One of Japan’s oldest and most dangerous festivals is held once every six years. Sixteen enormous trees are selected, and brought down from the forest as villagers ride down steep, 27-degree slopes, carry them across a frigid river and then raise them up as sacred pillars placed in each corner of Suwa shrines.
When: Yamadashi: Apr. 2-4, 8-10; Satobiki: May 3-5, 14-16
Where: Suwa, Shimosuwa and Chino, Nagano
Challenge yourself on either the long (40-kilometer) or short (17-kilometer) course in Fukuoka’s mountains.
When: Apr. 17
Where: Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka
This 100-mile course along mountain trails, local footpaths and forest roads around the foothills of Mt. Fuji is a great way to experience the natural beauty and culture around Japan’s most famous mountain.
When: Apr. 22-24
Where: Fuji, Shizuoka / Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi
Combine a trip to the Setouchi Triennale with this fun island trail run on the pristine Kamikamari Island in the Seto Inland Sea.
When: Apr. 24
Where: Kamikamari Island, Hiroshima
Each green season, outdoor enthusiasts descend on Minakami for the Minakami Outdoor Festival, one month of adventure experiences including whitewater rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, adventure races and trail running. On June 5-6, there will be the GoPro Minakami Water Games attracting Japan’s top whitewater athletes, and the Minakami Trail Race.
When: May to June
Where: Minakami, Gunma
This popular race starts at Sendai Station and passes through Nishi Koen Park and Jozenji Avenue.
When: May 8
Where: Sendai, Miyagi
Choose between a 30-kilometer and 15-kilometer race in the mountains near Hakuba Iwatake. This area is also popular for mountain biking and camping in the green season.
When: May 21
Where: Hakuba, Nagano
The impressive Japan Alps in Nagano are the backdrop to this century ride. There are two routes: the 160-kilometer route to and from Azusaizui-en and the 120-kilometer route to and from the National Alps Azumino Park. Both routes go to Hakuba. This is a relaxed cycling event and participants are encouraged to enjoy the ride at their own pace. Only sports bikes are allowed.
When: May 21-22
Where: Azumino, Nagano
This 25-obstacle race blends speed, endurance and technical skill. A 5K sprint and a kids race are also available.
When: May 28
Where: Sodegaura, Chiba
This beginner-friendly trail run is a great way to enjoy the cooling Shinshu area and springtime in the alpine region.
When: May 29
Where: Sugadaira Kogen, Nagano
Cycle along the stunning blue Niyodo River and Japan’s clearest river, the Shimanto River in Kochi.
When: May 29
Where: Niyodo River, Kochi
Navigate your way through this ancient forest in the mystical ninja town of Togakushi. There are four challenges: the long course (20 kilometers), short course (10 kilometers), a vertical run and kids run.
When: June 4
Where: Togakushi, Nagano
The nature-abundant Minakami Biosphere Reserve is the setting for this race, which is divided into four divisions: the 100k, 80k, 40k and 20k.
When: June 4-5
Where: Minakami, Gunma
When the snow melts, Niseko turns into a cycling destination. Cycle past rolling plains and the impressive Mt. Yotei on a 150-kilometer, 85-kilometer or 15-kilometer ride. There’s also a Mt. Yotei fun ride.
When: June 10-12
Where: Niseko, Hokkaido
Escape the heat in cooler Hokkaido on this 110-kilometer ride (47-kilometer course also available). Ride through Hokkaido’s rural summer landscapes and don’t forget to stop for Furano’s delicious produce.
When: June 21
Where: Furano, Hokkaido
Montbell—Japan’s largest homegrown outdoor brand—is behind the popular Sea to Summit race series. Their goal is to invigorate local areas, holding events to experience nature through two days of canoeing, cycling and trekking. This year they are hosting the series across twelve locations around Japan.
When and Where:
- May 21-22: Daisen, Tottori
- June 11-12: Etajima, Hiroshima
- June 18-19: Okhotsk, Hokkaido
- June 25-26: Saijo, Ehime
- July 16-17: Myoko, Niigata
- July 23-24: Bizen, Okayama
- Aug. 20-21: Asahidake, Hokkaido
- Sept. 10-11: Mt. Chokai, Yamagata
- Sept. 23-24: Lake Biwa, Shiga
- Oct. 8-9: Kamimachi, Miyagi
- Oct. 15-16: Chikuma River, Nagano
- Nov. 12-13: Kihoku, Mie