Kamikochi hiking trail in Japan
Kamikochi hiking trail in Japan
If you want to get another idea of Japan, I advise you to go for a hike in a day or more, to Kamikochi. Kamikochi (上高地, Kamikōchi) is in the Northern Japan Alps of Nagano Prefecture, part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park.
Take your camera because Kamikochi is some of Japan’s most spectacular mountain scenery. Kamikochi is a biological treasure. You can find a suprisingly wide selection of animals here, many of them native only to Japan. You can meet the socially active nihonzaru, the Japanese macaque.
The road to Kamikochi is closed to private cars just below the last tunnel at Sawando. You can park your car at Sawando, and catch a bus or taxi. Kamikochi is one of the best protected natural areas in Japan. It was the first area to be designated as a Protected Forest (1916) and Area of Scenic Beauty (1952). It was designated a national park on December 4, 1934. The pastures were closed, and since 1996, private cars are forbidden as well.
You can enjoy one day in Kamikochi by hiking the trails along Azusa River from Taisho Pond to Myojin Bridge. It is a mostly flat terrain and requires no hiking experience. The climbs to the surrounding peaks, however, are more challenging and only recommended between mid June and mid September.
Important to know:
– Kamikōchi is open from the end of April until November 16 and is closed for the winter.
– Private cars are not allowed to enter Kamikōchi (not even motorbikes).
– Transport is non-JR (your JR Pass is not valid) and is fairly expensive. There are excellent 2- and 4-day passes, however.
– On your way back, you will need a reservation ticket (seiriken) to get on the bus. Get them in time if you don’t want to spend on stay or taxi.
You can get to Kamikochi either from Matsumoto or Takayama. Matsumoto will be your choice if you come from Tokyo (take the JR Azusa Express from Shinjuku), or from Nagano (take the JR Shinonoi Line). If you come from Kanazawa or Toyama, take the JR Takayama line to Takayama. If you come from Western Japan (Osaka, Kyoto, etc.), then you probably want to get to Nagoya first (Shinkansen is the fastest), and you can either take the JR Shinano Express to Matsumoto or the JR Hida Express to Takayama.
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 Japan Rail Pass is not valid on these trains and buses.
By bus from Takayama:
Take a Nohi bus from Takayama to Hirayu Onsen from where there are two buses per hour to Kamikochi
Reservation tickets (seiriken):
On your way back to Shinshimashima (Matsumoto) by bus, you will need a reservation ticket (seiriken) to get on the bus. They are free (you just have to say at the Kamikochi Bus Terminal which bus you want to come back with and ask for your seiriken), but you must have them.
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).
There are more photographies in my portfolio: “kamikochi most spectacular scenery of japan”