Kamikochi and the Japanese Alps

kamikochi_panoramaKamikochi is located in the North Japanese Alps. This is the home of Japanese alpinism, a sport introduced to Japan at the end of the nineteenth century by the British missionary Walter Weston. Since then, the Japanese have organized their mountains with thousands of trails and an extensive mountain-hut system. Even the Imperial Hotel has a branch in the valley of Kamikochi (the bottom of the third frame from the right). Before the tourists and climbers, mountains were climbed for religious practice. You will find shrines at the top of many of the peaks.

Kamikochi is home to Japan’s third tallest peak Okuhodaka-dake (3,190m/10,470ft.), which can be seen on the right of the panorama. The active volcano Yake-dake (2,455m/8,050ft) can also be climbed if it is not venting gas—it last erupted in 1962 and can be seen in the third frame from the left. The trail on the ridge between Okuhodaka-dake and Yake-dake is known for being one of the most dangerous, and spectacular, routes in Kamikochi.

These photographs were taken from the lesser climbed peaks of Kasumisawa-dake (2,645m/8,680ft.)—K2, as it is known, is the dark peak on the left, with the peak of Kasumisawa-dake just beyond it; I am standing on K1. To say this place is off the beaten path would be an accurate description. Most of this trail is overgrown and can become very unclear in places. It was one of the most physically demanding day hikes I have ever had in Japan, mostly from the heat and humidity of the brush and the undulating trail, rather than from it being technically challenging. Naomi and I were the only ones on the peak that day; it is rare treat to be alone in Kamikochi. Click on the image for a larger view.