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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.

        Solace and Giant Salamanders in Akiota

        Just beyond Hiroshima City is a tranquil outdoor destination home to some of Japan's last remaining oosanshouo, the elusive giant salamander.
        Kyoto Oni Trail Outdoor Japanvideo

        The Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

        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 World is Our Playground

        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

        The ATTA will host their first Adventure Travel World Summit in Asia in Hokkaido, Japan. We caught up with ATTA Director Shannon Stowell to find out more about the adventure travel industry and how it continues to grow and evolve.
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        The Sweet Secrets of Brewing Mead

        Wander into the world of mead brewing and find yourself immersed in a fascinating journey spanning centuries and continents.
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        The Knights in White Lycra

        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.
        shiretoko hokkaido outdoor japan

        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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        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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        Heritage Hunting in Hokkaido

        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.
        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.
    • Near Tokyo
      • 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.
    • 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.
        shiretoko hokkaido outdoor japan

        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.
        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.
        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.
    • Travel
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        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.

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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.

        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.
    • Food and Drinks
      • 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.

        Winter News and Notes

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2024!
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        DD4D Brewing

        In nearly e...

Tall (fishing) Tales from Tohoku

The mountain trout are there, in Tohoku, thriving in the beautiful streams which flow through beech forests. For the next several days, I’ll trace my way through what resembles a miniature garden and back to the emerald green riverhead—a stream fisherman’s utopia.

I have fished my share of rivers over the years, but in the early summer I still find myself drawn to the rivers of Tohoku—particularly those in the northern regions of Akita and Iwate Prefectures. The arrival of summer always draws my thoughts to fishing to my heart’s content for mountain trout in the moss-covered river beds and enjoying drinks and conversation typical of when friends gather around an open fire.

Due to the large amount of snowfall last year, I heard summer would be two weeks slow in finding its way to the riverheads of northern Japan. As I prepare to leave behind the thatched roofs, which lie at the base of the headstream, I purchase some cigarettes and beer from a fair-skinned grandmother who 20 years ago would have turned heads with her bijin beauty.

Akita is famous in Japan for its bijin (beautiful women). The paved road soon turns to gravel, and I spot a small shrine in the forest to my right. I take the time to step out of the car and, placing my hands together, pay respects to the journey ahead.

Parking the car in an open area, I pack my fishing gear, change clothes and haul myself down to the river’s edge. My backpack is brimming with food and gear which I’ll be carrying for five kilometers on today’s hike.

With my rod in hand, I slowly trace my way along the river and gather tara sprouts, which grow from areas where the sunlight strikes the land. The meandering stream has neither rough swims nor steep gorges, providing a comfortable place to fish.

With the plastic bag of tara sprouts still hanging from my hip, I continue upstream, taking my rod out only at the most promising points, looking past second- and third-rate fishing spots. With a flick of the wrist an 18-cm., beautiful trout suddenly flies out from the water. My friend makes his way toward a mouth-watering spot under a fallen tree, but the fish makes a daring escape just before being netted.

 It is now 3 in the afternoon, and we decide to set up camp in a flat area with trees along the right bank. After spreading out our mattresses on the bed of leaves and short-grass, we cut some fallen limbs for poles and stretch a tarp across them. Firewood is plentiful along the shore, and soon we have rice cooking in a pot full of streaming water. It hangs from a wire threaded around a stick, while the beer is kept cold immersed in the river in a vinyl sack.

As the sun sets, the fish begin to splash constantly and through polarized lenses I can see a group of mountain trout gathering in the shallows. My heart skips a beat as a 30-cm. fish flashes in front of me just below the surface. Another, slightly smaller, trout nibbles on my dry fly and soon after a large one takes the bait only to break the line and escape. My fishing pole draws a smooth arc across the water.

In a six-meter wide, 60-cm. deep portion of the river such as this, the fish will not be able to evade me. I create a small rock pool on the bank of the river and use it to hold the day’s catch. Not planning to eat fish tonight, I could simply release them back into the river; but for the moment they’ll be “mine” for me to occasionally reach down and touch them.

The hand-made pool soon turns into a fish farm and, just when I think I’ve taken every trout from the river, my friend makes his way back toward me. He casts in the area where I just wreaked havoc, and a puzzled look soon crosses his face. Feeling sorry for him, I quietly release my trout back into the river as the sun sets.

The campfire is ablaze and the boiled tara sprouts covered in soy sauce and mayonnaise go well with the drinks. The orchestra of insects is not yet at their full, mid-summer volume, but in tune with the shochu (rice liquor) they lull us into a deep sleep.   

Even during the first of summer, a morning on the riverbanks of northern Tohoku is quite chilly. We begin the day slowly in time with the warm rays of sunshine. We cut dough made from flour and water into udon-sized noodles on a flat rock and spread them out on a plywood cutting board. After boiling the noodles and adding spices, our efforts are soon rewarded with a delicious meal. After breakfast we pack our gear, clean up the campsite and continue making our way upstream.

In midsummer we eat somen (cold noodles) flavored with ginger and onions. Fuki (mountain vegetables) grow wild here as well, and when cooked with soy sauce and peanut oil they go well with a drink. Any leftover fuki can be soaked in stream water overnight to remove some of the bitterness, and they are perfect in miso soup.

Any trout we decide to eat is cooked and eaten gratefully. Sometimes we remove the skin and eat it as sashimi (raw), while at other times a bit of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) is added and brought together with rice to make sushi. Gutting the fish and marinating it in miso for the day takes time, but is worth the wait when evening comes.

During our time on the river our thoughts turn simplistic. What’s for lunch? What would go well with the drinks tonight? Is an even bigger and more beautiful fish lying in wait around the next bend?

My trips to the riverheads of northern Tohoku are neither penance nor adventure. They simply provide the simple enjoyment of freedom in the northern streams.

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