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The Karasawa Cirque, round trip from Kamikochi

One of Japan’s great glacial cirque, in the heart of the Hotaka peaks.
  • Duration
    2Days / 11.5Hours
    Highest Point
    2309m
    Elevation Gain
    800m
  • Skill Level
    Fitness Level
    Gear Level

Located in the heart of the Hotaka peaks, in the southern part of the Northern Japanese Alps, the Karasawa Cirque is one of Japan’s great glacial cirques.
With mountain peaks such as Mt. Maehotaka (Maehotaka-dake), Mt. Okuhotaka (Okuhotaka-dake), Mt. Karasawa (Karasawa-dake), Mt. Kitahotaka (Kitahotaka-dake), and Byobu-iwa Rock out in backdrop, lovely alpine plants bloom in the summertime and radiant foliage creates colorful autumn vistas.
Two mountain huts, Karasawa Hutte and Karasawa-goya, serve the area as well as providing popular locations to set up tents.
While some amount of mountain climbing experience is needed to climb the Hotaka peaks, even a beginner can hike as far as Karasawa without much difficulty.

A short walk along paved roads takes you from the Kamikochi Bus Terminal to Kappa Bridge (Kappabashi). There are many hotels and souvenir shops in the area around the Bridge and it is usually crowded with tourists. Continue on without crossing the Bridge, and go past the Konashidaira Camping Area.
Later on, after you pass the Myojin area, travel across a small slope as the path curves away from the river side and into the forest.
The hike from Kamikochi to Tokusawa takes approximately 2 hours. In addition to its campground, the area has a popular meadow and two huts: Tokusawa Lodge and Tokusawa-en.
From Tokusawa, it takes another hour to get to Yokoo, while you pass by a large mountain hut, Yokoo Sanso. At this point, you will have hiked around 10 kilo meters over roughly 3 hours. The path branches at Yokoo into separate paths leading to Mt. Karasawa and Mt. Hotaka, and a path leading to Mt. Yarigatake.
From Yokoo, cross the Yokoo-ohashi Bridge and follow the path through a forested area. On the other side of the valley, you can see the Byobu-iwa Rock.
Once you cross the Hontani Bridge, the slope becomes significantly steeper. A zigzagging path continues for some time after this, but the well-maintained course weaves through the rocky terrain in a manner that makes it easy to negotiate.
The path then traverses a collapsed area of the course and passes through birch trees and shrubs. As you emerge into the clearing, your field of view opens up.
Next, hike up through a rocky section of the course. In years with heavy snowfall, there might be snow left around the course until mid-August.
You will come to a fork in the path, the right side of which leads to the Karasawa-goya mountain hut. Turn left and ascend the stone steps to reach the Karasawa Hutte. You have now reached the Karasawa Cirque. On a clear day, you can see the panorama of mountain peaks surrounding the Cirque.
On your return trip, simply follow the same path in reverse.

Other Info

If you have time and energy to spare on your return hike, it’s recommended that you walk along the right bank of the Azusa River (Azusa-gawa) via Myojin. Along the way you can see some sights that you can’t see along the left bank. At the Hotaka-jinja-okumiya Shrine, you will find Myojin-ike Pond, a place of mystical serenity. In early summer, you can also enjoy the sight of beautiful rhododendron blooms.

Notes

Karasawa becomes especially crowded in the autumn foliage season, usually from end of September to early October. . So, it is recommended to reserve at a mountain hut well in advance. You should also be prepared for line-ups at check in and at the toilets.

Route Map

Elevation Map

Height (m)
Horizontal Distance (km)

Spec

Duration
2Days / 11.5Hours
Highest Point
2309m
Elevation Gain
800m
Horizontal Distance
31Km
Skill Level
Fitness Level
Gear Level

On the Trail

Sleeping

Myojin-kan, Tokusawa Lodge, Tokusawa-en,
Karasawa Hutte, Karasawa-goya

Eating

The Kamikochi Bus Terminal, where the Hike begins/ends, has a restaurant called the Kamikochi Shokudo on the second floor. Additionally, all mountain huts offer meals to their customers in dining halls

Hot-Springs

Konashi-no-Yu

Instagram

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Access

From Tokyo Station, take the JR Chuo Line to Shinjuku Station (Approx. 15 minutes). Change trains at Shinjuku Station and take the JR Chuo Line express train to Matsumoto Station (Approx. 3 hours).
From Matsumoto Station, take the Matsumoto Dentetsu train to Shin-shimashima Station (Approx. 30minutes). Then, take the Alpico route bus to Kamikochi Bus Terminal (Approx. 65 minutes). If you take an Alpico Lines “Sawayaka shinshu-go” night bus from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station, you arrive at Kamikochi on the morning of the following day (Approx. 7 hours).

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