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    • Spring
      • video

        Finding the Flow from Kansai to Kochi

        Shikoku’s many mountains, valleys and proximity to the ocean has made it a hidden gem for rafting, kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts willing to take a step or two further from the Golden Route of Kyoto and Osaka.

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        The mystical oni is prevalent in Japanese children’s stories, usually as a way to scare kids straight. Adventure Travel Kyoto is shedding a new light on this folklore and developing a new hiking route in the countryside of Kyoto.
    • Summer
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        The Pasche family has been cycling and living out of a tent in remote corners of the planet for the past 13 years on four continents spanning 50 countries.
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        Adventure Travel World Summit in Hokkaido

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        Wander into the world of mead brewing and find yourself immersed in a fascinating journey spanning centuries and continents.
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        Each year a group of cyclists head to the deep north towards Tohoku’s vast rice fields and coastal trails to help transform the lives of neglected children.
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        Sea to Table in Yamagata

        An unforgettable way to intimately explore the Shonai Region in Yamagata is a culinary experience bringing bounty of the sea straight to your table.
    • Autumn
    • Winter
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        CAMP3 Clubhouse in Madarao

        Keith Stubbs, a veteran in the snowboard industry, transitioned from rider to coach and instructor trainer for Snowboard Instruction New Zealand. After coaching in various Japanese resorts, he has established a permanent base in Madarao, outlining his plans for the area and future snowboard endeavors.
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        New Horizons in Shiretoko

        During another epic powder season, two seasoned winter sports enthusiasts traded their snowboard bags for camera bags and traveled to Eastern Hokkaido to explore the frozen landscape and broaden their winter horizons.
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        Travelers venturing beyond Hokkaido's popular winter resorts will discover a land with a rich cultural and natural history, a proud indigenous people and a community striving to preserve their heritage.
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        Shizukuishi

        Northern Honshu’s Iwate Prefecture, known for heavy snowfall, features Shizukuishi—a powder-rich resort area with views of Mt. Iwate. Snow enthusiasts seeking lesser-known gems can enjoy exceptional snow quality and uncrowded resorts, including Shizukuishi Ski Resort, Amihari Onsen Ski Resort, and Iwate Kogen Snow Park, offering affordability and traditional hospitality.
    • Near Tokyo
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        Getting Dirty in Japan

        “Getting Dirty in Japan” is about getting out of your comfort zone and into some exciting outdoor adventures and destinations in Japan.
    • Near Kyoto
      • Kumano’s Path Less Traveled

        A forgotten pilgrimage trail, ancient power spots and authentic rural communities are waiting to be explored this hiking season on the Iseji Trail. Stretch your legs and tickle your spirit to welcome the green season on one of the Kumano Kodo’s finest routes, minus the crowds.

        Protecting the Sacred Trees of Koya-san

        Within the misty mountains of Japan's Kii Peninsula, Koya-san (Mt. Koya), stands as a sacred realm of tranquility, history, and spiritual significance. This awe-inspiring mountain has been revered for centuries and is home to a unique collection of trees known as the rokuboku, or The Six Trees of Koya-san.
    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • getting dirty in japan

        Getting Dirty in Japan

        “Getting Dirty in Japan” is about getting out of your comfort zone and into some exciting outdoor adventures and destinations in Japan.
    • River and Lake
      • ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

        Heritage Hunting in Hokka...

        Travelers venturing beyond Hokkaido's popular winter resorts will discover a land with a rich cultural and natural history, a proud indigenous people and a community striving to preserve their heritage.
        getting dirty in japan

        Getting Dirty in Japan

        “Getting Dirty in Japan” is about getting out of your comfort zone and into some exciting outdoor adventures and destinations in Japan.
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
      • getting dirty in japan

        Getting Dirty in Japan

        “Getting Dirty in Japan” is about getting out of your comfort zone and into some exciting outdoor adventures and destinations in Japan.
    • Snow and Ice
      • camp3 clubhouse madarao keith stubbs outdoor japanvideo

