We arrived in Kamikochi in early afternoon. Kamikochi is in the middle of what are called ‘The Japanese Alps’, and is a river valley surrounded by high mountains. There are a lot of very serious hikers that come up and down the cliff-like mountain trails, but for less hardy folk like us, there are also a ton of trails along the valley that are flat, easy, and beautiful. The first afternoon we walked up to Myojin pond where there were some beautiful late afternoon reflections of the mountains, and the hike up was a lovely stroll along the river. The trees this year are turning late, and in spots — there are a lot of beautiful single trees, but the mountains over all are a mix of red, orange, yellow, brown, and green. There are a ton of birch trees with bright yellow leaves and also some pine trees that turn yellow and drop their needles. We had a lovely afternoon hike, and then dinner at our hotel (breakfast and dinner comes at a lot of the hotels, since there aren’t a lot of other restaurants that are open late in such a remote area), which was unexpectedly fancy. They serve lots of little dishes with various pickled vegetables, tofu, sashimi, salt-smoked fish, little beef-miso rolls, noodles, rice, miso soup, and all variety of delicious things.
I always have a rough time sleeping in the more traditional ryokans, because the futons are very hard, and the pillows are made of beans, but on the upside, there was an onsen with a view of the mountains from the bath, so I eased all my aches away in the morning with a lovely soak. And then breakfast was just as fancy as dinner! Although I still have trouble with some of the breakfast foods — the fishier fish, and there was raw squid legs that I refused to touch. But we headed off bright and early to Taisho pond and the marshes south of our hotel. Early in the morning the valley is still in the shadow of the mountains, and it’s cold — around freezing. All the plants are rimed in frost, and the light is beautiful as it begins to descend from the peaks and catch the frost, before it melts! Once the valley was sunny it heated up quickly, and we had a lovely day walking around the valley. We had some lunch, and then found a lovely spot to put our feet up and appreciate the scenery while waiting for our bus! Gorgeous!