Hiking Kamikochi National Park is an easy way to spend a day in the Japan Alps. It’s an easy matter to combine several Kamikochi trails. Kamikochi National Park is free to visit and a superb way to spend a day on some of the best walking trails in Japan. I think it should be on every backpacking Japan itinerary, so welcome to the ultimate Kamikochi Guide to Hiking the Japanese Alps.
In this article we’ll cover how to plan your Kamikochi itinerary, how to organise your Kamikochi walks, we’ll provide a Kamikochi Japan map. and also what to do in Kamikochi.
It’s easy to hike Kamikochi (上 高地) in a single day. You can combine several well formed trails, or simply explore a short route around Kamikochi. Autumn is a great time to explore, it’s not too hot, not too cold and it’s generally clear. The views are incredible, the walking easy, there are friendly Japanese walkers, great, helpful National Park staff and hopefully fabulous views.
We visited Kamikochi valley from our base at Matsumoto. Matsumoto is the closest town to Kamikochi. It’s great place to be based to visit the National Park as well as other great spots. We stayed at the ACE Inn, which is 15 SECONDS walk from the Matsumoto train station. We highly the hotel for its position, comfort and breakfast – check prices and availability here.There are, however, some amazing places to stay in the park – see our section on where to stay in Kamikochi.
We undertook our Kamikochi day hikes during the week (hurray, we normally manage to do this sort of thing on a weekend!). The weather was a little cold, but the forecast was for sunshine all day, it made for a glorious day.
If you plan on hiking, especially at altitude you should ensure that you have appropriate travel insurance – here’s our article on what than means in Japan.
How to Get to Kamikochi
Matsumoto to Kamikochi
This route involves taking a train from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima and then from Shin-shimashima to Kamikochi.
We took the Kamikochi ALPINE train from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima. This train is not covered on the JR Pass. The cheapest way to get from Matsumoto to Kamikochi is to buy the combo return ticket. This includes the train from Matsumoto to Shin-shimashima and the bus from Shin-shimashima to Kamikochi. The combo ticket costs 4555 Yen per person. . (Youch! US$38, GBP 24). (This price is still valid in 2018).
Read our guide on what to do before you arrive in Japan – get your free Japan Travel Check List
Matsumoto to Kamikochi – How to Buy a Ticket
You buy the combo ticket from a machine in the Matsumoto Train Station. All machines have options in English and staff are very friendly and helpful if (and when) you get stuck.
The Journey from Matsumoto to Kamikochi
The train is a pleasant ride and there were plenty of seats available.
As we arrived at the small station of Shin-shimashima it was obvious where we needed to go. The bus is waiting for us as we get off the train and 99% of those of us on the train, just hop straight on it. You’ll want to try and get to the front of the line, if there are a lot of people. There are fold down seats in the aisle, so that when the permanent seats are full, the rest of the passengers just file in, flip the seat and perch.
Shin-shimashima to Kamikochi
It’s a lovely ride up into the National Park. Autumn is beginning, and the low cloud that was covering the mountains is starting to burn away.
As we drive into the park, it’s a similar feeling to driving out of the tunnel in Yosemite Valley, USA.
Arriving in Kamikochi – book your time out NOW!
As the only way out of Kamikochi for you is the way you came in, you need to book your return time as soon as you arrive. We arrived in at the Kamikochi bus terminal at 10:00 and signed up for the 1645 return. That gives us 7 hours to spend on the Kamikochi walking trails. There won’t be much sitting around as it’s still pretty chilly and while the weather forecast indicated a nice day, it didn’t say warm! As it turned out, we kept fleeces on all day and wished we’ve brought gloves too!
Be sure to take drinking water – or we recommend the Travel Tap from DrinkSafe Systems – find out how it lets us drink TAP and STREAM and RIVER water while we’re travelling – it’s incredible and saves us a fortune!
Where to Stay – Kamikochi Accommodation
To maximize your time in Kamikochi National Park you should stay at one of the hotels in the park. There are a variety of accommodations in Kamikochi from lodges with dorm beds to onsen hotels and ryokans.
You can access some of the hotels at Kamikochi with a short walk from the bus terminal, other National Park lodges are further away. Why not combine your visit to Kamikochi with a stay in a ryokan, we’ve listed our favourites below and you can also check out our guide to staying in a ryokan.
- Hotel Shirakabaso – fabulous location gorgeous luxury >> Check availability now
- Located in front of the Kappa bridge Kamikochi
- Japanese style rooms
- Free wired Internet
- Public onsen bathing
- TV, fridge WC in the room. Western rooms have bathing facilities.
