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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.

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        The Oni Trail: Hiking Coastal Kyoto

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    • 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
      • video

        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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        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.
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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

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    • River and Lake
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        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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    • 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
      • video

        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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        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
      • video

        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.
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      • video

        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.
    • 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

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        DD4D Brewing

        In nearly e...

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. 

Eastern Hokkaido’s Kushiro Shitsugen National Park is Japan’s largest wetland. It’s a popular place to visit in the green season, but in search of a break from the crowded ski resort, I visited mid-winter for a canoe tour on the edge of the park. My guide, Tosa-san, has lived here all his life as a guide, smelt fisherman and owner of Lakeside Toro. 

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

After breaking the ice (with the boat), we drift into casual conversation as he points out kingfishers, hawks, eagles and ducks. The scenery is sparse, and the wind at -10 degrees Celsius is biting, but something about the severity of the scene is beautiful. 

Tosa-san’s father began Lakeside Toro thirty years ago so fishermen could find employment in winter. Creating incentives for young people to work and stay in Kushiro remains challenging and he worries about his daughter’s generation. The environmental conservation efforts seem effective though, as we see various animal and bird species within an hour of paddling.

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

Tosa-san is Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Few Ainu can speak their own language today; most are culturally indistinguishable from Japanese. Although this is their ancestral land, his people have faced discrimination. However, he does his best to preserve Ainu traditions and culture, primarily by continuing traditional activities such as fishing. His boat is an Ainu design called a cip, yet made with modern materials similar to a Native American canoe. The Ainu people survived in Hokkaido’s harsh environment for a millennia and it’s fascinating to see their traditions and ingenuity still being practiced today.

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

The Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary is my next stop. The resident population of red-crowned cranes was once thought to be extinct in Japan until the discovery of a flock in Kushiro Shitsugen National Park in the 1920s. Since then, the Wild Bird Society of Japan has fought to preserve their habitat, feeding them in winter because they can no longer find sufficient food in the wild. Even the local primary schools chip in by growing corn in the summer. These are still among the rarest cranes in the world and observing their graceful size up close is a memorable experience. It is easy to see why they are symbols of longevity and prosperity in Japanese culture, frequently appearing in folklore and mythology. They are also a kamuy, or sacred spirit for the Ainu.

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

Next on the menu is the Kushiro Washou fish market in search of the famous katte-don, which translates to “whatever you like bowl.” First, pay for your desired rice bowl size, then explore the vendors’ cuts of fresh sashimi, from sushi staples like salmon, tuna and yellowtail, to Hokkaido favorites like salmon roe, scallops, crab and sea urchin. Whatever you choose will be arranged into a beautiful rice bowl. Hokkaido is known for its fish, and the quality is exceptional and affordably priced. Vendors airmail fish anywhere in Japan, so travelers can continue enjoying Hokkaido cuisine long after leaving.

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

Lake Akan in Akan-Mashu National Park is known for its rare ball-shaped algae called marimo, which are buried under 50 centimeters of ice in winter. It’s a 20-minute snowy walk along the lakeshore walking path that leads to bubbling mud baths that sound like water boiling. The sulfuric smell is overpowering, yet surprisingly pleasant, and the view of frozen Lake Akan with white-capped Mt. Oakan in the distance is stunning.

Ice Land Akan has rows of tents with holes drilled in the ice for wakasagi fishing. They also offer ice skating, snowmobiling and banana boat rides on the frozen lake. Just choose an open tent and begin your quest to catch lunch. Fishing poles, bait and a chair are provided as well as insurance—in the form of a complimentary plate of wakasagi tempura if you are unsuccessful. Fried whole with a pinch of salt, the wakasagi are fresh, hot and crunchy.

Ainu Kotan is a collection of shops selling traditional Ainu wood products and crafts. The shopkeeper, Nishida-san, performs in the nightly Lost Kamuy show. Another shopkeeper, Ushijima-san, moved here five years ago to learn traditional woodcarving techniques, particularly carving bears. Famous artisans display their work at the nearby Tsuruga Hotel where I find elaborate wood carvings of traditional Ainu images. The intricacy and craftsmanship of the hand-carved statues are immaculate.

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido
ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

The Lost Kamuy show is the story of the Ainu people’s relationship with nature, particularly wolves. In the late 1800s, people hunted wolves to extinction and the Ainu lost their most important kamuy, said to descend from the heavens. Lost Kamuy, and the Ainu traditional dance show prior, is an opportunity to experience and learn about their culture and history.

The next morning, I’m up early for a snowshoeing excursion. The overnight low is -17°C, so I dress appropriately. The guide from the Akanko Tourist Information Center, Yamazaki-san, leads us across the lake, pointing out natural phenomena and scenery.

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

Although there are snowshoe rentals for solo excursions, hiring a guide on Lake Akan is recommended. Hot springs bubble to the surface at various points, creating dangerous holes in the ice. We also observe the frost flower effect, where ice crystals bunch together to form what looks like frozen flower pedals. Yamazaki-san laments he sees the frost flowers less frequently these days because it needs to be very cold. 

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

Driving to Kushiro Airport, I reflect on my interactions with the Ainu people and want to learn more about their culture. Thankfully there is a surge of interest in Japan, especially since a manga called “Golden Kamuy” was published. I hope the resurgence is not too late considering the Japanese government only recognized the Ainu as indigenous people in 2008.

Hokkaido’s pristine nature has also been a highlight. The scenery is so different from most of Japan—it almost feels like traveling abroad. In Japan, they joke that those with cold hands have warm hearts; the adage appears especially true here in Eastern Hokkaido.

ainu tour daniel moore outdoor japan hokkaido

GETTING THERE

Domestic flights go directly to Kushiro Airport. There is public transportation from Kushiro Airport to Lake Akan and Kushiro City. However, renting a car is the best way to get around Eastern Hokkaido.

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CAMP3 Clubhouse in Madara...

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