Kamikochi is located in the west of Nagano Prefecture, on the border with Gifu Prefecture, at an altitude of about 1,500 meters. Although 1.2 million people visit every year, Kamikochi retains much of its pristine nature, and its magnificent wilderness overwhelms all who behold it. This area offers many attractions, including Taisho-ike pond, which was formed after Mt. Yake's major eruption in 1915 (during the Taisho Period — hence the pond's name), Kappa-bashi bridge, described as Kamikochi's symbol, and Myojin-ike pond, which appears mystical in its setting nestled among coniferous trees.
Undoubtedly the greatest charm of Kamikochi is the spectacular view of the Hotaka Mountains that can be seen from various locations in Kamikochi. These magnificent peaks, all ranging around the 3,000-meter mark, reveal different sides of themselves depending on the angle, location, and season, and could almost be described as celestial. Oku-Hotaka (3,190 m), the highest peak in the Northern Alps and Japan's third highest mountain, was designated as one of the 100 famous Japanese mountains and also included in the more recent list, the 100 new famous Japanese mountains. Meanwhile, Nishi-Hotaka (2,909 m) is listed as one of Japan's 100 floral mountains.
For those who want a casual hiking experience, we recommend the course from Kappa-bashi bridge to Taisho-ike pond. The round trip is about 4 km and takes about 3 hours, making for an enjoyable hike even for beginners due to the relatively even elevation. Enjoy the beautiful scenery while being soothed by the clear waters of Azusa River and Mother Nature. Kamikochi Bus Terminal is a 6-minute walk from Kappa-bashi Bridge.
For those who want to delve deeper into Kamikochi, professional guides can accompany you to make your time extra enjoyable. Guided tours are available in Japanese only.
Getting there and around
Shinshu Matsumoto Airport → Matsumoto Bus Terminal (30 minutes by local bus) → JR Matsumoto Station (5 minutes on foot)
JR Nagoya Station → JR Matsumoto Station (about 2 hours and 30 minutes by Limited Express Shinano)
JR Shinjuku Station→ JR Nagano Station (about 2 hours and 30 minutes by Limited Express Shinano)
Train (from Matsumoto direction)
Take the Alpico Kamikochi Line to "Shinshimashima Station," then transfer to a local bus bound for "Kamikochi Bus Terminal" (60 minutes). It is a 5-minute walk from the Kamikochi Bus Terminal.
Kamikochi Onsen is a natural spring that gushes out from under the Mt. Yake volcanic zone at an elevation of 1,500 meters. It contains properties that are gentle on the skin. Discovered in the 1830s, Kamikochi Onsen is blessed with the ultimate location and has been used by many tourists and mountain climbers since long ago.
Some hotels and other lodging facilities offer day-trip bathing, so you can soak away the fatigue of your trip in the hot water while relaxing in a pristine, natural setting.
Amazing star-gazing spots
The Taisho Pond area is shrouded in darkness at night, making it an excellent spot for stargazing. On a clear night, the stars that fill the sky are an exquisite sight that only those who stay overnight can enjoy. In addition to resort hotels such as the Kamikochi Imperial Hotel, there are also three campgrounds, Konashidaira Campground, Tokusawa Campground, and Yokoo Campground, where visitors can enjoy "Kamikochi camping," in some of Japan's most scenic mountain locations.
Chubusangaku National Park／中部山岳国立公園
Chubusangaku National Park was one of the first national parks created in 1934, and is one of Japan's top-tier mountain parks spanning the entirety of the Northern Alps. The park consists of 3,000-meter-high peaks including the Ushirotateyama Mountain Ranges (where Mt. Shiroyama is located,) the Hotaka Mountains, Mt. Norikura, and so on.
The scenery is breathtaking in any season, but especially in early summer when the valley is covered with lush green trees below and lingering snow overhead.
In order to protect the rich natural environment, Kamikochi has a year-round car-free zone. In addition, the region is actively working to preserve the environment and create a litter-free town.
Kamikochi is cool even in summer, but the "wind holes" along the Kamikochi walking trail from Kappa Bridge to Myojin Pond serve as natural refrigerators where cool air spurts out from the gaps in the rocks, cooled by the frozen soil that forms in winter. Place your hand over the top of one of these wind holes and feel the cool gusts of air for yourself!
Travel Advice and Tips
Located at the foot of Kappa Bridge, Gosenjaku Hotel is said to have the best view of Mt. Hotaka. The hotel offers authentic French cuisine, original coffee, cakes and sweets, and a selection of alcoholic beverages that can be enjoyed while leisurely appreciating the gorgeous Kamikochi scenery.
Shoho is a luxurious hot spring ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) located in the highlands of Utsukushigahara Onsen, Nagano Prefecture. Its reputation of offering hospitality that makes visitors feel right at home has earned it praise among many gues....