Kamikochi Valley and Hida Mountains or Northern Japanese Alps are the results from a series of geological processes that began 2.6 million years ago, when the Azusa River carved out a deep valley while the adjacent mountains rose abruptly. Further volcanic and sedimentary activities continued to transform the Kamikochi Valley until recently. Nowhere can illustrate the dramatic transformations of Kamikochi more evidently than the Taishoike or Taisho Pond (大正池), when the eruption of Mount Yake (焼岳) in 1915 dammed the Azusa River to form the beautiful Taisho Pond. Today, the tranquil turquoise pond right by the foot of Mount Yake has become the most popular destination in Kamikochi.
After two nights at Kamikochi, it was time for us to move on to Shirahone Onsen for a dip in its famous milky hotspring. Before leaving Kamikochi by the 8:25am bus, we opted for our last hike to visit Taisho Pond before breakfast. We headed out at 5am. The sky was grey compared to our previous two days.
Time was still early and the sun had yet risen beyond the mountains, though the air was fresh and filled with a sense of tranquility.
The trail to Taisho Pond soon led us into a forest. Bear sighting was an unlikely possibility. The last time someone saw a bear in the area was three weeks prior to our visit.
The trail led us passing through some wet and shaded forest area before reaching a wetland right by Azusa River.
It took us about 45 minutes to reach the Taisho Pond. Mount Yake (焼岳), the volcano whose eruption in 1915 caused the formation of the famous pond, stood right behind the turquoise water.
Unfortunately, the sky was grey and the early sunlight was still weak. The colour of Taisho Pond was not as vivid as we hoped.
Nonetheless, the peaceful scenery and the pleasant colour palette of Taisho Pond still looked magnificent.
The beautiful reflections on the mirror like water revealed how peaceful the Taisho Pond was.
Taisho Pond is the ideal place to admire the scenery of Mount Yake.
Taisho Pond seemed to provide a desirable habitat for wild ducks.
Fallen logs in the water dated back to the last eruption of Mount Yake.
A long boardwalk provides convenient access to the lookout of Taisho Pond.
On our return journey to Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge, we passed by a lush green wetland.
A small detour from the main path led us to the picturesque Tashiro Pond (田代池), a peaceful wetland with crystal clear water.
Along the way, we passed by a stubborn duck that refused to step aside from the middle of the main path.
Back to Nishi-itoya Mountains Lodge we had a close encounter with two Japanese macaque monkeys.
After two hours of hiking, we felt total satisfied for devouring the fantastic breakfast.
After two nights of delightful stay, it was time for us to check out of Nishi-itoya Mountain Lodge.
We made it just in time to catch the 8:25am bus to Sawando (沢渡) where we would make a transfer for Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉).
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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE
Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)
Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)
Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)
Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)
Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)
Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)
Dawn came before 5am. Taking a walk in Kamikochi before most tourists came out was a charming experience. Walking southwest along the serene Azusa River before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル), a small metal plaque at a small water pond reminded us the early mountaineering history in Kamikochi back in the late 19th century. Known as the Weston Memorial, the bronze plaque was made in honour of Walter Weston, whom many referred to as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan.”
Before the late 19th century, the Japanese Alps was largely unknown to the Western world, and climbing mountains just for fun was a non-existence. Employed by the Meiji government, English surveyor William Gowland became the first foreigner to summit Mount Yari (槍ヶ岳) of the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈) in 1878. His adventure started a trend of mountaineering in Japan and was the first person to coin the term “Japanese Alps (日本アルプス)”. In 1891, English missionary Walter Weston also climbed Mount Yari. Sometimes referred as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan”, Walter Weston wrote about his experiences and published “Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japan Alps”, an important travel literature that promoted this part of Japan to the Western world. He continued to adopt also Gowland’s term “Japanese Alps” in his publications, and established the first Japanese Alpine Club in 1905. Each year, the Weston Memorial Festival takes place in Kamikochi to commemorate Walter Weston.
Walking at 5am along Azusa River was a lovely experience. The charming scenery under the early morning sun gave us an uplifting spirit.
The turquoise water of Azusa River led us southwest towards the volcano Mount Yake.
It seemed that our fortune with perfect weather continued.
The rising sun was behind us as we moved along the river in a leisure pace.
The volcano Mount Yake in the distance was our intended hiking destination later in the day.
Before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel, we came across the bronze plaque of Walter Weston. The memorial could be reached via stepping stones in the pond.
Soon we reached a path that led to the trailhead of Mount Yake (焼岳). The trail up to Mount Yake (焼岳) can be done in a 6 hour hike (round trip). It was our intended destination for later today. But our hotel manager said the snow conditions on the trail was not too convincing, and recommended us to do the day hike of Dakesawa (岳沢) instead.
Continuing south we reached the Tashiro Bridge (田代橋), where we had a fine view of Azusa River, Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル) and the mountains beyond. Crossing the bridge, we began to turn back towards Kappa Bridge.
Along the riverside, there were occasional park benches and tables where hikers were enjoying outdoor breakfast.
On our way back, the rising sunlight finally reached the summits of Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).
Before the arrival of tour groups, hikers can enjoy a moment of tranquility in the early morning.
Looking at Mount Yake (焼岳) from Kappa Bridge, we decided to drop by the Visitor Centre to ask for their advice on the trail conditions of Mount Yake.
If the hike up Mount Yake was not possible, we would turn to the Dakesawa (岳沢) trail going up the slope towards Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).
At the Visitor Centre, the staff confirmed that the trail up Mount Yake was still quite snowy at the upper section. Unless we had snow crampons they advised us not to go for the volcano. They said even the Dakesawa trail could be covered by snow at the upper sections, so we could go as far as we could accordingly to the trail conditions.
Back at Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge, we enjoyed our scheduled breakfast at 7am. It was a tasty and filling meal before we embarked onto the hike up to Dakesawa Hut.