Japan 2014: Kamikochi

I’ve never been much of one for hiking and the outdoors, but that all changed on May 17th when I visited Kamikochi (上高地). Taking a much-needed weekend off from my work duties in Japan, I met my friend and we travelled together to Kamikochi for a spot of hiking and fresh air. I think it would be fair to say I have never seen such beautiful scenery, and I finally learnt what ‘breathtaking’ means.

Kamikochi

Kamikochi – the land of gods

After dropping off our things at the Hotel Shirakabaso where we would be staying the night, we set off for a gentle hike down to Myojin-ike (明神池 / Myojin Pond) and Myojin-bashi (Myojin Bridge). The map below, taken from the official Kamikochi tourism website, shows the area.

Kamikochi area map

Kamikochi area map

The walk down to the Myojin area wasn’t really that far, but we took our time and admired the scenery along the way. And what scenery!

Kamikochi

Hiking in Kamikochi

Kamikochi

A river runs through it…

Kamikochi

Watch out for water sprites!

Kamikochi

Still snowy…

There was still snow on the mountains, which I just hadn’t expected in May. Along the way we even spotted a raccoon…

Raccoon signs

Raccoon!

OK, so not a real raccoon, but how cute are these signs!

Raccoon signs

Raccoons keep watch

In fact, Japan came up trumps with the cute again here in Kamikochi – even the information and warning signs were adorable.

あぶないよ!

あぶないよ! Watch out!

Cute sign

Even if you get lost, it’s cute!

Near Myojin Bridge we rested in Kamonji-Goya mountain hut and snacked on some freshly caught ‘iwana’ fish (the ‘white spotted char’, a kind of trout).

Kamonji-Goya mountain hut

Kamonji-Goya mountain hut

Iwana

Cooking iwana

Iwana

Iwana – don’t ask, just eat!

It was very salty, but really good. This guy seemed to take great pleasure in his job…

Catching iwana

Caught some!

Myojin Pond, described on my map as ‘a solemn pond in a virgin forest’, is part of a shrine. Every year on October 8th a boat festival takes place in the shrine, which sounds kind of cool.

Kamikochi

Myojin-ike

Kamikochi

Myojin-ike

Kamikochi

Myojin-ike

Hotaka Shrine

Hotaka Shrine

Crossing Myojin Bridge we began retracing our steps down the other side of the river, heading back to our accommodation.

Myojin Bashi

Myojin-bashi

Myojin Bashi

Looks creaky but it wasn’t…

Our hotel was right by the famous Kappa-bashi, or Kappa Bridge.

Kappabashi

Kappa-bashi

Kappa (河童) are a kind of ‘yokai‘ (妖怪) or monster from Japanese folklore, and I think they’re probably my favourite creature. There’s be a whole lot more to come on this blog on the subject of kappa once I reach the Tohoku portion of my trip, but for now just remember that these little, often green, ‘river children’ are pretty nasty (but kind of cute!).

Naturally, kappa were all over the omiyage…

Omiyage

Kawaii kappa omiyage

And the hotel…

Kappa in Hotel Shirakabaso

Kappa caught a fish

Kappa in Hotel Shirakabaso

Kappa – so cute!

Our hotel room was a simple, Japanese style room.

Hotel Shirakabaso

Our room at the Hotel Shirakabaso

All the fresh air had worn me out and I slept really well. The following morning we rose early for a bit more hiking and were rewarded with this gorgeous view from our window:

View from Hotel Shirakabaso

Morning has broken, like the first morning…

Kamikochi, part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園), is hardly touched and the few buildings that are there are built discreetly and in keeping with the area. It’s simply beautiful.

Short on time, we decided to take a bus down to Taisho-ike (大正池 / Taisho Pond) this morning and hike back. Taisho-ike was formed in 1915 when Mount Yakedake erupted and caused the river to be blocked. It’s stunning, and we were so lucky with the weather that morning.

Taisho-ike

Taisho-ike

Taisho-ike

Taisho-ike – breathtaking

After leaving Taisho-ike we met some Japanese macaques just wandering along. I’ve seen the snow monkeys in Nagano before, but these wild monkeys were somehow different. They were in charge, and we were on their land.

Wild macaques

Monkey magic…

Wild macaques

Spying on macaques

Wild macaques

Mother & baby

There were more monkeys than people around, and that was a little scary but also incredibly cool. I kept an eye out for monkeys (and kappa!) all the way back.

Kamikochi

The path to…

Kamikochi

…more gorgeous Kamikochi

Before getting on the bus we just had time for a ‘kappa-yaki’ – a sweet pancake filled with red beans. Yum!

Kappa-Yaki

Kappa-Yaki – om nom nom.

Kazueさん – ありがとう for the fantastic idea to go to Kamikochi! 楽しかった!

Me & Kazue in front of Kappabashi

Me & Kazue in front of Kappabashi – say チーズ!

Kamikochi is only open from mid-April to mid-November, so please be careful if you plan to go there (which I highly recommend you do!). I’m itching to go back and explore some more.

2 thoughts on “Japan 2014: Kamikochi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s