This British missionary who introduced modern mountain climbing to Japan, first visited Kamikōchi in 1891, and returned repeatedly over the course of the 15 years he lived in Japan to escape the summer heat and climb the surrounding peaks. Today, he is commemorated by the annual Weston Festival on the first Sunday of June. On the day before, there is a group hike which traces the original route into Kamikōchi up 20 plus kilometres of a steep mountain trail which sets out from former Azumi village and crosses the Tokugo Pass before dropping down to Myōjin. At the Festival, flowers are dedicated to Weston by local primary school kids.
|1896||Rev Weston's book "Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps" published in London|
|1915||Eruption of Mt Yakedake blocks Azusa River creating Taishō Pond|
|1916||Sanrinkyoku designates Kamikōchi as Hogorin; bans plant removal|
|1920||Matsumoto Electric Railway (Alpico) is established|
|1924||Kama Tunnel opens|
|1925||Hydropower dam proposal defeated by conservation faction|
|1927||Kappa novel written by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke|
|1928||Kamikōchi nominated most beautiful valley in Nippon Hakkei, bringing national recognition Designated as place of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monument|
|1933||Imperial Hotel opens; First bus passes Kama Tunnel|
|1934||Kamikōchi designated in Chūbu Sangaku National Park Ranch farming ends|
|1935||Regular bus service begins from Shimashima to Kappabashi|
|1952||Designated under the Law for the Protection of Special Natural Cultural Property|
|1954||Large-scale hydropower dam plan proposed by Nagano Prefectural govt and TEPCO but proposal defeated by conservation faction|
|1957||'Ice Wall' publication starts mountain climbing boom|
|1962||Yakedake erupts again, injuring two and wiping out Yakedake Hut|
|1963||Kamikochi Beautification Association established|
|1963||Ropeway plan proposed by MHW but not realized|
|1969||Completion of three giant dams and new generators|
|1970||Kamikōchi Visitor Centre opens in Konashidaira|
|1971||Natural Parks Foundation (NPF) founded with (BES) Beautification Escort Service|
|1972||One million estimated annual visits exceeded for the first time|
|1975||Ban on private cars is introduced (Kamikōchi Line)|
|1994||Alpico introduce hybrid bus system|
|1997||Opening of Abo Tunnel improves Gifu access|
|1999||Start of tipping at toilets system|
|2005||Ban on private buses introduced (Kamikōchi Line)|
Mountains and climbing
Known as the Matterhorn of Japan, the first person to stand on the summit of 3180 m Mt Yari was the priest and mountain ascetic Banryū in July 1828; some 37 years before Wimper became the first person to climb the Matterhorn. Then in 1880 an Englishman named Gowland climbed Yari and coined the view from the top the "Japan Alps" followed by Weston, who went on to popularize the area through his book Mountaneering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps, published in 1910.
Kamonji-goya is where Westonʼs guide, a local hunter called Kamijo Kamonji, lived from 1880 onwards. After paying your respects to the relief, check out the wooden-beamed hut where Iwana fish are skewered over an open hearth. You can still see the British Missionaryʼs original ice axe hanging above the fire-place.
Traces the original route into Kamikōchi up and over the Tokugō Pass from former Azumi village. From the saddle of the pass at 2200m there are outstanding views of Myōjindake.
Great elm trees dot the alpine meadow of this area which was formerly used for pastureland. It is known to Japanese climbers as the backdrop to Inoueʼs famous 1957 novel "Ice Wall." The eastern rock wall of Maehotakadake rises majestically above.
Myojin Shrine and Boat Festival
Every autumn, a number of shrine festivals called “O-fune matsuri“ are held across the Azumino area to give thanks for the harvest. People parade with float-shaped boats to commemorate the Azumi tribe, a seafaring people who fished for a living. The most famous one is held at Hotaka Shrine in Azumino City (Sep 26-27). At Myojin, the Zen-like pond and shrine form the backdrop for a unique annual festival where real boats are still used.
Nishihotaka-dake trailhead shrine
The Torii gates of this shrine marks the boundary between area of humans and the Kami spirits who traditionally inhabited the mountainsides.
Although today's Kappa souvenirs look like cuddly Disney characters, their origins are more fearsome; the mythical creatures originally appeared in Japanese folklore as a type of water sprite much like the Scottish Kelpie used to scare children away from dangers lurking in water.
Kappa Bridge (Kappabashi)
Kappa Bridge is a wooden suspension bridge and known as a symbol of this mountain resort. Measuring 3.1m wide and 36.6m across, it was built across what was traditionally the narrowest point in the Azusa river. Summits of Nishihotakadake, Okuhotakadake and Myojindake, towering mountains over 3000 meters above sea level can be seen from the bridge. Look toward the downstream, Yakedake with slight smoke is coming out from its volcanic activity.
Tashiro Bridge and Hotaka Bridge
Constructed in 1998, these well-designed and environmentally-friendly bridges are made of Japanese larch and cypress produced locally in Nagano prefecture. From here there are magnificents view of the volcano Yakedake in one direction and Hotakadake in the other.
Conveniently located right next to the bus terminal, the Information Centre can provide you with maps, weather updates, and trail reports.
Just 5 minutes further down the trail, the Visitor Centre explains the natural history, geology, plant and wildlife. Exhibits showcase local photographers while visitor activities such as guided walks and film shows also take place here
Konashidaira Camp Site
Camping is a great way to experience Kamikochi's starlit skies and the sound of birdsong at dawn. You can pitch your own tent in sites along the banks of the Azusa (¥700 per person) or hire one for an extra fee. Konashi also has cabins for rent, as well as a restaurant, shop and hot bath (not hot spring).