Admiring the “Japanese Alps” at Kamikochi

After three years of working in Dubai, where the closest you can get to nature is admiring the water-injected trees of Madinat Jumeirah, you can only imagine how I miss nature. Once I arrived in Tokyo, all I wanted to do is hug every tree in the park and spend my weekends hiking every available trail there is.

Apart from the world’s misconception that this country is anything but anime, sushi and odd tv commercials, if there is one thing that the citizen must be proud of, it has to be the well-maintained, accessible, amazing natural resources.

Kamikochi, located at the Hida Mountains of Nagano prefecture is one best example of how naturally blessed Japan is.

Located 1,500 meters above sea level, with 15 kilometers long plateu in the Azusa River Valley, surrounded by “Japanese Alps” of  of Nishihotakadake (2909 m), Okuhotakadake (3190 m), Maehotakadake (3090 m) and the active volcano Yakedake (2455 m), Kamikochi is sometimes referred to as “Japan Yoshimete”.

Hiking in Kamikochi requires no experience. Mostly flat terrain with wooden covered trail and the whole area can be circled in a matter of 2 to 3 hours, making it ideal for a day trip.

Different hiking routes are available. Either you start at Kappabashi (middle area) towards Myojin Bridge, then back to Taisho Pond or do Taisho Pond towards Mjoyin Bridge route. On my case, I choose to start at Kappabashi, which I later on regretted,since it makes more sense to start from Taisho Pond.

Restaurants, hotels and the bus terminal are located close to the suspension bridge- Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge). Most visitors tend to flock on this area, since it offers a perfect spot for souvenir photo.

I took my time hiking in Kamikochi. I don’t feel the need to rush or so, when postcard-perfect scenery is all around me. I did stop plenty of times on my walk towards Myojin Bridge, admiring almost everything.

The rush of fresh water, with few of my fellow hikers decided to drink.

The tall, standing trees and the fallen ones.

The reflections of the tree leaves at Takezawa Marsh.

The dried, stoned covered part of Azusa River.

Everything is awe-inspiring, particularly when surrounded by Japanse Alps.

After walking almost an hour, which I was alone on most part, arriving at Myojin bridge is like reaching the finish line. Majority of the hikers I have seen at the Kappabshi had arrived as well, with some of them taking a short break at small, old, restaurant lodge of Kamonjigoya.

An entrance fee of 300 Yen is required to enter Myojin Pond. Another equally beautiful area, where all I can do is just stand there and absorbed all the wonder of nature. You will be passing by a torii gate on the way to the pond, since Hotaka Shrine is located just next.

I made my way to another scenic area- Taisho Pond (Taishooke), formed by the eruption of the active volcano Yakedeke, which can be seen in the background. Boats are available for rent, if you prefer to paddle around than walk. I met a lovely Japanese couple at this area, like many of them who are on a date; they prefer this particular spot compare to Kappabashi because its less crowded.

Private cars are not allowed to enter Kamikochi, visitors are advised to take a bus from the appointed parking areas like Hirayu Onsen. Several crowded bus had already passed me by at Taishooke stop, all of them with no intention of stopping, the only option left is to walk back to the bus terminal at Kappabashi. Good thing is that the couple I have met earlier has offered to hire a taxi that will take us to another stop in the highway were we have bigger chance of taking an empty ride.

Kamikochi is a wildlife preserved area, home to monkeys, birds and bears. Part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, definitely one of the most scenic, most amazing place I have seen in Japan.

Remove some temples and shrines from your travel list and make way for Kamikochi.

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42 thoughts on “Admiring the “Japanese Alps” at Kamikochi

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your kind comments!
      I am a Olympus PEN E-PL2 micro four thirds camera user. Really good camera, not too big or heavy like a DSLR but do the job just as fine.

      Have a great week :)

  1. What a stunning park. I do admit, I don’t know as much as I should about Japan (and you’re right, most of what I do know is dominated by anime, sushi, and odd TV commercials). I’m a huge fan of hiking and the outdoors. This really makes me want to visit! Thanks for sharing. :-)

  2. This is truly beautiful! To be honest, I didn’t know Japan had alps like this. Thank you for sharing! When I go to Ehime (on Shikoku Island) this September for a year, I hope I can use the opportunity like you are. :)

    1. thanks !
      i never been to Ehime, must be nice to explore that region.
      are you going there for vacation or study? nonetheless, good luck and enjoy exploring Japan :)

      1. I’m going for study. And yes, I’m looking forward to it! Mt. Ishizuchi is definitely on my to-do list. And thank you! :D

  3. I lived slap-bang in the middle of “very many nature” (in the immortal words of my students) in Africa, but I still want to hug Japan’s trees and mountains! :) They’re in a category of their own, and as you say, the public parks are immaculately maintained.

    Your photos are breathtaking. It felt as if I were reading a National Geographic article …

    1. Hi Kim,

      the best way to reach Kamikochi from Tokyo is to take the Nohi Bus from Shinjuku Terminal to Hirayu Onsen.
      from Hirayu Onsen, you need to take another bus bound to Kamikochi. if i’m not mistaken, it takes around 5 hours travel time and 11,000 Yen round trip.
      So a day trip might be impossible, I suggest you combined your Kamikochi visit with exploring other Gifu-Hida places like Takayama or Shirakawa-go, definitely worth it.

      Thanks !

  4. Kamikochi! I have been there once. I remember how beautiful it was. Last time I was there, we had my elderly aunt with us. So we just walked to the bridge. Your photos shows me what I missed…(sob)

  5. Oh… Your pictures are making me wish I’d read this before my visit to Takayama/Shrikawa-go. I would have worked it into the visit. I can just “hear” the silence, broken only by rhe sound of a rippling brook and occasional stray voices. But you’re right, the distances would have been a challenge for an overnight whirlwind stay. :p but it’ll be a place on my agenda if I make it back. Thanks for the lovely photos. :)

  6. Again, I love Nagano! I hiked Norikura, which is near the border of Nagano and Gifu, but I haven’t tried Kamikochi yet. I can’t get over how gorgeous and vibrant the colors in your photos are–even the muted colors are fantastic! Hopefully I will get to check it out this fall.

  7. Am going to stay in Kamonjigoya lodge next month,is there a signage when nearing?Can’t seem to get any clear direction from the website, is it very close to the Myojinkan?

    1. Hi Tham,

      Sorry for the late reply, i was out on a trip as well.
      staying at Kamonjigoya? I envy you :)
      if i recall correctly the lodge where you are planning to stay is within the same vicinity of Myojinkan.
      in fact Kamonjigoya is situated just beside Myojin Pond.

      enjoy your trip! Kamikochi is really beautiful!

  8. Great!In fact I had a hard communicating with the owner last month, can’t wait to meet him :)
    Yr pic are awesome,”took’ them for my wallpaper,appreciated!

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