The Fairytale Forest of Kamikochi
Located in the isolated western Nagano Prefecture, Kamikochi (上高地) is a popular resort area in the northern part of the Japanese Alps. Part of Chubu Sangaku National Park, it has been designated as one of Japan’s National Cultural Assets.
Even though Kamikochi is considered a “resort” it is far from what Americans would think of. The whole area is roughly 15 kilometers, but most of it is still untouched nature. There is only moderate development with around half a dozen hotels, a few omiyage shops and a couple of huts for the hikers passing through.
Cars are banned from Kamikochi, although you can take a bus to certain parts around the outskirts.
The whole area, being mountainous, is 1500 meters above sea level. Some of Japan’s tallest mountains are in this region, and so is the famous active volcano Yakedake.
It’s a popular place for hiking, camping and just enjoying some of Japan’s best scenery. There are many trails that can take days for the adventurous hiker, as well as short walks for those who only want to spend a couple of hours there.
Most people who want to enjoy a short day there will hike the trails along the Azusa River since it is mostly flat and requires no hiking experience. Start near the Taisho Pond and make your way to the Myojin Bridge. There are beautiful spots to stop and take photos in this area.
There are many animals in the forest including a wide range of birds, monkeys and even bears although they are rarely encountered.
Kamikochi is open from mid-April until mid-November every year, as the winter-time is too harsh. Most visitors will come in the fall to see the amazing autumn colors. The best time to visit for autumn colors is during October.
The park will be especially crowded during this time, as well as during summer holiday from late July until the end of August.
If you want to avoid the crowds, go between mid-May until July. This is actually the nicest time to visit the park as there is a lot to see, beautiful weather, and not many crowds.
[posted by Beth]
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