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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.
        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.
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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
      • 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
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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
      • 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.
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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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        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 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.

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        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!
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        DD4D Brewing

        In nearly e...

Japan’s Great Northwest

One of the best things about traveling through Japan is the scenic train rides that duck into tunnels and emerge into mountainous landscapes, idyllic rice paddies and dramatic coastlines. The Uetsu Line, which starts at Niigata Station, is a laidback way to get to the sights and flavors along the Sea of Japan. Stations along the line are great starting points to jump off, rent a car and explore Japan’s great northwest, where sacred mountains meet rustic coastlines dotted with fishing villages and hot spring towns.

MURAKAMI KINGS

As you step out of Murakami Station, you’ll notice 70-centimeter-long dried sake (salmon) hanging tail up from awnings. This may look grisly at first glance, but seafood lovers will not want to miss the food culture here. 

Salmon, or iyoboya (the “king of fish” in the local dialect), shaped Murakami’s history. For hundreds of years, the caught fish were a source of income, providing tax revenue for emperors and feudal lords, serving as New Year traditional gifts and paying for homes and schools.

In the early 1700s, the castle town of Murakami went through an economic slump as overfishing and habitat destruction ruined the salmon harvest. However, an enterprising samurai, Aoto Buheiji, studied the Miomote River to find ideal locations for salmon to spawn and came up with tanegawa-no-sei, a controversial conservation system to aid salmon spawning. He designated optimal sections of the river as protected spawning areas to not only guide the fish but to prevent poaching. The river was divided into channels where fishermen were allowed to catch salmon ascending a particular section. People also needed special permission to harvest eggs. 

As most close-knit communities go, the locals were initially angered by this new reform and the assumed lack of freedom that came with it. Thankfully, the government supported Buheiji’s plan and the salmon returned in great numbers, making Murakami prosperous again. Today, the Miomote River boasts Japan’s first artificial salmon hatchery. The river is bustling in mid-October to the end of November during fishing season: approximately 10,000 salmon are caught here per year. Cast net fishing starts from around Oct. 21 to Nov. 30 while fly fishing starts from November to the beginning of December. 

More than 100 traditional ways to prepare salmon have been passed down in Murakami, with shiohiki-sake (salmon salting) being the most common. Following a 1,000-year-old tradition, the salmon is carefully hand-rubbed with coarse salt then air dried to be exposed to the Sea of Japan’s powerful winter wind. The locals are careful not to open the entire belly of the salmon when gutting the fish, as this is associated with harakiri (a samurai’s honorable suicide). You can participate in this tradition at the annual shiohiki workshop at Iyoboya Salmon Museum held from late November to the beginning of December. 

Air drying the salmon is a common household sight during the New Year, but the sight of a 1,000 salmon hanging from the ceiling in the Sennenzake Kikkawa salmon store is an impressive sight. Founded in 1626, Kikkawa leaves the salmon hanging for a year to enhance flavors, which you can enjoy at their nearby restaurant, Izutsuya.

SUNSETS, SURF AND ONSEN TOWNS

Japan may be known as the Land of the Rising Sun but the sight of the sun setting beneath the Sea of Japan as you travel along the west coast is also stunning. Just a 10-minute drive from Murakami, Senami Onsen in Niigata is a sleepy hot spring resort built right on the coast. The area is dotted with Showa Period ryokan (inns), free ashiyu (foot baths) and hot springs spouting boiling water at about 90 degrees. 

Yunohama Onsen just across the border in Yamagata Prefecture is officially recognized as a place to view one of Japan’s 100 most beautiful sunsets. It is also called Kame no Yu (turtle hot spring) as a legend from the Tengi Era (1053-1058) says a fisherman found a washed up, injured sea turtle here. For seven days it rested on the shore, healed by hot springs flowing through the sand. 

Surfing in Japan is said to have started here. In the Edo Period, a haiku poet recorded seeing local youth riding waves on senoshi boards (makeshift surfboards taken from a wooden boat’s removable floor). In the 1900s, people started bodysurfing here and in the autumn of 1960, it hosted a commemorative Memorial Cup surfing contest to celebrate this area as the birthplace of Japanese surfing.

Related Links
Taikanso Senami-no-Yu Ryokan
Sea Rover Surf Lessons and Rentals

MOUNTAIN PRIESTS AND LOCAL EATS

Tsuruoka is a deeply spiritual region famous for yamabushido—Japanese mountain asceticism that dates back to the 7th century. To become a yamabushi (mountain priest), one must go through a week-long intensive training in the mountains. 

“I came back from Tokyo because I loved the nature here so much,” says Yukio Mizuno, a yamabushi who also works as a nature guide. After graduating from university in Tokyo, he returned to Yamagata to live in his hometown of Tsuruoka. “Here, the mountains, rivers and oceans are so close to each other. There’s always some outdoor activity in every season.”

As this region has become quite popular with foreigners wanting to try yamabushi training, Mizuno organizes short-term stays which include a one-day course, staying with a local yamabushi, mountain vegetable foraging and cooking shoujin ryori (traditional vegetarian cuisine prepared by Buddhist monks). 

Tsuruoka was designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy site in 2014. Here, you can taste freshly caught fugu (pufferfish). Fugu is an incredibly poisonous fish (even touching some of its guts can be deadly) and can only be prepared by the top fugu chefs who undergo years of training. More than 90% of fugu in Japan is farmed, and of the remaining 10% that is wild, 70% is caught in Shonai (the region that includes Tsuruoka and Sakata further north). 

As if eating pufferfish isn’t enough, travelers can participate in a unique experience: a fugu preparation workshop at Kamo Aquarium. Chef Takeshi Suda is one of the most famous chefs in Yamagata, known for his artistically designed fugu dishes. 

Suda utilizes a special technique where he drains the blood of freshly caught fish and removes its nerves while it is still alive. This way, raw fish is kept fresh for a significantly longer period of time than if it were prepared normally, and will taste like it was just caught even up to a week later.

Related Links
Yura Onsen Yaotome Ryokan
The Hidden Japan Tours

GETTING THERE

From Tokyo, take the Joetsu Shinkansen (two hours) to Niigata Station then transfer to the JR Uetsu Line to Murakami Station (50 minutes). Rent a car ahead of time so you can access Senami Onsen and Kikkawa easily (there’s a Nippon Rent-a-car branch outside Murakami Station) as taxis can get expensive. 

It takes a little over an hour and a half on the Uetsu Line from Murakami Station to Tsuruoka Station. Unless you’re joining a tour, it’s recommended to rent a car here as well so you can access various beaches or go up to the mountains. 

Starting October 2019, the new JR Kairi train will connect Niigata to Sakata via the Uetsu Line. This luxurious train has reclining seats with expansive window views, an event space and a dining area serving meals prepared by a local chef. Check online for pricing details.

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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.

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