        CAMP3 Clubhouse in Madarao

        Keith Stubbs, a veteran in the snowboard industry, transitioned from rider to coach and instructor trainer for Snowboard Instruction New Zealand. After coaching in various Japanese resorts, he has established a permanent base in Madarao, outlining his plans for the area and future snowboard endeavors.
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        During another epic powder season, two seasoned winter sports enthusiasts traded their snowboard bags for camera bags and traveled to Eastern Hokkaido to explore the frozen landscape and broaden their winter horizons.
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        Silent Resilience

        Curling athlete Sayuri Matsuhashi’s journey to the top of her sport is an inspiration to deaf athletes and women juggling their roles as mothers while also pursuing their professional dreams.
        shizukuishi skiing snowboarding outdoor japan

        Shizukuishi

        Northern Honshu’s Iwate Prefecture, known for heavy snowfall, features Shizukuishi—a powder-rich resort area with views of Mt. Iwate. Snow enthusiasts seeking lesser-known gems can enjoy exceptional snow quality and uncrowded resorts, including Shizukuishi Ski Resort, Amihari Onsen Ski Resort, and Iwate Kogen Snow Park, offering affordability and traditional hospitality.
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        Northern Shinshu’s Secret Stash

        A weak yen, revenge travel, and excellent ski conditions have led to high demand, booking out popular resorts like Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen this year. Fortunately, lesser-known gems like Togari Onsen, near Nozawa Onsen and Madarao, offer charming alternatives for powder seekers.
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        Okinawa Forest Adventure

        Holiday-goers lounging on Onna’s white sand beaches are no doubt unaware of what’s going on high in the jungle as creatures climb above the forest canopy and zip or swing from tower to tower. Curious travelers will discover a new side of Okinawa’s tropical paradise if they take the leap into a Forest Adventure.

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        Okinawa attracts hordes of travelers to its sandy beaches and warm, clear water with divers and snorkelers often posting images of the majestic local sea turtles. The interior forest and rivers, however, are home to another Okinawa turtle also in need of protection—the small, reclusive, but equally beautiful, yamagame.

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      • Okinawa’s Blue Zone —A Lifestyle for Longevity...

        Dan Buettner’s bestseller, “Blue Zones,” which was also adapted into a hit series on Netflix, identifies five regions with a high number of centenarians. One of these zones is Yambaru, in the north of Okinawa Island. A rich cultural and natural heritage remain in this region, holding the secret to the longevity of the communities living there.

        Kumano’s Path Less Traveled

        A forgotten pilgrimage trail, ancient power spots and authentic rural communities are waiting to be explored this hiking season on the Iseji Trail. Stretch your legs and tickle your spirit to welcome the green season on one of the Kumano Kodo’s finest routes, minus the crowds.

        Okinawa Forest Adventure

        Holiday-goers lounging on Onna’s white sand beaches are no doubt unaware of what’s going on high in the jungle as creatures climb above the forest canopy and zip or swing from tower to tower. Curious travelers will discover a new side of Okinawa’s tropical paradise if they take the leap into a Forest Adventure.

        Ryukyu’s Mountain Turtles – Interview wi...

        Okinawa attracts hordes of travelers to its sandy beaches and warm, clear water with divers and snorkelers often posting images of the majestic local sea turtles. The interior forest and rivers, however, are home to another Okinawa turtle also in need of protection—the small, reclusive, but equally beautiful, yamagame.

        Protecting the Sacred Trees of Koya-san

        Within the misty mountains of Japan's Kii Peninsula, Koya-san (Mt. Koya), stands as a sacred realm of tranquility, history, and spiritual significance. This awe-inspiring mountain has been revered for centuries and is home to a unique collection of trees known as the rokuboku, or The Six Trees of Koya-san.
    • Races and Events
      • sayuri matsuhashi double role curling athlete japan outdoor

        Silent Resilience

        Curling athlete Sayuri Matsuhashi’s journey to the top of her sport is an inspiration to deaf athletes and women juggling their roles as mothers while also pursuing their professional dreams.

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Diving into the CNMI

Saipan and Rota are more than just quick tropical getaways for travelers from Japan. They are also havens for divers who know they’ll be rewarded time and time again.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) are “low” coral uplift and volcanic islands with coastlines ranging from rocky cliffs to white and black sand beaches. Some of the islands farther north are still volcanically active. Rota, the southernmost of the CNMI, is a ruggedly beautiful island with a sparse population and some exceptionally clear waters.

