Day 9 – Hiking In Kamikochi, What You Need To Know

Kamikochi Valley

Monday, 11 July 2011

Goodbye to Kamikochi, back on the bus to Hurau Onsen…

Beautiful Colours

It was enough time in the mountains without having ice gear with me, next time that would be different! On the last I was invited up Mt Jonan, which would have been great; I had met the hut owner two nights before – famous in the area, he had been running the hut for a very long time. The climb definitely needed crampons and an ice-axe, next trip.

Hirayu Onsen is tiny, seems practically deserted after the crowds around Kamiokochi terminal. My guess is most people take buses to the terminal here, at a ‘coach restaurant’ at the terminal’ go to the public baths upstairs then leave.

I had trouble finding useful information about trekking around the Japanese alps, so here is some bits and pieces that will hopefully help others.

Myojin Pond

When you first arrive in Kamikochi you come to a visitor centre, it’s really useful – there are places to fill water, they store luggage, they know weather and contact details for the first hut. After the first they can contact the next for you – just in case you don’t turn up at the end of the day! The luggage storage is great, I can’t remember how much , but it is very cheap, your bags are locked together and you get a docket with an expected return date. It is so much easier not to have to organise to leave a bag in a hotel, who usually have very little space and don’t like to keep them.

Very quickly after the visitor centre you leave tourist land along with the day bus crowds, within an hour you are really jus with other walkers; and the scenery is beautiful!

Huts are everywhere, relatively expensive but it means you don’t need to bring any cooking gear, sleeping mats or bags, or a tent! The food tends to be fish, some sort of meat, lots of rice, miso soup, Veges, in other words a standard Japanese breakfast. For another 1000¥ (about $10) they will make you a bento box to take for the day as well. Huts always have a price with meals and without, meals are about $10 each, and are worth it! It is very hard to resist a cold beer if are walking summer, about ¥400 for a can, not outrages considering where you are.

Beds are tatami mats and futons with blankets, sheets and doonas, basically what you need. Dinner tends to be early, 5.30 or 6, its best if the hut knows you are coming by around 3 too make sure they cook enough food. Breakfast is early,6-7. Most have a 9 or 9.30 lights out when power drops. If you are really lucky some have hot baths to soak the legs in 🙂 If you are in a dorm do bring earplugs, snorers and everyone wanting to be on top of the mountain for sunrise.

The size of these huts is amazing, the ones I stayed in could easily sleep a hundred people, and they are spaced every few hours walking!

You can get the maps for the area from any of the multitude of gear shops that now seem to be everywhere in Tokyo, hiking is popular, on the mountains the range of people is from 20 year old men and women through to 80s. Even on the technical climbs there seems just as many women as men, far more than Australia.

The map for the Kamikochi area is easy to find in bookshops and gear shops; it is number 37 in the Mapple series and is 1:50000, it shows the trails, huts, the time between the huts and of course the topography! Oh, and it’s bilingual…

On the hike, the water is safe to drink, although locals recommend you don’t drink from the main river, there are plenty of side streams and waterfalls, large mountains covered with snow means fresh, delicious water!

I was here in July, walking was hot, 28 degrees or so, but there was still a lot of snow as soon as you went up more than 1000m, Plenty of snow!

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