Karasawa is one of the best location to appreciate the beauty of distinctive four season in Japan.
Karasawa (Nagano prefecture, Japan) 2300m in height, a glacier valley surrounded by peaks over 3100m height in the region, is known for it’s breathtaking view of colorful leaf in autumn.
It has been raining hard in Tokyo for days, and a new typhoon was just formed on the ocean south of Japan heading our way full speed, doesn’t feel optimistic to realize the plan to hike in Karasawa. We either choose to give up and return home ( Taiwan) with great disappointment, or choose to trust the weather forecast that predicts a slim one day window of good weather (however unlikely it may look now!). We finally choose the latter and start driving toward Kamikochi（上高地）4:00am in the morning from Tokyo.
Arriving Kamikochi (the entrance to the famous Northern Alps of Japan). The weather is still gloomy but look already stabilized now. We gear up and start to walk into the forest.
Arrive in first rest area Myojin (明神）in approx. 1 hour walk, already stopped raining. There are 3 rest area like this along the way to Karasawa, each of them has a cabin where you can stay for a night, offer hot meals (and beers!) and of course bathroom.
Arrived 2nd rest area Tokuzawa (德沢）and 3rd/last Yokoo（橫尾), actually up to this point it was a nice warm up as the road was paved with pebbles or just soil, there were only little ascension (like less than 100m for the first 3hrs). But we all know the real challenge is ahead as after Yokoo, the real ascension starts.
It was hard to forecast precisely when the leaf would turn red, especially this year unprecedented hot summer hit Japan and bring record high temperature in many areas of Japan. Making all the predictions questionable. We were not sure whether red leafs awaits or nothing in our destination, seeing along the way some of the half yellow foliage give a bit confidence to ourselves.
After 7 hrs hike, we finally made it to our destination! Karasawa- hutte, one of the two cabin offer shelter and food. Both cabin looks well maintained and can house some hundreds of visitors at its capacity, at night they offer hot meal (like fried pork curry rice) for dinner. For campers they also have some number of tents available for rent and it costs 1000 JPY per person to use the camping site, pretty reasonable price.
Although Mountain in Japan usually has very distinctive 4 seasons, but I bet that Autumn red leaf would be the most popular of all. I read from other people’s blog that in past autumn there could be as many as 1000 tents in Karasawa in peak time! Now maybe because of the uncertainty in weather conditions we didn’t see so many tents today, but still easily more than 100 tents were there.
Nice open area where you can chill after a hard long walk and enjoy drinks with friends.
I envy those who can sleep deeply in mountain, My sleep was shallow and almost waking up every hour that night, luckily the sky start to clear up I can shoot some photo so not to get bored.
Our small tent looks so bright because of long exposure.
Was hoping to see Milky Way but unfortunately it’s full moon and also the season is not right.
Cannot believe my eye as I see the sunrising and sunlight slowly paint the peak red, so breathtakingly beautiful, we are in awe how wonderful the nature is, so blessed by mountain god to have the chance to witness this gift of nature.
That’s Kitaho(北穗), Okuho(奧穗）and Maeho (前穗) a chain of peaks surrounding Karasawa valley, some of the hikers with longer plans may try challenge those magnificent peaks.
Perfectly clear sky and saturated colors of leafs, my company said he’s been here about 20 times and this time the weather conditions is by far the best yet. We are extremely lucky.
The cabin ahead is Karasawa-goya, booking should be also full on that day.
Would love to come back in different season, so Karasawa, bye for now and thank you for such wonderful memories.