The hike from Kamikochi to Yari-ga-Take via the Daikiretto traverse is THE classic Japan Alps route. It’s three days and two nights of spectacular hiking among the highest peaks in Japan. Here are all the details.
Looking along the Hodaka ridge – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kamikochi to Yari-ga-Take Hiking Introduction
The North Japan Alps, located in central Honshu, offers the best hiking in Japan. This mountain range includes several peaks over 3,000 meters, all connected by a network of well-maintained trails. Best of all, there’s an extensive mountain hut system that allows you to do traverses of up to one week carrying nothing but a daypack. You don’t even have to bring food and water, since all the huts serve meals, drinks and water. And, if you want to save money, you can camp at the sites around each hut.
The Daikiretto Traverse with Yari-ga-Take in the Background: Hachi888 / Shutterstock.com
One of the most spectacular hikes in the North Alps is the route from Kamikochi to Yari-ga-Take, the so-called “Matterhorn of Japan.” This route takes you over the craggy peaks of the Hodaka Range and then across the famed – and feared – Daikiretto traverse. With hair-raising drops on either side, this knife-edged ridge is a rite of passage for Japanese climbers.
Actually, the traverse that leads to the Daikiretto, from Hodaka-Dake Sanso Hut to Kita-Hodaka Koya Hut, is actually more intense and exposed. Both traverses would be considered technical climbs in many other countries. But, the Japanese have installed all kinds of ironmongery like chains, ladders, bolts and bridges to make it passable for non-technical climbers. Indeed, this route actually feels a little like one of the “via ferrata” (iron ways) in the European Alps.
Kamikochi to Yari-ga-Take Hiking Map
For a full map of the route, see Route Map at the end of this article.
Mt Yari-ga-Take: syuwansyuwan / Shutterstock.com
A Note on Japanese Climbing Words
There are several Japanese climbing words you’ll come across on this hike. Note that they are added to the end of names (as in Yari-ga-Take or Mt Yari).
- take/dake: mountain, pronounced “tah-kay” or “dah-kay”
- sanso: mountain hut/lodge, pronounced “sahn-so”
- koya: mountain hut/lodge, pronounced “koi-ya”
- sawa: valley or ravine, pronounced “sah-wah”
- onsen: hot spring bath, pronounced “own-sen”
- taira/daira: plain or tableland, pronounced “tie-rah” or “die-rah”
We drop the English words and just use the Japanese terms in this article to save space.
Here are the main mountains on this route:
- Mae-Hodaka-Dake (前穂高岳): 3090 meters
- Oku-Hodaka-Dake (奥穂高岳): 3190 meters
- Kara-Sawa-Dake (涸沢岳): 3103 meters
- Kita-Hodaka-Dake (北穂高岳): 3106 meters
- Minami-Dake (南岳): 3032 meters
- Yari-ga-Take (槍ヶ岳): 3180 meters
When to Hike in the Northern Japan Alps
The official climbing season in the Japan Alps runs from late May until the end of September. Most mountain huts are open during this period, and a few big ones open a little earlier and stay open a little later. Snow usually starts to fall in October and there can be snow on the higher trails until mid-May. You can climb outside of the official climbing season, but you’ll need to carry everything, including winter climbing gear. And do not attempt this hike in the snowy months unless you are an experienced mountaineer. These mountains are no joke in any season, and in winter, they are deadly for all but the most competent winter mountaineers.
The Northern Japan Alps from Kamikochi: sadao / Shutterstock.com
This hike starts at the mountain village of Kamikochi (see Getting to Kamikochi at the end of this article for transport details). The route climbs quickly up through Dake-Sawa to Mae-Hodaka-Dake, then across Oku-Hodaka-Dake and down to Hodaka-Dake Sanso, where you spend your first night. You then make the hair-raising traverse to Kita-Hodaka-Dake, and then descend into the Daikiretto traverse, which connects to Minami-Dake. From there, it’s an easy walk with a few ups and downs to Yari-ga-Take and Yari-ga-Take Sanso, where you spend your second night. From there, you descend through Yari-Sawa to Shin-Hodaka Onsen, where you can take a hot spring bath before boarding the bus back to civilization.
