9 November 2012

V in Japan - Day 7

Day 7: Hiking in Kamikochi

  • Date: October 19
  • Weather: Sunny, but not that hot (it’s the mountains, eh)
  • Mood: Ready for a walk!

Our hiking spot for the day: Kamikochi

We woke and refreshed ourselves. Steven went once again for a hot bath instead. I kept it to a quick refresh since I got a hot bath last evening.

When all three of us were ready, we had some breakfast in the dining hall (Japanese style) and discussed our plan for the day. Of all spots you could visit, we decided we would go to Kamikochi (where gods descend); a great place for hiking with amazing nature.

The Breakfast? Well, it had green tea, Miso Soup (the kettle in the middle of the table), apple juice, random raw vegetables, rice, a raw egg, seaweed slices (to roll some rice in, as the waitress explained), soy sauce, some vegetables that were being heated on a leaf, natto beans (again?) and a few random things I can’t remember.

After breakfast we walked out to the station to take the bus to Kamikochi. It’s an expensive bus trip back and forth (well over 5000 yen), but there's not really an alternative (unless you have a rented car, I suppose). The trip took close to two hours, including a stop to switch buses in between. At the stop, we bought some snacks and lunch for on the trip in the bus stop shop.

After the bus ride, we arrived at Kamikochi, which (surprisingly) is quite the tourist spot. It was also quite cold, even with my thick t-shirt and thick polar-fleece sweater. Both Steven and I bought an extra T-shirt in the tourist shop to have at least another layer of clothing.

After shopping, we set course for the Kappabashi bridge (unsurprisingly, the logo was a kappa). At this bridge most tourists gathered to take pictures (or shop). So we did the same!

The hiking course

After a few pictures around the bridge area, we started a hike in the beautiful fall scenery in the Japanese Alps. Pictures say more than words, so I’ll let them do the talking.

On the entire walk, each random encounter with Japanese people was accompanied with a “Konichiwaaaa”, which was a fun thing to do (and hear).

At noon, we took halt at a bridge (the one from the previous photo) to have lunch. We noticed that each side of the bridge was also a fork, so you could either go back a different path, or walk further on. Obviously we wanted to walk further on! We decided to do the path in an 8-figure, so we crossed the bridge and took the path that would take us further into the mountains.

Afterwards we walked further on. Further in the mountains we also encountered some wild monkeys, which weren't shy of humans.

A bit further on that path with the monkeys, we came across a fork. One went further on the same path while the other route went deeper into the mountains. At first we wanted to take the mountain-side path, but then we saw a sign that warned us of wild bears. We wisely decided to take the other path.

Path of confusion?

At a point we thought was the halfway point on our 8-figured route, we had a confusing situation.

The path we wanted to take was also noted on the local tourist map signs (oh, yeah, did I mention? Tourist maps are not that great), but several local boards said that this road was closed off for hikers (huh?).

To avoid complications, we walked back to the bridge we stayed at noon. One side of that bridge also had a resting point with a few vending machines. We had a coffee from the vending machine (like a Boss) and took the one route left we didn't take, which returned to the starting area.


Back to Takayama

When returning to the starting point (with tourist shops, Kappabashi bridge, etc) the hike was over. My feet were killing me at this moment, so I was kind of glad the hiking WAS over. Don’t misunderstand me. I liked the trip a lot, but I realized my feet were generating blisters at this point and each kilometer would mean another cm of new blister-area on my two feet.

With nothing else to do at this point, we took the bus back to Takayama. In the midway point we had to wait for our connecting bus (for nearly an hour). To kill the time, we had a steamed meat bun (special taste, but quite good) and visited the shop again.

Once back at the hotel, the mistress of the hotel asked us whether or not we wanted Japanese breakfast (or Western) next morning. Steven chose Japanese, while Francis and me went for the Western.

We took a bath at the hot bath (quite enjoyable after such a hike). And after we were refreshed, we went to a local restaurant for Yakisoba. This was nextdoor to the restaurant we went yesterday and was a lot more crowded (weird, I don't know why one has more customers than the other). We all had the Yakisoba with Egg and went back to the hotel.

The others were dead tired from the hike, so they fell asleep fast. While my feet were glad I sat down (I had to take care of those blisters), I wasn't tired at all (it wasn't even 9 PM).

I wanted to do something, but since my feet refused to move further than the door of our room and my buddies sound asleep, I was limited in my options. So, to kill the time, I played some Yu-gi-oh on my DS until I went to sleep as well.

Tips for traveling Japan - The Japanese Alps

First things first. Mount Fuji is NOT the only mountain in Japan. There are several regions in Japan that are known for its mountains and Mount Fuji is just one of them (yet, the most known one).

During our planning before the actual trip, we designated a 14-day route that would take us to Tokyo, Kyoto and the Japanese Alps (which is up north from Kyoto). The alps and not Fuji, just because we wanted to avoid tourist traps.

The J-Alps consist of 7 cities: Toyama, Omachi, Hida, Takayama, Azumino, Matsumoto and Shiojiri and each city has its own tourist attractions.

We decided to stay in Takayama and visited Kamikochi (which is in Matsumoto).

And that's what I wanted to share with you. Don't stare yourself too blindly on that one mountain (region) west of Tokyo. Visit the Japanese Alps.

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