Matterhorn, Eiger, and Mont Blanc are some of the renowned mountains with spectacular views of the "Alps" that appear in every brochure about Switzerland. However, just as beautiful as they are, Senjojiki Cirque in Nagano Prefecture also has similar mountain ranges which coincidentally represent the “Alps” just like those three, but this one in Japan.
Known as a treasure trove of alpine flora with a spectacular view of the mountain range that represents the Central Alps (Kiso Mountains), Senjojiki Cirque can be enjoyed yearly offering seasonal beauty and is a popular hiking destination to both experts and beginners alike.
Switzerland of Japan
Senjojiki Cirque is a glacial landscape that stretches directly underneath Mount Hogendo in the Central Alps, straddling Komagane City and Miyata Village in Nagano Prefecture. The terrain has a long history, having been carved out by glacial ice some 20,000 years ago. Directly translated, this cirque means one thousand tatami mats and as its name implies, the cirque is said to be as large as 1,000 tatami mats. In less than 8 minutes by ropeway, any visitors can be lifted to an elevation of 2,612 meters which is said to be the highest station located. As the cirque is located in such a high place, it is home to varieties of alpine plants creating magnificent scenery that cannot be seen elsewhere. Summer will turn the mountain ranges into a world of fresh green with alpine flowers in full bloom, whereas autumn turns the area into ranges of orange and yellow. And in winter, heavy snow turns it into a winter wonderland.
40-minute hiking around the cirque
As soon as stepping out of Senjojiki Station, visitors will witness jaw-dropping magnificent mountain ranges that somewhat resemble that of the Swiss Alps. The white rock looking like a folding screen and the great nature approaching up close are stunningly beautiful. The peaks of the Southern Alps can be seen below and if the weather is good, as far as Mt. Fuji can be seen.
There is a 40-50 minute mostly gentle trail around the cirque good for all ages and levels, although there are some stone steps. The most popular season is during summer, especially between mid-July to August where the 150 different types of alpine flowers are in full bloom.
Intensive Hiking With Proper Gears and Clothes
While the gentle 40-minute hike around the cirque is already pleasing, many intensive hikers with proper gears and clothing tend to go beyond. From Hachozaka Road Fork, a rugged steep Hachozaka hill takes the hikers to Mr. Kiso-Komagatake and Mt. Hokendake through the ridgeline, Nokkoshi Jodo. This Mt. Kiso-Komagatake stands at an elevation of 2,956 meters and is the tallest peak in the Central Alps. From Senjojiki Station to the ridgeline, Nokkoshi Jodo, it takes about 50 minutes. Once up there, the view opens up and hikers can see the whole view of Senjojiki Cirque below. From the ridgeline, it is about an hour with a mixture of gentle sloping trails and a little bit steep rocky hill to the peak, Mt. Kiso-Komagatake. The overall trail is not too physically demanding, and most people finish within half a day.
Intensive hikers going up the steep Hachozaka hill to the ridgeline, Nokkoshi Jodo.
View from Nokkoshi Jodo. The red building is where the Senjojiki Station and the hotel is located
From major cities like Shinjuku, it takes about four hours. Coming here as a day trip is quite difficult unless renting a car. Alternatively, there is a hotel at Senjojiki Station and would recommend booking a room there to enjoy the Senjojiki Cirque to the fullest.
For more information on how to get here, see the official webpage here.