Yari-ga-Take with autumn colors: sadao / Shutterstock.com
This hike is for fit, experienced hikers. There’s a lot of vertical gain and even with a light pack, there are some real lung-busting climbs on the route. The two big traverses are serious, exposed and dangerous. If you have any fear of heights, do not do this hike. This hike is suitable for agile teenagers, but don’t bring younger children – even if they can handle the heights, you’ll be too nervous to enjoy the hike.
Hodaka-Dake Sanso Hut: Japan Image / Shutterstock.com
Equipment, Clothing and Food
Assuming you plan to sleep and eat in the mountain huts, you’ll need to bring hiking clothes appropriate for the season, with changes of undergarments for three days. At the beginning and end of the hiking season, you’ll need a bit of warm weather gear. We strongly recommend some grippy work gloves for the traverses, where you’ll be grabbing on to all the metal holds (do NOT wear fleece or wool gloves, which will slip). You should also bring snacks, Japanese yen cash (you cannot use credit cards in the mountain huts), a water bottle, and good earplugs (for sleeping in the mountain huts). We also recommend Shobunsha’s Yama-to-Kogen Yari-ga-Take/Hodaka-Dake map, which is available at bookstores in Japan (its in Japanese, but you can figure out where you are by looking at altitudes marked on the peaks). It’s useful to have a paper map because most of this route has no cell service. Finally, many Japanese hikers wear climbing helmets on this route to protect against falling rocks. You might also consider doing this.
Suitable pack for hike – image © Chris Rowthorn
Detailed Route Description
This route description starts in Kamikochi. For directions on how to get to Kamikochi, see Getting to Kamikochi at the end of this article. You’ll probably take a bus into Kamikochi. Take the bus to the last stop: the Kamikochi Bus Terminal.
Bus terminal in Kamikochi – image © Chris Rowthorn
At the bus terminal, you’ll find a few shops, public bathrooms, an information center, and a counter where you are supposed to file a “tozan-todoke” (hiking plan), so that rescuers will know where to look if you go missing.
Kamikochi center – image © Chris Rowthorn
The trail you want leaves from behind the main buildings. It’s marked in English and Japanese (you can usually just follow the crowds heading to Kappa-Bashi Bridge, which is the most famous photo spot in Kamikochi).
Trail to Kappa-Bashi – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll soon arrive at Kappa-Bashi, which crosses the clear waters of Azusa-Gawa River. You’ll see the imposing Hodaka Range rising in the background. This is a great spot for a pre-hike picture. Today, you’ll hike to Mae-Hodaka-Dake, the middle peak in the Hodakas.
Kappa-Bashi and Hodakas – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a better view of the Hodakas, with the Azusa-Gawa in the foreground. Your route today will go up the left (west) side of the river, then along the rocky avalanche chute in the valley below the Hodakas, before ascending one of the forested buttresses up to the peak of Mae-Hodaka-Dake.
Hodaka Range and Kamikochi – image © Chris Rowthorn
Before starting your ascent, you’ll pass through some marshy areas that allow you to admire the crystal-clear waters of the Azusa-Gawa.
Stream above Kamikochi – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll soon come to a trail junction. Follow the arrow for Dake-Sawa (Mtn Trail). This leads into the woods (do not take the wide, flat trail).
Junction for Dake-sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
At first, the trail climbs through some pleasant forest.
Start of climb up to Dake-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
After half an hour or so of steady climbing, you’ll come alongside a rock-strewn avalanche path where you can get some nice views back down to the valley of Kamikochi.
Looking back toward Kamikochi – image © Chris Rowthorn
About two hours or so after leaving the valley of Kamikochi, you’ll come to Dake-Sawa Koya. Here, you can get drinks, water, snacks or light meals.
