Kamikochi Hiking: The Perfect Day Trip from Takayama (2023)
Looking for an easy and active day trip from Takayama?
Want to get out in nature and do some hiking while in Japan?
Hiking at Kamikochi is ideal for both inexperienced or physically challenged hikers like me and 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.
Kamikochi is also a great place to visit for solo travelers as it’s safe and there are plenty of other hikers around. You’ll see when you get there that hiking is really popular in Japan!
In this blog post, I’ll share with you how to get to Kamikochi from Takayama by public transportation. You’ll also find out what you can do at Kamikochi, what hiking trail to take, where you can see the best views, what to wear, how to stay overnight, and much more.
For those following my Japan itinerary guide, Kamikochi is day 7.
Check this amazing guide to Takayama for information on what to do there, where to stay, and where to eat.
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There’s a bit of confusion about what exactly Kamikochi is and isn’t.
Is it a national park? Or a mountain resort? Or something else?
Technically, Kamikochi is a natural monument and national scenic spot as designated by the Japanese government. Only two places in all of Japan have been awarded both titles.
it’s simpler to just refer to Kamikochi as a park. And that’s what I’ll do throughout this post.
In fact, Kamikochi is a section of a larger park, Chubu Sangaku National Park, which encompasses several mountain ranges within the Northern Japan Alps.
The Chubu Sangaku is so big that it covers 4 prefectures: Gifu, Niigata, Toyama, and Nagano.
Other popular spots in the Chubu Sangaku 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.
What will I find at Kamikochi?
At Kamikochi, you’ll find a beautifully forested valley (supposedly full of animals including monkeys) surrounded by the Hokata Mountains. Running through the valley is the Azusa River with its crystal clear water. The valley is also home to several marshes and ponds.
Mount Oku-Hotaka, the highest peak in the Northern Japan Alps (3,190 m), stands at Kamikochi’s northern end, and the active volcano, Mt. Yake, at its southern border.
There are also hiking trails, mountain huts, campgrounds, swanky resorts as well as traditional ryokans, a visitor information center, souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes, a post office, and a Shinto shrine.
When is Kamikochi open?
The park is only open from April 17 to November 15.
Check the official website to confirm the dates.
The park gate closes at 7:00 pm spring and fall and at 8:00 pm in July and August.
In order to reduce the exhaust from vehicles and preserve nature, the park does not allow private cars. You can only enter Kamikochi by public bus, tour bus, or taxi. I’ll tell you below how to get to Kamikochi by bus.
1. Buy Bus Ticket
Buy your bus ticket for Kamikochi at the Nohi Bus Terminal in Takayama. It is right next to the train station.
You will change buses at Hirayu Onsen.
How much is the bus ticket to Kamikochi?
These are ticket prices according to the Nohi Bus Company website as of January 2023:
- A round-trip ticket from Takayama to Kamikochi (transfer at Hirayu-Onsen) and back costs ¥5,130 (US$40 /£32/€37) for adults and ¥2.570 (US$20 /£16/€18.48) for children. It’s good for 7 days from the time of purchase.
- A one-way ticket from Takayama to Kamikochi is ¥2,650 (US$21 /£17/€19) for adults and ¥1,330 (US$10.35 /£8.36/€9.56) for children.
2. Depart Takayama
Here is the bus schedule from the Nohi Bus Station website as of January 19, 2023:
- You need to first travel to Hirayu Onsen, where you’ll get another bus to Kamikochi.
My Experience Getting to Kamikochi
I bought my ticket on the same day at 7:10 am, and I left Takayama at 7:40.
My bus to Hirayu was 1/10 full.
It made tons of stops along the way for locals to get off and on.
The route 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 Japanese countryside. If there isn’t a tree, a road, or
3. Transfer at Hirayu Onsen
Hirayu Onsen bus station is basically a small building where you can buy bus tickets, snack food, and drinks, use the bathroom, and even take a shower.
It’s also got a HUGE parking lot. You can’t drive to Kamikochi. Instead, people park their cars at Hirayu and then take the bus into Kamikochi.
It shouldn’t be difficult finding the bus to Kamikochi. Just look for the sign saying Kamikochi.
What time does the bus leave Hirayu Onsen?
The bus leaves Hirayu Onsen for Kamikochi every 30 minutes.
The first bus leaves at 5:00 am and the last bus at 17:00 (5:30, 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, etc.).
It takes 25 minutes to get to Kamikochi.
The bus to Kamikochi from Hirayu Onsen leaves right next to the bus that arrives from Takayama. You can’t miss it!
My experience getting the bus at Hirayu Onsen:
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.
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 Terminal.
4. Arrive in Kamikochi
During my trip, the bus driver announced the stops in English.
The last stop is the bus terminal for Kamikochi. But you can get off earlier at Taishoike Bus Stop if you want to start at Taisho Pond.
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.
This messed up my original plan and I ended up not seeing Taisho Pond.
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How Long to Spend at Kamikochi?
How long it will take you to see both Myojin Bridge and Taisho Pond depends on how fast you walk, whether you stop, and where you start your hike.
I was taking loads of photos and I had some issues with my foot and knee, so I was hiking pretty slowly.
According to the Kamikochi website, it’ll take you 5 hours to go all the way to both Myojin Bridge and Taisho Pond.
Google Maps says 2 hours and 15 minutes. But I think that’s rather optimisticc.
But other sources say 3 hours if you start at Taisho Pond and hike all the way to Myojin Bridge and then back to the Kamikochi Bus Terminal.
By recommendation is to plan for 5 hours.
You can spend a few days doing different hikes, but these will be tougher and some will be overnight.
Kamikochi Hiking Itinerary
This is my recommended itinerary for visiting Kamikochi as a day trip. It’ll give you a chance to see the best attractions in the park and get the best views.
1. Get off the bus at Taisho-
ike Bus Stop
To start at Taisho Pond, you need to get off at the Taisho-
There are restrooms nearby.
When I was on the bus, the bus driver announced the stop. But you still 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, which should take another 20 minutes.
Don’t cross the bridge. Keep on walking on the right side of the Asuza River.
If you do cross the bridge, you’ll find 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, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
The restrooms cost ¥100.
At the end of your hike, you’ll want to come back here to catch the bus going back to Hirayu.
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 about getting lost. 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 from the Bus Terminal.
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 children so much that they would stay far away from lakes and rivers.
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 there.
The hike continues along the Asuza-
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.
The terrain is pretty flat for almost the whole hike.
When you get to Miyojin, you’ll come to another hotel.
There’s a place you can grab lunch and some nice, clean bathrooms.
As you can see, there are tons of hikers at Kamikochi. 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 the kami found in mountains are especially important.
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 was there, so I didn’t stop.
The mountain hut was built in 1880 by Kamijo Kamonji. He is the person who guided Reverend Walter Weston on his trips through the Japan Alps.
Weston wrote two books in English on the Alps introducing the region to Europeans. 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. I went on a weekend, though. Maybe if you go on a weekday there will be fewer people.
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-
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.
⇒ 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 fleecefor 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.
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Takayama – Day Trip
Since this Kamikochi itinerary starts as a day trip from Takayama, I’ll give you some tips on where to stay and eat there. You can also read my Takayama itinerary for even more ideas.
You can also do this itinerary as a day trip from Matsumoto.
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
The Rickshaw Inn is a traditional Japanese
Where to eat in Takayama
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 beautiful mountain ranges and crystal clear rivers.
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!
If you’ve been to Kamikochi and I left something out or you’ve got a great suggestion, leave a comment below.
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