As we draw nearer to the longest days of the year, new life continues to emerge throughout Kamikochi in the form of local plant and animal life. Everywhere you look these days, it’s colorful flowers blooming, ducks splashing around in ponds, and even mischievous monkeys swinging from branch to branch above the tranquil scenes. When the weather cooperates, it’s a delightful time to be out in nature.
One enduring source of appeal for visitors to the Japan Alps is the unique character of some of the animals found here. The Japanese macaque (macaca fucata, or snow monkey) is a particular favorite among foreign tourists and easy enough to spot around Kamikochi. Beware though, as these primates also have the unofficial designation of simius impudens, or “cheeky monkeys.” If not treated with respect, they can be a dangerous nuisance to unwary hikers who cross their paths. Detailed info on this topic may be found here: https://www.kamikochi.org/blogs/169-monkey-control-patrols-are-in-effect.html
Less imposing is the Rock Ptarmigan, a species of wild grouse called “raicho” (雷鳥, literally “thunder bird”) in Japanese:
Male and female “raicho” (L and R, respectively) displaying spring plumage.
You’ll know these little guys are in the area when you hear their distinctive, frog-like croaking. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, you might be surprised by how approachable they are, making for some nice photo ops. Don’t touch them though. Like all other living things in Kamikochi, raicho are strictly protected by regulations.
Other notable alpine species include Japanese serrow or “Kamoshika” (never seen one myself) and a whole menagerie of insect life, all here to discover!
If seasonal flowers are your thing, now is the perfect time to see rhododendron, whose luminous orange blooms are easily recognizable:
And then there are the Geum macrophyllum (nope, couldn’t find a non-scientific word for this one) and also geraniums.
I know I must be sounding more and more like a broken record by now, but be sure to check the weather forecasts to get the most out of your visit to Kamikochi. Hardened hikers don’t mind a spell of rain here and there…and then there are the rest of us. Well, just to be clear about it, packing rain gear is an essential for anyone planning to travel a significant distance within the park. Even at the best of times, weather in the mountains can change without warning.
It is a great time to visit, however. As we’ve just seen, there are certain things, such as seasonal vegitation that can only be enjoyed now. Come visit us here, some fine day in the near future!
Sources of Information:
Shirakaba-so Hotel website: http://shirakabaso.com/
National Park Guide website: http://npg-alps.net