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If you’re looking for weekend trips from either Tokyo or Kyoto, then look no further than Kamikochi. This beautiful area in central Japan is part of what is considered the Japanese Alps. I spent 3 nights here, though you could visit just for the weekend and still not feel rushed. It was a great way to unwind, and get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo!
When I was planning my trip to Kamikochi, I struggled to find resources in English. This is why I’m so excited about sharing this guide to things to do in Kamikochi, Japan!
My favorite things to do in Kamikochi?
Well, read on my friends…
1. Check out the views from Kappa bridge (Kappabashi)
Kappa Bridge is such a bustling spot in Kamikochi; it’s probably one of the most popular viewing points in this national park! One of my favorite moments was sitting down on one of the seats along the river and eating my lunch and people watching! If you are short on time and can only pick one thing to do out of this entire list of things to do in Kamikochi, I would visit this spot. This bridge is just a 15 min walk from the Kamikochi bus station and is so incredibly photogenic.
2. Wake up to see the sunrise
Waking up early in the morning is always painful, but I’m whenever I do it, I’m SO thankful I made an effort. I’m yet to be disappointed by a sunrise! When visiting Kamikochi in the summer, I needed to wake up at 4 am (I know, craze-balls).
Kamikochi is in a valley, and hence there are no peaks to watch the sunrise from. Because of this, the visitor’s center and the owner of the guesthouse I was staying at recommended that I watch the first light of the day shine over a nearby mountain.
If you’re planning on watching the sunrise in Kamikochi, you will need to stay overnight. Buses don’t operate early enough into Kamikochi so there’s no way you can get in that early from nearby areas that early in the morning. I stayed at Kamikochi Myojinkan and it was a great budget accommodation (and also included breakfast + dinner!)
3. Visit Myojin Pond and Hotaka Shrine
You will need to pay 300 yen (approximately $3 USD) to enter the Hotaka Shrine, but it’s totally worth it! The owners of the guest house I stayed at highly recommended that I visit soon after sunrise. At this time there are very few visitors. I still remember watching the fog roll in across the lake and thinking I was in some kind of movie or alternative universe.
Remember: you will need to stay in Kamikochi if you want to see this early in the morning. Otherwise, the shrine is open during the daytime and is still worth a visit even if you’re not staying overnight.
4. Look out for those mountain views!
You can get a great view of this from Kappa Bridge, but I recommend crossing the bridge and spending some time on the lookout on the other side. This spot was one of my favorite places to see the views, and while it does get busy, some visitors don’t notice the mountain range or don’t know to stop here!
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🏔Visiting Kamikochi was challenging for me. This beautiful area is also known as the Japanese Alps, and is located in Central Japan. 🏃♀️I had never been hiking by myself, and to add to the list of firsts, this area is a bit or a pain to get to, involving a train and then 2 buses. In the end, I was so glad I made the effort 💜 ✨It was a peaceful place to spend the night and it was liberating to go hiking by myself! TELL ME: have you ever gone on a trip that you knew would scare you or push you beyond your comfort zone?? Would love to hear from you!! 💜
5. Check out Taisho Pond
I felt a little disappointed when visiting here – I mean, the mountainous views in Kamikochi are breathtaking, but this particular area didn’t seem to wow me as much. I do wonder whether I was missing something, but if you do have extra time it is a great walk. If you’re short on time and can’t fit this in, I would opt for some of the other spectacular spots.
So, how do I get to Kamikochi?
Unfortunately compared to other tourist spots, Kamikochi is a bit harder to travel to. There are no trains here, so you will either need to drive (remember, cars aren’t allowed in Kamikochi!) or take a train to a nearby town and then take a highway bus.
If you’re visiting from Tokyo, I would recommend taking the JR train or Highway Bus to Takayama and then getting on a bus bound from Kamikochi from there. Takayama is a great place to stop and spend a night (they have a beautiful old town!)
Another option is to take a highway bus from Tokyo (this is also available if you’re traveling from Kyoto) which takes about 5 hours. There are several overnight buses available as well which is a budget-friendly option for those who want to save a night of accommodation.
While a 5-hour bus ride sounds crazy, highway buses in Japan are often super comfortable! If you pay a bit extra, you can get a wider seat with lots of leg room (similar to business class seats on domestic flights!) The buses also make regular toilet stops, and you can get free wifi on board. I’ll be putting together a guide to Highway Buses in Japan – so keep a look out if you want to read more!
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Getting around Kamikochi
City slickers may struggle a bit, but the only way to get around within Kamikochi is actually on foot. You heard me right – there are no buses, no taxis and no cars allowed in Kamikochi. While this sounds like a complete pain-in-the-butt, most of the walks to the major spots are short and paved. I secretly loved being away from traffic and the city. I got to spend so much more time hiking and walking than I would otherwise!
Where to stay in Kamikochi
If you can, I would highly recommend spending at least one night in Kamikochi. The area is incredibly popular with day trippers, so if you spend the night, you get to appreciate the area without the day crowds.
My accommodation suggestion: Kamikochi Myojinkan
I stayed at Kamikochi Myojinkan and found this to be the most budget-friendly accommodation in Kamikochi. They have both are shared dorms for budget travelers or private rooms.
All rooms have traditional Japanese designs, and in the dorm rooms, instead of regular bunk beds, they use futons! I spent 2 nights here, and had a very comfortable’s night sleep.
Both breakfast and dinner is included in the nightly rate, which includes locally sourced and prepared produce. I LOVED my meals here and would highly recommend staying here.
Note: Kamikochi Myojinkan is located a 45min walk from the bus station, so if you have a big bag you will need to leave it at the luggage storage at the bus station! The walk to Kamikochi Miyojinkan is not paved the entire way and can be very difficult if you’re lugging around a suitcase. Read more on Tripadvisor here
Kamikochi is such a beautiful area to explore, and I would HIGHLY recommend visiting if you have a weekend free in Japan.
I loved my time there and was surprised there weren’t more people. I’ve visited places like Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes (they come highly recommended as weekend trips from Tokyo), but honestly, these areas are HEAVING with tourists. They still are spectacular places to visit, but if you dislike crowds and big groups of people I would highly suggest you check out Kamikochi instead!
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