Dake-Sawa Koya – image © Chris Rowthorn
After a rest, follow the sign for MaehodakaDake. It’s only 2.5km, but it’s a non-stop climb so be ready to sweat.
Sign to Mae-Hodaka – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a view up the climb you’re about to do.
View up to climb – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another view up the climb. The route ascends the forested buttress on the left side of the photo.
Another view up to climb – image © Chris Rowthorn
There are several ladders on the buttress. In the background, down below, you can see Dake-Sawa Koya.
Climbing the buttress to Mae-Hodaka – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll start to see signs warning you against falls and falling rocks. This one also indicates that there is one-way traffic on this part of the trail.
Trail warning sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
To your left, as you climb, you’ll get great views of the steep wall below Nishi-Hodaka-Dake, the crest of which is one of the most feared knife-edge ridges in the North Alps.
Looking over toward Nishi-Hodaka – image © Chris Rowthorn
As you ascend the buttress, you’ll get better and better views down over the valley of Kamikochi.
Looking down Dake-Sawa back to Kamikochi – image © Chris Rowthorn
Near the top of the buttress, you’ll climb above treeline and the trail becomes a rock scramble, with some chains to help you ascend the steeper bits.
Approaching Kimiko-Daira – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s one of the chains installed on an exposed section of trail.
Chains below Kimiko-Daira – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll soon arrive at a flat stone platform known as Kimiko-Daira. This is a great place for a rest.
Kimiko-Daira and Kamikochi – image © Chris Rowthorn
Many climbers leave their packs here and make the 30-minute climb to the actual summit of Mae-Hodaka-Dake
Climbing to Mae-Hodaka Peak – image © Chris Rowthorn
After climbing to the summit of Mae-Hodaka (if you so choose), pick up your pack and continue onward (and upward) to Oku-Hodaka-Dake. This is up and to the left from the direction you were traveling to get to Kimiko-Daira.
Traversing to Oku-Hodaka – image © Chris Rowthorn
Before long, you’ll arrive at a sign marking Saitei Col, which is the lowest point on the ridge between Mae-Hodaka and Oku-Hodaka.
Saitei Col Junction – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a good view of the route up to Oku-Hodaka. This is the first of the many knife-edge traverses on this route.
Looking across to Oku-Hodaka Peak – image © Chris Rowthorn
From the knife-edge, you’ll be able to get glimpses to the north and down into Kara-Sawa, one of the most popular campsites (and lodges) in the Japan Alps. In the fall foliage season, the valley floor will be dotted with tents of all colors.
Looking down into Kara-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another shot along the ridge leading to Oku-Hodaka.
Ridge to Oku-Hodaka – image © Chris Rowthorn
This shot shows the route up to Oku-Hodaka and the ridge you will take tomorrow over to Kita-Hodaka. The place you will spend this evening, Hodaka-Dake Sanso, is hidden in the saddle behind Oku-Hodaka.
Tomorrow’s route – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another shot of the route you’ll take for the rest of today and then tomorrow. You’ll be following this ridge the whole way.
Looking toward tomorrow’s route – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a shot up the summit cone of Oku-Hodaka.
Approaching summit of Oku-Hodaka – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another shot down into Kara-Sawa. Look at all those tents!
Tents and hut in Kara-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
Finally, you’ll get to the summit of Oku-Hodaka. Climb the cairn on the summit for the all-important summit photo.
Oku-Hodaka summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
There’s a trail junction at the summit. Follow the signs for Hotakadake Sanso (note that “Hodaka” is sometimes written as “Hotaka”).
Junction below Oku-Hodaka summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a sign pointing to Hodaka-Dake Sanso (the hut where you’ll spend this night).
Sign to Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
It’s a rocky scramble down to Hodaka-Dake Sanso. Be very careful about dislodging rocks onto climbers below you.
