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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.
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        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
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        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.
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        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.
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        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.
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        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.
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        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.
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        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.
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        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
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        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
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        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.
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        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.
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        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 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.
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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.
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        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.
    • Food and Drinks
      • 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.
        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.
    • Races and Events
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        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!
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        In nearly e...

Escaping Winter’s Venom in Snake Valley

From 10 meters above, atop a steep, ice-covered ravine, I could hear my hiking partner’s voice calling down to me. “Yes, I’m OK,” I answered. “But I’m bleeding, and I’ve lost my gloves.” Things were about to get a lot heavier.

Our saga had started nine hours earlier in Hata, a tiny rustic village nestled in a constricted valley at the base of Buna-ga-take in western Shiga Prefecture. It was the third day of the Year of the Snake and, to christen the New Year, Ted Taylor and I had our eyes set on Jatani-ga-mine, which appropriately translates to “Snake Valley.”

We made incredibly good time on the ascent, reaching the 900-meter summit shortly after 2 p.m. and leaving enough daylight to retrace our steps back to the car. The clouds had just lifted, revealing unobstructed views of the flatlands surrounding Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake.

To the north, however, the crests of the Takashima Long Trail were enveloped in a menacing wall of white; a low-pressure system was encroaching from the Sea of Japan, threatening to swallow us up in its path.

After a short glissade to save time, we followed our path back to the meandering ridge until reaching a small creek neither of us remembered on the climb. We had veered off the path, and a snap decision was made to follow the watershed, knowing it would lead to a village where we could simply backtrack to our car.

The farther we descended, the narrower the valley grew, until it entered a gorge lined with steep cliffs. Anticipating the danger that lay ahead, we quickly abandoned this route in favor of burrowing a trail up toward the ridgeline on our right, which we hoped would help us regain our bearings.

When this failed, we used a compass reading to drop to the west, entering another watershed just as daylight faded and the blizzard began. With headlamps fastened, we eventually reached a point where the gorge narrowed so tightly, we could not continue. We made the decision to abandon the canyon and ascend back to the ridge, but not before I took my costly tumble.

Barehanded, I was somehow able to climb up the icy walls of the ravine and make it back to Ted, who surveyed the damage. The bleeding had stopped and there were no broken bones. I foraged through my gear, pulling out two kairo heat packs, clutching one in each hand before burying them inside my down jacket sleeves. I topped it off by winching my outer layer tightly around the end of my balled-up fists.

The two of us struggled back up to the ridge, abandoned our fire-making attempts and called the police. After they told us to wait until the morning, we ignored their commands and searched for a way out. Neither of us would survive the morning if we waited on the ridge all night, as the snow wasn’t deep enough to make a cave.

Suddenly, the clouds lifted, and directly below we saw lights. Acting on instinct, we blazed a trail through a cedar plantation to the village, which happened to be where our car was parked. It was already after midnight, but we were forced to fill out paperwork at the police station before collapsing into our futons in Kyoto at daybreak. We had survived, although not without a few scrapes, bruises and some minor frostbite on our fingers.   

Several mistakes got us into trouble that day, but a few good choices ultimately saved our lives. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re out in the hills this winter.

  1. Be prepared. In addition to warm clothing, bring an emergency shelter or sleeping bag, and a dozen or so kairo heat packs.
  2. Know your terrain. Never attempt a mountain you haven’t climbed before in winter. Knowing the terrain and routes during the dry season will help you make better informed decisions about the winter options and may keep you from getting lost.
  3. Backtrack. Although this is a no-brainer, it’s always good to keep this one at the front of your thoughts, especially in winter. If you veer off course, double back until the terrain starts to look familiar again. Our failure to follow this simple rule could have cost us our lives.
  4. Don’t follow streams. In summer a stream or river can lead you safely to civilization, but in winter you are likely to find yourself trapped in a steep canyon with no escape routes. Instead, try following cedar trees. Conifer plantations will almost always lead to a forest road, which nine times out of 10 will take you to a hamlet.
  5. Don’t expect help. If you do get lost, don’t sit around waiting for search-and-rescue to find you. Either hunker down in a snow cave until the weather clears or head down toward civilization.

Wes Lang is freelance writer and hiking enthusiast based in Osaka. In addition to climbing all of the Hyakumeizan (Japan’s 100 famous mountains), he is the author of Hiking in Japan, a blog that provides comprehensive English trail descriptions for Japan’s major hiking areas.

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