We help people connect with nature and create lasting memories in the Northern Japan Alps.
Thank you for your interest in Kamikochi! We are devoted to the appreciation of Japan’s favorite alpine getaway and sincerely hope we can help you get the best out of your visit.
“On departing, a bird leaves no trace.”
About National Parks in Japan
In Japan, National Parks are areas that are designated as significant to Japan’s natural environment and subject to regulations intended to preserve and protect them to the greatest extent possible. These regulations vary from place to place, but typically they emphasize the preservation of wildlife and plant life, as well as acts that harm the environment such as littering.
Before looking at the actual rules, let’s consider the wisdom of this Japanese proverb.
“On departing, a bird leaves no trace.”
In other words, as responsible visitors to national parks, we should do our best to leave the parks just as we found them. The more modern proverb, “Take only pictures. Leave only footprints.” also has the same meaning.
For perspective, let’s look at the situation in the early 70s. Forty years ago, the road leading into the park would have been a long line of Toyotas, Toyopets, and other cars with city dwellers who wanted to go to the fabled resort to escape from busy urban lives. In doing so, however, they brought a bit of urban bustle with them, disturbing the natural balance. Eventually, it was decided that Kamikochi would be better off with no cars and thus it became a car-free zone. The only automobiles you will see in Kamikochi these days are buses, taxis, and a small number of specially approved cars.
As for the other rules go, there are only a few and they are easily understandable and simple to follow:
How to Enjoy Kamikochi Responsibly (i.e. The Rules)
- Please take all your trash with you, including leftover food and cigarette butts.
- Please do not feed the wild animals, not even monkeys and ducks.
- Kamikochi is protected by law: it is illegal to collect plants or wildlife.
- Stay on the trail; do not trample through marshes or other fragile environments
- No camping except in designated areas.
- No fires except in designated areas.
- Water is scarce above the timber line; please conserve it and protect water sources.
The Journals are written by people who love Kamikochi and want to share their experiences with you.
Who Made these Rules and Why Should We Follow Them?
These rules were created by ecologically minded officials concerned with the well-being of parks in Japan. The rules are also common sense held by experienced hikers and nature lovers around the world. But, because Kamikochi has such broad appeal, it is also a popular destination for more casual visitors, who may not be aware of suitable conduct in national parks. Whether you are a long-time nature lover or a newcomer to a protected national park, we urge you to be responsible.
About “Ambassadors” and Responsibility
This next section fit perfectly with our statement of purpose as ambassadors of the world enjoying nature in Nagano. As it happens, Kamikochi owes much of its popularity to two distinguished gentlemen of the Victorian Age: William Gowland and Walter Weston. Gowland was responsible for grouping three key mountain ranges (known in Japanese as the Akaishi, Kiso, and Hida) into the foreign-friendly nickname of “The Japanese Alps.” However, Reverend Walter Weston is one of heroes this site. A seasoned traveler and alpinist, his writings were key to the emergence of hiking and climbing as recreational pursuits in Japan. Before that, wandering in the mountain had been an activity reserved for Buddhist monks seeking enlightenment rather than invigorating contact with nature. In brief, Weston was the very model of an alpine ambassador, as he explored the Japan Alps and shared his enthusiasm with the whole world, responsibly and respectfully. A plaque of his image adorns the Weston Relief in the heart of Kamikochi and his legacy is honored annually at the Weston Memorial Festival.
As ambassadors to Kamikochi, we wish to emulate Weston’s example, sharing our enthusiasm with visitors from all over the world while encouraging others to do the same in order to continue the legacy into new generations. In doing so, we invite all visitors to become ambassadors in their own right. Kamikochi is here for all of us to enjoy, so we might as well return the favor.
And what does it mean to form a meaningful connection with nature? Whether you travel to Nagano Prefecture, South Africa, Peru, or Iceland, it is important to be moved by the natural environment and return home slightly different, transformed by a unique and unforgettable place. There are many things to enjoy in Japan, from the hyper-modern manic blur of Tokyo, to the serene temples of Kyoto, and the old world charm of Kanazawa and Shirakawago. Kamikochi is a place unlike any other. Once you have escaped the crowds of Kappa Bridge, the Northern Alps are yours to experience. From the unearthly calm of Taisho Pond, to the peaceful charm of Tokusawa Marsh, to the scenic walks of Tokugo Pass, all watched over by the majestic Hotaka peaks. Get out there!