Ken Chin-Purcell

May 26, 2023

Japan day 9: Kamikochi

Starting in Takayama we shifted gears from culture tourists to “wilderness” tourists, and got ready to head to Kamikochi, Japan’s scenic high country. As you’ll see, “wilderness” will need some scare quotes.

But first we had to repack. We were going to hike in to a mountain lodge, so we needed to pare down to a day pack’s amount of just we needed for two nights in the woods.

We hopped on an hour long bus into the mountains to Hirayu Onsen, then another half hour bus through two long, twisting and narrow tunnels to Kamikochi. Past Hirayu Onsen it’s public transport only, and you emerge from the last tunnel into a beautiful mountain valley. It was drizzling when we got there and the mountain tops were up in the clouds. It’s a similar feel in some ways to Yosemite valley.

Here we are at the start:


We had a 5 mile walk into our lodge. There wasn’t much to see looking up except clouds, but the valley floor was scenic.


Branches of the river meandered through the valley floor.


The trail is very established, and they make a big point of staying on trail. It wasn’t too crowded this week but you can tell that the facilities are built for heavier use. Everything is in the rustic style.


There were warning signs not to feed the monkeys, and to watch out for Crescent Moon Bear, back away slowly if you encounter a CMB, etc. Many fellow walkers had bear bells on their packs.

The main river was in a wide wash, and there were several swing bridges connecting the two sides.


The weather was threatening but fortunately it never really rained on us, just a grey drizzly day.


Kamikochi valley floor is about 1500m / 5000 feet elevation, and the peaks around it are 3100m / 10,000 feet. It was considerably cooler than down in Takayama, and trees were still blooming.