A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Enjoy the Night View from the Top of Mt. Tsukuba, as rope-way (aerial lift line) services are extended up to 9 PM on weekends and holidays (through March 1st) and EVERY NIGHT from Dec. 20th-30th and the Cable Car (tramway) till 8 PM (on weekends and holidays) thru November

The glow of Tokyo off in the distance- as seen with a telephoto lens from the top of Mt. Tsukuba

By Avi Landau

In Japan, the passing of summer can be recognized in a way which is expressed by saying SORA GA TAKAKU NATTA (空が高くなった)- which directly translated means: the sky has gotten high- something which nearly all Japanese will understand in the same way as someone saying: autumn has come.

This is because along with the drop in temperatures that comes with the changing of seasons, there is also a precipitous drop in HUMIDITY ( from somewhere around 80 percent down to about 20 percent. This decrease in STEAMINESS, combined with the dust clearing action of seasonal winds increases visibility drastically- it really does seem as if the sky has grown taller AND longer. So while in the summer,  there are many days in which Mt Tsukuba remains invisible even from a few kilometers away, in the autumn and winter, if there are no clouds, distant Mt Fuji can be seen regularly from Tsukuba ( especially at sunset), along with the mountains around Nikko to the north.

For those who do not care for the cold, these clear skies and the beautiful views they make possible offer a consolation ( however slight) for the coming of winter.

And in recognition of this seasonal phenmenon, the people who run the ropeway (aerial lift line) up to the Nyotai-San peak of Mt Tsukuba, and the cable car (tram) which goes up to the Nantai-San peak,  will be working overtime so you can enjoy the special views which the mountain affords.

Poster promoting the special night-time ropeway service to the top of Mt. Tsukuba. Note the misspelling of the word CRUISING

Poster promoting the special night-time ropeway service to the top of Mt. Tsukuba. Note the misspelling of the word CRUISING

IN THE CASE OF THE ROPWAY this special night-time service is offered through March the 1st on Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays with EVERY NIGHT night service between December 20-30. On these nights the last car will return to the Tsutsuji ga Oka Parking area at 9 pm ( and arrive there 6 minutes later).

As for the cable car ( tram), which departs and/or arrives at a station just to the west of the Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, extended service will run through November on weekends and holidays. The  last trams coming down from Nantai-San will leave at 8Pm

Even during the daylight hours the views from Mt Tsukuba are special in this very mountainous country- because when you look to the face the south the Kanto Plain extends out as far as the eye can see- an unusual sight indeed in Japan!

You can also have fun trying to spot your place of residence ( if you live in Tsukuba), and other local landmarks. You can easilly ( on a clear day) see Lake Kasumigaura, Mt Fuji, the Great Buddha of Ushiku ( Ushiku Daibutsu), and probably the skyscrapers of Tokyo off in the distance.

It gets even more beautiful if you stay on for sunset ( which will be getting earlier and earlier until the winter solistice) and watch the lights come on.

In my hometown- New York City, one of the most exciting xperiences is going to the top of the Empire State Building and watching the city and surrounding area light up. It is dazzling and OVERWHELMING.

The night view fron atop Mt. Tsukuba is beautiful in a very different way- it is the LACK OF LIGHT! You will surely be surprised by how BLACK the landscape remains- with Tokyo glowing out in the distance.

The stars should be spectacular,as well.

On the ride back down the lights in the cable car will be left off making the descent a big adventure for any kids you might be taking along with you ( and they sure will be excited up on top, too!

The full moon of October seen from the top of Mt. Tsukuba

If you dont have a car, they are buses from Tsukuba Center all the way to Tsutsuji ga Oka. with the last bus returning at 7:30  giving you plenty of time to savor the night view( on weekends and holidays).

The round trip cable car cost is 1,000 Yen for adults.

