Please use a bus or taxi from Hirayu Onsen on the Gifu Prefecture side.
When coming by a car, you can get on the bus without transferring from the akandana parking (600 yen per car)
For a limited time, guided bus tours from Matsumoto to Kamikochi to Takayama will be held. Click here for details
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【Fare for oneway yen】Children's(6-12) fare are half price
|Nakanoyu||Taishoike||Teikoku Hotel||Kamikochi Bus Terminal|
【Fare for round trip yen】Adults 2,090 yen Children 1,050 yen（Hirayu Onsen～Kamikochi）
※The round trip ticket is valid for 7 days.
|Takayama～Hirayu Onsen～Kamikochi Round trip set ticket||You can go and back once between Takayama and Kamikochi via Hirayu Onsen with this ticket. Valid for 7 days.||Adults 5,130 yen
Children 2,570 yen
|Takayama～Hirayu Onsen～Kamikochi Oneway set Ticket||This includes oneway ticket from Takayama to Hirayu Onsen, and from Hirayu Onsen to Kamikochi.||Adults 2,650 yen
Children 1,330 yen
|Gero～Takayama～Hirayu Onsen～Kamikochi Oneway set Ticket||This includes oneway ticket from Gero to Takayama, from Takayama to Hirayu Onsen and from Hirayu Onsen to Kamikochi.||Adults 3,160 yen
Children 1,580 yen
Tashiro Pond is one of Kamikōchi’s most picturesque spots, located approximately midway on the hiking trail between Kappa Bridge and Taishō Pond. What it lacks in size is made up for by the wild splendor of the surrounding marsh, where many of the valley’s birds and flowering plants can be spotted. In good weather, its clear waters reflect nearby Mt. Roppyaku and Mt. Kasumizawa.
The pond is fed by rainwater absorbed on the surrounding peaks and carried downhill as groundwater. The water carries considerable sediment, which settles in the pond and is slowly reducing its size. In 1915 the pond was 5 meters deep, but today it is much shallower. Aquatic plants, which die and settle on the pond bed, are also helping to turn Tashiro from a simple pond to a thriving wetland.
In the summer months, the area around the pond abounds with unusual plants. Look for the golden flowers of a daylily known as zenteika, and for the reddish-orange sprays of Japanese azalea (rengetsutsuji).
Among the many birds found here are the Japanese robin (komadori), red-flanked bluetail (ruribitaki), great spotted woodpecker (akagera), and narcissus flycatcher (kibitaki). Japanese macaques often wander down from the slopes above and can be spotted foraging on plants along the hiking trails.
In autumn, the needles of Japanese larch trees around the pond turn brilliant gold, making Tashiro Pond a popular spot for photographers. The best time to view the autumn foliage is near the end of October. In winter, the most determined photographers set out at dawn, hiking along the snowy trail to capture frost-covered trees lit by the sun and reflected in the water like glistening crystal pillars.
Kappa Bridge is a wooden suspension bridge that spans the Azusa River at the heart of Kamikōchi. Crowded with visitors throughout the season, the bridge offers a perfect vantage point that frames Mt. Myōjin (2,931 m) and Mt. Oku-Hotaka (3,190 m) between forested valley walls. Beneath Kappa Bridge, river stones and fish are easily visible through the cold, clear current of the Azusa.
The first Kappa Bridge was a drawbridge, but it was rebuilt in 1910. Kappa Bridge appears in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s 1927 novella Kappa, which draws a detailed picture of Kamikōchi at that time. The novella’s central character, a psychiatric patient, narrates his tale of entering the land of kappa—water imps known for their mischievous and sometimes sinister nature. The narrator concludes that their society is preferable to that of humans.
Today, kappa are understood to be fictional, but still fondly regarded in Japanese culture. The green-skinned, human-like creatures have webbed feet and hands, turtle-like shells on their backs, and a bowl-like depression on their heads that is full of water. Folk wisdom instructs that upon meeting a kappa, one should bow politely, because when the kappa bows in return, the water will spill from its head and render it powerless. In some regions, cucumbers are said to be their favorite food—the origin of the Japanese name for sushi rolls with cucumber filling, kappa maki.
There are several theories regarding why the bridge is named after this mythical creature. One suggests that kappa (or similar aquatic creatures) once lived in a deep pool nearby; another says that the bridge was actually built over such a pool. A third theory speculates that before the bridge was built, people fording the river with their clothes on their heads resembled kappa.
