70 min From Takayama
70 min From Matsumoto
1,500 m (4,921 ft)
- A photo in front of Kappa Bridge
- Kamikochi Visitor Center
HOW TO GET HERE
Many visitors to Kamikochi are left stunned by their first view of the valley. As you emerge from the forest, the valley entrance opens onto the sight of Mt. Yakedeake’s active volcanic peak, clouds of steam rising from its bleached summit. Ahead are the calm, clear waters of Taisho Pond, formed when the mountain’s most recent eruption, in 1915, dammed the river. The scenery is magnificent in all seasons, but many locals believe that the contrast of lush green foliage, barren rock and snow-crusted valleys in early summer shows Kamikochi at its finest.
Serious hikers start their ascents to the area’s highest summits from Kamikochi. But the majority of visitors prefer to walk the gentle trails along the Azusa River, through forests of larch, elm, and a unique member of the willow family called kesho-yanagi, or “make-up willow,” for the dusting of white powder that appears on young saplings. Wildflowers, butterflies and mammals—including monkeys and black bears—can be spotted in the area, and bird watchers come from far and wide to delight in its many migratory and nonmigratory species.
A great deal of effort goes into protecting Kamikochi. Private cars have been banned from the area since 1996, and only buses and taxis are allowed beyond the tunnel that leads into the park. The number of lodging facilities—which range from elegant hotels to campsites—is restricted, so it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance.
Visitors are asked to cooperate in protecting the area’s natural beauty. Due to heavy snowfall in the winter months, transportation to Kamikochi is only available from April 17 to November 15. The peak seasons are around the beginning of May and from late July to October.