“I definitely have wanted to come here.” As expected by an American guest, Kamikochi in early winter generously showed off its magnificent scenery.
-Photo, overlooking the Hotaka mountain range from the Azusa River-
This time, I will talk about the Kamikochi guide in early November as an interpreter guide. It was a request for an interpreter guide for the first time in a long time due to the COVID 19. The site was Kamikochi, and the meeting point was Kamikochi Bus Terminal.
I called the quest in advance and confirmed, “Kamikochi is cold, so be sure to take measures against the chilly weather, preferably with trekking shoes and in warm clothes. You will have to walk more than 10 kilometers to go around the entire tour course, is that all right?”
“It’s okay. It’s easy for me. I’m looking forward to it.”
The guest was an American woman from Chicago who lives in Japan.
“A friend of mine who came to Kamikochi about 10 days ago showed me a picture of a wonderful view, so I immediately decided to apply for this tour”.
The customer entered Kamikochi by bus from Shinshimashima Station at Matsumoto where she had arrived the day before. I entered Kamikochi by bus from Hirayu hot spring resort on the other side.
At the meeting point at 1:00 pm, we were also supposed to catch the bus at 5:30 pm for each other on the way back. At the meeting time, there were few foreigners, so I could find her immediately. Having showed my guide license, I introduced myself. For fear of COVID, we were greeted with an elbow touch.
“The tour would take more than 10 kilometers, so we couldn’t take it too slowly.” It was clear that if we walk all the courses on foot, it would not be able to catch the return bus. Immediately after she bought a return bus ticket, I explained the situation, and suggested that we should take a taxi to Taisho Pond. She agreed. The tour started from here.
The rain on the previous day had already stopped, and the weather was perfect for Kamikochi. The famous Hotaka mountain range which had been covered with the first snow of the year was breathtakingly beautiful. However, since it is 1500 meters above sea level, it is so cold no matter the weather. The wind was also pretty chilly.
At first, I briefly explained about Taisho Pond and Mt. Yakedake. Having given information that Yakedake is an active volcano and Taisho Pond was recently created by its eruption, I got a question about the height of the mountain and the year when Taisho Pond was created. I immediately answered that it is 2,455m above sea level and in 1915. She might have checked my ability as the guide around this region.
She seemed to enjoy the beautiful river, forest and mountain views more than my explanation of Kamikochi. I thought that the priority should be given to her beautiful picturesque spots and scenery. Lengthy explanations were by no means what customers expected. I’ll give her brief explanations, answer her questions politely.
After that, We passed through Tashiroike , Tashirobashi, Hotakabashi, Weston Relief, and Kappabashi Bridge. This area was as beautiful as a postcard no matter what scenery you cut out. The guest was crazy about releasing the shutter.
On this day, a flock of monkey clans approached the Weston Relief without showing any fear of people. Many baby monkeys clung to the back of the mother monkey. The guest was so delighted with this scenery. By the way, Japanese macaques are not often called monkeys. It is Japanese macaque.
“macaques!” “macaques!” ” I really like them.”
Along the way, I had listened to her stories about her workplace, family, and travels around the world that she had experienced so far, by taking some breaks and snacks in between. It was the guest who had no shortage of topics. Moreover, since I was the only guide, there is no need to hesitate to other people. This was what makes it different from a group tour. This time the guide was reserved, We talked about anything. Most of the time, we walked through the woods .
Feel free to talk about presidential elections, religions, and topics that you should normally avoid. As a listener. I asked questions while putting in some difficult words from time to time while saying “uh-huh” or “Yeah, yeah”. Then, the stories spread more and more, as if she might have thought , “Can you hear such a story?”
I think that the most important thing in communication is to listen to the other person’s story rather than mine.
After passing the Kappabashi Bridge, We took the Azusa River right bank course on the left, you would soon see the magnificent view of Oku Hotaka, Mae Hotaka, and Karasawa Cirque covered with snow in front of us.
This is “The Kamikochi!”
When you see this scenery, it feels like “How is that ? Worth coming here all the way.”
“Marvelous! Splendid!” she said.
I explained a little about Oku Hotaka. Introducing that it is one of the most popular mountains for alpinists, but it is also a dangerous mountain, and the third highest mountain in Japan.
Here comes the standard question. “Then, what is the second highest mountain?” For those who want to be an interpreter guide, these are indispensable knowledge.
“It’s Mt. Kitadake in the Southern Alps. 3193 meters. Oku Hotaka is 3190 meters. It’s only 3 meters lower.”
We took directions to the last scenic points of the tour, Myojin Pond and Hotaka Shrine Okumiya. An up-down course of about 3 km in forest and bamboo leaves.
Since it was already around 3 o’clock, We hardly saw other hikers on the path. For the past few days, seeing bear warnings have been announced every day, so we kept an eye on our surroundings.
“My wife was worried about bears, so I hang the bell on my waist and walk while ringing it.”
“What is that for ?”
“Bear repellant bell.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing a bear. I have seen a grizzly bear in Colorado and a crocodile in Florida.”
There was no flinch at all. She was a very strong guest at all.
Eventually, clouds came out, the wind became stronger, and it also became a little darker. Finally, we arrived at Myojin Pond.
It was a fascinating shooting point with a mysterious view. We made a courtesy visit to The Okumiya of Hotaka Shrine.
When I asked her, “Would you like to come with me?”
“I wouldn’t. because I believe in the Christian god.”
I worshipped alone. She was watching my behavior behind the scenes.
Then, We talked a little about Shinto.
“I have learned Hinduism and Voodoo at university and understood them to some extent, but I am afraid I couldn’t understand Japanese Shinto. Even though I like Japanese shrines,” she said with a bitter smile.
“I understand , since it’s a religion with no doctrine, no scriptures, no founder,” I replied.
“The most important things in Shinto are being aware of purity and cleanliness. The greatest impurity in Shinto is death.”
We were supposed to hurry a little on our way to the bus terminal without even talking about Shinto’s Harai and Misogi, which are essential knowledge to explain about Shinto for an interpreter guide.
The time for the return bus was okay, but it was getting a little darker and the wind getting stronger. Having crossed the Myojin Bridge and took the Azusa River left bank course to Kappabashi Bridge and the bus terminal. The way back was a wide flat road and gentle downhill. We had been chatting in a loud voice. Maybe, it kept bears away.
When we finally arrived at the bus terminal, the surroundings had gotten pitch black, the wind stronger, and the snow flickering. It got so cold.
But she was still energetic, and didn’t look tired.
The tour ended safely without encountering a bear.
She looked quite satisfied with her smiles.
“It was a very lucky and nice day. I’ll show all my friends the pictures taken by myself and introduce them to Kamikochi.”
After thanking her for joining the tour, I waved and saw off the bus.
The tour was over. I also got on the bus and went back home.
That’s it for this time.
Thank you so much for reading.