nagano kamikochi upper highlands

There are only 2 years that I learned the existence of this mountain range: when I think that the first time I came to Japan was in 1998! Kamikochi was praised by friends and I have long dreamed of an epic climb on one of the peaks. The most direct and cheapest way is to take the bus of the Keio company departing from Shinjuku Station (7400 yens). After 5 hours of highway and winding mountain roads you arrive at the Kamikochi bus terminal close to the Azusa River at the foot of the mountains. Along the way you will enjoy, just before arrival at destination, a view on the water reservoirs of hydropower plants that offer a magnificent landscape: like large mirrors reflecting the sky and mountains. As I got off the bus, I was struck by the fresh mountain air … a big change compare to my routine life in Tokyo. The main objective of the weekend was to admire the fall foliage that offers a fantastic show. Feeling light and enthusiastic I walk towards the bridge “kappa bashi” (the kappa is a monster from Japanese folklore) located 300 meters from the bus stop. Arrived at the bridge, I could enjoy a magnificent scenery of a river with clear and transparent water and mountains with sharp edges … the only problem: the leaves that should have been of flaming red or golden tones are dark brown . Actually the season of “Koyo” (紅葉) (literally “red leaves”) is over. I inquire at the information center next to the bus terminal: it’s been over for 10 days. Big disappointment, but I don’t let that bring me down and I head to the pond called “Taisho-ike” located upstream 1 km away. The pond is smaller than what I expected but the impression is striking. Surprising are the dead trees that stand in the middle. This view left me with a feeling of desolation mixed with the sensation of an all-powerful nature untouched by the hand of man. Behind me, I have a view on Hotaka mountain range.