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        Finding the Flow from Kansai to Kochi

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Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

Escape the crowded cities and trains with some exciting adventures and relaxing getaways this spring. Go with the flow as the fresh snow melt creates great canyoning and rafting conditions and lower hills and mountains uncover some excellent hiking and mountain bike paths. Japan’s many michi-no-eki (roadside stations and day trip hot springs make it an easy place for camper van travel. Further south, Okinawa’s clear waters offer world-class diving, snorkeling and surfing.

CAMPING & GLAMPING

Camp along a scenic river while enjoying local craft beer at Baird Brewing Shuzenji Gardens. The state-of-the-art brewery is on the banks of the scenic Kano River in Shuzenji on the Izu peninsula. The campground next to the brewery has expanded to include two new areas: “Dark Sky” and “West Coast” after popular Baird seasonal brews. They will feature refurbished cabins for group stays, a changing room with hot showers, an on-site beer station, additional space for auto camping and a stage for music events. 
Where: Shuzenji, Shizuoka

Wake up with a sunrise view of Mt. Fuji at Mt. Fuji Satoyama Vacation, a glamping site located just a five-minute drive from Shirato Falls. Go on a guided nature and e-bike tour around the countryside town of Fujinomiya, visit sake breweries that use Mt. Fuji’s clean meltwater, enjoy farm-to-table dining, cycle to temples built in the middle of rice paddies, hike to Hoei Crater and discover what life is like for people living near Japan’s most famous mountain. 
Where: Fujinomiya, Shizuoka

Minakami Riverside Oasis

Rejuvenate yourself at Minakami Riverside Oasis at the entrance to Joshinetsu National Park in Minakami. The site overlooks the emerald waters of the Yubiso River and is located next to Canyons, an adventure tour company that offers thrilling canyoning or rafting tour in the daytime and a delicious BBQ of select local produce under the stars at night.
Where: Minakami, Gunma

Immerse yourself in nature at Green Field Nozawa Onsen, an eco-friendly tree house campsite. Great for families and friends who want some privacy (or avoid crowds). Green Field opens from Golden Week to the beginning of October. For ¥30,000 per night (¥35,000 on Saturday nights), rent this private space which comes with two tents for four people each, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, a BBQ grill and Dutch oven, LED lanterns and a hammock. Some water supply is provided, but it’s recommended to bring additional water to drink and cook. There is no electricity and all trash must be disposed by customers. There is a composting toilet. Enjoy the 13 free soto-yu bathhouses located around the village.
Where: Nozawa Onsen, Nagano

Road trips are generally convenient as there are plenty of michi-no-eki (roadside facilities with parking lots, dining options and bathrooms) and onsen baths nationwide. Stylish camper vans are available from the following companies who also offer English-speaking services.

CYCLING

RideJapan

RideJapan showcases Japan’s regional areas such as Nagano’s Japan Alps and Sugura Bay and Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka. These routes are best enjoyed in April to June as clear views of a snow-capped Mt. Fuji make for an iconic view. In summer, Hakuba, Niseko and Matsumoto provide relief from the city humidity. Guided tours are fully supported and balance quality cycling and immersive cultural experiences. Self-guided tours include premium bike rentals, GPS routes and unit rentals and accommodation.

Hakuba’s mountain range is the backdrop to a growing mountain bike scene. Evergreen Outdoor Center offers something for every rider: relaxed fun rides for beginners and introductory downhill riding to advanced downhill tours at Iwatake Mountain Bike Park. Customizable free ride private tours also available.
Where: Hakuba, Nagano

Cycle along a 1,200-year-old pilgrimage road with Yamabushi Trail Tour in historic Matsuzaki on the Izu peninsula. Matsuzaki’s close proximity to both mountains and the ocean make it a unique region for mountain biking. Experienced trail riders can challenge themselves to walls, banked turns, switchbacks and rock faces carved out of bedrock. Beginner-friendly mountain bike tours and kayak fishing are also available. 
Where: Matsuzaki, Shizuoka

Enjoy mountain biking with Compass House in Nozawa Onsen. When the ski resort closes after Golden Week experienced riders can take the new Nagasaka Gondola up the mountain to enjoy a ten-kilometer trail (700 meters of vertical). Downhill lessons and tours for beginners are also available. The Compass House crew also create custom tours, and e-bikes and MTB rentals are available.
Where: Nozawa Onsen, Nagano

Freewheeling Japan

Discover the story behind all the lucky cats at Gotokuji Temple, enjoy a vegan lunch and other local eateries and go beyond Tokyo’s tourist trails with Freewheeling Japan located within easy reach of Shinjuku and Yoyogi Park. A full-day course runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and covers 15 to 20 kilometers. Night rides are recommended during summer. 
Where: Sasazuka, Tokyo 

TREETOP ADVENTURES

Niseko Adventure Centre

Take the challenge through 130 obstacles and two acres of treetop adventure fun at Niseko Adventure Centre. Hokkaido’s biggest treetop adventure park is open year round and has beginner, experienced and children-friendly courses. There is a cafe and indoor climbing wall back at the NAC base. They also offer rafting tours on the Shiribetsu River. 
Where: Niseko, Hokkaido

Hakuba Tsugaike Wow

Face your fear of heights at Hakuba Tsugaike Wow park, which features three unique adventures: tubing from a 12-meter slide, a kid-friendly netted adventure park lined with exciting climbing and jumping obstacles, and high-wire cycling. There is also an on-site BBQ restaurant. 
Where: Hakuba, Nagano

Forest Adventure is Japan’s biggest treetop adventure company with more than 30 locations throughout Japan. Not only do they build exciting courses in the trees, they also work to preserve neglected forests. When a Forest Adventure course is built, they thin the tree cover and open up the canopy leading to a renewal of the forest habitat. There are various course levels at each location for adults and children. 

