fbpx asd
    • 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
      • the nomad pasche family

        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.
        adventure travel world summit in hokkaido

        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.
        mead brewing in japan

        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.
        the knights in white lycra

        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.
        sea to table yamagata

        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
      • 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.
        ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

        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.
        togari onsen outdoor japan

        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
      • 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.
    • 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!
        dd4d brewing

        DD4D Brewing

        In nearly e...

Seoul Running

Trying to decide on your next running adventure? Before sending in your yen for a race in Japan, consider spicing things up with a running holiday to Seoul instead. With discount flights (check out Jeju Air), the ticket might be cheaper than the entrance fees and lodging costs charged by many marathons and trail races in Japan.

Imagine if Mt. Takao and Okutama were surrounded by Tokyo rather than outside of it. Or visualize Yosemite-like rock faces next to downtown Osaka. Take a morning run to the top of one of these mountains and be downtown for a late lunch of spicy bulgogi, oxtail soup and kimchi. This is Seoul.

Korea has a vibrant road running scene. The Han River will draw hundreds of runners each morning, as will the city’s main parks. However, in my opinion, the best place to join the shuffling crowds is the running course that encircles Namsan, Seoul’s most prominent downtown hill.

Seoul Tower rises from the north peak and can be seen from most of the city. A paved road (no cars allowed) and running track undulates six kilometers (with several variations) around the entire mountain. It’s beautiful, green, and it provides sweeping sunset and sunrise views of the city’s business district.

Buses and a cable car run to Seoul Tower, which lies at the apex of the road and is a convenient start for the run. Join the milling crowds enjoying the sweeping views, while young couples tie locks to the metal fence, symbolizing their unending love (this is also Seoul’s premier dating spot).

To get the full experience of the mountain from base to top, forgo the cable car and run up. A good access point is from the National Theater of Korea (Gungnip Geukjang).

It’s entirely possible to run Namsan on any weekday morning before work, especially from major hotels such as the Hilton, Hyatt or Shilla, or from the bustling Itaewon District. Ultra running is well established in Korea, and the world ultra running championships are frequently held here. Yet trail running in Korea is still a bit of an obscure activity.

The country has produced one trail running champion, the enigmatic Jaedeok Shim, who has bagged some of the world’s top races, including Japan’s Hasegawa Cup. But presently mountain trails in Korea are somewhat bereft of runners, mainly packed with slow, older hikers traveling in small groups.

They often don’t move aside for runners, mainly because they don’t know what you are doing. Politely saying “Shilrye hamnida” (excuse me) in Korean doesn’t always work, but it can’t hurt. Until they get used to sharing the mountains with trail runners, politeness, patience and trying to avoid running on weekends is the best advice.

On to the big stuff. For the serious trail runner, two areas to highlight are Gwanak and Bukhan national parks. Gwanak Mountain is located in the southwest Seoul, visible from trendy Gangnam. To get there, take the Line 4 subway to Gwacheon, use Exit 7, and then follow the shaded alleyway that goes along apartment buildings until it joins a larger road. Turn left there until getting to the temple complex and the rather obvious trailhead. You can also just follow hikers clad in the latest expedition gear heading toward this splendid 632-meter mountain.

The next four kilometers up the ridge are steep, calf-frying, lung-busting fun. As in running up Bukhan, there is some scrambling to be done and some sheer drops over Seoul’s brilliant white rocks. When in doubt, remind yourself that hundreds of Korean grannies negotiate the same terrain every week.

The temple near the summit, Yeonju Hermitage, is the sort of view one expects in Tibet and a highlight of a running trip to Seoul. The area below the temple can get icy in winter and early spring, so take care.

Gwanak’s peak has a large radar tower on top but is still enjoyable on rare uncrowded days. For the descent, follow the same trail or descend the ridge trail from the summit, which is a harrowing series of chains and ropes dropping precipitously from the summit. You will need a taxi and extra time if descending this way. For the average trail runner, a traverse of Gwanak will not take more than two hours by the route described here, depending on the crowds.

Bukhan National Park is one of the world’s great urban national parks. The shark’s tooth profile of this wonderful range on the northern horizon can be seen from most points in Seoul. Frankly, I love this place and have run its trails some 30 times in the past 10 years.

I should mention one slight drawback to trail running in Seoul: the maps. There aren’t any worth mentioning, and theories range from, “The government doesn’t want to make things easy for the North Korean Army,” to “Most groups just follow their guide.” But the fact is trail running in Seoul entails a certain degree of wandering. Fortunately it rarely turns out badly, since public transport at the base of Gwanak and Bukhan is readily available. Taxis and buses are everywhere. Just stick to well-traveled trails and avoid any off-trail activity.

The most obvious access point for Bukhan National Park is the national park office. It’s about 10 minutes by taxi from Gireum Station (Line 4, Exit 3). After arriving at the national park office, there are various routes further on to reproductions of ancient fortifications at the top of the ridge.

The trail to Bukhan’s main peak is a long harrowing ridge scramble to the east (your right) or you can descend two kilometers north from the wall until finding signs to Bukhan’s main peak. Running up here is only for the very fit. Most will find speed hiking Bukhan’s ascent trails to be more than enough exercise.

Within this surprisingly spacious national park, runners can explore any number of trails at their whim. Rather than prescribe an exact course, explore and find your own running adventure. Buddhist temples, ancient fortifications, sheer cliffs and fantastic running trails await. Dangerous areas are clearly marked with recognizable warning signs.

Start early, have a big adventure and be back to downtown Seoul in time for a late lunch, tea or something stronger such as soju, Korea’s national drink. Gunbae! (Cheers!)

Writer’s Note: I would like to thank Barbara Schulz, a true running champion on Korea’s trails, for her contributions to this article.

Robert Self came to Japan from northern California’s redwood country. He has been running in Japan’s mountains for 20 years and has coached runners from beginners to international champions. He is the director of Hanno Trail School which specializes in running tours and trail running lessons.

Web: www.tokyotrailrunning.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tokyotrailrunning

[novo-map id=2 individual=”yes”]

Outdoor Japan logo tree

Related

Latest posts

Okinawa’s Blue Zone —A Li...

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 ...

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.

Categories