Descending to Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll soon catch your first glimpse of Hodaka-Dake Sanso, nestled into the col below Oku-Hodaka.
First view of Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a closer shot of Hodaka-Dake Sanso, with the campground in the background.
Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the reception area and rest area inside the hut.
Reception area – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the dining area.
Dining area – image © Chris Rowthorn
Beside the reception counter, there’s a “baiten” (small store) where you can buy snacks, hot and cold drinks and so on.
Baiten store – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the reception counter (“uketsuke” in Japanese).
Uketsuke reception – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here are the rates:
- 1 night/2 meals (dinner/breakfast): Y10,300
- 1 night/dinner only: Y9.300
- 1 night/breakfast only: Y7,900
- 1 night/no meals: Y6,900
- lunchbox (bento): 1,000
- private room (above rates plus Y10,000)
- tent space: Y1,000
Rates – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a typical bunkroom. When you check in, they’ll give you a card that has your room and bunk number written on it. They’ll also give you meal tickets.
Bunkroom – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the kansoshitsu (drying room), which is in front of the bathrooms. If you hang your clothes here, they’ll be dry by the morning.
Kansoshitsu drying room – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the interior of the drying room.
Drying clothes – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the campground at Hodaka-Dake Sanso.
Campground – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another view of the hut.
Another view of Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a view of yours truly enjoying the early evening views
Chris with sunset at Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the sunset from the viewing platform at the hut.
Sunset from Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the dining room with dinner on the tables. The staff will direct you to an open seat. Japanese hikers will usually serve each other rice, miso soup and tea before digging in. If you can, it’s polite to help with this.
Dining room at Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s dinner at the hut. The bowl on the left is for your miso soup, while the cup on the right is for your tea. Don’t worry if you’re a solo hiker – someone will almost always strike up a conversation with you in English, usually starting with “Where are you from?” You’ll find that most Japanese hikers are an extremely friendly and welcoming lot. They’ll be very happy that you’re enjoying their beautiful mountains with them.
Dinner at Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
After dinner, you can chill out in the lounge, if you’re lucky enough to get a seat. They sell beer and sake at the store, so you can wind down with one of those, or some hot chocolate. Again, be ready for some polite questions from those around you.
Lounge – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the sunrise from the patio in front of the hut.
Sunrise from Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
After breakfast, you’ll start the day with a climb up to Kara-Sawa-Dake. You’ll get some good views back down to Hodaka-Dake Sanso and the route you walked yesterday.
Looking back to Hodaka-Dake Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Once you get up on the ridge, you’ll be treated to a spine-tingling view of the entire rest of your route until Yari-ga-Take (which is obscured by clouds in this shot). The Daikiretto is the second col, roughly in the middle of the picture.
The full ridge – image © Chris Rowthorn
After crossing Kara-Sawa-Dake, you’ll start traversing some seriously exposed sections, many of which have chains, ladders and bolts to help you across.
Chain down the ridge – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another chain on the ridge.
Chain along the wall – image © Chris Rowthorn
In some places, you’ll have to climb or descend ladders to help you on steep bits.
Ladder above ravine – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a shot of the ridge heading along to Kita-Hodaka.
Continuing along ridge – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a nice morning shot into the wide Kara-sawa Valley.
Another angle into Kara-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a typical wall that you must traverse.
Steep wall along traverse – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a close up of a party of hikers making their way along the wall, heading toward Hodaka-Dake Sanso. Needless to say, you should give way to climbers on steep bits, so only one party is on the exposed section at any time.
Close up of party traversing wall – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll soon come to Kitahotaka-Dake Fork Junction. You can descend from here down into Kara-Sawa if you’re tired or if the weather is threatening. Otherwise, follow the sign for Mt Kitahotaka-Dake (0.2km).
Kitahotaka-Dake Fork Junction – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another angle of the sign, showing the arrow pointing down into Karasawa.