Reverend Walter Weston (1861–1940) was a Church of England missionary and alpinist who arrived in Japan in 1888, working first in Kumamoto and Kobe, and later in Yokohama. He spent 15 years in Japan and developed a keen interest in its landscapes, traditions, people, culture, and above all, its mountains. Weston is remembered as “the father of mountaineering in Japan” and memorialized by a plaque set in a rock face on the north side of the Azusa River, a 20-minute walk from Kappa Bridge. Erected by the Japan Alpine Club in 1937, it celebrates Weston’s life and success in giving universal currency to the name “Japanese Alps.”
Before he arrived in Japan, the Cambridge-educated Weston had climbed extensively in the Swiss Alps. He brought his passion here to the Japanese Alps, which he explored over a four-year period with local guide and friend Kamijō Kamonji (1847–1917), a hunter and mountaineer. Weston loved the local peaks, which he described as possessing “a grandeur and a wildness” that he seldom found in Japan. He scaled Mt. Yari in 1892, as well many others. In 1896, after returning to England, he published Mountaineering and Exploring in the Japanese Alps, which introduced the region to the English-speaking world.
In Japan, Reverend Weston’s greatest legacy lies in introducing the concept of mountaineering for pleasure rather than for economic purposes or spiritual practice. It was a novel idea at the time, and his forays to the peaks were sometimes met with confusion. In Mountaineering and Exploring, Weston describes the initial reactions of the local people: “[T]hey began to ply me with questions. ‘Have you come to search for silver mines?’ ‘No, then it must be crystals?’ That I was simply climbing for pleasure I found it very hard to persuade them.”
Weston went on to become the first honorary member of the Japan Alpine Club in 1906, and in 1939 received the Order of the Sacred Treasure (fourth class) from Emperor Hirohito. Even now, the legacies of Weston and Kamijō Kamonji endure in Kamikōchi. The Kamonjigoya Hut near Myōjin Pond is still run by Kamonji’s fourth-generation descendant, and the Weston Festival is held on the first Sunday in June.
The rock in which the Weston Memorial is embedded has recently drawn the interest of geologists, who believe it to be the world’s youngest example of granodiorite, a type of igneous rock.
Mt. Yakedake is the only active volcano in Northern Alps, located on the border between Gifu Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture. It is designated as one of the 100 famous mountains in Japan for its beautiful fuming figure and reflection on Taisho-ike Pond. An old crater and several small craters are on the mountaintop and it is also popular for climbing.
On the morning of June 6, 1915, Mt. Yake erupted. American geologist Sydney Powers wrote: “Explosions hurled out rocks, ashes, mud, steam, and smoke with a tremendous reverberation of sounds. Ashes fell at Kami-kochi and a large mass of mud and boulders slid down the steep slope into the valley below, damming the stream.”
From such violent beginnings, crystal-clear Taishō Pond was born. The sight of Mt. Yake and the Hotaka Mountain Range reflected in its pristine waters is one of the iconic views of Kamikōchi. A boardwalk leads to the pond from Kappa Bridge, making it easily accessible from the resort area. The route passes through wetlands and forest, and the trip takes approximately one hour each way. It is an excellent way to see the valley’s wildlife, which includes over 70 species of birds.
Despite Dr. Powers’ observation that “the stream is rapidly wearing down the obstructing [volcanic] debris, and in relatively few years only a marsh will remain,” over a century later Taishō Pond not only survives, but also serves an important role in renewable energy generation. At the west end of the lake, an intake pipe funnels water to the Kasumizawa Power Station near Sawando, which supplies hydroelectric power to the region.
This gourd-shaped pond lies within the precincts of Hotaka Shrine’s inner shrine (okunomiya), at the northern end of Kamikōchi. It is also called “Mirror Pond” (Kagami Ike) in reference to its pure waters and reflective surface, and “Pond of the Gods” (Kami Ike), which relates to the area’s role in Shinto mythology.
According to legend, when the world was still young, Hotakami no Mikoto—son of the sea god Watatsumi and uncle to Japan’s legendary first ruler, Emperor Jinmu (r. 660–585 BCE)—descended from heaven and landed on the peak of Mt. Oku-Hotaka. A shrine was built for Hotakami on the mountain, and he has long been regarded as a protector of the region and guardian of the Japanese Alps. Myōjin Pond, isolated and pristine, lies at the foot of Mt. Oku-Hotaka’s ridgeline and has likewise acquired divine associations.
