Visit Kamikochi: The Jewel of Chubu Sangaku National Park

Posted on 2024.03.21 in Activities and Spots

Located near the midpoint of Chubu Sangaku National Park, the alpine valley of Kamikochi is a special protected zone within the park and one of Japan’s most rewarding outdoor destinations. Only accessible from mid-April to mid-November due to the heavy snow of winter, Kamikochi must be accessed using public buses, taxi or a chartered vehicle. Personal vehicles are prohibited in an effort to limit our impact of the pristine ecosystem, underscoring just how importantly it is regarded. The 16 kilometer valley follows the beautiful Azusa River and is bookended by Mount Hotaka – Japan’s third highest mountain – and Mount Yakedake – an active volcano. Leisurely walking trails provide access on foot to a spectacular landscape with more advanced mountaineering courses then leading into the mountain including Hotaka and Mount Yari – both above 3000 metres.


What is Kamikochi?

Part of the wider Chubu Sangaku National Park, Kamikochi is afforded additional protection due to the beauty and importance of its ecosystem and carries an additional designation as one of Japan’s National Cultural Assets. As stated above, entry to Kamikochi is controlled to limit the impact of visitation on that ecosystem, only heightening the appeal for visitors to flock there between April to November to witness the grandeur of Japan’s North Alps.

Kamikochi has an average elevation of around 1500 metres above sea level, with the mountains above ascending to over 3000 metres. The azure Azusa River feeds waterways including Taisho Pond and Myojin Pond, while an abundance of alpine flora and fauna are found within the valley. A place of beauty and spiritual importance, we highly recommend making the short journey from Matsumoto to experience it for yourself.


What’s on Offer?

Entering Kamikochi, you will soon catch sight of the impressive Mount Hotaka rising above the alpine valley, as you arrive a Taisho Pond. On a clear day the mountain reflects beautifully off the water and it is here you can start walking with an easy river-side trail leading onto Kappabashi or be transported as far as the bus terminal (in the same area).

Kappabashi or “Kappa Bridge” connects the banks of Azusa River and with Mount Hotaka sitting behind, this is the most iconic spot in Kamikochi. Most visitors spend their time in this area given its proximity to the bus terminal and concentration of restaurants and cafes. Trails then lead on, further up the river toward Myojin Pond and eventually, onto the trailheads for mountaineering courses into the mountains.

Whether you choose to walk the trails along the river, spend your time at Kappabashi or undertake the trails that lead into the mountains, all visitors to Kamikochi have access to one of Japan’s most impressive alpine landscapes.




How to Get There?

  • By train/bus: from Matsumoto Station, take the Matsumoto Dentetsu Kamikochi train line Shin-Shimashima Station - 30 minutes - then take the connecting bus service to Kamikochi - 60 minutes. There is also a once daily direct bus to Kamikochi from Matsumoto Bus Terminal early in the morning - 90 minutes.

  • By car: though the access road that provide entry to Kamikochi is off-limits to personal vehicles, you can still drive and park nearby and use the public bus service or a taxi to enter Kamikochi. To do so, drive to the Sawando Parking Lot – around 50-minutes drive from Matsumoto - and then take the bus or a taxi.


Kamikochi Official Website

Alpico Bus Website

Kamikochi in Winter