A hearty hello to all of our readers around the globe!
It’s been two weeks since Kamikochi shut its gates, and winter is definitely beginning to stake its claim on Nagano. Sub-zero morning lows and frozen windshields remind us that the silver season is inbound, while in the north of the prefecture, significant snowfall has already occurred. Nothing a warm stove, a ski pass, and access to a few streaming services can’t help, eh?
As promised in our last blog, we’ll be providing a recap of the whole 2021 season in a two-part, blockbuster post! So get cozy, and settle in for a sparkling review of a subdued but special year in Kamikochi from our old friends at Nature Guide Five Sense.
Anyone entering Kamikochi early on April 10th (staff only!), would have found the park quite chilly but a little short on snow. Indeed there was significantly less of the white stuff than in years past. As if on cue, however, a blizzard swept in to welcome the first wave of visitors on April 18th. You can see the immediate after affects above.
While the lack of snow is worrying from an environmental standpoint, it did make pre-season preparations much easier than usual.
As visual hallmarks of early spring go, anemone have no rival. These wildflowers of the buttercup family add a sprinkling of delicate white to the emerald fields of new spring green. Like so many tokens of spring, they are also usually short-lived. This quality, along with their fragile beauty, has earned them the nickname of 春の妖精 (haru no yousei, or “eleves of the spring”) in Japanese.
Surprisingly, the anemone stuck around longer than usual this year, though the reason for their longevity was less desirable than you might think…
Whereas anemone and other spring ephemerals tend to decay back into their stems after a short time, heavy rainfall and flooding inundated the plants this season, slowing their development. Sadly, the flooding also led to Kamikochi being closed from May 21st to 23rd when roads became unsafe to traverse.
Another casualty of the heavy rain were the Siebold’s crab trees around the eponymous Konashidaira Camping Area. They just didn’t bloom with their usual flair this year, so we’re hoping for a better showing next time around.
All the same, June was a lovely time to visit this past season as smaller crowds made for a quieter more peaceful experience for those who did make the trip.
There were of course other seasonal flowers to see, including the schizocodon. First time hearing of this one? You’re not alone. At any rate, the Japanese name of イワカガミ (iwakagami or “mirror of the rocks”) is much easier on the ear.
Many will find the rhododendron a more familiar entry in the spring alamanac:
July ushered in the warmer summer months with customary aplomb. Despite it’s reputation as a peak rainy season month, July passed without any closures due to excessive rain. Hurrah!
Fewer visitors than in past years also may have made July a better time for bird and butterfly watching:
And with that, we conclude Part 1 of the retrospective. Join us again next time for Part 2!
Till then, stay and warm.
Sources of Information:
Nature Guide Five Sense Kamikochi blog: https://fivesense.guide/blog/column/32134/