Hiking in Kamikōchi - The Japanese Alps: Mt. Chōgatake (蝶ヶ岳) - Vikingess Voyages

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hiking in Kamikōchi - The Japanese Alps: Mt. Chōgatake (蝶ヶ岳)

When talking about mountains in Japan the thing that first comes to mind for most people is probably Mt. Fuji, a famous Japanese landmark which additionally has become the country's newest World Heritage site. However, there are many other mountains in Japan that can offer an interesting experience for those who are longing for adventures outside of Japan's sprawling city life.
My boyfriend specifically wanted me to point out that as Mt. Fuji is a volcano there is not much to see besides rocks (update: blog post from when we climbed Mt. Fuji). In other words it is not really the most interesting place to hike in Japan; instead Mt. Fuji is far more fascinating to view at a distance. We visited the famous volcano last year but were really unlucky with the weather conditions. Eventually, our guide considered it to be too risky to continue, and thus we never even made it to the top. After having agreed that the trip probably would not be worth to do again we rather settled on a weekend trip to Kamikōchi for this time where our goal was to climb Mt. Chōgatake in the Japanese Alps.
The Japanese Alps consists of a large mountain range on Japan's main island Honshū with the highest peaks exceeding 3000 meters. As mentioned we had decided to climb a mountain called Mt. Chōgatake (蝶ヶ岳) with a hight of 2664,32 meters and a supposedly nice view over Nagano. Yuma actually went here when he was in kindergarten, so this hike can even be done for families with children.
This weekend was a so-called sanrenkyū (三連休) where workers get an extra day off so all the direct buses to Kamikōchi, the outset of our hike, were fully booked. Our trip started with a night bus trip from Tokyo to Nagano, where we had to first change to a small train and second to a local bus. Arriving in Kamikōchi on Saturday morning the weather was a bit cloudy, and after we had been walking for a little while the rain started to poor down too.
On our way to the mountain, we passed the Kappabashi (河童橋) bridge that is a well-known landmark in Kamikōchi.
After having climbed for a couple of hours it got quite cold, and we even passed through areas where the snow still laid thick.
Unfortunately, it was quite cloudy, so the view was not as good as it could have been from the top.

We reached the summit of Mt. Chōgatake a couple of hours earlier than expected and enjoyed the sight of the colorful tents. One of the guys there was however quite unlucky; his tent was taken by the strong wind while he was trying to put it up and it soon disappeared down the steep mountainside. Although I don't mind adventures I was thinking it was a good thing we weren't camping outside too..!! For this trip, we had settled for a night in the yamagoya (山小屋 - mountain hut) on the summit of the mountain.

Outside the mountain hut's entrance.

We had planned to see both the sunset and the sunrise, but unfortunately, the weather conditions continued to be rather bad during our time on the summit. Yuma even jokes about me being an ameonna (雨女 - a girl who attracts rain wherever she goes), as we have been followed by rain during our latest hiking adventures. When we left Mt. Chōgatake in the morning it was both windy and rainy, and the weather didn't clear up until we reached the gorge at the foot of Mt. Chōgatake. Of course, the weather got really nice from then on, just my luck... 
On the other hand, the sudden change in weather made it quite nice to get back to Kamikōchi, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the river. Kamikōchi is a popular place for tourists, and many Japanese people come here to enjoy the sight of the pretty nature without actually climbing any of the surrounding mountains.

At the end of our trip, back in Kamikōchi.
For more information about how to get to Kamikōchi you can check out this page: http://www.kamikochi.or.jp/english/access/
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Kamikōchi is probably to travel by bus, and if you know Japanese or someone who can help you with ordering you can find tickets online through Rakuten Travel:

Hotel Booking:
Hotels in Nagano

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Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, and I'll get a small commission if you make a hotel booking through these links.
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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