In the late 19th century, foreigners 'discovered' this mountainous region and coined the term 'Japan Alps'. A British missionary, Reverend Walter Weston, toiled from peak to peak and sparked Japanese interest in mountaineering as a sport. He is now honoured with a festival on the first Sunday in June, the official opening of the hiking season. Kamikōchi (上高地) has become a base for day trippers, hikers and climbers who come for snowcapped peaks, bubbling brooks, wild monkeys, wildflowers and ancient forests. That said, it wouldn't be Japan without the crowds: timing is everything.