We help people connect with nature and create lasting memories in the Northern Japanese Alps.
Thank you for your interest in Kamikochi! We have devoted ourselves to the appreciation of Japan’s favorite alpine getaway and sincerely hope we can be of assistance in helping you get the best out of your visit.
立つ鳥跡を濁さず “On departing, a bird leaves no trace.”
About National Parks in Japan
In Japan, National Parks (or kokuritsu koen) 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 encompass a wide variety of concerns that vary from place to place. Typically, the preservation of wildlife and plant life as well as the avoidance of litter and other acts that harm the environment are emphasized.
Before continuing on to the actual rules, let’s consider the wisdom of this Japanese proverb:
立つ鳥跡を濁さず (“On departing, a bird leaves no trace.”)
In other words, responsible visitors to national parks should do their best to leave them as we found them. The more modern proverb, “Take only pictures. Leave only footprints.” communicates the point just as well.
For perspective, let’s go back in time to the early 70s. Foreigners were almost unheard of in Japan, but that fact is incidental. Forty years ago, the path leading into the park would have been a glut of Toyotas, Toyopets, et al. with city dwellers bustling to get into the fabled retreat for respite from busy urban lives. In doing so, however, they brought a bit of urban bustle with them, disturbing some of the natural balance. In time, 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 and taxis and, in much smaller numbers, specially sanctioned cars.
As far as the other rules go, the are few in number, 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.
- Kamikōchi is protected by law: it is illegal to collect plants or wildlife.
- Stick to 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.
- Private cars are not allowed into Kamikōchi (no entry past the Kama Tunnel). Please park and ride from Sawando or Hirayu.
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 compiled by ecologically aware officials concerned with the well being of parks in Japan. There are also, incidentally, common sense for experienced hikers and nature lovers the world over. The fact that Kamikochi has such broad appeal also makes it a popular destination for more casual visitors, some less well-versed in suitable conduct in national parks. Whichever description fits you, we urge you to be responsible.
On “Ambassadors” and Responsibility
This next part dovetails 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, Chuuo, and Kita) into the foreign-friendly moniker of “The Japanese Alps”). Of the two, however, Reverend Walter Weston is something of a hero of ours at this site. A seasoned traveler and alpinist, his writings were key to the emergence of hiking and climbing as recreational pursuits in Japan. Prior to that, wandering mountain paths had been the provenance of Buddhist monks seeking enlightenment rather than invigorating contact with nature. In brief, Weston was the very model of an alpine ambassador, exploring the Japanese Alps and sharing his enthusiasm with the whole world, responsibly and respectfully. His image adorns the Weston Relief in the heart of Kamikochi and his legacy is honored annually at the festival that bears his name.
As ambassadors to Kamikochi, we wish to emulate Weston’s august example, sharing our enthusiasm with visitors from all over the world while encouraging others to do the same, continuing the legacy for new generations. In so doing, we cordially invite all prospective visitors to become ambassadors in their own right. Kamikochi is here for all of us to enjoy. 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 bucolic charm of Tokusawa Marsh, to the scenic walks of Tokugo Pass. All watched over by the majestic Hotaka peaks. Get out there!
We accept travel inquiries through our Facebook Page.
If you have any inquiry aboout Kamikochi, please feel free to inquire by messageing us on our Facebook Page.
The website is managed by SCOP and a group of Kamikochi lovers from around the world. SCOP (a Japanese non-profit organization) has been entrusted by Kamikochi Resort Hotel Association to help this group with the design and management of this website.
If you have questions about the website, please email us at
press [at] kamikochi [dot] org.