Another angle on Kitaho-fungi Junction – image © Chris Rowthorn
About 200 meters after the sign, you’ll reach the summit of Kita-Hodaka-Dake. Just beyond the summit, you’ll see the roof of Kita-Hodaka-Dake Koya.
Kita-Hodaka-Dake Summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
Just before you get to the hut, if the weather is clear, you’ll get a nice view of the Daikiretto traverse. Look at that knife-edge! This should get your blood pumping in anticipation.
Looking across Daikiretto – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kita-Hodaka-Dake Koya hut is a good spot for a cup of coffee or tea to prepare yourself for the Daikiretto. And, if the weather is threatening, you could also spend a night here.
Kita-Hodaka-Dake Koya – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the start of the descent into the Daikiretto. Note that arrows indicating the route. Follow these!
Starting down the Daikiretto – image © Chris Rowthorn
In many places, circles mark the right way.
O marks the right way – image © Chris Rowthorn
In other places, arrows show the way.
Arrows show the way – image © Chris Rowthorn
And, X’s mark the wrong way. Pay close attention to these as they indicate drops offs and cliffs.
X shows the wrong way – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the first peak on the knife-edge of the Daikiretto.
Looking toward the first peak – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a view along the ridge to Hasegawa Peak, which is the high point on the Daikiretto.
Looking toward Hasegawa Peak – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a sign marking A-Sawa Col, which is the first col (low point) on the ridge.
A Sawa Col – image © Chris Rowthorn
Shortly after A Sawa Col, you’ll come to a wooden bridge that appears to lead into space.
Bridge near A Sawa Col – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a vertiginous climb below Hasegawa Peak. Note the iron rungs placed to help you ascend.
Iron rungs leading up to Hasegawa Peak – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the final section leading up to Hasegawa Peak.
Hasegawa Peak – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the sign at the top of Hasegawa Peak.
Hasegawa Peak sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
From Hasegawa Peak, you’ll get a nice view along the rest of the Daikiretto and on to Minami-Dake.
Looking up to Minami-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
At the far (north) end of the Daikiretto, you’ll have to make your way up among the cliffs leading up to Minami-Dake.
Cliffs below Minami-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a party picking their way down among those cliffs.
Party heading down into Daikiretto from Minami-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
Very soon, you’ll reach the top of those cliffs and then walk a bit more and come to Minami-Dake Koya, which is a nice place for a rest after crossing the Daikiretto.
Minami-Dake Koya – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the interior of the hut. As usual, they serve drinks, water and food. You can also spend the night here if you’re tired or if the weather is poor.
Minami-Dake Koya interior – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here are the rates for the hut. It’s Y10,300 for 1 night with dinner and breakfast.
Minami-Dake Koya rates – image © Chris Rowthorn
After the hut, it’s a relatively easy climb up to the summit of Minami-Dake.
Climbing up to Minami-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the summit of Minami-Dake.
Minami-Dake summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
From the ridge beyond Minami-Dake, you’ll start to get some great views of a feature called Byobu-no-Mimi, which towers over Kara-Sawa.
Looking toward Byobu-no-Mimi – image © Chris Rowthorn
Continue along the ridge toward Naka-Dake. It’s a relatively gentle and easy walk compared to the hair-raising traverses you’ve already done today.
Traversing toward Naka-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a view up to Naka-Dake. There’s supposed to be water here, but I could not find any in late September.
View up to Naka-Dake- image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll soon get some views across to the summit cone of Yari-ga-Take.
View of Yari-ga-Take – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a sign indicating the way onward to Obami-Dake, the last peak you must climb before arriving at Yari-ga-Take Sanso and Yari-ga-Take.
Sign below Obami-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
Before Obami-Dake, you’ll have to cross a narrow col.
Descending to col before Obami-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the summit cone of Obami-Dake.
Summit cone of Obami-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the summit of Obami-Dake.
Obami-Dake summit sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
After crossing the peak of Obami-Dake, you’ll get some great views of Yari-ga-Take and Yari-ga-Take Sanso.
