Winter Trekking in Kamikochi

Kamikochi is known to be closed during winter. Well, it is not completely true. Closing period (Nov. 16 – Apr. 16) means that all the shops and hotels inside Kamikochi are closed and the bus service to Kamikochi is not operated. If you wish to see Kamikochi in winter, the only way to do so is to walk or snowshoe to Kamikochi by yourself.

How to Get There

Snowshoeing starts from K-26 Nakanoyu bus stop which appears in Google Maps as “Chunoyu” – Google is not always right. The buses that stop here are from the Matsumoto-Takayama line (click here to see the timetable). The distance from the bus stop to the Kappa Bridge is about 6.3 km.

Things You Need To Know Before Going

1. During winter closure, all the shops and hotels inside Kamikochi are closed. Make sure to prepare enough food and drink in your backpack.
2. Checking the weather on the day and preparing proper clothes and equipment are a must.
3. Don’t forget to submit a “Mountain climbing registration form” at Nakanoyu gate, before entering Kamikochi.
4. Toilets in wintertime are available at Nakanose Park, Taisho Pond, Konashi-daira and the Kamikochi Bus Terminal (See more details here)

For first-timers and those who are not familiar with winter activities like this, it is recommended to have a local guide with you to help with the document submission, weather checking and equipment rental. Recommended local guided tours are written at the end of this article.

We met our guide "Fujie-san" at the Nakanoyu Gate (K-26 Nakanoyu bus stop) at 9:30. If you don't have snowshoeing gear, that's not a problem. The guide can rent us any of the required gear including snowshoes, crampons, gaiters, appropriate footwear and a pair of poles. Some guides can also rent you ski wear if you don't have proper clothing. Other things you need to bring yourself are sunglasses, sunscreen, a backpack, food and drink.

Starting from the Nakanoyu Gate, we will go through two tunnels which are "Kama Tunnel" and "Kamikochi Tunnel". The first one is 1,310 meters long with 11 degrees slope and the second one is 588 meters long. We started to see the majestic view of Kamikochi unfold in front of our eyes after walking nearly 2 kilometers through long tunnels.

Our trip to Kamikochi was around early March and the snow already started to melt, so Fujie-san suggested that using just crampons should be fine. But you may need to use snowshoe gear if you are going in the middle of winter when the snow is still high, fluffy and hasn’t started melting yet.

We were at Taisho Pond at 10:40.

Another popular camera angle from Taisho Pond. The withered trees lined up before your eyes are "Karamatsu" (Japanese Larch) that turn golden yellow in autumn and fresh green in summer.

Mount Yakedake. (Click here to read our hike to Mt. Yakedake)

Beautiful evergreen trees soaring high in the lovely blue sky.

The view of Hotaka mountain range near the Tashiro marsh.

(Left) Kamikochi Lemeiesta Hotel (white building) and “Kesho-Yanagi” trees (literally translated into “cosmetic willow”) that turn red in winter.
(Right) Kesho-Yanagi is one of the symbols of Kamikochi as it is said that it was found in Japan only in Kamikochi and Hokkaido. In the past, it was used to make cosmetic powder and that became the reason behind its name.

At noon, we finally reached the "Kappa Bridge", our goal for today. The scenery was very different from what we usually see in Kamikochi with tourists taking photos on the bridge.
This was definitely the photo of the day that proved to us that our effort was not for nothing.

Today's lunch includes sandwiches and hot tea generously prepared by our guide.

Our kind and helpful guide, Fujie-san.

On our way back we bumped into a troop of monkeys. So cute and fluffy that I wanted to touch them but no, I didn’t. Let the animals live like they are supposed to live. :)

We got back to the starting point at Nakanoyu Gate at 15:30, 6 hours walk in total. Normally, snowshoeing tours in Kamikochi finish earlier, but I spent too much time taking photos. After a tired but fun day like this, soaking your body in a hot spring definitely makes your day a little more special.

Recommended Guided Snowshoe Tours

Hiking the 5 shrines trail in Togakushi
Hakuba Happo Pond: Gateway to the Heavens

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