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”.
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.
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.