The Japan Alps | Kamikochi, Shinhotaka, Shirakawago
The Japan Alps (Nihon Alps), located in the middle of the Japanese mainland, is the mountain region known as one of the best mountain climbing places and hiking trails in Japan. Since Walter Weston, an English man who visited Japan as a missionary and a mountaineer, has introduced the Japan Alps in his book “MOUNTAINEERING AND EXPLORATION IN THE JAPANESE ALPS” published in 1896, the Japan Alps grow popular among western people. The Japan Alps now attracts many mountain climbers, hikers and tourists coming from all over the world, as well as from all over Japan.
The North (Kita) Alps is one of the ranges of the Japan Alps
The Japan Alps (日本アルプス) includes four ranges referred to as the North (Kita Alps), Central (Chuo Alps), and South Alps (Minami Alps). The most popular range of the Japan Alps with scenic views, known as a must-visit site among international tourists, would be the North Alps (Kita Alps 北アルプス), especially the area that includes Kamikochi and Shinhotaka Ropeway situated in Chubu Sangaku National Park. As Hida Takayama historic town or Shirakawago Village, another sightseeing spot as popular as Kyoto, is not so far from Kamikochi and Shinhotaka, it allows people to tour around the area easily.
Map of Central Japan
A flat land lies deep in the mountains of the North Alps, known for scenic views enjoyed from the 10km-long hiking trails along the river Azusagawa (梓川) where crystal clear water runs. Located at 1,500 meters above sea level, it has a cool climate even in summer and a fragrant breeze blows.
Travel Tips for Kamikochi Tourists
The place to enjoy the best view of Kamikochi is Kappabashi Bridge (河童橋), but it will always be crowded with tourists. For avoiding the crowds around the Kappabashi, the suggestion is that you stay overnight at a hotel nearby city such as Matsumoto and visit early in the morning.
Kamikochi is situated in a national park and it is restricted to enter into the area by car for nature conservation reasons. Visitors are to reach by bus or shared taxi. The Kamikochi bus terminal is located near Kappbashi Bridge (about 5 min. on foot). Note that no transportation is available and all accommodations are closed during Winter (from mid. Nov to mid. April).
Shinhotaka Ropeway (新穂高ロープウェイ)
A double-decker ropeway climbs up Nishi-hotaka Mountain, surrounded by 3000m high mountains of the North Alps. The ropeway has 4 stations; Shinhotaka Onsen Station. (新穂高温泉駅, the first station), Nabehira Kogen Station. (鍋平高原駅), Shirakabadaira Station. (しらかば平駅), and Nishi hotakaguchi Sta.(西穂高口駅), the last station at 2156 meter elevation where an observation deck provides a splendid view on a clear sunny day.
Travel Tips for Shinhotaka Tourists
The Shinhotaka Ropeway is so popular that it will be crowded especially on a sunny day. If you want to avoid having to wait in a long line, it will be better to take the ropeway in the morning as early as the Shinhotaka Onsen Station opens. Since Shinhotaka Onsen is a hot springs resort town, staying one night to enjoy Onsen will be a good choice.
The Shinhotaka Ropeway is divided into 2 ropeways; the first one is from Shinhotaka Onsen Station. to Nabehira Kogen Station., and the second one is from Shirakabadaira Station. to Nishi Hotakaguchi Station. It is only a few minute walk between Nabehira Kogen Station. and Shirakabadaira Station.
*Shinhotaka is also called Shinhodaka. (Difference in the part "-taka" and "–daka")
Shirakawago Village (白川郷)
Shirakawago is a secluded village lies deep in the mountains, where old wooden houses, built hundred years ago, have remained in a natural setting.
Travel Tips for Shirakawago Tourists
To reach Shirakawago village, a bus service is available from Takayama Station of Takayama-honsen line. (It takes about 50 min. ) Takayama (= 飛騨高山 Hida-Takayama), an Onsen resort town, referred to as “little Kyoto”, filled with Japanese atmosphere.
Getting to Kamikochi / Shinhotaka area
By Train and Bus| From Tokyo (or Kanto region)
From JR Shinjuku 新宿駅 in Tokyo, take the JR Chuo-honsen line and get off at Matsumoto station 松本駅 (A 3-hour travel). From Matsumoto bus terminal*, take a bus to get to Hirayu-onsen 平湯温泉. From Hirayu Onsen, take a local bus to get to Shinhotaka or Kamikochi, in accordance with your travel plan. The total travel time will be 5 to 6 hours, depending on the destination.
For the Kamikochi area, a local train service "Alpico Kamikochi-sen Line" is also available. The train is served between Matsumoto station and Shinshimashima station 新島々駅. From Shinshimashima, take a bus bound for Kamikochi.
*The buses departure from Matsumoto Bus Terminal 松本バスターミナル (the ground floor of Matsuden Bus Terminal building) in front of Matsumoto Station.
*To reach Kamikochi or Shinhotaka, take a bus from Matsumoto(松本) heading for Hirayu Onsen,.then, change buses there. From Hirayu Onsen, take a bus to get to Kamikochi, Shinhotaka, Takayama, and Shirakawago.
From Nagoya, take a train on the JR Takayama-honsen line and get off at Takayama station. From Takayama, take a bus bound for Shinhotaka.
Total travel Time: Approx. 4 hours.
From Osaka, take a train on the JR Takayama line and get off at Takayama station. From Takayama, take a bus bound for Shinhodaka.
Total travel Time: Approx. 5 hours.
Not only public bus services, private bus services and coach trips are also available. To reach the destination directly, taking a private bus or joining a coach trip will be more convenient. If you have no difficulty in understanding Japanese language, consider the option when making up your travel plan.
From Shinjuku bus terminal, take an expressway bus bound for Hirayu bus terminal (Hirayu Onsen). From Hirayu bus terminal, take a local bus to get to Shinhodaka or Kamikochi, in accordance with your travel plan.
Total travel Time: Approx. 5 hours and 30 min.
There are bus services available between Nagoya (or Osaka) and Takayama. Visitors are to take a bus from Takayama heading for the travel destination.
From Nagoya bus terminal, take an express bus heading for Takayama. then, change the bus and take a routine-run bus heading for the travel destination.
Total travel Time: Approx. 4 hours..
https://shinhotaka.com/ (Japanese site)
Hirayu no mori
Takayama (Hida Takayama)
https://norikura.gr.jp/ (Japanese site)
http://www.goshikigahara.com/ (Japanese site)
Hida Dai Shounyudo (Calcareous cave) and Museum
https://www.syonyudo.com/ (Japanese site)
Matsumoto City of Nagano prefecture
Shinjuku Bus Terminal, Tokyo