Kamikochi Hiking: The Perfect Day Trip from Takayama

by Jan 21, 2019Itinerary, Japan

Visiting Kamikochi makes for an easy and relaxing day trip from Takayama. Hiking at Kamikochi is ideal for both inexperienced or physically challenged hikers like me and for expert hikers. There’s a wonderful and easy hike with amazing views that you can complete in 3 to 5 hours. It also has plenty of more challenging hikes that take several days to complete. It’s also a super safe destination for the solo traveler. If you’re looking to spend some time in nature with an easy hike, read more on how you can do that with this Kamikochi itinerary.

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What is the Kamikochi?

COST: Free | OPEN: Mid-April to mid-November

Kamikochi is a resort located 1500 meters above sea level on a highland plateau in the Northern Japan Alps. (I guess there’s a Central Alps and a Southern Alps.) It is a popular place to go hiking in Japan with tons of hiking trails, mountains, rivers, and ponds, which makes it a safe destination for the solo traveler. There are also lots of facilities in the park: hotels, mountain huts, campgrounds, hot springs, a visitor’s center, restaurants, souvenir shops, and a clinic. There are no ATMs.

Kamikochi is open from mid-April to mid-November.

The park gate closes at 7:00 pm spring and 8:00 pm in summer.

⇒Click here to visit the Kamikochi’s official website.

Kamikochi is actually part of a larger park called Chubu Sangaku National Park, which encompasses the whole Northern Japan Alps. The Chubu National Park is so huge that it covers 4 prefectures: Gifu, Niigata, Toyama, and Nagano. Other popular locations in the national park include the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the Okuhida Spa Village (Hirayu is included in that), the Hakuba Mountain Range, and many other breathtaking mountains and gorgeous valleys.

⇒ Click here to visit the Chubu Sangaku National Park website

 Private cars are not allowed at Kamikochi. You need to park your car in the huge parking lot at the Nohi Bus Terminal in Hirayu and take a shuttle bus to Kamikochi.

Takayama: The Starting Point of Your Kamikochi Itinerary

This itinerary tells you specifically how to visit Kamikochi as a day trip from Takayama. Matsumoto is another popular starting point.

Where to stay in Takayama

I stayed in Takayama at the Rickshaw Inn, a traditional Japanese inn that cost me around $65 a night. It was highly recommended in Lonely Planet Japan guide.

The Rickshaw Inn is a traditional Japanese royokan, but it’s not a fancy one and there’s no onsen. The bathrooms are shared. There’s a nice lounge area. Breakfast costs extra. There’s also a coin-operated washing machine and dryer. The hotel is in an excellent location, a 10-minute walk from the bus and train stations and right in the downtown area next to many restaurants. The owner, who is British, and his staff give excellent restaurant recommendations. I ate at three of my favorite restaurants during my trip to Japan.

Where to eat in Takayama

Sumikyu

Try these delicious soba noodles with 7 different kinds of mushrooms!

Center 4 Burger

Try the best burger you’ll ever eat in your life. Make sure to order the one with Hida beef. A bit pricey but worth it.

Hidatakayama Kyoya

Try traditional style Hida beef at Kyoya. For a set meal it’s around ¥3,500 (US$32/€28/£25).

How to take a bus from Takayama to Kamikochi

Leaving Takayama

You can buy your bus tickets to Kamikochi at the Nohi Bus Terminal in Takayama, which is right next to the train station.

You’ll get on a Nohi bus that will take you to Hirayu. It takes about 1 hour to get to Hirayu.

Then you’ll wait for around 20 minutes and take another bus from the Hirayu bus station to Kamikochi. It will take around 25 minutes to get to Kamikochi from Hirayu.

In 2018, the whole trip to Kamikochi and back to Takayama cost me ¥5,040 roundtrip (US$46 /€41Euros/£36). If you’re returning to Takayama, buy a roundtrip ticket in Takayama.

⇒ Visit the Nohi Bus Company website for the current schedule for the bus from Takayama to Kamikochi.

To give you an idea of what time your bus might leave, here is the bus schedule from August 2018:

I bought my ticket on the same day at 7:10 am. I left Takayama at 7:40. My bus to Hirayu was 1/10 full. The bus made tons of stops along the way. It goes through beautiful mountain scenery with some of the most gorgeous trees I’ve ever seen interspersed with bright green rice paddies. We passed by farms with these beautiful and traditional large farmhouses. My impression is that the farmers are pretty well off in this part of Japan. I had read somewhere that those in rural areas work two or three jobs, but they also make more than urban dwellers.

