The Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway runs throughout the year with just a couple of weeks off for maintenance. In winter it takes skiers and snowboarders up to Yuzawa Kogen Resort with its cable car across to GALA Yuzawa, but it is in the summer months when it really comes into its own when the Alps no Sato opens. It provides the perfect momentary break from Fuji Rock as well.
I got badgered into taking a gaggle of little boys obsessed with moving objects in general and the ropeway in particular, up to the top and we all had a fantastic day.
The ropeway has recently received a lick of paint and is looking good in spite of many years of service. The ride up was a hit with the little ones as they loved the spectacular views down valley and looking at the mountainside passing below us. Once you reach the top there are a couple of buses waiting that take you to different areas of the Alpine Park. We jumped onto the one destined for the botanical gardens.
A short drive under some winter ski lifts and following a winding road leads to a small lake and some landscaped gardens. If you are with kids though, do not expect to get to these anytime soon as in the same spot is a chair lift and the bottom of the luge track. Watching one luge come hurtling down was all it took to start a riot and off we went to the vending machine to buy luge and lift tickets. On the lift ride up you can see most of the track with racers charging down it so by the time you get to the top excitement levels are maxed out. Equipped with a helmet and a quick briefing, you are sat on your luge and set free. There is one brake lever between your legs to control your speed and that is it. These luges go surprisingly fast if you let them so helmets, are a very good idea. Be warned - one ride will not be enough and even the adults will have a huge grin when they reach the finish.
The kids would have stayed luging all afternoon if finances allowed but we dragged them round the gardens, had a gelato and then took the same chair lift back to the top. From there we walked past a little putting course and a restaurant back to the ropeway station. It was early season when we went so not everything was open. There are normally some little carts to drive around and a small petting zoo, but these were scheduled for opening later in May. The one play area that was open was a big hit and there was also a large area of winter snow that had yet to melt, which provided lots of laughs and was responsible for us going home with wet feet.
It is good fun at the top though be prepared to pay for various activities. It is a few degrees cooler than down in town so probably a good option for those not keen on summer heat. There are a couple of restaurants (including a great Italian one) so you could make a day of it, or there is plenty of space if you bring a picnic. We didn't explore any of the trekking options that start from the top though will surely go back to check them out. Everyone with us enjoyed it and with little people tiring themselves out and falling asleep earlier than usual, it gets the thumbs up from me.