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    • Spring
      • spring outdoor japan shinano discovery

        2022 Spring Tours and Travel

        Check out these green season tours and experiences across Japan!
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        Finding the Flow from Kansai to Kochi

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    • Summer
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    • Autumn
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        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

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    • Winter
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    • Near Tokyo
    • Near Kyoto
      • 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 Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

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    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • 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.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

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    • River and Lake
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        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 Salamand...

        Just beyond Hiroshima City is a tranquil outdoor destination home to some of Japan's last remaining oosanshouo, the elusive giant salamander.
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    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
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        It may be spring in Japan but you can still ski in select ski resorts open all the way to Golden Week.
        Indy Pass Outdoor Japan Tohoku

        The Resistance

        The Indy Pass arrives in Japan to bring avid riders to local resorts that punch above their weight class and offer varied terrain.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        video

        Hachimantai’s Powder History

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    • Travel
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    • Food and Drinks
      • sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Shower Climbing High Above Wakasa Bay

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawanobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
        Kyoto Oni Trail Outdoor Japanvideo

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        Market Watch: Oiso’s Shishimai Marche

        Check out this farmers' market in the beachside town of Oiso.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
    • Races and Events
      • spring outdoor japan shinano discovery

        2022 Spring Tours and Travel

        Check out these green season tours and experiences across Japan!

        2022 Art Events in Japan

        Two of Japan's biggest art events return this year: the Setouchi Triennale on the Seto Inland Sea Islands and Niigata's Echigo Tsumari Art Field.

        2022 Spring Races & Festivals

        The start of the green season is a great time to start trail running, cycling and hiking. Check out these races, outdoor events and traditional festivals held this spring.
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        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!

Winter Mountain Biking on Izu’s Ancient Paths

While most mountains this season are blanketed in snow, the Izu Peninsula offers a warmer escape. The old-fashioned port town of Matsuzaki is the base for Yamabushi Trail Tour, a mountain bike and kayak-fishing operator that runs tours year round. 

Quaint Matsuzaki Town is nestled between coastal mountains and the ocean. A stroll through town takes you back to the Edo Period, as many of the historical buildings still stand with the region’s characteristic namako-kabe (black tile walls) in a criss-cross design held together with white plaster. No trains run through Matsuzaki, making it tricky to access, which has helped preserve its antiquated charm and avoid being overcrowded with tourists.

The trails up in the dense mountains were used more than 1,200 years ago as kodo (ancient pilgrimage paths) and then, later, for a thriving charcoal industry. Matsuzaki’s subtropical weather and abundance of hardwood made it a popular production spot for charcoal. Workers would make charcoal in the mountains and transport them down by horse to the port until gas became a more sought-after commodity.

These overgrown, forgotten paths were recently discovered by a group of mountain bikers who found potential here for adventure. They cleared over 40 kilometers of trails and started exploring the mountains by bike. 

“Matsuzaki is great for mountain biking in winter because there’s no snow or frost which makes for safe and fun riding,” says founder Junichiro Matsumoto. Matsumoto is originally from Yokohama and spent years trekking the Himalayas, Patagonia and around South America before settling down in Matsuzaki. 

“The Izu Peninsula teems with nature and I was attracted to how close the mountains and ocean are to each other,” says Matsumoto. “From where I’m at, it takes five minutes to the mountains, five minutes to the ocean, five minutes to the river.” 

Matsumoto and his team developed several trails, the longest a 550-meter vertical descent from mountain to sea without leaving the forest. Ancient kannon (Bodhisattva) sculptures line certain sections of the trails: reminders of the rich history the mountains hold. 

Matsuzaki Izu MTB Outdoor Japan

Advanced riders can test their skills on the Epic courses with naturally formed half pipes, walls, banks, switchbacks and rock faces carved out of the bedrock. There are also several gullies. More experienced riders can opt for two-day tours. 

For beginner mountain bikers, there’s the Fun Ride which slowly introduces elements like half pipes, bunkers, walls and up-down runs. Yamabushi Trail Tour will transport bikes and riders to the trail entrance at the top of the mountain.

The Easy Ride tour is a leisurely cycle around Matsuzaki with excellent views of the satoyama (countryside) and even a 50-meter waterfall you can cool down at in the summer. Electric mountain bikes are available for rent, which give you a nice power-assisted boost when needed.

