As Japan’s summer holiday season draws near so does the time of Kamikochi’s peak popularity (no pun intended). People just can’t resist the temptation of cooler, cleaner air in the Japan Alps and the relief it provides from hot weather elsewhere. In times past, when the park was accessible by automobile, visitors could look forward to spending much of their time waiting in traffic. These days, however, restricted access and a convenient bus service have made things much easier.
That said, there will be crowds of people all around Kamikochi this summer, especially in high traffic areas like Kappa Bridge:
And it’s not just people who are flocking to Kamikochi. While visitors from around Japan snap pictures of the Hotaka range, plant and insect life continues to flourish, as seen here:
Part of Kamikochi’s appeal comes from its well-known, well-deserved reputation as being “nature’s cooler.” The higher altitudes up here mean that the temperature in the morning might hover just below 20 degrees, while the temperature at midday will stay comfortably below thirty. If you are not accustomed to summer conditions in Japanese cities, temperatures in the mid to high thirties are the norm from late July to early September.
The thermometer on the left shows the temperature at 7:45am, while the one on the right shows the temperature at 1:30pm
Lower temperatures combined with lower humidity levels and cool breezes make for a winning combination!
Taking in the alpine scenery and the sight of the Azusa River flowing through its midst supplies a kind of spiritual refreshment that only comes replacing grey city-scapes with majestic, mountainous vistas.
And naturally, as you move toward the higher elevations of mountain paths, the crowds begin to thin out. If you are planning a stay at a mountain hut, you are advised to book early as they can easily become packed at this time of year. Also, please bear in mind that, while the weather might be warmer, all of the common sense of hiking and climbing still applies: be sure to take necessities like rainwear with you. The mountains’ relatively high UV level also makes sunburn a distinct possibility. Judicious use of wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen can save you some discomfort the next day.
Despite the crowds that are gathering as I write, Kamikochi is a great place to take refuge from increasingly hot summer weather. Whether you’re planning a casual visit or a vigorous hike in the mountains, you should consider visiting nature’s cooler in the coming weeks.
Sources of Information:
– Kamikōchi National Park Guide Website (http://npg-alps.net/)
-Kamikochi Gosenjaku Group’s Website (http://www.gosenjaku.co.jp/)