Taisho-ike (大正池)

Taisho pond is the most popular walk in Kamikochi and rightfully so. The mirror-like reflections of Mt. Yake and the Japan Alps are incredible in good weather. You may also have a chance of spotting a black bear in the unspoiled forests surrounding the lake.

The hike: From the bus terminal, turn left (past the restrooms) until you reach the river, where you’ll make another left. Follow the river for about 15 minutes until reaching a paved road. Cross over the road and follow the sign that says “Nature Trail” (自然研究路入口). The path will enter the forest before reaching a junction. You can take either course since they both meet up after 10 minutes or so. My advice would be to take the right fork that follows the Azusa River (梓川コース) and on the return take the forest path (林間コース). The forest path is your best chance of catching a black bear in the wild, so keep your eyes peeled, especially in the early morning or late evening. Anyway, after the paths converge you’ll reach another junction with a sign pointing towards Tashiro-ike (田代池). Take this side trail for 100 meters or so and you’ll reach the tranquil shores of the small, scenic lake. There are no reflections in this lake, but the yellow fields are serene. Retrace your steps back to the junction and turn left, following the signs towards Taisho pond. After crossing a wooden bridge you’ll reach a broad area with a lot of rocks. You can scramble down to the lake shore here if you like, or continue on the path to the base of the hotel, where the reflections are much better (and the crowds will regrettably be much larger). There’s a restroom on the other side of the hotel, as well as a bus stop if you want to take the lazy way back to Kamikochi. After admiring the views, retrace your steps all the way back to where you crossed the paved road, but instead of continuing straight towards the bus terminal, turn left and cross over Tashiro bridge (田代橋) and Hotaka bridge (穂高橋). Turn right on the path that follows the river (on the river bank opposite the bus terminal). This path will take you past the Walter Weston monument before passing by a couple of hotels. Look for the sign for Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル), where you’ll find a free foot bath. For 800 yen, you can also enter the hot spring baths here (highly recommended), but be careful of the time. The bath is only open between 7 and 9am, and 12:30 to 3pm. If you’ve missed the morning window then you can grab some lunch and come back for the afternoon session. The cheapest and tastiest lunch is at Kamikochi Alpen  Hotel (上高地アルペンホテル), which has a great minestrone lunch for only 500 yen (weekdays only). For an additional 100 yen you can have hot coffee as well. If there’s still time in the day and you still have the energy, you can also do the Myojin Pond hike, but remember that the reflections for Myojin are best in the early morning light and you’ll have to pay 300 yen to enter the shoreline.

When to go: This hike can be done anytime from late April to mid-November, when the road to Kamikochi is open. Avoid the weekends if you don’t want to share the trail with half of Tokyo. Also, this walk is best done in the morning, when the Mt. Yake reflections are most striking.

Access: From Matsumoto (松本) station, take a train on the Matsumoto Denki Railway bound for Shin-shimashima (新島々) and get off at the last stop. The train leaves from the JR tracks, so enter the ticket gates and follow the signs. From Shin-shimashima you can transfer to a direct bus bound for Kamikochi. Click here for the schedule. You can also take a direct overnight bus from Osaka or Tokyo, as well as a bus from Takayama, but you’ll need to transfer at Hirayu Onsen. Private cars are not allowed in Kamikochi, so if coming by car then park at Sawando and transfer to a shuttle bus from there.

Level of difficulty: 1 out of 5 (elevation change negligible)

Distance: 8km (2 to 3 hours)

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21 Comments on “Taisho-ike (大正池)”

  1. jessy Says:

    During autumn when leaves change color (koyo), this place may be very beautiful !!!!

  2. wes Says:

    yes Jessy, very beautiful but really really crowded!

