It’s already early in my garden, persimmons are growing, higanbana flowers are blooming, and insects are singing their autumn songs. The other day I grilled the first saury for dinner and peeled a pear for dessert. Even if we are not aware of it, the season is definitely shifting to autumn. Autumn is often described as the season of appetite, reading, and sleep, but I think the best part of autumn is the changing of the leaves. If I had to choose, I would prefer to see exceptionally beautiful autumn leaves. So, for those of you who are greedy and want to satisfy not only your appetite for autumn leaves, but also your appetite for reading and sleeping, I would like to introduce one such place in this column.


Kamikochi transformed into a mountain resort


Kamikochi is one of Japan’s most famous scenic spots and has long been loved for its beautiful autumn leaves.
However, to be honest, until recently, Kamikochi was just a gateway that I passed through early in the morning to access the mountains located deep inside, and after descending the mountain, I just wanted to take a hot spring bath as soon as possible. However, in the past few years, the area has been renovated for inbound tourism, and the lodges and stores that used to be little more than beautiful mountain lodges have been transformed into magnificent resort hotels. Although it was positioned as such at the time, it has now evolved into one of Japan’s leading mountain resorts, with facilities and equipment just like the European Alps. As a result of the Corona disaster, I feel that there are more and more people who just want to spend some time in nature. It’s not that they want to climb mountains, but they want to enjoy the overwhelming wilderness with their families, children, and loved ones. This summer I stayed in Kamikochi several times to spend a few days with my guests, as I have more opportunities to meet such needs in my work.
Of course, when you are climbing a mountain, you have to go there to see the scenery that is worth the walk. However, there is a certain amount of tension involved, and a particular amount of physical strength and endurance is required to achieve a feeling of accomplishment. But staying in Kamikochi and spending time without climbing as the main objective, I was surprised to see how relaxed and easy it is to enjoy nature…!


Surrounded by some of the most famous mountains in the Japanese Alps, the scenery is breathtaking, and the renovated accommodations are spectacular. Although the accommodation is moderately priced, I would like you to stay there for two nights if possible.

白樺荘 Hotel Shirakabaso
五千尺ホテル Gosenjaku hotel


Most of the several accommodations have undergone extensive renovations, and the facilities and services are of very high quality.You can enjoy rooms with stunning views and a terrace where you can relax in a hammock, a full course of authentic French cuisine and fine wines, dining on a large outdoor terrace, and authentic sweets made by a pastry chef….

白樺荘 Hotel Shirakabaso 
五千尺ホテル Gosenjaku Hotel


Even if you don’t climb mountains, Kamikochi has a truly beautiful and precious landscape and history. And the contrast between the dynamic scenery and the delicate alpine plants. There is nothing like the luxury of spending time here while slowly observing….You can satisfy your appetite for food, reading, and sleep in such an environment.


Since it is such a wonderful environment, it would be a good idea to spend one day of your stay at Myojin Pond and walk around along the Azusa River. It takes about two hours for an adult to walk there and back, but you may enjoy walking for three to four hours, or even a little longer, while taking breaks. Actually, this summer, when I walked with a family with two children, aged three and five, we spent about four hours walking, taking frequent breaks to play with the children and find things they might be interested in along the way. There are no big ups and downs, and there are plenty of places to take a break, which is one of the charms of this place. Incidentally, on Friday, October 8, the Myojin Festival will be held at Myojin Pond to thank the gods for the safety of the mountain.