It’s just a 20-minute hop from Guam, but it will feel like a new world for the scuba buff. Divers visiting Rota will find the water clarity is astounding. A bad day is 30 meters. The island’s “honeycombed” base extends to the sea, opening up a selection of caves, tunnels and crevices that are fun to explore, full of life and stunning when dived at the right time of day.

Rota is also known as the friendliest island in the Marianas. This may be because of a local greeting custom of waving or nodding when they pass you on the road. There is also Rota’s annual fiesta which takes place in October and features a massive, varied spread of food that is legendary.

Complimenting its generous citizenry is an ample supply of eye-popping scenery, both above and below the sea. Rota is full of rough and tough limestone. Sheer cliffs rise from the sea on the east side, while the west has beaches with badland formations that lead right out to water’s edge.

The island’s charm is not only its people, but also the lack of people. The picturesque villages occupy relatively little space on the island, making it the perfect place to roam. Early morning jaunts may bring a glimpse of a monitor lizard, a shrunken cousin of the feared Komodo dragon. Hiking can be fascinating; one can occasionally find artifacts in caves from World War II or ancient glyphs from the Chamorro people.

Birds, especially sea birds, are one of the island’s claims to fame. Its bird sanctuary is set in the most scenic of sites. Few places in the Pacific offer the panoramic view of nature you’ll find at the Sagua Ghaga Seabird Sanctuary on the south coast of Rota.

Below Rota’s bird sanctuary, the sea crashes into the cliffs. All along this eastern coastline are natural surprises waiting to be found. It can be rough over here, especially during trade wind season, so much of the underwater world has yet to be explored.

New finds are popping up all the time, and known sites yield new features as more people take time to visit them. Dive Rota owner Mark Michael and divemaster Fumiko Furukawa showed me around the best spots. Pearlman Tunnel is home to a couple of white-tip sharks. The cave has an entrance at about 80 feet and runs up a slope to less than 20 feet where it opens up again.

The silhouette of the sharks swimming nervously back and forth can be seen as the diver enters the cave. Normally not aggressive, the sharks will leave while their home is being explored. However, they usually don’t stray too far, occasionally swimming by on the outer reef to see if it is OK to come back and again rest.

The outer reef is also the home to feeding green sea and hawksbill turtles. They like to eat the algae along the upper reef flat. They have been the subject of recent sea turtle counts to keep better track of the endangered marine reptiles. This site also has a forest of golden gorgonian fans that give off a brilliant hue when the underwater light shines on them. The same with Pona Point, which has an overhang full of golden gorgonians and some nice sea anemones.

One of the more photographed sites on Rota is along the west shoreline at Wedding Cake Point. Puntan Senhanom, literally translated from Chamorro, means “The Water Point.” It is an underwater cavern illuminated by the sun through dual openings.

The dive entails not diving on the sloping reef, but instead dropping down and heading straight for the sheer cliff line. It falls majestically and vertically into the sea. The dark opening of a cave becomes apparent and, at about 40 feet, the cave can be entered.

The cavern itself is huge, and walls are covered in encrusting sponges. The many shelves of this gap tunnel have ledges that sometimes hold sleeping white-tip sharks. The darker reaches of the cave have cowries and other shells. Swim through the chasm to the back, and you can rise to a fresh air opening and see the sky.

Unlike most caves, this one actually gets lighter the deeper you go. The best time to visit here is seasonal, but locals know. This is when the rotating sun streams down through an opening in the cliff and sends shafts of light down through the cave ceiling. It is possible to swim to the light source and rise through it. It is a zen-like experience to watch the light as it dances through the cavern’s waters.

I joined model Elaine Kwok for some great photography at this site. We used the cave’s natural light to try some “underwater ballet” photos in this studio made by nature. It was a new and fun way to enjoy Senhanom.

Rota also has two shipwrecks in the gin-clear Sasanaya Bay. The  WW II Japanese freighter Shoun Maru is upright and splayed wide open. The bow still sits high in the water. On most days the diver can see the entire 400-foot long wreck from the surface. Amazing.

