History of Okuhida
The Okuhida area is considered as one of the best bases for alpine enthusiasts of all levels as it has an easy access to the Northern Japan Alps and Kamikochi.
The area is also filled with rustic hot spring villages that offer accommodation and soothing post-hike bathing opportunities.
Five hot spring retreats
Okuhida boasts five postcard worthy hot spring resorts: Hirayu, Fukuji, Shin-Hirayu, Tochio and Shin-Hotaka. All resorts are conveniently accessible on the same bus route. Visitors can spend the day shuttling between them, sampling baths with different mineral content and competing views.
Alternatively, stay at one of the hotels or ryokan (traditional inns), and indulge in a multi-course meal of assorted local delicacies.
One of the tallest mountains in Japan
Norikura, a rugged volcano, is among Japan’s tallest mountains. It is linked to Hirayu via a road that reaches an elevation of 2,700 meters. The road is closed to public vehicles but buses operate from the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center and Hirayu between mid-April and late October.
There are many hiking paths around Norikura and the 3,026-meter peak can be reached relatively easily in just 90 minutes from the the 2,700-meter Tatamidaira bus terminal.
Over the top in a double decker
The area also features a 2,150-meter two-section cable car system at Shin-Hotaka. It is a convenient way to the dizzying heights without the effort of a long, difficult hike.
The first section of the cable car is fairly standard, but the upper section is a rare double-decker tram, a popular attraction with photographers.
The sights from the observation deck at the cable car terminal are also spectacular.
With well-signposted trails leading from and around the terminal and a restaurant serving snacks and refreshments, it is easy to spend a leisurely half day in the mountains.
Spend a whole day to fully experience the Northern Japan Alps. Hike from the cable car terminus to Nishihotaka Doppyo (2701 meters), then down to Kamikochi via the nearby Nishihotakadake Mountain Hut.
The whole journey takes a full eight hours (with few breaks in between), so be prepared to start early.
How to go
Located in the center of Japan, Okuhida Onsen can be accessed by public transport from Nagoya, Matsumoto or Takayama.
From JR Nagoya station, take the Takayama Line to JR Takayama Station. You can take a one-hour bus from there to Hirayu. From Hirayu, there is a bus line that runs to Fukuji, Shin-Hirayu, Tochi and Shin-Hotaka. Another line runs to Mt. Norikura.
The Matsumoto Line bus runs from Matsumoto to Takayama, stopping at Hirayu. There is only a few buses a day so check an up-to-date timetable before traveling.