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Kamikōchi, Chubu Sangaku National Park in Nagano

Keen to escape the heat of Tokyo in summer, we headed to the mountainous prefecture of Nagano at the end of August. It was also our chance to revisit the city of Matsumoto, a place fondly remembered from our previous tour of Japan. Kamikōchi is a popular beauty spot in a National Park, although reaching it seemed more arduous than when we did it without children—a pleasant 35 minute train ride followed by an hour on a coach up twisty, switch-backing mountain roads.

The area near the bus terminal is a busy camping ground as well as the main trailhead so was bustling with people arriving and departing. Not being morning people, and on holiday, it was time for elevenses when we arrived and it seemed distinctly possible that some of the people leaving as we ate our bento lunch had been on the first train and already completed their hike before we were even ready to start!

Our plan was to explore some of the easier trails and having identified one that looked suitable for little legs we set off. The low cloud cover had already made it difficult to photograph the mountain peaks, and shortly after starting our walk we heard some low rumbling thunder. Since we had waterproof coats and expecting a short shower we carried on walking, but once the path became more of stream than path we had to turn back and instead spent time in the small visitor centre. When the rain did eventually stop, the skies cleared very quickly revealing the full majesty of the mountains, and the sun returned in strength causing incredible views of mist rising up from the river.