CANYONING & RAFTING

Niyodo Adventure offers English-guided tours through the Nakatsu Gorge blue waters. The tour takes two-and-a-half hours with plenty of opportunities to jump into pools, slide down natural water chutes and abseil down cliffs. The grand finale involves swimming into a cave and out through a waterfall. The course is great for beginners, but has some challenging and fun aspects for canyoning enthusiasts. There’s also a family canyoning option for children six and up. Canyoning tours run from April to October and peak season is in August. Pack rafting tours are also available further downstream (with grade two rapids) from April to October.
Where: Niyodo, Kochi

Adventure Support

The valleys below Izu’s Amagi Mountains are blessed with fresh spring water and numerous waterfalls. Adventure Support runs rafting tours on the scenic Kano River and canyoning tours starting at Banjo-no-taki Campsite near the 20-meter Banjo Falls. They also offer rappelling on Mt. Joyama, which is famous with rock climbers. 
Where: Izu, Shizuoka 

Canyons

In spring, Gunma Prefecture’s mighty Tone River is in full flow providing over 25 kilometers of grade four white water. Canyons offers half and full-day rafting and canyoning tours in Minakami, a UNESCO biosphere reserve just a little over an hour away from Tokyo. 
Where: Minakami, Gunma

Descend 15-meter waterfalls and jump into deep fresh pools with Evergreen Outdoor Center in Nagano. There is some hiking involved to access the canyons, but about 80% of the time is spent in the water. For a more relaxed experience with the family, go rafting on the Himekawa, a grade-two whitewater river with great views of the Hakuba mountains. Canoeing, kayaking and SUP tours on Lake Aoki are also available.
Where: Hakuba, Nagano

The clear emerald green Yoshino River is nature’s own water park during the green season. Happy Raft runs half-day, full-day and family rafting trips and canyoning tours in Kochi Prefecture. Rafting tours run from March to November and canyoning tours from July to September. Happy Raft’s personalized tours run in small groups and they also own cozy guesthouses perfect for those wanting to escape the city and get some fresh air. There are uncrowded hiking trails nearby as well. 
Where: Nagaoka, Kochi

Hanazono Niseko

Niseko’s famous powder melts into the Shiribetsu River making for an exciting rafting session in early to mid-May. Hanazono Niseko offers whitewater rafting in the spring and mellower family rafting in summer to autumn. Along the way, enjoy views of Mt Yotei as the course wraps around this iconic mountain. You can also enjoy their new treetop adventure courses, horseback riding and hiking. 
Where: Niseko, Hokkaido

SURFING

Happy Surfing Okinawa

Danny Melhado competed on the U.S. and Japan professional surfing tour before visiting Okinawa to surf with a friend. After that fateful trip he’s called Okinawa home and opened Happy Surfing Okinawa, located in the quiet village of Yomitan on Okinawa’s main island. Danny specializes in getting novice surfers riding waves and also offers SUP tours. Late spring is a great time to be in Okinawa with pleasant temperatures in and out of the water.
Where: Yomitan, Okinawa

DIVING

Dive head first into a 3,000-year-old tradition: ama freediving. Ama freedivers are women who catch shellfish and pick seaweed by hand underwater without a diving tank. Miescape takes travelers on a half-day experience of visiting an authentic ama hut, being guided underwater by an ama diver and enjoying a seafood BBQ while listening to the divers’ stories. Tours start at Wagu Gyoko Fishing Port in Ise, Mie Prefecture and run every Tuesday and Saturday from April to mid-September and any day of the week from mid-September to the end of October. English translation available.
Where: Ise, Mie

Dive the Kerama Islands with Seasir. The beautiful islands are just an hour by boat from Naha on the main island of Okinawa. Enjoy a full-day diving trip in clear waters (at least 30-meter visibility) teeming with tropical fish. Snorkeling and introductory diving tours are also available. 
Where: Kerama Islands, Okinawa

mikomoto hammerhead diving izu shizuoka
Mikomoto Hammers

Mikomoto Hammers offers a rare opportunity to dive with hammerhead sharks around the uninhabited Mikomoto Island just ten kilometers southeast of Izu peninsula. The best time to see the sharks is from July to October. As the Kuroshio Current flows near this island, divers are required to drift drive and have at least 30 certified dives prior to the dive.
Where: Minami Izu, Shizuoka

Umicoza

Mantas are the main reason people dive on Ishigaki Island. Diving School Umicoza takes divers to visit a manta ray cleaning station, a special dive site Umicoza’s owner discovered. May to October is the best time to view the mantas as the south wind continues and sea conditions remain calm. Ishigaki is a three-hour flight from Tokyo.
Where: Ishigaki, Okinawa

Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

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