Yari Sanso and Yari-ga-Take – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a close shot of the summit of Yari-ga-Take. Note the climbers on top and the ladders below the summit.
Close up of Yari-ga-Take summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
After descending from the peak of Obami-Dake, you’ll arrive at a col. You’ll see a sign pointing down to the left indicating Yari-Daira, which is the trail you’ll follow tomorrow. But, for now, continue straight on and climb up to Yari-ga-Take Sanso.
Signs at trail junction- image © Chris Rowthorn
On the way up, you’ll pass through the campground below Yari-ga-Take Sanso. This is a shot looking down through the campground.
Campground at Yari-ga-Take Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Just above the campground, you’ll find a sign indicating Yari-ga-Take, Shin-Hodaka Onsen and Hodaka-Dake.
Trail sign just above Yari-ga-Take Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Finally, you’ll come to Yara-ga-Take Sanso, your goal for the day.
Yari-ga-take Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
After checking into the hut and taking a break, you should climb the summit cone of Yari-ga-Take. It’s a steep climb with chains and ladders to help you. Follow the arrows carefully and note that there are separate routes up and down for part of the way.
Ascending Yari-ga-Take summit cone – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the actual summit of Yari-ga-Take. If the weather is clear, you will have mind-boggling views of the entire northern Japan Alps. I once spotted Mt Fuji from here on a very clear day.
Yari-ga-Take summit – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a view down to the hut from the summit.
Looking down on Yari-ga-Take Sanso – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the view looking north toward Tsurugi-Dake, which towers above Murodo in the Tateyama Range.
Looking north toward Tsurugi-Dake – image © Chris Rowthorn
If you’re lucky, you might get to see the alpenglow on Yari.
Alpenglow on Yari – image © Chris Rowthorn
After spending the night at Yari-ga-Take Sanso, return back the way you came to the col below the campground. Follow the arrow indicating Yari-daira (槍平) and Shin-Hodaka Onsen (新穂高温泉).
Trail signs down to Yari-Daira – image © Chris Rowthorn
There’s some beautiful alpine vegetation along the route down into Yari-Daira.
Vegetation at start of descent – image © Chris Rowthorn
As you descend, you’ll gradually enter an area of alpine scrub. This is very attractive in early fall.
Heading down into Yari-Daira – image © Chris Rowthorn
Before long, you’ll be back among the trees.
Heading back into the forest – image © Chris Rowthorn
After about an hour, you’ll arrive at Yari-Daira Koya, which is a good place for a mid-morning coffee.
Yari-Daira Koya – image © Chris Rowthorn
Below the hut, you’ll start to descend along the Takahara-Gawa River.
River below Yari-Daira Koya – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll get to a creek crossing where, if you look up to your left, you’ll see Odaki Falls and, in most seasons, a snowfield.
Odaki Falls and snowfield – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the creek crossing.
Taki-Dani Creek crossing below Yari-Daira Koya – image © Chris Rowthorn
Along the way, you’ll see some stunning, huge ezo spruce trees (“tohi” in Japanese).
Tohi tree sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
A few kilometers further along, you’ll reach Shirade-Sawa, a major creek and avalanche chute that crosses the trail.
Shirade-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a trail sign at Shirade-Sawa.
Sign at Shirade-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s another sign at Shirade-Sawa. Continue straight on down the valley on the wide trail in the direction of Shin-Hodaka Onsen (新穂高温泉).
Trail signs at Shirade-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
At this point, the trail is actually a forest road.
Forest road below Shirade-Sawa – image © Chris Rowthorn
The trail passes a paddock, which is a rare sight in Japan.
Paddock above Shin-Hodaka Onsen – image © Chris Rowthorn
The paddock belongs to Hodaka-Daira Koya, a hut just a short distance above Shin-Hodaka Onsen.
Hodaka-Daira Koya – image © Chris Rowthorn
The road meanders a bit, but before long, you’ll arrive at the top of Shin-Hodaka Onsen town.
