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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

7 November 2015

Kamikochi in Autumn

15 October 2015

Today we really got the Autumn colours full in the face, whole mountainsides, whole landscapes in fact carpeted in a tapestry mixture of oranges, reds, golds, greens and browns. Frustratingly there were very few places to pull over for a photo – this seemed quite remiss from a nation so keen on photography!

The mountains climb before us

The mountains climb before us


All this was on the drive from Takayama to Kamikochi, so I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. First thing in the morning we drove a few kms from Takayama to the small town of Furakawa, a place with its own charming preserved old district, complete with huge carp swimming in the channels beside the roads, but totally lacking the horde of western tourists in Takayama. To be fair, it wasn’t quite as interesting either, but it made a nice contrast.
A sake shop in Furakawa

A sake shop in Furakawa


Kamikochi almost defeated our navigation skills. The SatNav wouldn’t accept it – because you’re not allowed to drive there, you have to park down the valley and take a bus the last few kms – so we just set off and hoped confidently to spot signs for Kamikochi somewhere along the way, and then maybe see a big car park with a sign saying “Buses to Kamikochi from here!” No such luck. We asked people at a couple of places and they waved us off into the mountains with no English at their command, and I think by pure chance we ultimately stumbled on a roadside car park where the bus to Kamikochi happened to stop. Serendipity may have been with us, but we were frazzled with are-we-ever-going-to-find-it nerves by then.
Kamikochi colour

Kamikochi colour


Kamikochi itself is a splendidly beautiful alpine valley, so I can see why it is much beloved by the Japanese. It’s also the starting place for some of the most challenging mountain hikes in Japan. This explains why our hotel is overpriced and underwhelming – just like staying in Yellowstone or any other national park in the world, you really do pay through the nose for your location (it goes without saying that dinner was a dispiriting buffet and probably the least good meal we’ve had all holiday). Once settled into the hotel, we walked off into the twilight through the woods in search of bears. No luck at all, though having left it late enough that we were walking back in pitch darkness, we did manage to give ourselves the willies!

Better luck tomorrow.


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