Kamikochi, through the gap of COVID-19 [Tokusawa Camp 2020] (Part 1-5)

2020,We chose to revisit Kamikochi this year.

Japan declared a state of emergency in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the ban of non-essential outings and severe damage to the tourism industry.

This affected the mountaineering community as well. The business model of mountain lodges is based on the notion of “at least two guests sleeping on one tatami mat,” with stories aplenty of overcrowded lodges. The number of mountain climbers has dropped due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is because the virus can quickly spread if people are forced to sleep in crowded spaces.

It would be challenging to contain an outbreak in the city, but even more so on a mountain where it could lead to fever. Mountain huts have limited facilities for isolating infected individuals, and helicopters must be used for evacuation. This could require significant time, resources, and expenses.

After COVID-19 settled down, I decided to visit Kamikochi again, a place that helped me greatly in recent years. Kamikochi played an important role in my healing and saving my life. I planned to visit the place in September 2020, hoping to revive it.

However, it’s not all good news. We knew we would add a new member to our family in March. Next year and the year after, we will be too occupied with raising our child to visit Kamikochi, therefore we decided to go now while we still can. Next year and the year after, we will be too occupied with raising our child to visit Kamikochi, therefore we decided to go now while we still can. We want to stress this point ahead of time.

Expectant mothers face a higher risk of miscarriage or health issues even during a supposed “stable period.” It’s not advisable to travel to remote mountainous locations with limited access to medical care. Next year and the year after, we will be too occupied with raising our child to visit Kamikochi, therefore we decided to go now while we still can. Our choice to visit Kamikochi was made with professional guidance, and we stayed in the nearby area.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 (Day 1)

As someone who prefers less popular destinations, I chose to visit Kamikochi on a weekday. Even though I had to coordinate with my work schedule, I opted to go during the week since Kamikochi is a significant landmark of Japan.

It’s a highly popular tourist spot, so if it’s crowded and hectic, you might not feel entirely at ease.It’s silly to trek to the mountains, see lots of folks, and return exhausted.If you’re making the journey, why not take a day off, even if you must plead with your boss.

I was very occupied at that time. We discovered we were having a baby, so we had to sell our current home, which was barely two years old when we purchased it, and find our next abode.I used a calculator to figure out how to afford a house and support my family.

I’m 47 and my partner is 13 years younger. We’re buying a home and having a child.Despite my calculations, I can’t determine if we’ll have enough money or struggle.The more I thought about it, the more I got confused.Even a slight “safety factor” addition made it even more puzzling.On day one of our trip, we boarded the “Limited Express Azusa No. 1” departing from Shinjuku Station at 7:00 a.m. Our first step was to head to the concourse at Shinjuku Station where

we bought breakfast at an ekiben store.We were amazed to see that ekiben was sold even at 6:00 am. We questioned about the procedures for preparing and delivering the product.How and when was it made and brought to us?

AM, on my way to platform 9 at Shinjuku Station, where I will board the limited express Azusa No. 1.

The lunch box they bought.

Salmon Harako Bento again?

I recall buying the same lunch box a year ago on our trip to Kamikochi.

“We’re going to the mountains,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be more thrilling to eat something from the mountains than from the sea, given the nature of the trip?”
But I enjoy this. “I’m from Shizuoka, so I like seafood,” she explains.

However, I don’t think my love for seafood is solely due to my hometown. I actually come from Hiroshima and lived by the sea for some time.

I enjoy traveling and recently tried the Yatsugatake Specialty: Marumasa’s Chicken Cutlet bento.” I always wanted to try this.

I heard it has crispy highland vegetables (lettuce) despite being an ekiben.

When I opened the box of “Marumasa’s Chicken Cutlet,” I was surprised to find only a chicken cutlet with a small amount of spaghetti on top. When I opened the box of “Marumasa’s Chicken Cutlet,” I was surprised to find only a chicken cutlet with a small amount of spaghetti on top. It was not the chicken katsu-don that I had expected. When I opened the box of “Marumasa’s ChickenCutlet,” I was surprised to find only a chicken cutlet with a small amount of spaghetti on top. I quickly checked and realized that I had mistaken it for something else. The bento I wanted was actually “Kogen Yasai to Katsu no Bento” from the same vendor, Marumasa. The packaging looked similar, which caused my confusion.

After looking into it more, I discovered that the “Kogen Yasai to Katsu no Bento” is only sold at Kobuchisawa Station after 10:00 a.m. This explains why it wasn’t available at Shinjuku Station at 7:00 a.m. I apologize for my arrogance in thinking I could get

whatever I wanted in Tokyo.

We arrived at Matsumoto Station. There’s a convenience store called NewDays by the ticket gate that has a lot of different souvenirs.I looked inside since we will be staying in the mountains for two nights. In Kamikochi, you can buy plenty of food and snacks, but I usually prefer to get my own supplies.


A new sign was discovered at the ticket machine corner near the ticket gate of Matsumoto Station.

The sign indicates that the bus for the Kamikochi Line heading towards Shinshimadzu departs from Alps Exit.

To get to Kamikochi from Matsumoto, take the Alpico Kotsu Kamikochi Line, a nearby train that takes 30 minutes. Then, transfer to a bus that goes to Kamikochi at the final stop, Niijima Station. A direct bus to Kamikochi from Matsumoto would be more suitable, but they do not have one to maintain the local railroad line.

The announcement stated that a bus would depart from the Matsumoto station, which is our current location. I exclaimed, “That’s so convenient!” This bus is an alternative to the Alpico Kotsu Kamikochi Line, but still requires one transfer at Niijimazu to reach Kamikochi.

The program is called the “Increased Service Demonstration Bus.” Maybe the public emergency declared because of COVID-19 led to fewer tourists, which made buses and trains reduce their services. Now that the outbreak has calmed down, Alpico Transportation might not know how many tourists will return. Therefore, before adding more trains, they chose to run a trial with buses, which can easily adjust the frequency of services.

Do buses really depart from Matsumoto Station? Amazing, it really does depart. I checked the Alps Exit of Matsumoto Station and saw a white bus parked there. That must be the one to Shin-Shimashima. From afar, the Northern Alps’ mountains are noticeable, and Jōnen-dake (常念岳) has a lovely shape that’s quickly distinguishable.


  • Board the bus heading to Shin-Shimashima.

No one else was on board with us.

This doesn’t mean that no one else was heading to Kamikochi. There were some individuals, but all of them were headed for the train instead of the bus.

Just to let you know, the train takes 30 minutes while the bus takes 45 minutes, which means that the bus is slower.

So, the train, which departs from Matsumoto station 10 minutes after the bus, reaches Shin-Shimashima station earlier than the bus, thus reversing the previous outcome.

Now is the time to be careful about COVID-19.

A warning sign was on each bus seat. It said, “Follow the rules to prevent catching the new coronavirus. Wear a mask when you get on the bus.”

In 2020, the sign was updated to say,

“Crew members will wear gloves and not touch passengers when loading and unloading luggage.”

This warning is at the forefront of the crew’s distrust of people. It states that if they accidentally touch someone, they may become contagious.

(To be continued)

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