Campervan Day 6 – Kamikochi and Takayama

After getting an early start from the roadside station where we stayed (Okuhida-onsengo Kamitakara), we headed to get the bus to Kamikochi.

Popular with hikers and nature lovers, Kamikochi is a national park with resorts which can only be accessed by bus. It’s only open from around Mid April to November each year as it closes for the winter, so plan accordingly.

What’s at Kamikochi? We had seen that this place has some absolutely breathtaking scenery and was recommended in particular to check out the Autumn leaf foliage or momiji  (紅葉 [もみじ]) as it’s known in Japanese.

It’s a remote area full of hiking trails, resorts, and a few sightseeing spots. You can stay overnight at one of the resorts at Kamikochi.

There is no access to Kamikochi by car – the closest you can get is to park in one of the two designated car park areas, and then get a bus into the area. If you’re planning to take public transport there, check out your other access options at the official website.

Parking area (bus terminal section) at Akandana parking area

We parked at the Hirayu parking spot (also known as Akandana parking area) which was just a short 20 minute drive from the Okuhida-onsengo Kamitakara roadside stop where we camped the night before.

One of the many resorts at Kamikochi

The parking areas cost around 600 yen for the whole day parking. We got a round trip ticket for the bus which was 2050 yen per person (and is actually valid for 7 days for those who plan on staying overnight). The bus and timetable information can be found here for the Hirayu/Akandana Parking area and here for the Sawando Parking area (Japanese only but you can use google translate).

There is a main information centre at Kamikochi where you can get more information on the walking tracks in the area, as well as a few shops selling snacks and meals.

We chose to do a short loop and walk to the main bridge, and finally catch a departing bus from the Taishoike bus stop.

A good half-day/ several hour hike is to see a couple of the main sights within a reasonable walking distance. We chose to walk from the Kamikochi information centre to Kappa bridge (Kappabashi), then crossing the bridge, down the opposite side of the river until the return bridge Hotaka and Tashiro Bridges, down the Nature Research Trail to Taishoiro pond and finally the Taishoike bus stop.

There is some really beautiful scenery along the walks and we even saw some monkeys.

Monkeys at Kamikochi

There is a restaurant and shop at the Taishoike stop and we had ice cream while we missed our return bus back. You must wave the bus down and be on the correct side of the road, or else they won’t stop!

We left Kamikochi after lunch and headed off for Takayama.

Takayama

Takayama is a historic town where some streets still retain the ‘old’ feel of Japan. In particular there is one main tourist street that was very lively with tourists, and plenty of restaurants, snack shops, and gift shops.

Look out for stores with a ball hanging above the door – this means they sell or serve sake (alcohol).

Takayama is very touristy so free parking is pretty much unheard of. We parked at the Hida Takayama Town Museum where parking was 150 yen per 30 minutes, and stayed in town for about 2 hours. The streets are typical Japanese streets and it was not the best area for our campervan. Luckily our vehicle was the size of a standard van – there’s no way you could get a large campervan or RV around some of these areas!

Sanmachi Suji (三町筋) is a short walk away within 200m and these are the old streets that are of Edo style with many merchants and sake breweries along them.

There are many museums and some you can look around free of charge. We also went to check out the Miyaji Heritage House (it’s free entry) – but unfortunately it was closed. This building only seems to be open on weekends, but could be an interesting visit if your trip happens to align with its opening hours.

A mix of old and new at Takayama

After an express look at Takayama, we were on our way to our next destination, the Shirakawa-go Road Station (道の駅 白川郷) where we spent the night.

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