Each year on October 8, the Myōjin Pond Boat Festival (Myōjin Ike Ofune Matsuri) is held on the water. Priests and shrine maidens (miko) dressed in brightly colored Heian-period (794–1185) robes board two festival boats, one with a prow shaped like a dragon’s head, the other like a mythical bird. The boats circle the pond in a solemn progress accompanied by the music of a “dragon flute” (ryūteki) and other traditional instruments. Afterward, rites are held at the shrine to honor the spirits of those who have lost their lives in the mountains.
Myōjin Pond is fed by underground springs. It remains remarkably clear, with fish clearly visible beneath the surface. Visitors can also view the festival boats moored at a small dock beside the path that leads around the pond.
Sampling country cuisine—with dishes featuring fresh, local ingredients topping the menu—is an appealing part of any visit to rural Japan, and Kamikōchi is no exception. Here the cuisine revolves around wild mountain vegetables and char (iwana), a medium-sized freshwater fish that flourishes in the Azusa River.
One of the most popular river fish among Japanese anglers, iwana are found in regions across Japan. The name means “rock fish” after the boulder-strewn mountain streams they inhabit. In Kamikōchi, iwana are most often served salted and grilled, a dish known as iwana shioyaki. The traditional means of preparing it is to skewer the whole fish on a long stick, then push one end of the stick into the ash surrounding the fire in a sunken hearth known as an irori. Standing this way, occasionally rotated for even cooking, they grill slowly for around forty minutes. Local cooks also smoke the fish in a wicker basket suspended over the fire and then add them to sake, creating the rustic alcoholic drink iwana kotsuzake. Fresh iwana is also excellent served raw, and iwana sashimi is included in the multi-course meals at some Kamikōchi lodging facilities.
Sansai, edible wild plants from the mountains, are another local specialty. The young shoots of three types of fern are staples of sansai cuisine: Asian royal fern (zenmai), ostrich fern (kogomi), and bracken (warabi). Japanese spikenard (udo) is a crunchy vegetable similar to celery that is often served with vinegared miso. Butterbur (fuki) stems are frequently simmered in soy sauce and mirin (cooking sake), then served with bonito flakes.
Sansai can be served as tempura, boiled and mixed with a dressing (aemono), added to simmered dishes (nimono), or made into pickles (tsukemono). They are the topping for buckwheat noodles in the dish called sansai soba, and some establishments offer simmered and chilled sansai as side dishes with sake.
Kamikōchi is such an established tourist destination that it is easy to forget the considerable challenges that were overcome to build and maintain a resort in such a remote valley. For decades, anything that could not be found or made on site—from food and daily essentials to construction materials—had to be carried in over high alpine passes, often through deep snow.
The site was remote, but it had distinct advantages: great natural beauty, proximity to the surrounding peaks, and—unusual for a high mountain settlement—a sunny basin location. Building roads through the Oku-Hida mountains was the first challenge, but by 1887 construction began on Kamikōchi’s first inn. The owner rented the nationally owned land for ¥20, a high price at the time. It was a gamble, but one that paid off. After the Kama Tunnel opened in 1926, greatly improving access, Kamikōchi was declared one of the “eight most scenic spots in Japan,” and visitors poured in. By the 1970s, Japan was experiencing a mountaineering boom, and climbing Mt. Yari and the various peaks of Mt. Hotaka was on every alpinist’s dream list. To get there, they came to Kamikōchi—which became known as the “gateway to the Japanese Alps.”
Today, accommodations are available to fit all budgets and objectives—campsites, hotels, traditional inns (ryokan), and mountain lodges. The campsites are inexpensive, with dishwashing facilities and secure food storage (to deter bears). There are sites with pre-erected tents and traditional campsites for visitors who prefer to bring their own. For a step up in comfort, Kamikōchi’s hotels and inns offer well-appointed facilities with numerous amenities, full-course meals made with local ingredients, and in one case, hot-spring baths. Visitors seeking a casual, but comfortable, middle ground may be interested in one of the mountain lodges.
As a side note, the Kamikōchi resort area has survived several natural disasters. During the twentieth century, Mt. Yake (2,456 m) erupted twice: in 1915 and 1962, with the second eruption depositing 5 centimeters of volcanic ash on Kappa Bridge overnight. Luckily, Kamikōchi escaped lasting damage.
Adult 8,000 yen～
Visit two UNESCO world heritage sites!!
Adult 8,800 yen～
This is a perfect sightseeing bus tour for travelers who would like to explore and experience
the two most popular tourist attractions in Northern Japan Alps, Kamikochi and Shinhotaka in just one day.
Fees for the Shinhotaka Ropeway and lunch at Alps Kaido Hirayu are included in the tour, and it is such an easy access to Kamikochi.