing of this article (2020 January 16th), the ropeway, hotel, and event reservations are closed due to ropeway repairs. To confirm accessibility, please check the official website for up-to-date information.

Access / Parking information


Suganodai Bus Center parking

<Suganodai Bus Center parking>
Fee: standard-sized car 800 yen (24 hours) / motorcycle 200 yen (One time parking)

Open: 24 hours

<Access route for Suganodai Bus Center>
・From JR Komagane station: about 10 minutes by car.
・From Komagane Interchange: about 3 minutes by car.