It seems that every space is used in the Japan countryside. If there isn’t a tree, a road, or a buildings, there are rice fields or small gardens.

Transfer in Hirayu

I arrived in Hirayu at 8:38. Hirayu is a resort town with tons of hot springs that you can visit during the day. There’s really not enough time to do both Kamikochi and the hot springs in one day. However, you can stay overnight at one, but make your reservations far in advance as I found out the hard way.

The Hirayu Bus Station has a store, bathrooms, lockers, and vending machines.

I waited around for about 20 minutes until I got onto the bus to Kamikochi at 9:00 am.

As I was getting on the bus, the bus driver was handing out maps and telling the foreign tourists to get off at the Kamikochi Bus Station. I had originally planned to go from Taisho Pond to Myojin Pond. Instead, I followed the bus driver’s advice and got off at the Kamikochi Bus Terminal. Big mistake.

Arrive in Kamikochi

In order to start at Taisho Pond, you need to get off at Taishoike Bus Stop (Taishoike Hotel) instead of the Kamikochi Bus Terminal.

During my trip, the bus driver announced the stops in English. And it was a popular stop, so if you’re traveling solo, rest assured you’re going to be safe. Unfortunately, there will probably be too many other hikers as well.

How long to spend in Kamikochi

From Taisho Pond to Myojin pond and then back to the Kamikochi Bus Terminal, it should take 5 hours at a leisurely pace and if you stop for lunch. It took me longer because of my physical disabilities. At a fast pace, you can probably finish in 3 hours.

You can spend a few days doing different hikes, but these will be tougher and some will be overnight.

Kamikochi Hiking Itinerary

1. Get off the bus at Taisho-ike Bus Stop

To start at Taisho Pond, you need to get off at the Taisho-ike Bus Stop. The bus stop is near the Taishoike Hotel.

There are restrooms nearby.

When I was on the bus, the bus driver announced the stop. But you need to press a button to request a stop.

2. Walk to Taisho Pond

Start your Kamikochi hiking itinerary here at Taisho Pond. 

According to a very helpful employee at the visitor’s center, Taisho Pond is the best place for photos in the park, but it is also the most crowded and less peaceful part of the park

3. Walk to Tashiro Marsh and Tashiro Pond

Continue your Kamikoshi hiking itinerary by walking to Tashiro Marsh. It takes 20 minutes.

4. Walk to Hotaka-Bashi Bridge

Then walk to Hotaka-Bashi Bridge. It takes 20 minutes. The trail will split along the way. Either trail will get you to the same spot in the same amount of time.

You don’t need to cross the bridge. You can keep on walking on the right side of the Asuza-gawa River.

If you do cross the bridge, there are two hot spring hotels on the other side: Kamikochi Onsen Hotel and the Kamikochi Lemeiesta Hotel.

5. Kamikochi Bus Terminal

It should take you about 25 minutes to get to the bus terminal. Here you’ll find restrooms, the Kamikochi Visitor’s Center where you can buy a nice map for 100 yen, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

The restrooms cost 100 yen.

There are no trash cans in the park. You need to carry out all of your trash with you when you leave.

Don’t worry. There are signs everywhere telling you where to go and how many meters to get there. This makes it great for the directionally challenged solo traveler like me.

6. Kappa-Bashi Bridge

It should take about 5 minutes to get to Kappa-Bashi Bridge

The Kappa-Bashi bridge is named after the kappa, a mythical water creature found in Japanese folk tales. Children were told about them to scare them away from water. Kappa has an oval-shaped depression on their head. In order to keep their strength, the depression needs to be constantly filled with water. Without water, the Kappa may die. They are known for causing trouble. They like to fart and look up women’s kimonos.  More nefarious pastimes include stealing children and then eating them.

The mountain in the distance is Mount Okuhokata. At 3190 meters it’s the tallest mountain at Kamikochi. Hiking to its peak takes over 9 hours.

At the Kappa-Bashi Bridge, you’ll come to another visitor’s center, a hotel, and some administrative buildings.

Don’t cross the bridge, though. Keep on hiking along the right side of the river.

7. Walk to Myojin-Bashi Bridge

Continue your Kamikochi itinerary by walking to the Myojin-Bashi Bridge. It should take 45 minutes to get to there.

The hike continues along the Asuza-gawa River.

You’ll pass a campground. It costs ¥4,500 to ¥7,500 per person to camp. If you’re interested in camping in Kamikochi, here is a great website with a list of accomodations in the park.

As you can see, the trails are not steep.

