Kamikochi: a Summer Escape

In the middle of summer, when the concrete jungles are stifling and humid and you are barely managing to get through each day, you can either spend your weekends inside with air-conditioning… or you can leave the city and head UP!

One of my favourite summer getaways to date has been to the remote Hida mountains of Nagano prefecture. Tucked away in a valley near Mt Hotaka is an area called Kamikochi. Although at the base of a mountain range, it’s still 1,500 metres above sea level! The surrounding peaks are all around 3,000 metres high. The area is part of a national park and the only way to enter is via a special sightseeing bus or taxi. The park is open from mid April to mid November, before they close it off for the snowy winter months.

Stepping off the bus, I felt like I’d stepped straight into a picture-perfect fairytale. Through the lush green forest, the first thing I saw was the well-known Kappa Bashi suspension bridge. The water swirling past under the bridge was crystal clear and seemed to change from teal to turquoise to emerald depending on where you looked. The river looked so pure and inviting. Of course, this water was running down fresh off the mountains and was ice cold. Even dipping your toes in would give your body a shock! And the mountains… Wow! It was a drizzly, overcast day. Looking up towards Mt Hotaka, I could see a lot of white. It couldn’t be snow, could it?! I thought I may have been imagining things. But when the clouds and mist lifted, the white streaks were still there in the crevices of the mountain. I couldn’t believe I was seeing snow just a few hours away from cities that were sweltering in 35 degree heat!

The area around Kappa Bashi is closest to the bus terminal, and as such is packed with tourists. But if you go 5 minutes in any direction, the crowds quickly disappear. There are a few trails, some with boardwalks, others just a path through the forest. Some hikers take on the vertical climb up to one of the peaks, but I decided just to follow the river downstream towards the volcano Mt Yake.

Along the way, I came across all sorts of wonderful sights. There are a bunch of swamps and marshes where the water is so still it looks like glass. Taishiro Pond is also one of the most photographed spots in the area. An ex-colleague, who is also a photographer, gave me a stunning photo he took of this pond in winter when the whole place was covered in mounds of untouched snow. I’m not sure how he was able to get in there in January (maybe that’s a whole other story), but I was very impressed!

There’s also plenty of wildlife to see. I came across a family of monkeys carrying bark they’d ripped off trees. It was very bizarre! A few were up in the trees and for a brief second I thought I was seeing koalas! They weren’t worried about the humans passing by and went about their business as though we didn’t exist.

At the end of the trail was Lake Taisho. On a still, clear day, you can see a beautiful mirror reflection of the mountains. This large pond was actually created from a volcanic eruption in 1915. Oh, so I guess we should say… Happy 100th birthday! The lake is known for the trees which stand decayed in the middle of it and since 1928 it has been protected under a law because of its natural scenic beauty.

Kamikochi truly is one of the treasures of Japan!


Lake Taisho

27 thoughts on “Kamikochi: a Summer Escape

  1. This looks awesome and must be a paradise for nature’s lover. Nothing can be better than being in the beauty and bounty of nature. Rekindling the soul and getting immersed in the glory of nature. In today’s hustle and bustle of hectic city life, taking a break and recharging self in the purity and serenity of nature is a mandatory requirement.
    Great to see you enjoying the mesmerizing beauty of nature…
    Hope you are still having your weekend there.


    1. Yes, even if it’s just a weekend trip, being immersed in nature makes you feel invigorated and ready for the new week! It’s easy to get bogged down with work and stresses of life, but I think city dwellers ought to make an effort to get out and recharge their batteries more often!
      Hope you had a great weekend as well, Nihar. :-)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nothing can be more de-stressing being in the glory of nature, cut of from the cacophony of city dwelling. Job to lifestyle to earning to spending, the comparison takes a heavy toll of harmony and peace of living.
        Taking a break is a must and frequency is important and it has to be nature and more of nature, to get that fresh breathe of air and bout of bounty of nature into our kitty…
        Yes, had good weekend and getting ready for the hectic week. Wishing you a lovely week ahead.
        take care…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely post Celia. I usually abandon Japan in August but I would love to be here one summer for the fireworks and festivals so maybe a mountain get away is the way to do it!


    1. Thanks, Leanne! Fireworks and festivals are so much fun, especially if you have a yukata to get dressed up in :-) And yes, thankfully places that aren’t affected by the terrible humidity do exist. I think mountain resort hopping is the way to go! Hire a car and spend a few days at each place!


        1. No worries! The closest cities are Matsumoto (in Nagano) and Takayama (in Gifu). It takes about 1.5 hours from both cities on a long and winding road.


    1. I am definitely blessed to be able to visit places like this. It’s amazing how much a change in scenery and weather/temperature can alter your state of mind. Glad to take you on this journey with me! :-)

      Liked by 1 person

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