There’s also the Seven Screws wreck. This ship plied the rivers of China, but It was confiscated during a smuggling bust and sunk here for sport diving. The seabed around both wrecks is alive with garden eels while white-tip sharks and spadefish like to hover above the Shoun Maru.

Sasanaya Bay was just in the last year declared a marine sanctuary—and with good reason. If you’re lucky, big Pacific bottlenose dolphins will be in the bay and play at the boat’s bow. Even pods of melon-head whales and an occasional humpback visit this amazing bay.

At night, the sky is as clear as the water. There aren’t many lights on Rota, so stargazers are in for a treat. The Southern Cross and Orion punch through the blackness, and the Milky Way is absolutely incredible, flowing across the universe in a shimmering array of creation. Rota can be good for a few days or a week-long getaway adventure. But, for sure, Rota is a natural high.

Eagle Ray City

The island of Saipan is the capital of the Northern Marianas and is a quick three-hour trip from Japan and just a short hop from Guam or Rota. It is a haven for golfers, snorkelers, divers and duty free shoppers. Its western coast has white sand beaches. The interior is full of lush jungle greenery and rugged cliffs. There are some eye-popping botanical gardens here. The island is famous for clear water. Divers are now coming to see a new underwater attraction, schooling eagle rays off Managaha Island. 

The Pacfic Islands Club Hotel on the west coast has a large water park, punctuated by a replica of an ancient Manila galleon. It is located right on the hotel grounds and is a tribute to the real Manila galleon trade ship that sunk on the nearby coast. This ship was studied in the 1990s by archeologists and treasure hunters and featured in National Geographic magazine. The “mother load” of the treasure in gold and jewelry is said to still be in the deep offshore waters.

I joined Captain Sam Markos and Saipan dive guru Rick Northen in just 25 feet of water amidst blue seas and bright white sand on the island shore. The eagle ray dive in the harbor, dubbed Eagle Ray City, is an amazing sight. Anywhere from five to 40 rays gather at a couple of current-fed spots in the bay to feed and play in the moving water.

Just sit still and wait, and they may come quite close. The beautiful patterns of the rays and their ballet-like movements are worth holding firm in the currents to snap a few nice shots. This interaction is seasonal, but they are also seen outside the reef at Dimple and Ice Cream dive sites.

Nearby are a couple of WW II airplane wrecks complete with white-tip sharks and resident eels. There are also a couple of wartime shipwrecks in shallow water clouded with schools of goatfish and snappers. On the outer reefs, nice hard corals and fishy spots abound. The Grotto, with its three blue windows to the sea, and laid-back Lau Lau Bay are both worthy spots for a diving visit.

For the visitor wanting to get a good look at Saipan’s famous natural sites, the incredible cliffs and green jungles hold much natural splendor. Take a tour or a drive and see what the island looks like. At Bonsai Cliff, big waves crash against the boulders below, showing the beauty and force of the ocean. Listen as the waves pound in.

Located at “road’s end” along the northern part of the island, Bird Island sits before you like a postcard. This “noddy” and “booby” sanctuary is isolated by a small bay, but easily viewed from a landscaped overlook. At night, Saipan’s legendary sunsets fill the horizon and illuminate WW II tanks that still sit in the western lagoon, giving the visitor time to reflect on the next trip to the CNMI.

General Info: For more information on Rota, Saipan and the Northern Mariana Islands, visit  www.visit-marianas.com.

Getting There: Delta Airlines (www.delta.com) has three daily flights from Narita to Saipan and one daily flight from Nagoya to Saipan. Asiana Airlines (www.flyasiana.com) will have one daily flight from Osaka to Saipan starting in Mid-December. Continental Airlines (www.continental.com) has two flights a week from Guam to Rota and three flights a day from Guam to Saipan. Freedom Air (www.freedomairguam.com) has two flights a day from Guam to Rota to Saipan. Be sure to check Web sites for flight schedules as they can change.

Getting Around: The best way to explore the islands is to rent a car. It’s recommended to book before you arrive, or you can arrange through your hotel or lodge.

Immigration, Currency and Electricity: All divers need a valid passport to enter the CNMI. All services on Saipan and Rota, such as currency, post and electricity follow USA standards.

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