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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
      • 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.
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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.
        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
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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.
        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
    • 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
      • Bringing Strength to Otoyo

        Mountainous villages with dwindling populations are dotted throughout Japan as younger people move to urban areas. These countryside communities, which capture the essence of Japan’s rural beauty and traditional heritage, are at risk as elderly villagers are left to carry the burden. Industrious individuals tired of living in the city are giving some struggling communities a second chance, such as Violet Pacilea who moved to Kochi Prefecture with a dream of breathing new life into her mother’s hometown.

        The Knights in White Lycra Ride Again

        The 2024 Charity Ride celebrates five years and another 500 kilometers to help support Mirai no Mori and their mission to help the marginalized youth in Japan.

        WOLFBRÄU

        Thirty-five years ago German businessman Wolfram Opitz was sent to Tokyo for two months to help train a partner company in Japan. “What an interesting city and country,” he thought to himself. Today, he and his wife Yuka are the proud owners of Okinawa’s only German-style microbrewery at the steps of the island prefecture’s most famous landmark, Shuri Castle.

        Okinawa’s Treehouse Oasis

        Tucked away in the lush jungles of Okinawa is an eco-conscious retreat called Treeful Treehouse. This sustainable resort is an immersive experience that invites guests to reconnect with nature.
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        The Spirit of the Kuma Valley

        Travelers to Japan undoubtedly view sake as the traditional liquor of Japan. Histori-cally they wouldn’t be wrong, since Sudō Honke, the world’s oldest sake brewery (and one of the oldest companies in the world), was founded in 1141 in Ibaraki Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. However Southern Japan is home to another authentic Japanese spirit—shochu, which was first produced about 500 years ago, its roots firmly planted in Japan’s warmer southern climes.
    • Food and Drinks
      • Bringing Strength to Otoyo

        Mountainous villages with dwindling populations are dotted throughout Japan as younger people move to urban areas. These countryside communities, which capture the essence of Japan’s rural beauty and traditional heritage, are at risk as elderly villagers are left to carry the burden. Industrious individuals tired of living in the city are giving some struggling communities a second chance, such as Violet Pacilea who moved to Kochi Prefecture with a dream of breathing new life into her mother’s hometown.

        The Knights in White Lycra Ride Again

        The 2024 Charity Ride celebrates five years and another 500 kilometers to help support Mirai no Mori and their mission to help the marginalized youth in Japan.

        WOLFBRÄU

        Thirty-five years ago German businessman Wolfram Opitz was sent to Tokyo for two months to help train a partner company in Japan. “What an interesting city and country,” he thought to himself. Today, he and his wife Yuka are the proud owners of Okinawa’s only German-style microbrewery at the steps of the island prefecture’s most famous landmark, Shuri Castle.

        Okinawa’s Treehouse Oasis

        Tucked away in the lush jungles of Okinawa is an eco-conscious retreat called Treeful Treehouse. This sustainable resort is an immersive experience that invites guests to reconnect with nature.
        video

        The Spirit of the Kuma Valley

        Travelers to Japan undoubtedly view sake as the traditional liquor of Japan. Histori-cally they wouldn’t be wrong, since Sudō Honke, the world’s oldest sake brewery (and one of the oldest companies in the world), was founded in 1141 in Ibaraki Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. However Southern Japan is home to another authentic Japanese spirit—shochu, which was first produced about 500 years ago, its roots firmly planted in Japan’s warmer southern climes.
    • 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...

Busking Beyond Borders

Waiting for our flight home from the Philippines, Shino and I compared passport stamps and realized we’d been to more than 30 countries. That’s a lot of hours, kilometers and adventures together. Looking back we asked each other what the best way to bridge language and cultural barriers and really connect with people. Shino added, “What’s one thing everyone loves?” Apart from chocolate—the answer was music. At that moment, “Songs Beyond Borders” was born.

I’m a singer, songwriter from Newcastle, Australia. My fiancé and partner-in-crime Shino Timmermans grew up between Japan and Belgium. Busking on the streets of Japan seemed like a great place to start our new adventure and connect with people through music. 

KYOTO WHIRLWIND

It’s the journey, not the destination, right? Well, ours started with a nine-hour flight from Sydney to Tokyo, followed by an hour on the train from Narita Airport to Tokyo and finally a three-hour bullet train to Kyoto. It was a long, delirious sixteen-hour journey.

We knew the Japanese summer heat can be oppressive, but it wasn’t until we stepped outside that evening for a late dinner that we realized just how brutal it actually was. At 10 p.m., the temperature was still soaring above 37 degrees Celsius which is tolerable from where I come from, but the humidity made it hectic. Pro tip for summer travelers…pack plenty of underwear, socks and shirts, because your sweat count is going to be through the roof. 