For more info (in Japanese) see: www.mt-tsukuba.com/

The Nantai-San Peak ( the male force) as seen from the Nyotai-san Peak ( the female)

I have also written about getting good views of Mt Fuji from Tsukuba here:


and here is a song I wrote appropriately called CLEAR SKIES, recorded by the TenGooz:


A Little on The History of Mt. Tsukuba`s Cable Car and Ropeway

Mt Tsukuba has long been famous in Japan, mainly because of being mentioned relatively often in the classic collection of poetry, The Manyoshu ( compiled in the 8th century). The little mountain ( a mere 877 meters high) appears 25 times as opposed to majestic Mt Fuji`s 13 times! It had also long been a place of pilgrimage and religious training.

In the late Edo Period, there were several inns and related establishments in the town of Hojo ( where I live) catering to pilgrims to the mountain. Business was slow, however, and by the 1860`s many of these had closed down.

All this changed back in the 1918 with the entrepreneur Junosuke Takayanagi, the son a poor farmer in what is now Namegata City ( to the east of present day Tsukuba) who grew to be a successful businessman and writer of self help books in Tokyo. On a visit to Mt Ikoma in the Kansai area, Takayanagi-San was enchanted by the European cable car system that took tourists up the mountain. He thought that such a system would be perfect for Mt Tsukuba.

Filled with enthusiasm he rushed back to Mito, the capital of Ibaraki prefecture to get some backing for his plan. The governor was all for the idea and so were several ready investors.

The problem was convincing the local people and the priest of the Mt Tsukuba Shrine. For them the mountain was sacred and the introduction of a cable car sacreligious.

It took some time, but eventually, somehow, the locals were won over to the plan. A company to carry out the construction was formed in 1923.

The going, however, was NOT easy. Large trees had to be felled and lots of dynamite had to be used to blast through rock. There were many injuries to workers, and at some points construction was halted.

By 1925 work was finally completed. And along with the completion of the rail line from Tsuchiura to Hojo ( the Tsukuba Testudo) there was a huge increase in the number of visitors to the top of the mountain. These people would be shuttled from the train staion to the cable car station by bus and then later possibly taxi.

During the Second World War, the cable car service was halted ( the metal was probably melted down for the war effort), and did not resume until 1954.

The ropeway ( aerial lift way) was then built in 1965 , doubling your choice of relaxing ways to the mountains peaks.

Still if you`ve got the time, I would recommend walking AT LEAST one-way.


THE SCHEDULE (once again)


Till the end of November on Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays- the last car leaves the top of the mountain at PM

and then from December through January this wsame schedule will also extend to Fridays.


From November 3rd- December 2nd on Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays the last cablecar will leave the top of the mountain at 8 PM

Enjoy your night views and dont forget to dress warmly!


  • Bob Gavey says:

    Hi Avi,

    The expression “the people who run the cable-car ( or rope-way, as it is called in Japanese)” might confuse readers, because it makes it seem that the cable car and ropeway are the same thing rather than two distinct services. (Also, the Japanese refer to “cable car” and “ropeway” as two separate things, using the English expressions for each one.) I guess you’re talking about only the ropeway in this article. Does the cable car also operate later at this time of year?

    • Avi Landau says:

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry for writing carelessly. To tell the truth, I am still a bit confused about what terms to use for these two very different types of vehicle. What the Japanese call a ropeway, I have always called a cable car. What the Japanese call a cable car I have though of as a tram or trolley ( the similar tracked vehicles in San Fransisco ARE called cable cars).

      Anyway, I have rewritten a bit and hopefully have made things clearer.

      I dont like to post anything about what I have not experienced myself or seen with my own eyes, and that is why I focused on the ropeway( aerial lift) which my family REALLY enjoyed a couple of weekends ago.

      I did call the Tsukuba Kanko Railway, however, and found out that the cable car ( tram) which runs near the Mt Tsukuba Shrine will also offer extended service starting from November.

      The last cable cars to come down from Nantai-San will depart at 8PM ( not 9PM as with the ropeway) on weekends and holidays from November through December.
      Hope you can make it up there.

      All the best