Expert Insight: Getting the Most out of the Karasawa Col

A view of the surrounding peaks, looking up from the Karasawa Col. Taken in late September of 2018, this image shows an advanced stage of autumn foliage on the slops above the huts.

After a lengthy wait, the autumn foliage in the Karasawa Col now appears to be close to its peak. Just yesterday, the Karasawa Hyutte’s homepage posted this update with pictures of current conditions (as of 2019/09/30).

Yamahack, which is another site devoted to more general issues surrounding hiking and mountaineering in Japan, have posted a helpful guide on the topic of visiting Karasawa. In particular, they offer some top tips on how to deal with inevitable overcrowding and other concerns during the busiest time of the season.

Since the guide is in Japanese, we’ve selected a few key points and offer them for your perusal here:

  • TENTS: Anyone planning on renting a tent from the Karasawa Hyutte should be aware that you need to reserve three months in advance. So, if you haven’t already reserved, you’re probably out of luck for this year. If, on the other hand, you plan to carry your own tent, we urge you to bring a compact one and get to the camping area as early as possible. Tent space is hotly contested in the area and you’ll stand a better chance if you get there first and don’t take up too much space.
  • SLEEPING IN A LODGE: Mountain huts and lodges get packed like sardine tins at peak periods, potentially making it difficult to sleep. We suggest investing in a few helpful items such as eye masks, earplugs, and sleeping bag liners.
  • TOILET FACILITIES AT LODGES: Please be aware that these are very crowded in the early morning. Get there as early as possible, and prepare for long wait times. Yamahack recommends the use of portable toilets, though such items may not be in everyone’s comfort zones.
  • PHOTO OPS: Everyone knows that the foliage is the prime attraction for photographers. What you may not know is that the sea of illuminated tents spread out across the camping area after nightfall also makes a great photo. It’s worth taking your time and getting a good shot, especially if you have a camera and tripod.

Karasawa tents by night. (photo: Tammy Akahane)


  • BEER!: A mug of cold draft beer on the Karasawa Hyutte patio, perhaps along with a warm dish of oden, is synonymous with a trip to Karasawa. Get your orders in quick though. Supplies have been known to run out…
  • DAWN: The alpine phenomenon of Morgenröte, in which the red dawn sky paints the mountainsides a similar hue, is among the most celebrated experiences of mountain culture. But you’ll miss it if you sleep in, so get an early start.

Morgenröte on the Hotaka ridgeline. (photo: Tammy Akahane)

  • CHILL FACTOR: Though daytime temperatures are often warm, sub zero conditions and frost can occur overnight. Make sure to have appropriate attire such as down jackets and fleece inners on hand, even if you don’t wind up using them.
  • THE PANORAMA COURSE: Fit and experienced hikers should consider following the Panorama Course for their return hike to Kamikochi. This scenic route is more challenging than the one up and down the Yokoo Valley, but rewards your efforts with spectacular views you may not have seen on the way up.

Thank you to the contributors at Yamahack for posting an insightful guide on a topic which we believe is of interest to our readers. If you visit Karasawa this season and take a picture that captures some of the magic of the season, feel free to share it on the wall at our Facebook page.

Sources of Information:

Karasawa Hyutte homepage:

Yamahack homepage:

Nature Guide: Five Sense, Kamikochi blog: