Kamikochi

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Kamikochi (上高地, Kamikōchi) is a popular resort in the Northern Japan Alps of Nagano Prefecture, offering some of Japan's most spectacular mountain scenery. It is open from mid/late April until November 15 and shuts down during winter. In 2014, Kamikochi was open from April 18 to November 15.

Kamikochi is a roughly 15 kilometer long plateau in the Azusa River Valley, about 1500 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by tall mountains, including Nishihotakadake (2909 m), Okuhotakadake (3190 m), Maehotakadake (3090 m) and the active volcano Yakedake (2455 m).

Part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, Kamikochi has only been moderately developed with half a dozen hotels, a few souvenir shops, mountain huts and hiking trails. Private cars are banned from Kamikochi, and access is only possible by bus or taxi.

In the center of Kamikochi, a short walk from the bus terminal, stands the Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge). From the Kappabashi, hiking trails lead up and down the valley and towards the summits of the surrounding mountains.

The simplest way to enjoy a day in Kamikochi is by hiking the trails along Azusa River from Taisho Pond to Myojin Bridge. It is a mostly flat terrain and requires no hiking experience and only a few hours of time. The climbs to the surrounding peaks, however, are more challenging and only recommended between mid June and mid September.

Kamikochi is particularly beautiful during the autumn foliage season, which usually peaks in mid October. A wide range of alpine flora can be viewed from May through October, with the best time being mid May through July. Among the wildlife to be observed are monkeys and various birds. Bears are rarely encountered.

Be warned that Kamikochi, especially around Kappabashi, gets very busy during the summer holidays (mid July through August) and on weekends during the autumn leaf season (October).

Taisho Pond
Taisho Pond (Taishoike) was formed in 1915, when an eruption of the nearby volcano Yakedake dammed Azusa River. Decayed trees, standing in the pond, provide a special sight.

Tashiro Pond
Tashiro Pond, one of Kamikochi's most scenic spots, is a small pond surrounded by marshland. It is located along the hiking trail that connects the Kappabashi with Taisho Pond.

Kamikochi Imperial Hotel
Built in 1933, the Imperial Hotel (Teikoku Hotel) is the most prestigious accommodation in Kamikochi, offering a combination of mountain lodge atmosphere and first class hospitality services.

Weston Monument
A small relief to the honor of Walter Weston (1861-1940), the English missionary, who introduced Western style mountain climbing to Kamikochi and Japan and popularized the term "Japanese Alps".

Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge)
Kappabashi is a suspension bridge over Azusa River in the center of Kamikochi, not far from the bus terminal. Several hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops can be found around the bridge.

Takezawa Marsh
The Takezawa Marsh, reached in a 5-10 minute walk from the Kappabashi along the hiking trail towards Myojin Pond, is one of the most scenic areas of Kamikochi.

Myojin Pond
Myojin Pond (Myojinike, admission: 300 Yen) can be reached in about a one hour walk from the Kappabashi. Hotaka Shrine and the Kamonjigoya (see photo), an atmospheric small lodge with restaurant, stand close to the pond.

Kamikochi Visitor Center
Open daily from 8:00 to 17:00 (free admission), the visitor center introduces the geography, geology, fauna, flora and folklore of Kamikochi and provides information to mountain climbers.

Get There and Around

Kamikochi is closed from November 16 to around mid/late April.

By train and bus from Matsumoto

Take the Matsumoto Electric Railway from Matsumoto Station to Shin-Shimashima Station (30 minutes), followed by a bus ride to Kamikochi (60 minutes). There are also a small number of direct buses from Matsumoto Bus Terminal to Kamikochi. The one way fare is 2450 yen, while a discounted round trip ticket costs 4550 Yen. The Japan Rail Pass is not valid on these trains and buses.

How to get to Matsumoto

By bus from Takayama

Take a Nohi bus from Takayama to Hirayu Onsen (60 minutes, 1570 yen, one bus per hour), from where there are two buses per hour to Kamikochi (25 minutes, 1160 yen one way, 2050 yen round trip).

How to get to Takayama

By car

Kamikochi can be reached by car by following National Route 158 from Matsumoto or Takayama. Private cars are not allowed to enter Kamikochi. Parking lots are available around the entrance gate to Kamikochi and typically cost 500 yen per calendar day. From the parking lots you can reach Kamikochi in about 20-30 minutes by bus (around 1000 yen) or taxi (around 4000 yen).

Last updated: November 17, 2014
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