The great haiku poet Basho once described winter as “world of one color,” in which the livery of past seasons has been covered over by snow. However, at the moment, Kamikochi is still a world of many colors, with autumn foliage still gracing the trees below and the first significant snowfall of the season giving the mountaintops glorious crowns of white.
It’s a unique time of year and perhaps my favorite: the best of both worlds, really.
Last week, just as Typhoon 26 was making people nervous down below, the weather reports for the Northern Alps were calling for 22cm of new snow, so it came as no surprise when locals awoke to the sight of snowy peaks in the following days, with famous mountains from Hakuba to Kamikochi sporting sharp new winter hats.
We’ve taken the liberty of borrowing some photographs from the blogs of various Kamikochi based businesses to help give you a sense of how things looked:
First, some stunning shots taken by staff at the Shimizu-ya Hotel, this past Thursday morning:
As you can see, the late autumn ambience presents a mix of warm radiance and winter stillness. Chilly mornings are nothing new, as we reported the first frost about a month ago, but the days grow colder as we enter the final third of October. And, of course, a glance at the calendar tells us that there’s less than a month left to enjoy regular access to Kamikochi, with the closing ceremony planned for November 15th.
This haunting picture of Mount Yake, from the Shirakabaso Hotel blog, shows just how dramatically the scene can change overnight. It was just a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about warm, summer-like weather atop Yakedake (https://www.kamikochi.org/articles.html). Clearly, it’s not summer-like now:
And these pictures, from the Shirakabaso and Gosenjaku blogs (respectively) illustrate the unique Japanese expression 雪化粧 (literally, “snow make-up”) whereby a dusting of snow on the mountaintops has the effect of making them seem decorated or “made-up”:
This distinctive ridgeline in the Hotaka Range takes on a whole new character, with it’s “snow make-up.”
You won’t want to miss the impressive finale of Kamikochi’s 2013 season, even if you’ve already visited this year. Part of the beauty of the changing seasons is that each offers a new and different experience from what came before.
As always, visitors should be aware that changing weather means changing hiking conditions at higher altitudes. What was welcoming to hikers of all levels in the summer will gradually become more and more difficult for people without special skills. One rule that applies to everyone is to prepare both warm clothing and rain gear. Getting wet in the midst of a late-season hike is a recipe for discomfort and danger.
We’ll be providing up to date coverage of the rest of the season in Kamikochi with weekly updates leading up to November’s closing ceremony, so please be on the lookout. Till then, we wish safe and happy travels to everyone. And please feel free to visit our Facebook page with any questions or comments you might have: https://www.facebook.com/kamikochi
Sources of Information:
Shimizu-ya Hotel website: http://www.kamikochi-shimizuya.com
Shirakabaso Hotel website: http://shirakabaso.com
Gosenjaku Group website: http://www.gosenjaku.co.jp
Natural Parks Foundation Website: http://www.bes.or.jp/kamikochi