Newsweek

Escaping Japan's Cities for the 'So-Called Wilderness'

When the Japanese want to get out of Tokyo, glorious, alpine Kamikochi is where they go.
The Taisho Pond and Mount Hotaka in Japan's Koshinetsu region.
09_02_Kamikochi_01 Source: JTB Photo/UIG/Getty

Every country should have its Shangri-la. Perhaps this is Japan’s. Thrust upward 3,000 feet by Earth’s tectonic mischief, the highland Eden of Kamikochi, tucked into the Nagano prefecture in the center of Honshu, Japan’s main island, attracts millions every year. They come to sniff its sylvan air and escape the soupy humidity of a Japanese lowlands summer. Cool, green larch woods flank the slight but lively Azusa River that plunges through an erratic necklace of precipitous granite known in Japanese as “the mountains of the standing ears of corn.”

So pristine are Kamikochi’s habitats, so dreamy its peaks, that access has to be limited by banning private cars and coaches. That

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