Happo Pond ‘Floats in the Air’ in Hakuba Mountains in Summer

The Japan News
Happo Pond reflects the mountains on its surface in Hakuba in late July.

Hakuba, located in northern Nagano Prefecture, is best known among skiers for its powder snow in winter, but its mountain range offers spectacular scenery during summer, too.

One such place is Happo Pond in Hakuba Village, popular for its mirrored view of the mountains that reflects on the surface of the pond, and its variety of alpine wildflowers.

Only when there is a perfect combination of calm wind and good weather does the surface of the water reflect with little distortion, giving rise to the illusion that the pond is floating in the air 2,000 meters above sea level. On an early morning in late July, when the main picture was taken, the view only lasted for around 30 minutes, until the mountains were completely hidden by the mist.

Happo Pond is a natural body of water located on the Happo-one ridge, which extends from the summit of Mt. Karamatsu (2,696 meters above sea level). The area is famous for its abundance of alpine flora during the summer, including many species endemic to the area, and is designated as a natural monument of the prefecture.

Japan News photos
Top: Various alpine wildflowers are seen on Happo-one ridge in Hakuba in late July.
Bottom: A view of mountains with mist seen from the path to Mt. Karamatsu, in Hakuba in late July.

To reach Happo Pond, visitors can ride ski lifts to the halfway point. From there, it is a light hike with an about 200-meter rise, taking about 1½ to 2 hours. Two pathways leading to the pond, trail and wood-plank paths are well maintained, but a pair of good hiking shoes is recommended.

From Happo Pond, there is a mountain path leading up to Mt. Karamatsu, which is an additional 3 hours of climbing. Along the way, there are even some spots with snow that offer nice rest stops. From the summit, people can enjoy views of the Northern Japanese Alps. It is advisable to be equipped with good trekking gear, since the path includes some rocky points, and the weather changes frequently in the mountains.

After descending from Happo Pond, Hakuba Village has many hot springs and campgrounds, and is a great place to recharge tired legs after the long walk and enjoy a barbeque in natural surroundings. To get to the village, trains run from JR Matsumoto Station.

The Japan News
Mt. Karamatsu

Mountain accidents

As the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic are over, many people have gone climbing and hiking in the mountains this year. However, a number of accidents have also been reported.

In Nagano Prefecture, there have been 19 cases — including one death — in the first seven days of August alone. With record heat this summer, there have been “many cases possibly related to dehydration and heatstroke,” according to the prefectural police. “It is important to be well-equipped and to plan well, for instance, by carrying an actual map and not relying solely on phone apps.”