Kamikochi: A glimpse of the Japanese Alps

KamikochiCredits:  Template by Jen Caputo; Papers: Designs by Sarah Bennett, Erica Zane, Gwenipooh Designs. Haynay Designs.

Sometimes a change in plans is a good thing.  We arrived in Hirayu Onsen early.  Our room wasn’t ready yet.  “You may want to go to Kamikochi instead”, the front desk clerk recommended to us after she discouraged a trip to the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway, a two-stage tramway that climbs alongside the Hotaka Mountain Range.  She informed us that it had been raining so the visibility will be bad.  “It will also be very slippery”, she added.  We took her word, left our bags with them and headed to the bus station after lunch.

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Long dubbed as the Japanese Alps, Kamikochi is a pristine mountain valley in the Nagano Prefecture, seated at the foot of the Hida Mountains, deep in the Chukusangaku National Park where the Azusa River flows some 1,500 meters above sea level.

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It is known for its splendid landscape and various hiking trails.  As private vehicles have been prohibited in the park since 1996, only buses or taxis are allowed,

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Kamikochi has become one of the best-protected natural areas of Japan despite the droves of tourists and hikers that flock there.

The scenic bus ride from Hirayu Onsen to the Kamikochi parking lot took all of 30 minutes with a brief stop at Taisho Pond for those wanting to hike to the center of Kamikochi. Since it was drizzling and freezing and we weren’t in proper attire, not to mention that we only had half a day, we passed.

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It is the best way to enjoy a day in Kamikochi actually, and on hindsight, I am not sure we made the right decision to forego the hike.

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From the parking lot, we took our time and marveled at the wondrous views of some of the tallest peaks of Central Japan’s Northern Alps as we followed the trail to the Kappabashi Bridge.

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This wooden suspension bridge is a symbol of Kamikochi with the most gathering of visitors.

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From the bridge, one can see the surrounding mountains, Nishihotakadake, Okuhotakadake, Myojindake, and the active volcano Yakaedake – all towering summits over 3,000 meters above sea level.

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Though we barely scratched the surface with just half a day, less actually if you take out the time we spent indoors to warm ourselves with coffee and dessert, Kamikochi has instantly become a personal favorite, and I wouldn’t mind spending a few days wandering around should there be a next time.

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So sometimes a change in plans is indeed a good thing.

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7 thoughts on “Kamikochi: A glimpse of the Japanese Alps

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