Kamiköchi the Japanese Alps or Switzerland in Japan
A small village in the mountains which can only be reached by public transport bearing stunning mountain views… some of you will think now: this sounds like Zermatt. Well yes if you reduce it to these 3 attributes that’s correct. However there are no electric taxi trying to hit you on the road, no shops except 3 tiny tourist shops which cover the basic, no restaurants, nothing… but they have bears and one was seen the day we arrived. Thus as recommended, I was buying a bear bell. Thus all along the hiking path it sounded like hordes of sheep are going up the mountain. Clearly the bears must be stuffing their ears with ‘Tannzapfen’ as this noise is unBEARable. But it seems it worked no bear spotted during the 2 days we hiked there.
on top of this blingblingblingblingbling it was normal to greet each and every other hiker thus ‘Konichiwa’ here ‘Konichiwa’ there…. ‘chwaaaa’ ‘chwaaaa’ as the cool dudes would say. Now Japanese are very respectful and polite in principle, so if there is one a bit slower in walking up hill… they would immediately stop and ask you to pass.. followed by ‘arigato gosaimas’ ‘mas’ So basically all day it was a mix of ‘konichiwa’ blingblingbling ‘arigato gosaimas’ … mas, chwaaaa, arigatooo… i think even they got sometimes tired of it ha ha. However over all a very nice way to hike as nobody would rush passed you, push, squeeze.. or whatever.. everybody was very relaxed and friendly.
On our first day we hiked up the Yake-dake 2500m. This was quite an easy hike despite me being scared of the bears… which were gone long time ago because of all the ‘sheep’ however in a way a special hike as it was an active vulcano. At this stage nobody knew that Ontake would start spitting ashes on the same day. As we climbed higher you started to smell the Sulphur and soon we saw yellowish patches where hot air was escaping from the mountain (somebody put eggs to cook on such a spot). On the top we enjoyed the beautiful view around the valley, the crater lake and all the other tourists.
On our second day we hiked/climbed up the Maehotakadake 3090m. This hike was a tough one – it took us including breaks nearly 11hrs.. hence we set off very early in the morning.
It would be mainly marked white/blue in Switzerland and there were many passages where you literally had to climb and not to hike, hence this needed much more time. Dangerous passages where equipped with fix ropes, ladders or chains – all very well done. The most surprising thing was that also very old people (75+) were going up to the top – we were truly amazed about the way they climbed… very patiently but persistent. Also they were not really in hiking gear but just in their normal clothes… compared to the young Japanese who’s equipment was state of the art. On the top we enjoyed a breathtaking 360 panorama view including the ‘Japanese Matterhorn’ and the smoking Ontake.
On the way down i was less lucky. After about 400m descent i slipped out and made a kind of salto flip (shame Yvo had the go pro not ready) it looked apparently spectacular. Gladly i managed to kind of get grip on some rock so that i didn’t slip further down hill, by miracle not hit my head nor the arms, only got a hit on the knee and some bruises on my legs. hmmmmm shame that there were still 1200m do hike down…
once we reached the village we celebrated the long hike with a cold beer on the riverside 🙂 Kamiköchi truly a wonderful hideaway for hiking and relaxing.