From Shirakawa-go: Visit Kamikochi & Okuhida Onsen
Nestled high in the Hida Mountains, or North Japan Alps, between Takayama and Matsumoto, Kamikochi is considered the jewel of the Chubu Sangaku National Park. Approximately two hours from Shirakawa-go (via Takayama), Kamikochi is another of Central Japan’s most treasured attractions.
We recommend that you go slow, take your time, and combine your visit to Shirakawa-go with one of Japan’s most spectacular natural landscapes. A true alpine oasis sitting beneath the high peaks of Mt Yari (3180m), Mt Hotaka (3190) and Mt Yakedake (2455m), Kamikochi is a 16 kilometre long valley that follows the Azusa River and is home to diverse range of flora and fauna. Hiking trails span-out along the valley floor and follow the river as it meanders north to south, before more advanced hiking and climbing routes ascend to the mountains above.
Known as one of Japan’s most spectacular natural landscapes, access to Kamikochi is controlled in order to preserve its pristine character and important ecosystems including wetlands, ponds, and the sparkling Azusa River which flows down from Mt Hotaka to feed the world below.
Japanese folklore tells that mountains are the source of human souls; born atop the mountain and flowing down rivers to bring life and prosperity of the human world below. As the domain of the gods, mountains have long been revered and also feared in Japan – places where only ascetics or the most hardened, wild people would venture. As such, Kamikochi’s spiritual importance equals its ecological significance – for Japanese it has long been considered a domain of the gods and should not be missed when visiting the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama.
When traveling to Kamikochi from Shirakawa-go and via Takayama, visitors will pass through Okuhida Onsen – one of the region’s best hot springs localities. Known for its pristine natural setting and many outstanding ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses), most hotels have their own ‘onsen’ (natural hot springs) for the exclusive use of their guests. Also offering traditional service including ‘kaiseki’ (traditional multi-course) dinner, going slow and staying overnight in Okuhida Onsen offers the chance to relax and breathe in the atmosphere of Japan’s mountainous heartland.
Okuhida is comprised of five onsen towns, with Hirayu Onsen located only 20 minutes drive from Kamikochi – a great option either side of visiting the beautiful alpine valley – and just one of Nagano’s many historic onsen towns.
15 THINGS TO DO IN KAMIKOCHI & WHERE TO STAY
Kamikochi is one of Japan’s most captivating outdoor destinations. Following the Azusa River, the alpine valley has leisurely walking trails leading to iconic views of natural features including Taisho-ike, Myojin-ike and multiple mountains including Mount Yakedake, Mount Yari and most famously, the triple-peaked Mount Hotaka. Our ’15 Things To Do In Kamikochi & Where To Stay’ page has lots of great tips and suggestions of things to do and see, including accommodation listings, in and around Kamikochi.