8. Myojin

When you get to Miyojin, you’ll come across another hotel. There’s a place you can grab lunch and there are some nice, clean bathrooms.

As you can see, there are tons of hikers at Kamikochi. Unlike in the United States where hikers are usually young, in Japan, I saw mainly middle-aged and elderly people hiking. Many of them seemed to be returning from an overnight hike.

Before Europeans arrived in the middle of the 19th century, mountain climbing and hiking were mainly done by Shinto priests for spiritual reasons. In Shintoism, it is believed that deities called kami can be found anywhere in nature, but mountains are especially important because it is believed that they are the closest part of nature to the gods.

9. Cross the Myojin-Bashi Bridge

The bridge is 3 minutes from Myojin. You can see Mount Myojin in the distance.

I was so amazed at how clean the water was at Kamikochi and actually all of this area of Japan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen water this clear and clean in the United States.

10. Myojin Pond

It takes a few minutes to get to Myojin Pond.

On my way to Myojin Pond, I passed by Kamonji-Goya, a mountain hut with a restaurant where you can order soba and udon noodles and beer and eat outside. Every space was full when I passed by.

The mountain hut was built in 1880 by Kamijo Kamonji, who guided the person who is considered the father of mountaineering in Japan, Reverend Walter Weston. Weston wrote two books in English on the Japan Alps introducing the region to Europeans, and he also established the Japan Alpine Club.

After passing by the mountain hut, I arrived at the Hotaka-jinja Shrine. It cost me ¥300 (US$2.75/€2.40/£2.10) to enter the shrine.

11. Back to Kappa-Bashi Bridge

After leaving Myojin Pond, continue your hike at Kamikochi by walking back to Kappa-Bashi Bridge, but on the opposite side of the river from your earlier walk. It takes around 75 minutes to get to the bridge.

The downside to Kamikochi is that there are so many other hikers, so it isn’t really all that peaceful. Perhaps it was because I went on the weekend.

My favorite part of my hike through Kamikochi was the constant sound of the babbling brooks. I know I mentioned this before, but I couldn’t get over how clear the water was.

The park does have wild Japanese monkeys, the same ones that you see in photos of Japan of the snow monkeys in the hot springs in winter, but I didn’t see any. I also didn’t hear the sounds of many birds.

Towards the end of your Kamikochi hiking journey, you’ll also pass by a marsh called Dakeshawa Marshland.

After about 75 minutes, you’ll be able to see Mount Okuhotaka-dake again.

And you’re back to the Kappa-Bashi Bridge. The end of your Kamkochi hiking adventure!

12. Kamikochi Bus Terminal – Taking the bus from Kamikochi to Takayama

After crossing the bridge, head back to the bus terminal to catch your bus back to Hirayu.

At the bus terminal, find the sign for Hirayu Onsen Spa (it was platform 5 when I was there) and get into what will probably be a long line. If the bus fills up (45 people maximum), sometimes another bus will take the overflow, but at other times you’ll have to wait for the next one.

You’ll take a bus (25 minutes) to Hirayu. Then take another bus back to Takayama (1 hour). I had to wait about an hour to get my bus in Takayama. Please see the bus schedule earlier in this article for an idea of bus times. The schedule is from 2018, so it might not be accurate for 2019.

⇒ You can visit the Nohi Bus Company website for a more up-to-date schedule.

What to wear to go hiking in Kamikochi

According to the Kamikochi website, temperatures in the summer can drop to less than 10 degrees Celsius. Here is their suggestion on what to wear:

  • In May and the early part of June, wear a fleece for your Kamikochi hiking trip.
  • In June and July, wear a long-sleeved shirt.
  • In August, a short-sleeved shirt is fine at noon, but a long-sleeved shirt and sweater in the morning and evening. I wore my fleece in the morning and short-sleeves in the afternoon.
  • From September to November, wear a fleece.

Conclusion

I remember how a friend of mine responded when I told her I was going to Japan. She wrinkled her nose up and replied, “I’ve got no interest in seeing Japan. I only like places with lots of mountains and natural beauty.” I guess lots of people think of Japan as just big cities with neon lights, skyscrapers, and crowded subways. As you can see from reading this Kamikochi itinerary, Japan is more than just big cities or geishas and samurais. It’s full of beautiful natural scenery with majestic mountains, crystal clear babbling brooks and rushing streams, and ancient towering trees.

So take a detour from visiting the big bustling cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and spend more time in the smaller towns of Takayama and Kanazawa and take a side trip to Kamikochi. Hiking at Kamikochi is super easy and safe. It’s an ideal destination for solo travelers. I did it even though my knee, my plantar fasciitis, and an infected blister were all killing me.

