One of Japan’s most breathtakingly scenic regions, Kamikochi is only open for half the year – between the last frosts of spring, and the turning of the leaves in autumn. Mirrored lakes, alpine flora – and the occasional monkey – are here to greet those who make the trip by public bus or taxi (as private cars are not permitted). This limited accessibility keeps the area unspoiled – though, understandably, it’s a popular place to visit during summer holidays or on weekends when the weather is fine.
Kamikochi makes a great full day escape from either Takayama or Matsumoto – though we would recommend a very early start for a chance to see the morning mist rolling off Taisho Pond. The journey is impossibly beautiful, with roads winding through valleys dotted with cute farmhouses. This pleasant trip will require a quick change of buses in each direction, but is otherwise pretty painless.
Upon arrival, decide between a few circular hikes – all easy to accomplish for even the moderately fit – that will guarantee you wonderful forest views against a backdrop of towering peaks. Anyone looking to stay in the region overnight will have a few places to choose from – some simple Western-style hotels, but some charming Japanese inns also. Waking up here to the fresh mountain air is an extraordinary experience, and whether you’re escaping the summer humidity for clear blue skies, or catching the fall colours creep across the treetops, this is sure to be a spectacle to remember.