After hearing Tatamidaira at the top of Mt. Norikuradake had a beautiful flower meadow abloom with alpine wildflowers in the summer, I decided to venture up to the top in mid-August. Like Kamikochi, the higher elevation areas of Norikura are closed to personal cars so you need to take a bus from the Norikura Visitor’s Center (you can get to the Visitor’s Center by car or using a bus from Shin-Shimashima Station). I recommend getting the round-trip ticket, which is cheaper than two one-way tickets, unless you plan on hiking back down. The other options are to hike or bicycle (serious hill climb) up to the top.
Tatamidaira is a crater basin that was created from a volcanic eruption long, long ago, and is surrounded by several of the mountain peaks of Norikura. The bus arrives at the Tatamidaira visitor’s center which is located at 2702 meters (8,865 feet), making it the highest bus stop in Japan. From here you can easily walk to the flower meadow and see Tatamidaira’s pristine lake, Tsurugaike Pond. If you arrive earlier in the day, there are also a couple of short hiking trails (15 – 90 minutes, one way, depending on the trail) that let you climb to the summits of the surrounding peaks: Mt. Fujimidake, Mt. Daikokudake, Mt. Maoudake, Mt. Marishitendake, and Mt. Kengamine.
For the alpine flower meadow, the peak season is mid-July to mid-August. A nice wooden boardwalk lets you walk around the meadow and get a close look at many species of rare flowers which come in all sorts of shapes and colors. You’ll also see some huge boulders lying around the meadow which probably tumbled down from the mountain peaks years ago. I’m a big fan of wildflowers so I loved being surrounded by hundreds of cute little flowers!
Now, the one tricky thing about going to Tatamidaira is the weather at the top. Even if it’s a perfectly sunny day in Matsumoto, there are often clouds hanging about the summit of Mt. Norikuradake. The day that I went to Tatamidaira, I could see a few clouds from the Norikura Visitor’s Center, but I figured they wouldn’t be a problem. However, as you can see from the photos, when I arrived at the top, I was enveloped in a thick cloud that made it impossible to see anything past a few meters in front of me. Though being stuck in a cloud is a unique and mystical experience in itself, I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful scenery to its fullest.
Another thing you want to keep in mind is the temperature difference. It is cold! Even when the summer is blazing down below, at 2,700 meters it’s going to feel like late fall or early winter. I went in mid-August and was wishing I had brought light gloves and a decent sweater. You’ll definitely want a windbreaker, preferably waterproof, too.
Buses run to Tatamidaira from July to the end of October and you can count on seeing something different every season! See the bus schedule here.