No cars are allowed to enter Kamikochi, so you have to take a bus or a cab to get there but the first bus leaves at 5:00 a.m. even on the early morning, and considering the 30-minute boarding time, only guests can enjoy Kamikochi until 5:30. If you take a walk in the empty Kamikochi at sunrise in the early morning, you will see the Azusa River fantastically covered with river mist, and the murmur of the clear stream and the chirping of birds will echo in the clean air. Such a pure time. If you have the time and energy, I recommend a round trip to Tashiro Pond and Taisho Pond where the morning mist is still visible.
However, beware of wild bears as they often walk around at this time. In addition to bears, there are many wild monkeys in Kamikochi. It is said that there are three groups of Japanese monkeys living in the area, and you can encounter them at a very high rate. I’ve seen them almost every time I’ve been to Kamikochi. They are rather accustomed to people and do not threaten you, so there is no need to be afraid of them, but they are still wild monkeys, so try to keep a safe distance from each other when you meet them.


Likewise in the evening, after the last bus leaves, the place is almost completely reserved. The quietness of this time of day is absolutely amazing, and when the moon and stars are shining beautifully….


The best autumn leaves in Japan


And because it is such a place, the season of autumn leaves is really wonderful.The best time to see the leaves is usually around mid to late October.Yes, right now. This is a spectacular sight that you should definitely see at least once. By the way, if you are confident about your physical strength, you can take a walk from Kamikochi to Yokoo Sanso, which is about a 3-hour walk. After climbing for about three hours, you must see the autumn colors of the Karasawa Cirque. It is a true spectacular view that has been called “the best in Japan”. It is said, “Don’t talk about Hotaka without seeing the autumn colors of Karasawa”. The altitude is a little higher here, so the best time to see the autumn leaves is from late September to early October. However, if you want to go this far, you may be able to make a day trip, but it is generally difficult and you will need to stay overnight. However, due to the civid-19, there is a high possibility that the number of people will be limited and you will not be able to reserve a lodge, so you need to check in advance. I think you can pitch a tent, though. But if you want to move around Kamikochi and don’t want to go that far, I’m writing this article for you, so if you are one of those people and want to do a little bit of climbing, I recommend hiking to Takezawa Hut. It takes a little over three hours to climb slowly. The open view overlooking the looming rock walls of Hotaka and Kamikochi is amazing.

↑There are photos taken this summer when I dropped by the Takizawa Hut to admire the alpine flora.


Autumn passes in a blink of an eye. There is still a lot of beautiful nature left in Japan, and not just in Kamikochi. I personally believe that seeing the changes in nature with your eyes and feeling the breeze on your skin is a true happiness that is not materialistic. I hope you will enjoy this autumn.

フォトギャラリー 涸沢カールの紅葉(撮影は昨年10月初旬)

Photo Gallery Autumn leaves at Karasawa Cirque (photoes taken in early October 2020)


画像に alt 属性が指定されていません。ファイル名: 191571088_507962560396915_6648693782566121876_n-1024x683.jpg

中島 力
Riki Nakajima

Guide Company HP for Winter :
Guide Company HP for Green Season :

1981年、滋賀県出身。 カナダ・ウィスラーに留学中、CSIAインストラクター資格と、日本人初となるCFSAフリースキーインストラクター資格を取得。帰国後は数々のフリースキー大会への参加に加えて、バックカントリーでの滑走へも活動の場を広げた。ここ数年は、北海道トマムスキー場をベースに、スキーのレッスンやガイド、イベント運営、MCなどその動きは多岐にわたっている。また、毎年春になると海外へとわたり、アドベンチャー要素の高い山行を継続的にトライし、その模様を映像や写真、イベントで表現している。 ガイドカンパニー「RIKI JAPOW GUIDE」代表。

Born in Shiga Prefecture in 1981. While studying in Whistler, Canada, he became a certified CSIA instructor and the first Japanese freeski instructor to receive the CFSA freeski instructor certification. After returning to Japan, he expanded his activities to include backcountry skiing in addition to participating in numerous freeskiing competitions. For the past few years, he has been working at Tomamu Ski Resort in Hokkaido, giving ski lessons, guiding, managing events, and acting as an MC. He also travels abroad every spring to try his hand at high adventure mountain climbing, and expresses his experiences through videos, photos, and events. He is the representative of the guide company “RIKI JAPOW GUIDE”.