The Northern Alps range is often called "the roof of Japan." It is an area of great scenic beauty, offering superb views and unspoiled natural landscapes. Its highest peak is Mt. Hotaka, rising 3,190 meters above sea level, which stands at the heart of a national park that is the habitat for many species of wild animals, including the Japanese macaque.
Kamikochi is the gateway to the mountain. It is a popular destination for hikers and other visitors. It was discovered by Walter Weston, a British missionary to Japan, who popularized recreational climbing in the nearby mountains in the late 19th century. As the birthplace of modern alpinism in Japan, this area remains a major center for sports climbing.
On this edition of "Journeys in Japan," Cveto Podlogar sets off to climb to the snow-clad peak of Mt. Hotaka. He enjoys spectacular scenery during the day and skies ablaze with stars at night. He also stays at lodges along the way and talks with people deeply rooted in their love of climbing and the magnificent mountain.
Cveto Podlogar is an experienced climber and an international mountain guide certified by the UIGM and officially recognized by the Alpine Guide Society of Japan.
Its specialty is iwana (Japanese char) which are sprinkled with salt and broiled around an open fire. Another dish featuring iwana is kotsuzake, with hot sake poured over the whole fish.
Address: Kamikochi, Azumi, Matsumoto City, Nagano Pref.
During the climbing season, a tent village forms here and the mountain lodge here is always full.
Takashi Yamaguchi, the owner of the hut, is also head of the local mountain rescue squad. Mountaineering equipment can also be rented here.
Address: 4469-1 Azumi, Matsumoto City, Nagano Pref.
B1F Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, 2-10-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
tel: (direct) +81(0)90-7869-0045
Office address: 504 Higashi-machi, Kamioka Town, Hida City, Gifu Pref.
Address: 4469-1 Kamikochi, Azumi, Matsumoto City, Nagano Pref.
Winter address: 10250-13 Hata, Matsumoto City, Nagano Pref.
Be aware that cars are prohibited in the area.
Traveler: Cveto Podlogar > More Info
Occupation:UAIGM International guide
Length of residence in Japan:24 years
With trans Siberian railway to China; spent 6 months in Tibet, come to Japan and did the journey all over the Honshu Island by bicycle, interviewed by Yamagata NHK at the time..... met Chiharu-san (partner) and stay !!
I have been a professional mountain guide since 1998. Even before that, I climbed Mt. Hotaka 20-30 times, from almost all possible directions. But this time, my mountaineering trip for Journeys in Japan was very special, and it will stay in my memory for a long time.
For the very first time, I learned about Walter Weston and his wife, and the pioneering steps they took to reach the peaks of this mountain (in fact, Mt. Hotaka has several summits: West; North; Oku; and Mae-Hotaka). I found out that Weston climbed with a skilful local hunter and guide, called Komonji. It has opened my eyes and my perspective on Mt. Hotaka in a way that is very different from before.
I had chance to meet Komonji’s grandson, who still keeps the old hut in almost same, unique style. He smokes and cooks river fish around the open fire in a very impressive way that you probably cannot find anywhere else in Japan now.
I met many other people who live and work around Mt. Hotaka, including Mr. Watanabe, a painter in Kamikochi. The owner of the Karasawa mountain hut, Mr. Yamaguchi, is still a very strong man and head of the local rescue team. And I met some foreign climbers who knew more about Weston than I did before this time, which was a bit embarrassing for me.
My life as a climber is continuing. One week later, I was on Mt. Hotaka again, working as a guide. But the climb was different, because I knew more details about the history… compared to most climbers!
I will continue my job as a mountain guide, not just in Japan but around the world. And because I’m a foreigner, I’ll continue to introduce the beauty of the Japanese Alps to the world — just like Weston did.
At the moment, and for the rest of the summer, I’m in the Alps in Europe. I have been talking about Mt. Hotaka with my Japanese clients, and I am proud I know so much about it now. All of us are already missing the landscape in Kamikochi, rich with green meadows and wild flowers.