  3. Ki Says:

    Do you think it would be a good idea to come to this area and stay overnight and do a couple of hikes? I’m in Osaka, and am looking for some good ideas for 2 day hikes for the coming long weekend. Any recommendations are appreciated! :)

    • wes Says:

      Ki,

      Kamikochi is a wonderful area to visit, but I can guarantee that this weekend the place will be packed with people heading into the alpine to view to fall colors. The leaves haven’t changed in the valley floor yet, so you’ll need to hike a couple of hours to the edge of the treeline to see them.

      Kamikochi is best visited during the week, when the place is a little more manageable (the weekend crowds, especially during 3-day weekends, are overwhelming) If you want to camp, then you’ll need to get there early to get the good campsites. All of the hotels and huts are probably already booked out for this weekend.

      What kind of hike are you interested in? Do you want to do a backpacking trip where you carry your tent and gear, or would you rather camp somewhere and do a couple of day hikes?

      • Ki Says:

        Hi Wes, thanks for your advice. I’m sure you are right about it being super crowded.
        I’m basically totally open to any suggestions. Backpacking, or day hikes, or even staying somewhere overnight are all options. I’m reasonably fit, and willing to travel pretty much anywhere :)
        I’m living in Osaka, but have only done Daisen (hyogo), Rokko, and a few smaller hiking (not mountains) trips around Nara.
        Oh, and I have been to Yakushima too, which was great.

        So if you have any good ideas for a good 2-3 day trip, hopefully without too many crowds, please let me know. Thanks! :)

        PS: It would be cool if you made a post of your top ten favorite hikes in Japan, Well, I would find it interesting anyway.

  4. wes Says:

    Ki,

    Sorry for the late reply. The weather looks good this weekend, so you could head pretty much anywhere you wanted.

    If you want to stay in Kansai, then I recommend doing a traverse of the Omine mountain rainge. You can start at Dorogawa hot spring in Nara, hike up Mt. Senjo and along the ridge to Mt. Hakkyo, and descent to Tenkawa. You’ll need to bring all of your own food and bedding, though. Also, Mt. Senjo is off-limits to women, so if you yourself are female (or if you’re bringing a female friend, then it’s a no-go)

    If you want to experience the alpine scenery, then Hakusan is another option. It should be a lot less crowded than Kamikochi. Take a train to Kanazawa and then a bus to Bettodeai. From there you can hike up to Murodo, where you can stay in the hut, or hike an hour along the ridge to the campsite below Bessan. Hakusan is an old volcano with a couple of wonderful alpine volcanic lakes. The peak usually sits in the clouds, but this weekend the weather should hold.

    Option #3 would be to head to Kyushu (take the overnight ferry to Beppu, and then the bus from there to the start of the Mt. Kuju hike). Mt. Kuju is an active volcano and also the tallest peak in Kyushu (outside of Yakushima). You can hike from Makinoto-toge, up and over Kuju, past Nakadake, and then camp in the saddle close to Mt. Taisen. There’s a hot spring there as well.

    As you can see, there are lots of options all worth exploring.

    Let me know if you have any other questions

    Wes

    • Ki Says:

      Hey Wes, thanks for the wonderful advice! You’re a goldmine! lol
      I just checked the “sunflower” ferries site, and unfortunately it seems like there is no vacancy for tomorrow night (Fri). So I’m thinking about getting the shinkansen to Hakata, local train to Kumamoto, and then either Mt Kuju as you suggested, or Mt Aso (I guess both would not be possible?). And then getting the ferry back from Beppu to Osaka on Sunday night. I’m a little worried about getting all the buses to link up though..
      What do you think?

