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        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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Honshu MTB Parks

Over the last three decades mountain biking has slowly been developing in Japan. I’ve witnessed this first-hand for the past 20 years on racing and guiding tours. Yet for a country full of mountains and ski resorts, it is surprising to find so few bike parks here. Recently a few ski areas around Honshu have started developing MTB trails, doing more than putting down a few flags on their ski runs.

Fujimi Panorama MTB Park

Panorama has long been considered the best park here in Japan, and personally I think it still is, although living 20 minutes away might make me a bit biased. A couple hours from Tokyo by car or train makes it possible for a day’s trip.

A gondola accesses three trails with more than 700 meters of vertical downhill on which to play, by far the longest trails in Japan. A Course is the shortest at 4.2 kilometers and, if you like speed, this trail is for you. B Course is the most technical with 4.8 kilometers of roots, drops and rocks through which to work on your descent.

C Course is seven kilometers long and is the easiest way down. It has lots of berms and small rollers on which to play and always puts a smile on my face. I see people on all sorts of bikes here; my personal preference is my full-on DH rig, as it feels much smoother and safer over the braking bumps and ruts that form on the trails. Good rental bikes and protective gear is available, and they have package deals for a full day of adventure.

Fujiten MTB Park

Fujiten is the closest park to Tokyo and is located on the base of Mt, Fuji. As of now they have six trails open. A single lift provides access to the mountain bike trails. A run down takes about four or five minutes depending upon your ability. None of the courses are super technical; the corners are nicely “bermed” and there are some jumps on which to play along the way.

I rode my All Mountain bike with 150 mm. of suspension travel and found it just right for these trails. Compared to other parks I have ridden, I found the volcanic soil drains very well and even on a rainy day the ground was not that muddy. In fully dry conditions the courses are fast and traction good.

Overall it is a fun little park and getting better by the day, as they now have a dedicated trail builder doing wonderful things to the mountain. Rental bikes are available here; I was not too impressed with the quality but they were good enough for an enjoyable day.

Wing Hills MTB Park

Wing Hills is the closest option for Nagoya-based riders, and the trail builders have been busy adding berms and small jumps since I last visited there. A gondola serves two technical trails about three kilometers long, and for beginners they have a shuttle service that accesses a super fun, easy two-kilometer trail. Rental bikes are available, although I wasn’t too impressed with their maintenance the last time I visited, but I’ve been told it has been remedied now.

Fukui Izumi MTB Park

The most popular for Kansai-based riders and, if I lived a bit closer, I might spend more time playing on the Mad Max trails here. Developed by two hardcore riders, Fukui Izumi has forced other parks to pick up their game.

The trails are on the ski resort, but shuttle service is available instead of lifts. The ski area is a bit hard to get to, but once you are there it is well worth the effort. It is BYOB here (bring your own bike), and make sure you have food and drinks for the day and a shelter to hide from the sun on hot days.

Nozawa Onsen MTB

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is new to the MTB scene, but there are some keen locals getting things started. The Nagasaka Gondola is open from July 12 to Aug. 31 accessing single-track trails and a beginner course that follows the ski slope. There is a Strider event for kids on Aug. 3 and a Run & Bike race Aug. 9-10. Downhill, all-mountain bikes and kid’s bikes can be rented at the base of Nagasaka Gondola through the local ski and bike shop Compass House. Nozawa Hospitality runs road tours and has a fleet of high-end road bikes available for hire.

Paul Chetwynd is originally from North Vancouver, British Columbia. He raced professionally in Japan for more than 10 years in both cross-country and downhill disciplines as well as elite road races. He now runs Freeride Adventures, a bike tour company in Nagano offering one-day or multi-day tours, and tries to include a triathlon or MTB race at least once a year to keep the flame burning.

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