Coming into Shin-Hodaka Onsen town – image © Chris Rowthorn
The first major structure in town is the terminal for the Shin-Hodaka Ropeway (cable car). The bus stop for the bus back to Takayama is just outside this building.
Shin-Hodaka Ropeway Terminal – image © Chris Rowthorn
You can buy your bus tickets inside the cable car terminal building.
Bus ticket vending machines – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the bus stop outside the terminal building. Note that there’s an “ashi-yu” (foot bath) outside the terminal building where you can soak your tired feet while you wait for the bus.
Shin-Hodaka Onsen bus stop – image © Chris Rowthorn
If you have time before you bus departs, walk about 150m downhill and take a soak in Nakazaki Sanso Onsen. Not only will it feel fantastic, but your fellow bus and train riders will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Note that there’s another bus stop just a bit downhill from the onsen.
Nakazaki Sanso Onsen – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kamikochi to Yari-ga-Take Hiking Route Map
Here is a Google Earth map of the entire route.
You can also view the full screen Kamikochi to Yari-ga-Take route map.
Getting to Kamikochi
Here, we describe how to get to Kamikochi from Takayama. Takayama is easily accessible from Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo by taking the Tokaido shinkansen to Nagoya and switching to the Wide View Hida Limited Express train to Takayama. For full details on this route, visit our Takayama guide. Note, you can also reach Kamikochi from Nagano or Matsumoto. From Matsumoto, take a train to Shinshimashima Station, then a bus from there to Kamikochi.
To get from Takayama to Kamikochi, take a Takayama Nohi bus to Hirayu Onsen and then switch there for the bus to Kamikochi. With good connections the trip takes about 90 minutes and costs Y2730. Here’s where you board the bus in Takayama (boarding point #5).
Boarding point number 5 for Hirayu – image © Chris Rowthorn
The sign shows that buses from this stop go to Hirayu (which is the gateway to Kamikochi).
Sign for Hirayu – image © Chris Rowthorn
You should buy tickets before you board the bus. They are sold in the ticket office/tourist information office right next to the boarding points.
Takayama Nohi Bus ticket office and TIC – image © Chris Rowthorn
The ticket counter is on your right as you enter. The helpful ladies there can answer questions about schedules etc.
Ticket counter – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll note that there are direct buses between Takayama and Kyoto, Osaka, Mt Fuji and Nagoya. Ask at the relevant tourist information centers for details.
Signs for buses to Kyoto, Osaka, Mt Fuji and Nagoya – image © Chris Rowthorn
Once you arrive at Hirayu, you’ll have to get off one bus then walk a few meters to the boarding point for the bus to Kamikochi. Ride this bus to the final stop: the Kamikochi Bus Terminal.
Bus from Hirayu to Kamikochi – image © Chris Rowthorn
Note that during hiking season (June, July and August), there are direct buses from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka right to the Kamikochi Bus Terminal. They run overnight so you can (hopefully) get some sleep on the bus and start hiking as soon as you arrive. As at the relevant tourist information office for details.
Recommended Accommodation in Kamikochi
Kamikochi Lemeiesta Hotel
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
A popular hotel with modern rooms and hot-spring baths.
Kamikochi Lemeiesta Hotel
Kamikochi Nishi-itoya Mountain Lodge
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
An old ryokan with a rustic feel and unparalleled mountain views.
Kamikochi Nishi-itoya Mountain Lodge
Recommended Accommodation in Takayama
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
A stylish, modern rooms above a cozy first floor cafe.
Oyado Koto No Yume
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
A traditional ryokan known for its soothing hot-spring baths.
Oyado Koto No Yume
Other Useful Hiking Information
- Hiking in Japan
- Best Kyoto Hikes
- Takayama Guide
- Mt Fuji Climbing Guide
- Walking the Nakasendo from Kyoto
- Kumano Kodo Walking Trail Guide
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world