Japan gets some of the most beautiful Autumn foliage, and one of the best places to see it has to be Kamikochi. This remote, mountainous highland area has been designated as a National Park and is sometimes referred to as the “Japanese Yosemite”. Although much smaller than the actual Yosemite, the scenery is just as stunning, especially around October-November, when the leaves turn such gorgeous colours.
Leaving Tokyo for the weekend, I went via the city of Matsumoto to check out Japan’s oldest wooden castle.
From Matsumoto, I headed towards Kamikochi Valley itself. From the Kama Tunnel, I had to switch to a local cab to get to the main hiking trails. Private cars aren’t allowed into the park, making the whole area wonderfully safe and serene for hiking. Well, as safe as you can be with so many bears roaming around!
Bears aren’t the only wildlife you might encounter – I saw plenty of these wee guys strolling around, totally unperturbed by the hikers passing by.
There are a good variety of easily walkable, flat paths (of course, there are plenty of huge mountains to climb for the more adventurous!) which make exploring the park simple and extremely enjoyable.
How to get there: the best way for a solo traveller would be to take an overnight bus from Shinjuku station straight into the park. You could take trains, but it requires quite a few transfers. For a group, the best way would be to hire a car (this also allows you time to explore Matsumoto on the way).
Holly’s Top Tip: book a place to stay overnight well in advance if you’re going during the Autumn foliage season in October – there aren’t many hotels and they fill up quickly!