Monday, June 13, 2016

Kamikochi, Japan: A Day in the Japanese Alps!

Kate and Mark departed Takayama for Kyoto the following day, while I decided to hang out a couple extra days in Takayama and do some of the lovely day trips I'd looked up last-minute.  One such day trip was to a town called Kamikochi, which is located in the Japanese Alps.

What It's All About:
Kamikochi's got mountains. Tons of mountains. It's a popular resort town in the Japanese Alps, but it's not overly developed and has some of the prettiest mountainous scenery you will find in this country.  Private transport is banned, so people have to bus or cab it into the National Park - but this helps maintain its prettiness and relative feeling of wildness, which I loved.

Beautiful Japanese Alps in Kamikochi!

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • I had met a girl in my hostel the night before - Almas is from Singapore, and was doing a rotation for medical school in Tokyo, and then taking some time to travel Japan - while chatting, we realized we'd both planned on going to Kamikochi the next day, so we joined forces.
  • Almas and I took a 2-hour bus out to Kamikochi - it dropped us off besides some of the hiking trails, where we started our walk for the day.
No, this map of the walking trails in Kamikochi isn't confusing at all

Our first view of the Alps! And they were SO PRETTY

Of course, there were stunningly clear, blue-green waters

There was so much crazy looking scenery. Why, WHY did I not make preparations to film a "Out of the Woods" music video during my trip?

A giant dead tree

The scenery is so different in this part of the world! I'm obsessed

Nature spam

As we walked, the landscapes kept changing, so I kept taking photos.

Look at all the different greens of the trees! LOVE

Almas and I, and a Japanese man's finger

Signs kept pointing us to a famous landmark called the Kappabashi Bridge - and when we finally got there, it was a wimpy, kind of plastic-looking brown bridge filled with hoards of tourists.  But the VIEWS were so worth it!

The Japanese Alps from Kappabashi Bridge

Ok so I know you can't see this, but THERE WERE TONS OF MONKEYS on the rocks!  They were SO cute

A further 2-hour hike took us to this other bridge, that looks similar to the Kappabashi Bridge, but has much, much less people.

I don't remember the name of this bridge. But it was the end of the path, and we walked across it to wind back downstream and return to the bus station.

You can't really see it, but this monkey has a baby monkey clinging onto its stomach!

A monkey doing one of those pensive, artistic "looking out" shots

This monkey was nomming on some leaves. UGH I LOVE MONKEYS SO MUCH AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY

And this one is carrying a baby on its back!

I don't know if anyone is appreciating the fact that I deleted like 100 monkey photos already that didn't make the cut

End of our full-day Kamikochi hike - it took about 5 hours total, and I don't know that I'd call it "hiking" as much as "walking on very flat, very well-marked, very well-traversed paths" - but it was BEAUTIFUL and was such a great day in nature.

  • On our bus ride home, we had to transfer buses in town known for its onsens (public hot baths), called Hirayu Onsen - I decided to stay and check out some of the local baths, while Almas headed back to Takayama to do some shopping.  Ummmmm I have a new onsen obsession, I think - it's basically public naked bathing in huge, super-hot baths.  It's such a major activity in Japan, they LOVE their onsens (which is weird, because the society is so conservative and then BOOM you're in a room with naked women walking around and hanging out in the same baths), and there's so many routines and unspoken rules and best practices that you slowly pick up over time.  I need to write a separate onsen post.

After I dragged myself home from the onsens, Almas and a hostel roommate of hers, Linda, and I went to dinner in Takayama. At this charming, charming restaurant called Kyoya.

This is the entrance to the restaurant. Are we dying over how cute it is.

I may have splurged on a huge traditional meal set. Because so much beef.

The Japanese lady is cooking my beef in miso paste on a leaf over fire. It was delicious.

Takayama and the surrounding areas are known for a special kind of fancy beef, called Hida beef (think Kobe beef, but their own special kind). It's usually kind of pricey, but it's super soft and delicious and melt-in-your-mouth. My entire meal set may have revolved around tons of Hida beef.

Linda (Canada), Almas (Singapore) and I at dinner

The deserted streets of Takayama at night. I love how far-from-the-world this city feels sometimes.

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