Japan Day 4: Kamikochi

*This post was supposed to be published yesterday…

Today’s travel menu is one of the simplest out of the 2 weeks: a trip to Kamikochi. It is about 1500m above sea level. Transport there is non-JR: you have to purchase a round trip ticket for 4400yen each. This set of tickets cover Matsuden train to Shinshimashima station, followed by a bus trip to Kamikochi itself. The place itself is very well-preserved, strictly no private transport there(another way for Alpico to earn money through the bus fare? No malice intended :)). Here’s some pictures I took while on the bus. Nothing much to see anyway, but please do have a look.

Initially, I thought it would be very hot but I was wrong. The air is as cool as in an air-con room itself. Shiok to the max! From here, you can see a whole line of mountains in the surrounding areas(they are quite far from Kamikochi and a few of them can be hiked), with a number of them being volcanoes. We started out at Kappabashi, which is just near the bus terminal. We started off by heading north towards Myojinbashi and Myojin pond, which is about slightly more than 3km. Initially, I was worried of facing a thunderstorm, which I had read on the weather forecast from 2 days ago. On check-in yesterday, the owner of the ryokan assured me that it would be sunny but I still don’t feel so sure about it. Today, it proved that, and I was glad that she was right! At Myojinbashi, please do enjoy the cool wind blowing from upstream. The same goes for wherever you are near the main river stream: the wind is cold, and the water is even colder(you won’t want to fall into the river…).

Not far from Myojinbashi are the Myojin pond and Hotaka Shrine. The shrine is just a small structure enshrining something. Nothing much to mention about it. As for Myojin pond, it requires 300yen to enter. In order to save some $$ in case it is not worth the $$, I decided to go in myself(that’s 600yen saved from the potential 900yen for 3 people). True enough, there wasn’t much to see. The water isn’t even as crystal clear as the river. Nevertheless, I stayed there for a while, as well as took a number of pictures, to max out the value of my 300yen spent 😦

The journey back to Kappabashi from the other side of Myojinbashi was longer than the trip to Myojinbashi. I think I wasted too much time trying to appreciate the surroundings as much as possible, such that there was only 1 hour plus left for the 2nd half of the trip southwards. Well, here’s some proper time taking photos at Kappabashi.

Since our bus trip back is at 4pm(you need to get a seiriken to board the bus back and you have to choose your return timeslot even before you start the hike when you arrive at Kamikochi) and we have to be at the bus terminal 10 minutes before, I rushed through my trip to the southern part. There wasn’t much to see, compared to the previous part. Reason being, this part is mostly covered with dense vegetation, with only 1 path through it(else, you might get lost), meaning almost all you see is green >.< Another point to note is that black bears do inhabit Kamikochi, which makes the experience scarier. Thankfully, I did not encounter any(or I wouldn’t be writing this anyway). The unfortunate thing was that I did not have sufficient time to go further down to see the true beauty of Taisho pond as depicted in the pamphlets themselves 😦 Oh well, at least I got to see Mount Yake-dake from my ending point…

The return trip was quite an experience in itself. A Japanese married couple boarded the bus and the lady sat beside me as there were no more double seats available. She spoke something in Japanese not long after the bus departed(which I didn’t understand, but I think she was saying I’m blocking her view of Taisho pond…). After that, I was not sure why but she started asking a few questions such as where I am from and such(most Japanese don’t talk to strangers out of the blue). For a start, I had to declare(in Japanese) that I can’t understand Japanese language(lest she continues to think that I know what she is talking about, haha). Turns out that she(Yuki) is living in Osaka and her hometown was Nara after the conversation. She also commented that Nana-chan is cute(that’s of course!) when I mentioned that I wanted to attend her live concert in Osaka. Last, but not least, we exchanged names(my name is of course hard to pronounce, let alone remember, for typical Japanese people lol) before they got off at the parking lot(they drove from Osaka!!!) on the way down. Back in Matsumoto, there was not much to do and we were tired from 5-6 hours of non-stop walking. Thus, we went back for an early rest, as well as pack up for departure to Osaka tomorrow.

On a side note, Kamikochi is definitely highly-recommended(even from me) if you like nature. It has great views of the mountains(which form the Japanese Alps if I’m not wrong). I especially liked looking at the mountains and enjoying the cool breeze from the river stream. Please set aside 1 full day if you ever decide to go there to fully appreciate everything there.. You might want to consider setting up camp(there’s camping sites) for overnight(beware of bears though) or staying at a hotel/ryokan there(not cheap, f.y.i) if you don’t think you can catch the last bus back to Shinshimashima station(last bus leaves at 5pm).

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