A week after being lashed by the wind and rain of typhoon season, Kamikochi finally seems set for some smoother weather. All the usual tokens of summer can be seen around the park, from seasonal vegitation to casual hikers snapping pictures of flowers on their mobile phones. And, take it how you will, there are also very subtle signs of the autumn season to come.
Let’s look at some signs of autumn’s gradual onset in the months to come. First of all, see that flowering plant in the photo above? It is of the visually appealing yet highly poisonous “monk’s hood” family. The yachitorikabuto, as it’s known is Japan, flowered early this year suggesting an early onset of cooler weather.
Next is the less threatening guelder rose. Though edible in small quanities, it can give you quite a belly ache if a significant amount is consumed (NOTE: Poisonous or not, you really shouldn’t be eating or even picking any of Kamikochi’s plantlife, which is protected by strict conservation laws). The guelder rose is already bearing fruit and will soon be taking on its distinctive red hue.
Lastly, we have the Euonymus or “spndle tree,” whose fruit takes on a distinctive pink hue in the autumn. It’s still green for the time being, however.
And for anyone not yet convinced of the whole “change is in the air” theme of this week’s blog, consider the following:
Yes, those are slight traces of yellow we’re seeing on those leaves. The first traces of what will one day become Kamikochi’s celebrated koyo season. Caveat lector: koyo is a still long way off. We’re getting the slightest taste of it here.
But don’t let this talk of change put you off. It’s still very much summer in Kamikochi and daytime around Kappa Bridge tends to be t-shirt weather. With Nagano experiencing cooler summer temperatures than usual, however, you’ll want to pack some warmer clothes as well.
There have been reports of authorities in Tottori Prefecture urging foreign tourists to submit climb plans before embarking on mountain hikes in the area. These measures are apparently being taken in response to a large number of visitors from abroad encountering difficulties on mountain routes after failing to prepare adequately for the weather.
While on-season hikers are not currently being asked to submit such plans at Kamikochi, the news from Tottori highlights the issue of preparedness and safety in Kamikochi’s mountain paths. Researching routes and preparing accordingly is a key part of hiking Japan Alps and should be regarded as the individual’s responsiblity. Luckily, Kamikochi has courses catering to all levels of hikers, trekkers and even technical climbers. While the routes leading to Mount Yakedake and Mount Chou (or Chougatake) are approachable for the reasonably fit beginner, some of the traverses in the Hotaka Range can prove quite dangerous. Know your route and know your limits!
Now that that’s out of the way, we can get on with enjoying the rest of our summer here, and believe me, there’s plenty of summer wine still left to be savoured along the hallowed walks of Kamikochi.
Source of Information:
National Park Guide website: http://npg-alps.net