Kamikōchi (上高地 Upper Highlands ) is a remote mountainous highland in the western portion of Nagano Prefecture, Japan, which has been preserved in its natural state. It has been designated as one of Japan's National Cultural Assets. It is sometimes referred to as the "Japanese Yosemite," although it is considerably smaller than its American counterpart. The highlands reach an altitude of 1,500 m (4,900 ft). The kanji 神垣内 (Kami-ko-uchi) were also used to write "Kamikōchi," but 上高地 (Kami-kō-chi) has become the common way to write the name.
Kamikōchi is located in the Hida Mountains, the northern part of the Japan Alps. Kamikōchi is bordered on its northern end by Mount Hotaka, and on its southern end by Mount Yake, an active volcano. The Azusa River flows the length of the valley, filling Lake Taishō at the base of Mt. Yake. Lake Taishō received its name because it was formed by the eruption of Mt. Yake in 1915, which was part of the Taishō period in Japan. Kamikōchi is a high mountain valley approximately 16 kilometers in length. The average elevation of the valley floor ranges between roughly 1400 meters above sea level at the south end and roughly 1600 meters at the northern tip.
Because of the relatively flat topography, the valley has a number of marshes and ponds, including Takezawa Marsh, Tashiro Pond and Myojin Pond. As the waters are mainly from melted snow runoff or underground aquafers, the water temperature is quite cold, even in the height of summer. The Tokusawa area at the far northern end of the valley served as a grazing area for horses and cattle until 1934, when the area was completely integrated into the park.
The Kamikōchi area was logged very extensively until the mid-19th Century. Walter Weston, a British missionary, is credited with sparking Japanese interest in mountaineering, and also with lobbying to preserve the Kamikōchi area. Japanese novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa is also credited with a tourism boom when he published his book "Kappa" in 1927.
Nowadays, the facilities include two camping areas, some hotels (western-style and traditional Japanese ryokan), a post office, a tourist information center and some souvenir shops, mainly located between the bus and taxi terminal and Kappa-bashi bridge. As the entire highland is protected as part of the Chūbu-Sangaku National Park, access is only granted to bus, taxi and local workers' vehicles. The park is officially open from mid-April to mid-November, with peak crowds during the summer school holidays (end of July through the end of August) and when the autumn leaves are at their peak in October.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kamikochi.|
- List of Special Places of Scenic Beauty, Special Historic Sites and Special Natural Monuments
- Tourism in Japan
- Chūbu-Sangaku National Park
- Kamikōchi Official Website (Japanese)
- Kamikochi Fan-site (English)
- Kamikōchi Visitors Center (Japanese)
- Japan Atlas: Kamikōchi
- Japan National Tourism Organization: Kamikōchi