Midwinter Mailbag: Your Questions Answered

A hearty hello to all of our loyal readers near and far.

I write to you on an unseasonably warm February day in the lakeside town of Suwa. Around here, the snow has been melting a day or two after falling due to daily average temperatures which are well above zero. Up the road in Kamikochi however, the snow has continued to pile. It will still be there when the first wave of visitor pour into the park on the morning of April 17th.

In case you were wondering, all of the images appearing in this piece were posted by Five Sense bloggers on their website having been taken on February 3rd.

There’s not a lot of news to report to report these days, so instead we’ll be sharing some of the correspondence we’ve received since the park closed for winter last November. Some questions, we receive on an almost daily basis (see below). Others, we get less frequently. And then there are a few things that I actually have to look up.

But let’s start with the elephant in the room…

Q1: Could you tell me how to visit Kamikochi during the winter season?

Sorry, no. We’ve been asked not to discuss this topic due to the danger of winter hikers getting lost, injured, or worse during forays into the park. There are no staff around to help in the case of emergencies during the off season, compounding the risks of winter hikes. Our official position is that the park is closed for winter and that, for safety reasons, you should wait till spring to visit.

Actually, dozens of people have written asking about this. We can’t provide any assistance, however. If you write to us with this query, you’ll get something akin to a cut and pasted version of the above paragraph.

Q2: I understand that, but I’d just like to know if it’s possible to get in.

See above.

Q3: When does Kamikochi open to the public in 2023?

The park will open to public transportation on the morning of April 17th. Incidentally, this is now the standard early opening date. It’s been this way for several years now and is expected to continue in this fashion.

Q4: What facilities, services, and businesses will be operating on opening day?

That’s actually a great question. For a variety of reasons, most businesses and services don’t start operating until later in April.

As to which ones will be up and running, Kamikochi’s official Japanese site publishes a list every year. I have yet to see a list for 2023 and the one for 2022 was posted on April 16th (Yes, the day before opening). You can see the Japanese document for last year here: https://www.kamikochi.or.jp/blog/showAttachment/344

If you don’t read Japanese, the gist of it is that only one hotel actually offered lodging to visitors on April 17th, 2022. However, the nearby onsen ryokan Nakanoyu and Sakamaki are both open throughout the year. Additionally, there are several dining options. The Kamikochi Shokudo opens on the 17th and the Gosenjaku Hotel opens its restaurant to customers early, despite not offering lodging until later in the month.

Please research and secure lodging prior to travelling to ensure an optimal experience.

Q5: What courses are open to hikers when the park first opens.

Another good question! Generally, the number of available courses depends on the amount of snow remaining in the park. You can usually expect to hike freely around central Kamikochi–that’s the area around Kappa Bridge and the bus terminal. It’s usually also possible to hike through the Konashidaira area. Other areas like Tashiro Marsh may also be accesible. We’ll be posting info on this very topic in the leadup to opening 2023. For a general idea of what to expect, please consult this post from last season: https://www.kamikochi.org/uncategorized/3-days-till-opening-updates-on-trail-conditions

That’s all for this round of Q&A. We’ll probably post more pieces like this if we continue to receive the same volume of queries as in recent weeks.

Thanks as always to the good folks at Five Sense for sharing the info and images we used in this blog. We look forward to your coverage of the coming season.

We hope that all our readers are in good health are managing to keep warm this winter.

Till next time!

Sources of Information:

Nature Guide Five Sense, Kamikochi blog: https://fivesense.guide/blog/today/126619/

Kamikochi’s official Japanese language site: https://www.kamikochi.or.jp/