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 2021, Kamikochi is scheduled to be open from April 17 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.

Dakesawa Marsh

The Dakesawa 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 (until 18:00 from late July to late August), the visitor center introduces the geography, geology, fauna, flora and folklore of Kamikochi and provides information to mountain climbers. It is free to enter.

Getting there and around

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

By train and bus from Matsumoto   (how to get to 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 by train and bus is 2710 yen. The Japan Rail Pass is not valid on these trains and buses.

By train and bus from Takayama   (how to get to Takayama)

Take a Nohi bus from Takayama to Hirayu Onsen (60 minutes, 1600 yen, one bus per hour), from where there are two buses per hour to Kamikochi (25 minutes, 1180 yen one way, 2090 yen round trip).

By bus from Tokyo

Alpico operates daytime and overnight highway buses between Tokyo (Tokyo Station, Shinjuku) and Kamikochi. The one way trip takes 5-7 hours and costs around 6000 to 8000 yen. Online reservations can be made through Willer.

By bus from Kyoto and Osaka

Multiple companies operate overnight buses between Osaka, Kyoto and Kamikochi. The one way ride takes eight hours and costs around 8,000 to 13,000 yen depending on the level of luxury offered on the bus. Online reservations can be made through Willer and Japan Bus Online.

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 600 yen per calendar day. From the parking lots you can reach Kamikochi in about 20-30 minutes by bus (around 1000 yen one way) or taxi (around 4000 yen).