SHK Monthly Mailbag: June 2015

Good afternoon to all of our dedicated readers in Japan and around the world!  If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Kamikochi over the past week, you may have had the chance to enjoy warm, sunny weather amid occasional rainy spells.  So far the rainy season has been kind of an on and off afair, but it’s also probably not over yet.  But I digress…

 

This week, we’ll be trying out a new approach to our blog based on sharing some recent questions and answers from our Facebook page.  To protect the privacy our readers, we have witheld their names and also paraphrased their words for reasons of clarity.  A big thanks to the folks at the Taishoike website for giving us permission to use some of their images.

 

Let’s start with some of the more recent posts to our Inbox:

 

Q: I’m planning to visit Kamikochi in end Sep this year. Just wanted to check if we can still do hiking in end sep? Thank you very much!

 

A: Hi there! Thank you for your interest in Kamikochi. The answer to your question is yes, you can do all kinds of hiking at Kamikochi well into the autumn season. I myself have hiked Karasawa in September and Mount Yakedake in October and both were spectacular. Please be aware that weather can vary greatly from one day to the next in September and night is generally quite chilly, so you’d be wise to pack accordingly. Here’s a link with some detailed information on popular courses: http://www.kamikochi.org/useful-information/courses.html
Good luck with your planning and have a wonderful journey!

 

September hiking in the Karasawa Col.

Q: I found something about the 4 Day Alps Wide Shinshu/Hida Free Passport, but not sure if this pass is still available in 2015. Would you be able to advise on this? Thanks in advance.

 

A: The pass you speak of actually grants access to a large area encompassing Matsumoto, Kamikochi, Takayama, Norikura, etc. on the circuit shown in the PDF linked below. It does appear to be available and you can pick one up at a participating bus terminal like Matsumoto, Shinshimashima, or Takayama Nohi. The price is 10,290yen at this time. See this brochure for details: http://www.alpico.co.jp/access/ticket/pdf/wide20140401e.pdf Please bear in mind that, if you are only in the area for a short time, it might actually be cheaper to buy the tickets individually. The 4 day pass is best suited to someone who is planning to travel extensively in the area over a 4 day period. Lastly, there is also a two day pass. Please review this information to make an informed decision about what best suits your travel plans. Again, we wish you all the best and hope you get the most out of your visit to Nagano.

 

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Q: Hi! I’d like to ask how to buy bus tickets to go to Kamikochi?

 

A: This link gives you a step by step explanation of how to buy your tickets to Kamikochi on reaching Matsumoto Station: http://www.kamikochi.org/articles/featured-articles/33-matsumoto-to-kamikochi
You might also find this timetable for train and bus times useful. It’s in Japanese, but all the place names are also written in phonetically in English, so you should be able to figure it out: http://www.kamikochi.or.jp/access/bus-timetable_1/
Good luck with everything and please let us know if there’s anything else we can help with. Have a great trip!

 

Q: We are planning to go to Kamikochi in early September. We live in Tokyo and most probably plan to drive. So, it’ll take about 3 hours via Matsumoto and park the car in Sawando and board the bus to Kamikochi? Is that right? We haven’t booked a hotel in kamikochi. We have a young child with us. Would you be able to recommend a hotel which is child friendly and vegetarian and no pork options? Thanks and realli appreciate your assistance. Regards,

 

A: First of all, you’ll want to budget for more than three hours by car to allow for traffic. Three hours sounds a bit fast to me, but I’ve never taken that trip by car. At any rate, if you get an early start, you’ll be in no danger of arriving too late.
Your best options for child-friendly hotels that are likely to accommodate special dietary requests are five places in the Kappa Bridge area:
・Kamikochi Alpine Hotel (アルペンホテル)
・Nishiitoya Sansou (西糸屋山荘)
・Gosenjaku Lodge (五千尺ロッヂ)
・Hotel Shirakabasou (ホテル白樺荘)
・Gosenjaku Hotel (五千尺ホテル)

This map should give you a good idea of their locations: http://www.kamikochi.or.jp/english/areamap/

Also, as luck would have it, all five of the above-mentioned establishments are participating in a special offer, available through our homepage, to save up to 10% on the price of your stay. Have a look if you this this might suit you? http://www.kamikochi.org/special-offers

Now, regarding your food-related requests, most hotels will accommodate such needs if asked ahead of time. So the best thing might be to have a look at your individual options and contact the hotel directly with an inquiry. The larger establishments should offer some assistance in English. Be sure to specify that you can’t eat pork and that it is important that your food contain none of it as, even today, some Japanese regard dietary restrictions as more of a quaint curiosity than a necessity.

