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).
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; the railway line is currently partially interrupted due to damage from heavy rainfalls until further notice; substitute buses are operating between Matsumoto and Nagisa Station in the meantime; full resumption of train service is not expected before mid 2022), 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)
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.
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).