Kamikochi National Park: The Japanese Alps

Kamikochi

Earlier in the summer I went hiking through one of the most beautiful national parks in central Japan. It’s called Kamikochi and is located in Nagano Prefecture. Outside of Japan Nagano is more famous as a snowboarding and skiing paradise and the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

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It’s also quite famous abroad as the home of the internet sensation and meme-worthy Japanese Snow Monkeys.

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Inside of Japan Nagano is just as famous for Komikochi, the most beautiful national park in western Japan.

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The very beginning of our journey into Kamikochi

I think tourists aren’t as familiar with Kamikochi because it is difficult to get there. The only way to get there comfortably is by car and there are months where the park is closed to visitors because of the snow. It’s such a shame because it is one of the most beautiful places I have been to in Japan.

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Th forest path when you arrive at the park. The “hiking” was very easy and more like a long walk through a trail in the woods. Very manageable for people of all ability levels.

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This tent is home to a Japanese painter who lives here painting the scenary for about 6 months a year. He works completely with palette knives rather than paint brushes and his work was gorgeous. If I had an extra 200 dollars I would have bought a painting for sure.

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Laura taking a break by a small stream

I really think Kamikochi is worth more attention and fame. Even though I went on a day that had rather crummy conditions, it was still very memorable for me. It was cloudy, rainy, and mist covering most of the mountain peaks, yet, it was still very magical.

I’ll let the pictures that I took speak for themselves.

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Mist in the mountains. I’m sad that we couldnt see all the peaks but the cloudy weather was cool too.

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Inner Kamikochi

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As for our trip, my friends and I drove to Kamikochi and took a bus to the base of the park. From there we hiked a few hours through the site seeing areas into inner Kamikochi and stayed at a mountain lodge.

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The path through the park followed this rocky river. Every few miles there was a suspension bridge offering views of the mountains and the river.

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A gorgeous pond with a little boat. This was next to a shrine as well.

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This is outer Kamikochi towards the beginning of our hike. The pictures of the larger bridges with a lot of people were all taken early on our hike.

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A nice spot for a bento lunch.

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Our mountain lodge. It was made almost like a fancy hostel with these bunk beds and thick curtains. It also had Japanese style onsen baths.

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Dinner with Laura after a long day of hiking. The food was delicious.

Most people use this lodge as a base for climbing the park’s inner and more challenging peaks. There was a group of Korean mountain climbers also staying at the lodge that were leaving for a weeks worth of climbing the peaks in Kamikochi. We, however, just wanted to peace and quiet of the mountain air. In the morning, we hiked back the way we came.

A friend recently asked if I was leaving Japan next month which place in Japan I would make a point to go back to and visit one more time before leaving. I couldnt think of a good answer. Everything was special but nothing really stood out in my mind. I settled on Okinawa but in my heart I knew that wasnt quite right.

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The mountains in the morning after staying the night at the lodge. The mist was amazing.

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Inner Kamikochi. This part of the park between the day hikers area and our lodge was completely barren and devoid of other people. It was gorgeous.

While putting this blog post together, I was reminded of his question and I knew the real answer was that I would like to hike through Kamikochi again. I would sit by the river and eat my bento. I would chat with the lovely artist living in his tent. I would stay in the mountain lodge and listen to the sound of the river and birds.

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Looks like a different planet. I may have had a little too much fun editing this picture.

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The planks of wood were or walking on and built above the forest floor so we didnt disturb the environment too much. Not sure how well it worked but it was fun to feel like I was floating above the plants.

I’ll definitely be back. Hopefully on a clear day!

 

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