The Great Outdoors

We often incorporate multi-day hikes into our travels, and Japan was no different.  We love the freedom hiking gives to explore the beauties of an area you would otherwise never see.  For our trekking excursion, we headed to the famed Kamikochi.

img_2809We only had two days, and our initial plan was to hike to the summit of Mount Yarigatake, overnight at the Yarigatake Sanso lodge and return to Kamikochi for our final night’s stay.  With the forecast of continued rain and the early departure required to reach Mount Yari in one day, we determined that an adjustment was in order.  Reservations are not required for the mountain lodges, so we were free to change our minds.

We arrived in Kamikochi and deposited our luggage at Nishi-itoya Mountain Lodge, where we would spend the next night.  We left Kamikochi with the idea that we would hike to Kanazawa Lodge, but we changed our minds again and ended up going to Yarisawa Lodge.  The accommodations were nicer than expected, as the lodge has bathing facilities, including an onsen, whereas many of the other lodges do not.  It was here that I had my first shared bathing experience.  Letting go of my American modesty, I didn’t find it awkward or uncomfortable at all, and I enjoyed a pleasant chat with an older Japanese woman.  The lodge was also more expensive than expected.  We opted for a private room, having decided on our last overnight hiking trip that it was time to graduate from dorm lodging, making our total stay, including meals, $300.

Mornings begin very early in Japanese mountain lodges, with breakfast served at 5:30 a.m.  Soon thereafter, most of the hikers were along their way, whereas we returned to bed for a couple more hours of rest.  When we departed around 8 a.m., we saw that we weren’t the only ones who didn’t favor rising before the sun, as a handful of Japanese hikers were also just preparing to head out.

img_2855It rained for the entirety of our first day’s journey.  On the plus side, the trail was practically deserted.  We only encountered a few other hikers along the way.  On the trip back, the weather was much better, if still damp and overcast.  Despite the weather, we found Kamikochi and the surrounding mountain areas to be stunning.

We reached Kamikochi by lunchtime and spent most of the day lounging at our ryokan.  We set off for an afternoon walk to enjoy the final hours of our vacation.  To our delight, we soon encountered a troop of snow monkeys wandering along the same path!  While we had enjoyed visiting the monkey park in Kyoto, seeing them truly in the wild was a special treat.

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