If you have questions about an upcoming trip to Japan, you can leave them below in the comments section and I’d be happy to answer them for you! Or if you’ve been to Kamikochi and I left something out or you’ve got a great suggestion, leave a comment below. Or if you just want to say hi, you can also do that below. And finally, if you’ve found this article helpful, please share on social media! Sayonara!

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easy-to-follow itinerary for Kamikochi Japan
easy-to-follow itinerary Kamikochi Japan

24 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. It is super detailed and sounds like a wonderful hike! What I love the most about it is that it is perfect mix of culture and nature. Adding it to my To-Do list. Also, like how it can be done on a budget, a crucial aspect for me.

    Reply
    • Yes, it was pretty inexpensive overall. The park is free, so the only cost would be for transportation.

      Reply
  2. Looks like a great hiking trip! I agree with you that Japan is so much more than just big cities with neon lights, they have a lot of amazing places to get lost in nature. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! From all that I had read about Japan, I expected the place to be overdeveloped, but it wasn’t.

      Reply
  3. Absolutely stunning! I’m dying to go back to Japan. The scenery reminds me a lot of some parts of Taiwan.

    Reply
    • I haven’t been to Taiwan, yet, but I’m thinking of going sometime soon.

      Reply
  4. Wow. I wish I knew about this place when I visited Japan. It looks amazing!

    Reply
    • There are just so many great places to visit in Japan that it’s really hard to choose.

      Reply
  5. Wow! This is absolutely stunning and so thorough! thanks for such an extensive guide on Kamikoche!

    Reply
  6. This place looks so peaceful. I always make sure to spend at least one day hiking or cycling in the wilderness when visiting big, hectic cities.

    Reply
    • Me too!

      Reply
  7. Hi, really like the content and places you’ve been. You are emphasizing beautifully the images seen and send that feeling =]. I’m also planning to go the first time to Japan from 6-28th of September this year. Your itinerary seems very “unorthodox” to what I’ve seen so far and heard from friends. Do you have time to reply to some questions?

    Reply
    • Thank you, Bogdan! What questions do you have?

      Reply
  8. thanks for the detailed description. have you done all this in one day? if we plan to go there from Tokyo, where would you recommend to stay; which best way to get there from/to Tokyo?

    Reply
    • Hi Dina, Thank you! I did the hike in one day from Takayama. If you were going to travel there from Tokyo, I’d either stay overnight in Takayama or Kamikochi. There are several hotels right inside the park. The link for the hotels at Kamikochi is in the article. To get there from Tokyo, you’d need to first travel to Nagoya and then transfer to another train to Takayama, and then a bus to Kamikochi. The train from Tokyo to Takayama takes 5 hours total. You can also take a train from Tokyo to Matsumoto and then a bus to Kamikochi.

      Reply
  9. Very nice and useful blog

    Reply
    • Thank you, Gustavo!

      Reply
  10. Thank you so much for the detailed, clear in English, instructions! My wife and I have a planned trip this Labor Day weekend (2019), and I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out exatcly how to get from the Hirayu bus terminal to the Kamikochi terminal and not miss the stop for Taisho Pond, in order to walk up to the Kamikochi bus terminal and see the sights along the way. You cleared it up for me, YAY! Also, trying to figure out the bus ride up and back. Your article is a HUGE help, you kept the instructions simple, for us logistically challenged trippers. THANKS!!!

    Reply
    • Hi Synergy,

      I’m glad this helped! It’s very easy getting from Hirayu to Kamikochi. You’ll be amazed at how organized everything is in Japan and how much help will be available guiding tourists to where they need to go. Good luck and have a safe and enjoyable trip!

      Reply
  11. Hello! Came across your website as i was searching for hikes for my trip to japan. however, as we are going in end dec, what are your thoughts on hiking during winter?

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, the Kamikochi is open only from mid-April to mid-November, so you wouldn’t be able to go hiking there at that time.

      Reply
  12. Thanks for the lovely tracks, hope the Corona Virus allows us to arrive during the fall period.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! Yes, the coronavirus should be gone by the summer. I hope you make it to Japan! It’s a fascinating country!

      Julie

      Reply
  13. Definitely want to visit Kamikochi valley!! The river is so relaxing….

    Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Julie Krolak

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore Asia’s history, heritage, and culture. Fun facts about me: I’m from a town so small that if you blink, you might miss it. I once owned my own language school in China.

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