Minamiuonuma, in the heart of Niigata's snow country, is an incredibly picturesque part of Japan. If you'd like to see the region in all its glory from above, heading to the Hakkaisan Ropeway allows you to do just that. It's also a way to get a head start on reaching the summit of Hakkaisan if you're a hiker. You can climb Mt. Hakkai from the base of the mountain - but if you're short on time, using the ropeway shaves about four hours of climbing off the round trip.
The Hakkaisan Ropeway runs for all but about four months of the year - which is usually from December to March, due to the heavy snow the region receives. If you head to the ropeway when it first reopens after winter, there will still be plenty of snow at the top of the ropeway. Don't have the proper footwear to walk in the snow? Never fear - they provide galoshes that you can use in all sizes from children through to adults, allowing you to explore to your heart's content.
The scenery is vastly different from the ropeway as the seasons change. In the spring months, there are a host of flowers in bloom, including dogtooth violets that blanket some of the mountain. Summer sees the area looking lush and green, and autumn features the changing leaves, or koyo, filling the area with pops of reds, oranges and yellows. On a clear day, you're able to see all the way to the Sea of Japan and Sado Island from the summit of the ropeway.
If you'd like to linger at the summit and soak up the glorious views, picnics are quite popular - it's a good idea to pack a basket and enjoy the scenery! There's a small stand at the top of the ropeway selling drinks and ice creams, and bathroom facilities are also available.
To get to the Hakkaisan Ropeway, head to Muikamachi Station (serviced by the Hokuhoku or Joetsu Lines). From there you can transfer to the Mt. Hakkai Ski Resort Bus, and the Ropeway base is about 5 minutes on foot from there.