I have been to Kamikochi twice. I hope to visit it for the third time. The truth is, in terms of scenery, there are probably more epic mountains and valleys in the world, especially in Europe and North America. However in Asia, in terms of access, cost and facilities, Kamikochi is probably the best there is for some forest bathing and mountain gazing.
Open from April to mid-November only, this national park in Nagano, is great to visit any time of the year. But autumn is when it is the most epic and spectacular, with nature displaying her last blast of glorious colour before the snows set in.
Kamikochi can be done in a day or a multi-day trip depending on your stamina and objectives. If you just need a walk in the woods, for some fresh air and sunshine, the nearest cities to get into Kamikochi will be Takayama, Nagoya or Matsumoto. In 2016, we did Kamikochi as a day-trip from our base in Takayama. In October 2018, we did a mad dash coming in from Osaka on the overnight bus, stayed a night and left the next day.
Accommodation in Kamikochi is a mixture of high-end to mid-tier hotels, hostels and camping grounds. As this is a high traffic tourist area, things are relatively expensive. Last autumn, we stayed at the Taisyoike Hotel to start our walk from the beginning of the trail instead of alighting at the bus terminal which is midway of the trail. We made it as far as Myojin Pond before turning back and completed the whole route in about 6 hours, bearing in mind that the going was slow owing to numerous photos and videos being shot and 2 nice meals in between ;). Hardcore walkers could possibly complete the course (return) in half the amount of time that we took.
We encountered minimal wildlife, except for some duck families in the ponds and rivers. A sign posting of the last bear sighting a couple weeks back from when we were there, did put us on edge for a bit, especially in the quieter parts of the walk. So I put my bear bell to use by taking it out and ringing it wildly for a bit. The apparent logic behind this is that bears usually attack when they have surprise encounters with humans. If given an adequate warning (such as ringing the bell), bears would then avoid the bell-bearing humans. To me, it just sounded as if I was announcing to all the bears in the area that a meal had just walked into their midst …
For my next trip there, the plan would be to start at Taisho Ike and walk all the way to Tokusawa to stay the night. For those interested in scaling some mountains, Tokusawa is the base camp before going on to Chogatake Peak.
Sharing some photos and video below to give an idea of what the area is like. Hopefully, they will inspire someone to make a trip there someday.