Despite this, we were so happy to be back in Japan and our dinner of sashimi, miso soup and several ice cold beers was delicious. The next morning we rose to the sound of fellow backpackers leaving their dorms and heading out for a day of exploration. That first morning in a different country, not knowing where to start or where the day will lead is a great feeling. It always is. We had an empty canvas and would start in Kyoto’s famous Gion District. Our goal for the day was to find the best busking spots around the old capital. 

We spent the day wandering the ancient streets, following our noses in and out of delicious cafés until the summer sun gently began to slip lower in the sky. This was right about the time we heard the sweet echoes of a fellow street busker in the distance, his gentle sounds bouncing off the walls. 

Following our ears this time, we were led to a bridge—and there he was, right in the middle of it, head down and completely in the zone, oblivious to the swarm of humans passing by. I wondered to myself, Is that how I look when I play?

Judging by his appearance, and what he was playing, he must have been a local. In his hands was a traditional shamisen, old and worn, but so beautiful like fine wine. His skills were hypnotic. I could tell he had spent a lot of time with his beloved instrument. The day had been a success. I had found a spot to play. I thanked him, threw some money in his case and we moved on back to our hotel where we collapsed in bed and fell asleep almost instantly. I drifted off with the sweet sounds of my new busking friend’s shamisen dancing around my mind. 

The next morning we struggled to get out of bed. It’s that “Travel Delay” sloppy feeling that takes several coffees to shake off. Once we managed to get outside the hotel, the heat was right there where we left it like a punch in the face. Good morning Kyoto! 

It was about mid morning when we heard the news of the typhoon. Apparently it was on its way, and fast. We looked at each other and laughed. Trust me to book our time in Kyoto in the middle of a typhoon. Still, we had a plan and it was going to happen. We arrived back in Gion the same the typhoon did. And she was blowing a gale! There was no possible way of playing in the streets which were mostly empty. Those who were around were desperately clinging to their belongings while the wind spit rain at them and sent the odd umbrella tumbling down the river. It was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

We had come too far to let an old angry typhoon send us back to our hotel. We decided to set up under the bridge, where a handful of people were also hiding from the storm. I began to play, and almost immediately people began to stop and listen. 

It was awesome. Despite the sideways rain and gale force winds, the music brought us together, huddled under a bridge in the middle of a typhoon. Our determination had proved worthy, as our little gathering under the bridge grew from five people to twenty-five, all captivated by my music. I only lasted for two hours, but it was the most fun I’d had in a long time. Once I had finished, we mingled with people from Japan, Korea, China, Russia and Spain. Some traveling, some studying, some also performers. We were all bound together in his moment, this triumph over the typhoon. 

AFTER THE STORM

Later that evening, the wind had eased quite a bit and the rain had stopped as the typhoon moved east, We decided to head back out for an evening busk. The temp was still around 35 degrees, but felt much cooler than the day before. It was crazy. The streets were full with life after the storm. Traffic flowed in every direction, with car horns competing with the sounds of shuffling feet on the pavement. I decided on a location at the opposite end of the bridge this time, just outside the train station. 

While I was setting up, a crowd had already formed to see what was going to happen. I played my set twice, consisting of songs from my last two albums, plus a new one I’d written recently. The response was wonderful. It was so nice to look out to a crowd of smiling faces, all joined together in this moment through my music. 

Feeling lucky and grateful, we handed out some CDs and shook hands with many new friends. Physically exhausted, we had enough for the day. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we happened upon an old bar on the way to the bus stop, which served its purpose perfectly. 

Our journey would continue east as well. After a quick stop in Osaka, we’d follow the old route through the mountains to Tokyo. It would take us through the Kiso Valley, then to the shrines and forests around Lake Suwa, onto the old castle town of Matsumoto and finally south until we reached the streets of Tokyo. 

Singer/Songwriter Nick Saxon is also a voiceover artist and freelance presenter for the National Geographic Channel. Shino Timmermans is a photographer who also runs her own vintage clothing label and is fluent in three languages. You can follow their journey through Japan and “Songs Beyond Borders” on Facebook @nicksaxonmusic and on Outdoor Japan. They’ll return to Japan this this winter and spring starting with a short residency at Winterland Lodge & Taproom in Nozawa Onsen before heading to the warmer climes of Shikoku and Kyushu to busk on the streets.

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Latest posts

Bringing Strength to Otoy...

Mountainous villages with dwindling populations are dotted throughout Japan as younger people move to urban areas. These countryside communities, which capture the essence of Japan’s rural beauty and traditional heritage, are at risk as elderly villagers are left to carry the burden. Industrious individuals tired of living in the city are giving some struggling communities a second chance, such as Violet Pacilea who moved to Kochi Prefecture with a dream of breathing new life into her mother’s hometown.

WOLFBRÄU

Thirty-five years ago German businessman Wolfram Opitz was sent to Tokyo for two months to help train a partner company in Japan. “What an interesting city and country,” he thought to himself. Today, he and his wife Yuka are the proud owners of Okinawa’s only German-style microbrewery at the steps of the island prefecture’s most famous landmark, Shuri Castle.

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