Kamonji-Goya: Lunch at a 135 year old Mountain Hut
If you decide to take the flat hiking loop around Kamikochi, you’ll likely find yourself passing by two important icons as you cross the Myojin Bridge as you’re coming from the main Kappa Bridge. The first is the Myojin Pond, which has its own shrine as well as spectacular views, but just before you get there you’ll find Kamonji-goya, a mountain hut with a rich history as well as being a perfect lunch spot.
Built in 1880 by a woodsman named Kamijo Kamonji, Kamonji-goya is the oldest structure in Kamikochi and still carries on the tradition of feeding hikers and giving them a place to rest as they pass through.
Kamonji was 32 years old when he built the hut, and despite having a family further down the mountains outside of Kamikochi he spent most of his time at the lodge while he fished and hunted for bears, antelope, and other game.
In 1896 the lodge was visited by Walter Weston, an English missionary and adventurer who bears a lot of responsibility for bringing the beauty of the Japanese alps to the world through his writings. The two climbed Mt. Hotaka-dake together, with Kamonji as guide, and became friends. In fact, he’s cited multiple times in Weston’s book Mountaineering and Exploring the Japanese Alps (1896):
The only human being in the lonely valley was an old hunter whom we found by the river-side fishing for the trout in which these mountain streams abound. From him we purchased a dozen fish, varying in weight from half a pound upwards, and when dinner was done, we spread our tent upon the floor, laid down our native straw rain-coats as mattresses, and so passed the night as before.
Now over 135 years later we can still enter Kamonji’s original lodge which is operated by one of his descendents, though it has of course expanded over the years, and eat fresh trout cooked over the very fireplace he built. Above that fireplace still sits Kamonji’s hunting rifle and an ice axe he received from Weston as a token of friendship.
Kamonji-goya serves as a perfect halfway point for your walk through Kamikochi, with plenty of outdoor seating, beautiful views, and of course fresh trout, smoked cheese, and self-served beer cooled by the mountain waters.
Once you’ve had a break and a bite to eat you’re set to check out Myojin Pond behind the lodge, and then head back for the second half of your hike. If you’re lucky you may just come across a group of monkeys traveling down the riverbanks, just as Kamonji himself saw daily in his life on the mountain.