Let’s look up. The Northern Japan Alps rises in front of you. Let’s hike in Kamikochi and enjoy magnificent scenery. Kamikochi is one of the most famous scenic spots in Japan.
Kamikochi is one of the most popular resorts in Japan where more than a million people visit every year. In old days, Kamikochi was written in Japanese which means “the place where the God descends” or “the place where you can meet the God.” The place was historically worshipped as a sacred place.
At the present time, the place has become a popular tourist destination considered as a health resort. This time we are going to take you through a hiking trail where you can catch a glimpse of “Kamikochi as a spiritual area.” This is a two-hour hiking course; starting from the Kamikochi Bus Terminal and turning around at Myojin Pond. You can avoid the hustle and bustle of a city. At the same time, the trail is easy to walk, not like climbing a mountain.
How do you access to Kamikochi? When is the best season to visit Kamikochi for sightseeing?
Kamikochi is closed off during winter; from November 16 to April 16 of the following year. It is designated by the national government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and a Special Natural Monument (Natural Protected Area.) As a natural conservation area, the area is closed to private vehicles throughout a year. You can drive as far as Sawando or Hirayu. You need to transfer to a public transportation there.
Regarding the best season for sightseeing in Kamikochi, you can enjoy new tree leaves coming out between late May and the beginning of June, blooming flowers in July and August, and gorgeous autumnal leaves in October. If you wish to relax, you may like to be there during the rainy season. The June precipitation in Kamikochi is generally not high contrary to expectations of many people. Also, fewer tourists visit the area during this month.
Kamikochi is a mountainous area located at an altitude of 1,500 meters. You should be careful of your clothing. It is vital to have outerwear which you can wear on top of another. Also, we recommend that you have rain gear. Further, it is important to wear comfortable walking shoes such as trekking shoes.
Taisho Pond reflecting the Hotaka Peaks on its surface, as if it were a mirror.
Let’s take the Alpico Kotsu Bus to the Kamikochi Bus Terminal which is the starting point of the hiking trail. After the bus passes through Kama Tunnel, which is an entrance to the Kamikochi area, Taisho Pond will appear on the left. Taisho Pond was formed during eruption of Mt. Yakedake on June 6, 1915, that dammed the Azusa River with a mudflow. Larch and others are submerged and decayed while still standing. These trees standing in the pond with exposed white bark add a special ambience to the scenery.
First of all, collect information at the Kamikochi Information Center.
Our hike will start here at the Kamikochi Bus Terminal. Before starting, let’s drop at the Kamikochi Information Center to collect information. The Center have various information about Kamikochi, such as about nature, mountain-climbing, transportation, accommodation and others. There is the “Monument Praying for the Mountain” near the Center. It was erected to the memory of those who had died in the Northern Japan Alps.
Proceed the trail, passing by the Kappa Bridge which is crowded with many tourists.
The Kappa Bridge is located about a five-minute walk from the Kamikochi Bus Terminal. The Kappa Bridge is a symbol of Kamikochi and is also described in the novel “Kappa” of Ryunosuke Akutagawa. It is a wooden bridge with a total length of approximately 37 meters. The first bridge was built in 1891. The current bridge is the fifth one.
This area is called Kamikochi Ginza and is always crowded with tourists enjoying a spectacular view of the Hotaka Peaks. We are going up to the north along the left bank of the Azusa River instead of crossing the Bridge.
To Myojin, which was the center of Kamikochi in old days.
After about an hour’s hike along the left bank of the Azusa River from the Kappa Bridge, we can reach Myojin. From late May to June, breathtaking flowers of sorbus, forget-me-nots and others are in full bloom in this area. Among the mountains in the Northern Japan Alps, Mt. Myojindake, which is 2,931 meters above sea level, is truly magnificent and majestic. It is understandable that this mysterious mountain is described as the mountain where the Hotaka Dai-Myojin dwells.
In old days, people reached Kamikochi through the mountains; going over the mountains after crossing over the Tokumoto Pass, and, then, crossing over the Myojin Pass before arriving at Kamikochi, which was located at the end of the route. Looking at Mt. Myojindake from the Myojin Bridge, you may understand to some extent that the ancient people were in awe of God.
Get luck at spiritual spots in Myojin Pond.
After we cross the Myojin Bridge and pass by the “Kamonji Monument”, Myojin Pond surrounded by conifers will appear before us. Myojin Pond consists of two ponds; Ichino-ike (Kagami-ike) at the front and Nino-ike (Kami-ike) at the back. It is well known that the pond never freezes completely even during winter because of the spring water flowing from Mt. Myojindake.
On the shore of the pond, there is the Inner Shrine of Hotaka Shrine that is dedicated to Hotaka-no-mikoto, who is a guardian deity of maritime and land transportations. After praying at the Shrine for the blessings of the mountain and safety in the journey, let’s proceed following the trail toward the pond (admission of Myojin Pond: 300 yen.) It is said that this is a spiritual area where spiritual spots are scattered throughout the pond.
Embraced in Kamikochi at Dakesawa Marsh.
After leaving Myojin Pond, we will go down to the south along the right bank of the Azusa River to reach Dakesawa Marsh. This area is located at the foot of Mt. Roppyakusan which has gentle ridgelines that makes you feel affectionate towards the mountain. Also, crystal clear spring water flows in the area. Abundant with water and the green, it is the most relaxing area along the course. Let’s walk slowly following the wooden trail while listening to birds singing.
Return to the Kappa Bridge
After a 15-minute walk from Dakesawa Marsh, we will come back to the Kappa Bridge which we passed by when departing. Let’s look at a spectacular view of the Hotaka Peaks from the Bridge once again, so that you will never forget it. Then, let’s finish hiking.
Go a little further to Taisho Pond
If you wish, you may continue to walk to Taisho Pond. From the Kappa Bridge to Taisho Pond, it takes about 20 minutes by walking along the right bank of the Azusa River via the “Weston Monument.” It takes about 40 minutes from the Tashiro Bridge to Taisho Pond through the Nature Research Trail. Thus, it is a two-hour hike for going and returning. The Nature Research Trail has two paths; one going through the forest and the other going along the Azusa River. You can enjoy different scenery by using both trails while going and returning. (Photos provided by the Alps Sangaku-go)