While their tours are mostly centered around mountain biking, Yamabushi Trail Tour also offers fishing tours using a pedal kayak with all equipment included. Suruga Bay offers a wide variety of fish depending on the season, ranging from madai (sea bream), saba (mackerel), katsuo (skipjack tuna) and hirame (flounder). In the evening, a partnering restaurant prepares and serves the fish. 

“Even if you don’t catch anything, the views of Mt. Fuji are great,” laughs Matsumoto. “On the kayak, it feels like you’re sitting directly on the surface of the water looking out at Mt. Fuji.” 

Matsumoto also operates Lodge Mondo, a renovated guesthouse on the edge of town. The lodge features private rooms, dormitory rooms, a shared space and big shared bath. His team used locally sourced wood, which were left unused in the mountains, by chopping themselves and processing them into lumber at a nearby sawmill. 

“Everything in nature is connected, from the mountains to the river which flows into the ocean. We’re taking people on these mountain bike tours but simultaneously we want them to see the connection and importance of preserving our forest and natural environment,” says Matsumoto.

To book your mountain bike adventure or learn more, visit their website here.

HIGHLIGHTS

Ishibu Rice Terrace Fields

Matsuzaki Izu MTB Outdoor Japan

These terraced fields, with around 370 paddies, lead down towards Suruga Bay and Mt. Fuji on a clear day, and have been awarded for its photogenic landscape. In May, the fields are lit with candles. 

Mt. Eboshi and Kumomi Shrine

Matsuzaki Izu MTB Outdoor Japan

This 160-meter mountain is a sharp climb to the top where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Mt. Fuji and Suruga Bay. Kumomi Shrine is located halfway up the trail.  

Diving

Right under Mt. Eboshi’s nose are several popular dive spots. Divers enjoy Matsuzaki’s complex underwater landscape as it has a bit of everything: caves, nudibranch, macro diving, schools of fish and white sandy spots. Some diving spots are conveniently close to shore. There are large schools of pectoral fish, snapper and amberjack. It’s common to see large stingrays and you may even see sea turtles. 

Dive Shops

Sakuraba Leaf Mochi Production

Matsuzaki Izu MTB Outdoor Japan

Foodies will delight that Matsuzaki is the biggest producer of sakuraba, a pickled and sweet sakura leaf usually wrapped around sakuramochi, a popular confection. This wagashi is a sweet, pink-colored rice cake filled with a red bean anko paste and wrapped in the sakuraba. Several roadside stalls sell these sakuramochi, especially during cherry blossom season in late March and Girl’s Day in the beginning of March. 

The leaves are from oshima zakura, different from the popular light pink variety, which thrives in Matsuzaki’s warm climate. Leaf harvesting and production started in the mid-1920s. They are usually harvested in May to September and pickled in salt in big cedar barrels before being shipped out nationwide to some of the country’s best confectioners. 

Chohachi Art Museum

Matsuzaki Izu MTB Outdoor Japan

It’s almost impossible to miss the tiled namako-kabe walls lining Matsuzaki’s historical buildings. Namako-kabe is one of the traditional finishing styles dating back to the 19th century. They are made of flat tiles over mud and joined with swollen-looking white plaster which looks like namako (sea cucumber). The plaster strengthens weak points of old external walls and helps keep the building fireproof. 

The Chohachi Art Museum celebrates Irie Chohachi, a great plasterer from Matsuzaki who created plaster artwork and sculptures during the late Edo period to the Meiji period. His masterpieces were mainly for temples around Tokyo which were unfortunately lost during the Great Kanto Earthquake. Here you can see about 50 of his pieces. 

Former Yoda Residence

Despite what its name suggests, this historical home has nothing to do with Star Wars; it is the second oldest private house in Izu belonging to the prestigious Yoda family who found success in the silk industry during the Edo Period. Tour the main building, which was built nearly 300 years ago.

Getting There

The best way to get to Matsuzaki by public transportation from Tokyo is to take the JR Odoriko Limited Express Train from Tokyo, Shinagawa or Yokohama stations direct to Izukyu-Shimoda Station. From there, rent a car or take the W40 bus heading for Dogashima and Rendaiji (takes 50 minutes).

For accommodation, there is actually a surprising variety of places to stay, from big hotels like Izu Matsuzakisou and Nishiizu Matsuzaki Itoen Hotel, to cozy ryokan and cheaper minshuku.

For more information, visit Explore Izu.

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