We planned to write beautifully about Kamikōchi... but then we started sorting out the pictures and realized that they speak of themselves. So, without much ado, here are a couple of excellent reasons why you want to come and what you want to see here.
Taishō Pond (Taishō-ike)
This pond was created when the eruption of Mt. Yakedake in 1915 caused a mudslide which blocked the Azusa River. Even today, a few of the submerged trees can be seen in the pond, and a variety of plant life exists in the surrounding marshlands. As the water level of the lake drops due to the flow of debris from the mountainside, the lake is dredged of silt annually and the dam is maintained artificially to generate hydropower.
With the view of the trees standing withered in the pond in the morning haze and Mt. Hotaka and Mt. Yakedake being reflected on the surface of the pond against the clear sky, Taishō Pond is one of the most popular scenic points in Kamikōchi.
At a height of 2455m, this is the only active volcano in the Japan Alps, and one of the few active volcanoes in Japan where you're allowed to hike to the top. The Yakedake lava dome adjoins 2 other extinct volcanoes that together form part of the Norikura volcanic zone. After intense activity in the early 20th century, including the blast which created Taisho-ike Pond in 1915, there was a period of calm before Yakedake erupted again in 1962. You can still see plumes of smoke rising from the top today.
Tashirō Pond (Tashirō-ike)
Passing Taisho Pond and following hiking trail in the deep forest for a while, Tashiro Pond suddenly appears. Clear water reflects beautiful sky and towering mountains and various kinds of flowers covers the edge of the pond in every season.
Breathtaking Japanese Azalea (Rhododendron japonicum) and Sagisuge (Eriophorum gracile) flowers can be seen in the summer, and they turn white by frost coatings in the late autumn. Tashiro Pond never frozen over completely because of spring water underneath. However the area of pond has been decreasing by the erosion of Kasumisawadake year after year. In some area, the pond has turned into marsh, by accumulation of dead leaves and other residue.
Dedicated to Walter Weston, a British missionary credited with introducing the Japan Alps to the West, and reknowned within Japan for introducing modern mountain climbing. Next to the relief is an open meadow and picnic benches with shelter.
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.
Kappa Bridge (Kappabashi)
Kappa Bridge is a wooden suspension bridge and known as a symbol of this mountain resort..The bridge's fame stretches back to 1927 novel by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. 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. Kappa Bridge is one of the most popular scenic area with deep forests of Keshou Yanagi (a kind of willow, Chosenia arbutifolia) and Japanese larch trees.
“Kappa” is an imaginary creature originated in Japan. It is said that long ago there was an abyss around this area where Kappa lived. Perhaps another story says that travelers once waded through the river by putting clothing on their head, and they resembled Kappa. However, the true origin of the name of this bridge “Kappa” is still unknown.The water of Azusa River is chilly even in the summer.
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).
Myōjin Pond (Myōjin-ike)
Walk along Azusa River from Kappa Bridge for about one hour, tourists will get to an area called Myojin where several lodges and shops attract visitors. Following the trail, Myojin Pond filled with clear water. Myojin Pond actually consists of a bigger pond and a smaller pond joined together, and crystal clear water is always spring out from under ground. The combination of lush green vegetation, solemnly-spaced rocks and the reflection of Mt. Myojindake in the pond (admission ¥300) ensures the scenery here is often compared to a Zen garden.
On every October 8th, Hotaka Shrine festival is taken place at the pond with some boats decorated with Heian period fashion, and prayers for mountain’s safety and world peace for the year.
The Takezawa Marsh, reached in a 5-10 minute walk from the Kappabashi along the hiking trail towards Myojin Pond, is one of the most scenic areas of Kamikochi.
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."
Follow the wooden boardwalk through a deciduous forest made up of birch and elm trees. The picnic site and fine views of the Azusa river bed make this a great spot for lunch.