Good luck with your planning and we hope you have a great experience in Kamikochi!

 

 

Q: Hi! We’re a group of 4 people planning to visit Kamikochi August 11-13. I have some questions that you might be able to help me with the answers? – We are planning to camp in Konashidaira Camp-jo, is there a need of booking a tent site in advance? – Do you know if we can cook our own food at the camp site? Is there some kind of supermarket were we can buy food in Kamikochi? – The two hotels that have hot springs, onsen, do we have to book a time there or is it drop in? Travelling to/from Kamikochi: – We will come from Kyoto when arriving, is Takayama or Matsumoto the best/fastest way to go through? – When travelling to Kamikochi – is there a latest time we will be able to arrive? If the road closes etc?

A: We’ll try to answer your questions in order to the best of our ability.

1) – We are planning to camp in Konashidaira Camp-jo, is there a need of booking a tent site in advance?
That depends on whether you are bringing your own tent or renting one onsite. If you are bringing a tent to the park with you, there is no need to reserve, but an 800 yen fee is required of everyone camping there. If, however, you are planning on renting a tent, a reservation is required along with a rental fee of 8,000 yen for a 3-4 person tent on the day of your visit. A third option exists in the form of cabins which can be reserved for various fees starting at 4,500 yen per person.
Konashidaira does not offer reception in English, so if you wish to rent a cabin, please send a FAX containing the following info:

・Full name
・Nationality
・Address
・Mobile phone number
・e-mail address
・The date you plan to stay
・The number of people in your group
・The name of the cabin you wish to rent
Fax number:
  (4/22~)

2) – Do you know if we can cook our own food at the camp site? Is there some kind of supermarket were we can buy food in Kamikochi?
Cooking your own food on site is common practice at Japanese lodges, so it shouldn’t be a problem. What might be trickier is purchasing food. While sundries are available at shops around the park, there is no proper “supermarket.” So it’s probably best to stock up in advance. If you’re passing through Matsumoto, there’s a big supermarket in the same building as the bus terminal. Local outdoors shops like Koujitsu Sansei also sell instant food specifically for hiking.

3) – The two hotels that have hot springs, onsen, do we have to book a time there or is it drop in?
Are you planning on staying at said hotels or simply using their baths? If the former, definitely book in advance. If, on the other hand, you are just planning on doing a (“higaeri”) onsen visit, drop in should be OK. Ask at the Tourist Center which hotels offer this service.

4) – We will come from Kyoto when arriving, is Takayama or Matsumoto the best/fastest way to go through?
First of all, there is no “best” way. Matsumoto and Takayama are both vibrant cities with lots to see and do and both are worth checking out. As for getting there, expect to spend 4-5 hours in transit. The to jumping off points are Matsumoto and Takayama, with Takayama being marginally the faster due to having direct buses departing on the hour. Here is some more detailed information: http://www.kamikochi.or.jp/english/access/

5) – When travelling to Kamikochi – is there a latest time we will be able to arrive? If the road closes etc?
From Matsumoto, a train departing the station at 16:45 will get you to Kamikochi by 17:50.

We hope this answers most of your questions. Good luck with your planning and have a safe and enjoyable visit!

 

 

Well, that’s all for this week.  If you found this information useful and would like guidance on any subject related to Kamikochi, please drop us a line at https://www.facebook.com/kamikochi

 

Until next time, plan your trips carefully and hike safely.  We’ll be back next week with another update:

 

Sources of Information:

 

Taishoike Hotel website: www.taisyoike.co.jp/