  5. Andy Says:

    Hello Wes, my wife and me will be in Kamikochi in middle of june and stay there for 3 nights. I would like to ask you if there is a nice mountain climb that doesnt need a stay at a hut. Maybe even summiting? We are not the fittest but we have done some hiking and climbing before. Last year we did a 3 days hike in Lombok indonesia (Mount Rinyani volcano). It was tough but we made the hike. Or maybe a 2 day hike with one night at a hut? Any help will be appreciated very much!!!
    And congrats to this wonderfull website!
    :)

    Best wishes,
    Andy
    :)

    • wes Says:

      I’d head for Mt. Yake. It’s an active volcano located on the other side of Taisho lake. It’s a pretty tough climb (about 900 meters of vertical elevation change). Even if you don’t make it all the way to the summit, there’s a small hut where you can rest at about 2000 meters above sea level. The wildflowers in that area are wonderful and the views back down to Kamikochi are nice. The only tricky thing on that route is that there is one section with vertical ladders that you must maneuver through. If you have a fear of heights or suffer from vertigo then maybe you should avoid this hike)

      • Andy Says:

        Hello Wes,
        thanks for your reply! :)
        No we are not afraid of hieghts and to be honest we are looking forward for this ladder!
        :)

        Is there any other more challenging climb in addition to this one that also doesnt need an overnight at a hut?

      • wes Says:

        It depends on how fit you are. You can hike up to Dakesawa hut in about 2 hours. From there you can head up towards the treeline towards Mt. Mae-hotaka for a couple of hours. It’s pretty hard to make it up Mae-hotaka and back unless you’re really fast and start at the break of dawn (which is about 4am nowadays). It might be worth the challenge though

      • Andy Says:

        Thanks again!
        :)

        Well this seems to be a bit too hard!
        ;)

        I was given this advice in a forum:

        I advice you hit Doppyo Peak, the lowest peak of Mt West Hotaka, as your day hike from KK on day2. Yes, that means getting temporarily out of KK and riding Shin Hotaka Ropeway, though.
        IMO, as a first-timer, you shouldn’t try to hit a peak after a peak day by day; Mt Yake/Doppyo
        Peak will suffice.

        What would you say?

      • wes Says:

        You don’t have to leave Kamikochi to reach Doppyo. The only reason for heading to Shin-hotaka would be to ride the ropeway, which will take the fun out of hiking. There’s a trail from Kamikochi to Nishi-hotaka hut. The only reason I didn’t recommend this route is because of the crowds! There’s nothing worse that putting in all the hard work on a hike only to be met by hoards of daytrippers in sandals who took the easy way up. If you want to hike up to Nishi-hotaka area, there’s a trail just off the road (on the other side of the river from Taisho lake). It’ll take a few hours to reach the ridge from Kamikochi.

        Personally I think Dakesawa is a more beautiful (and pristine) area. The hut there is nice and it feels like you’re in alpine country. You can play in the many snowfields as well.

  6. Andy Says:

    Any idea how long the climb for an medium hiker might be from KK up to the peak of Doppyo?
    :)

  7. WinRAR Says:

    I am wondering if it’s feasible to crash in the open air just in a sleeping bag…without waking up and missing various limbs to black bears..:D

    • wes Says:

      By crashing in the open air, do you mean sleeping in the middle of the forest? If so, then yes, you might be the bears dinner. If you want to sleep in the open in a campsite, then that’s ok too. Roll out the sleeping bag after dark so you don’t have to pay the camp fee. Beware that you’ll likely wake up with a thick layer of dew on your bag. It’s better to have a tarp or bivy bag

      • WinRAR Says:

        Wes
        Cheers mate, duly noted.
        Not as much as far off in the woods, but closer to the trails and/or ponds. Since I need to be up and ready in few minutes to catch ever changing light of the sunrise/sunset I’d rather crash at a chosen spot than trek to and from cabin.

        Btw, thank you for a great site – a lot of useful information and great fun to read.

        Best Regards

  8. Thomas Pritzkat Says:

    Hi, Wes…

    would you have any recommendations for not too difficult hikes with family (kids 8/10), somewhere around Nagoya, Kyoto, or somewhere else on Honshu. We’ve got nine days and would like to spend at least three hiking, being based somewhere close to (or in) an Onsen… any recommendations highly appreciated,
    very best, Thomas

    • wes Says:

      Thomas,

      When are you planning on coming to Japan? The mountains are all snowed in and won’t be clear until late March or early May.


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