Recommended Destinations (for Various Seasons)

It’s now just over a week until the Kama Tunnel opens up to buses and taxis facilitating easy daytrips to Kamikochi and, judging by the number of inquiries we’ve been receiving, people are already lining up for early bird visits.  In lieu of original ideas, we have once again decided to lift something directly from our friends at the National Park Guide Website.  Here are a few of their staff picks for places you’ll want to visit accompanied by photos from various times of year.

 

DISCLAIMER : Some locations listed below, such as the peak of Kitahotaka, are very hard to reach at this time of year.  Unless you are a well equipped and experienced alpinist, probably best to cross them off your list or wait for summer/autumn (more on this below).

河原

The first pick (in no particular order) is shown in the image above.  This placid riverside spot near Tokusawa offers an ideal place to kick back and rest after a long hike.  Gentle breezes and mountainside scenery add to the ambiance.  Tokusawa is about a two hour hike from the Kamikochi Bus Terminal en route to Yokoo and the Karasawa Cirque.  For further info on route times, please consult the following handy resource from our homepage: http://www.kamikochi.org/useful-information/courses.html

 

Recommended Season: year round

 

Next, we have the Konashidaira Campground, shown here in late autumn.  It’s a popular spot to set up camp and very possibly strike up a new frienship, all while reposing in the rustic spendor of this convenietly located area.

 

Recommended Season: year round

 

小梨平

Our next entry is the previously alluded to (and hard to get to) Kitahotaka peak with it’s magnificent view of the famed Yarigatake (“spear mountain”), an object of wonder for countless generations of Japanese and a key location in the history of Japanese mountainerring.  I myself hiked up to Kitaho from Karasawa in the autumn and had a cracking good time.  The subsequent scramble to Karasawa-dake proved more dangerous that I had expected and left me feeling chastened and watching every step.  It’s off limits to all but experienced winter climbers until quite late in the summer, but may be attempted by fit and confident intermediates in late summer and early to mid autumn.

 

Recommended Season:  late summer and early to mid-autumn

北穂小屋から見る槍ヶ岳

Next, we come to the famed Karasawa Cirque, nestled in valley between the Hotaka peaks.  Wildly popular in the autumn when the riotuously colorful foliage is on display, Karasawa may be enjoyed any time from spring to autumn, though spring hiking requires crampons for snowy slopes.  It’s also a rather lengthy hike, meaning that an overnight stay in one of the huts is practically a must.  But hey, I don’t know of many things more regal than sipping a draft beer on the deck of one of Karasawa’s two excellent lodges.

 

Recommended Season: spring (bring crampons!) to the end of the season

 

Which brings us to…a stretch of marshy path on the right bank of the Azusa leading from Kappa Bridge to the Myojin Shrine.  Never done this myself, but it looks worth a try!

 

森の川

 

And once you get to the Myojin area, take a moment to visit the picturesque suspension bridge:

 

明神橋

Lastly, we have Taisho Pond.  Misty and mystical, this now-familair landmark came into being about 100 years ago when that redoubtable old hothead, Mount Yake, last blew its top, damming the river and creating a new lake.  The name “Taisho” commemorates the era in which the lake was born.  If you wish to visit Taisho, the recommended course of action is to get off the bus at the Taisho-ike stop, before the Bus Terminal.  Otherwise, you’ll have to backtrack for more than an hour to get there.

 

明神池

 

Recommended Season: year round

 

I can’t conclude this entry without picking my own favorite from this list.  In addition to being my preferred spot in the greater Kamikochi area, Karasawa is also a strong contender for my favorite place in Japan.  I’ve gone in both spring and autumn and have always found it magical.  Adventurous souls who make it out there will also be tempted by the highest point in the Northern Japan Alps, Okuhotaka-dake.

 

Well, that’s all for now.  Thanks once again to everyone at NPG for supplying the photos and staff picks that made up this week’s blog. We couldn’t do it without you!

 

Sources of Information:

 

National Park Guide website: http://npg-alps.net