- Kamikochi Lemeiesta Hotel– Western rooms, very luxurious >> Check availability now
- A 15-minute walk from Kappa bridge
- Western-style rooms
- Free WIFI in public areas
- Fridge, mini bar, kettle and private bathroom in all rooms
- Indoor/outdoor hot spring pools
- Kamikochi Nishi-itoya Mountain lodge – 50 yards from Kappa bridge > Book now, not often available.
- Free WIFI in some rooms
- Shared bathrooms
- Some rooms with balcony
- Free sauna
- Stunning terrace
- Gosenjaku Hotel – facing Kappa bridge > Check prices and book now!
- Views over Kappa bridge
- Free wired Internet in rooms
- 24 hr reception, room service
- Western and Japanese style rooms
- All rooms with AC, heating, TV, seating area, safe, fridge and kettle
- Rooms include a private bathroom
this map is courtesy Kamikochi.org.
Planning your Kamikochi Hike
The information centre is an excellent resource and a great place to start your visit to Kamikochi. Staff will provide you with a Kamikochi hiking map and suggestions as to where you should hike. Before giving you the Kamikochi walking map and marking on where you should hike they’ll ask you how long you want to walk for and perhaps how fit you are. Most of the trails are loops and some link. It’s easy to combine several hiking trails and not have to return to the information centre to set off on a second trail, you’ll be able to see from the Kamikochi trail map the staff give you.
Kamikochi Hiking Trails
Kamikochi is a valley, with a river pretty much down the centre. The day hike walking here is pretty much up one side of the river and down the other side. There are several bridges, so you can split the walks and take in a circular route.
Our Route Around Kamikochi Japan
We head north first to the Kappa-bashi bridge and the first viewpoint.
Japanese domestic tourists are really friendly. Everyone wants to take a photo with you, or of you.
It’s a glorious and relatively quiet walk up through the woods, some of which is on boardwalk, some just in the woods.
What are the trails like?
All the Kamikochi trekking routes that you can do during a single day are easy. The trails are well formed through the woods, there are ways to avoid any pooled water. Occasionally there is boardwalk, which is well maintained.
What are the facilities like at Kamikochi?
There are several places to get a drink, snack or more substantial food. There are also places to sit and picnic. Toilets are also available, although the toilets near the bus stop and information centre do ask you to leave a donation to help keep them clean. There are no garbage bins in Kamikochi (apart from the ones for paper in the toilets). You will need to pack your trash out. This is a general rule in Japan – you have to take your rubbish away with you and dispose of it at home.
We packed lunch. We’re getting really good at boiling eggs in the kettle and making sandwiches without butter while on the train, much to the amusement of fellow passengers. I do believe the small plastic chopping board that we bought in Mongolia now stars in a few locals photos, along with the spork and the swiss army knife…
Hiking in Kamikochi is a fabulous, if expensive, way to spend a day in the Japan Alps. There are food and drink facilities in the park, but you can save money by packing your lunch like we did. Drinking water is available for free, although there is a charge for using the toilets. Get out and enjoy the Japanese Alps at least for a day, you won’t regret it!
What’s the hiking like in Kamikochi?
It’s a peaceful, friendly place to hike. There’s so little noise – the Japanese are such quiet hikers. Hiking in Japan is such a pleasure – peace, friendliness, courteous hikers. I think these – along with the Magome- Tsumago hike – are some of the best hiking trails in Japan.
You’ll find mountain huts, coffee shops and plenty of spaces for picnics.
There are monkeys lazing in the autumnal sunshine, glorious fall colours and very few people.
There is a small store where you can buy souvenirs, and we also found a few painters not only capturing the National Park, but also selling their wares.
We hiked rather faster than anticipated and so swapped our reservation on the later bus for the earlier 16:00 bus back to Shin-shimashima.
The Cost of Hiking Kamikochi
It’s not a cheap day out, but a Kamikochi day trip is an excellent day out . The cost is your transport, not the entrance fee – as it is free to enter Kamikochi National Park. The train and bus tickets from Matsumoto to Kamikochi cost us 4550 Yen each for the return train and bus ticket (US$38, GBP 24) but it’s been a great day, and a fab 6 hours of non-strenuous hiking with glorious views, friendly people and a great environment. .
Kamikochi to Matsumoto
We were hiked out by 4pm. We’d done the trails that we planned to – our walking pace was faster than that suggested by the Information Centre staff. So we headed to the bus stop and were lucky that there were two available seats on the 4pm return to Shin-shimashima. The buses from Kamikochi to Shin-shimashima connect in time to meet trains heading back from Shin-shimashima to Matsumoto.
You’re simply taking your journey here in reverse and it’s remarkably easy. Trekking Kamikochi is a great day trip from somewhere like Matsumoto – just factor in the Kamikochi weather and if you get a good day, you’ll have a fabulous time.
- Where we stayed in Matsumoto – the ACE Hotel
- Using a Japan Rail Pass in Japan
- Our Guide to What to Eat in Japan
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