Japan has many opportunities for adventure tourism – physical exercise and sport, enjoying nature and the country’s unique landscapes, and getting a deeper understanding of the people through cultural encounter.
Many areas of Japan are great for hiking – such as the Japan Alps, the island of Shikoku, and Hokkaido in summer. Exploring the countryside and smaller towns and villages at walking pace is s great way to see the real Japan.
Japan’s powder snow is second to none, and winter sports are increasingly popular and accessible for overseas visitors in Hokkaido, and the Nagano area.
Much of Japan is forested and mountainous. The Japanese Alps, particularly, offer great walking.
For relaxing day hikes, the areas of Kamikochi and Norikura Kogen not far from Matsumoto have level walking, and several peaks with good views for the more energetic.
On Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, the walking is quite different: the Kirishima National Park and Mount Aso provide spectacular volcanic, almost lunar landscapes. Still further south, in contrast, Yakushima Island offers treks through lush sub-tropical forest with massive Yaku cedar trees up to 1,000 years old: the whole island is a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site.
Contact us for more information about including walking and trekking – of any level – in your Japan trip.
Hiring a bicycle for the day is a novel and fascinating way of seeing the cities of both Tokyo and Kyoto. Although there is plenty of traffic – especially in Tokyo – smaller roads are not congested, they drive on the correct (ie. left) side of the road, and considerate cycling on the pavement is allowed. Cycling style is more relaxed and slow than in the UK.
For a day in Tokyo, a variety of cycling itineraries are recommended, mostly of around 25 km or 5 hours.
More information from cycle-tokyo.
Similarly in Kyoto, the so-called “Philosophers’ Path” along the Kamogawa River is a relaxing and picturesque way of seeing the town – with a cycle lane!
More information from cyclekyoto.com or insidekyoto.com
A 4-day cycling itinerary is a good way to discover the beaches and hot springs of the Izu Peninsula – and the riding is not hard.
For the most dedicated cyclist, the island of Shikoku offers the Shimanami-kaido, a 70km itinerary including bridges which link the island to the mainland of Honshu. The views are spectacular, and the area is well set up for cycle hire.
Contact us for more information about including cycling – of any level – in your Japan trip.
With its clear waters and coral reefs, the southerly Yaeyama island group of the Okinawa islands offers great diving.
The best-known of this island group is Ishigaki. Scuba diving is very popular here: at an area nicknamed “manta scramble” just off the north coast, groups of manta rays are almost guaranteed in autumn.
There are many diving shops and diving excursion operators who speak English. Kabira Beach and Sukuji Beach offer great views and beautiful natural surroundings but are not for swimming. Yonehara beach is the place for snorkeling, with coarl reefs within easy distance. A campsite just behind the beach offers equipment for hire.
Iriomote is reached by boat from Ishigaki. Ferries land at the town of Uehara in the north, where most of the diving operators are based. Alternatively, cruise or canoe up the Urauchi River, through dense mangroves deep into the jungle inland.
Contact us for more information about including diving – of any level from novice to PADI qualified – in your Japan trip.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Japan has some of the best powder snow in the world, and plenty of it – many resorts can expect up to 6 metres! Add to that the efficient lift systems, well-tended slopes and efficient transportation, and Japan offers a top class ski experience. Many ski resorts are in areas of hot springs; after a day’s skiing, you can relax in the hot spa tub at your hotel before enjoying a Japanese dinner.
Japan has a long tradition of winter sports, and Olympic-standard facilities: in 1972 the Winter Olympics took place in Sapporo, capital of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. In 1998 the Winter Olympics returned to Japan to the city of Nagano, in the heart of the Japanese Alps.
Both destinations are easy to reach, and offer quality accommodation and of course a taste of Japanese traditions, culture and food. Japan is becoming popular as a ski destination for the Australian market, so information in English is almost everywhere and in general English is spoken at all major hotels and lift stations. But currently the facilities have plenty of capacity: crowded slopes and queuing at the ski-lifts are virtually unheard of except at certain weekends and national holidays.
When to go
The ski season runs from the end of November until April or even May at some resorts. But the ideal time to go might be February and March: at that stage the peak season is over but there are actually more sunny days. If you go towards the end of March, you might be able to combine it with the cherry blossom season In Tokyo.
Ski rental and instruction
Thanks to the increase in Australian visitors, ski rental is available for larger, Western shoe sizes. Hire of skis, boots and poles is around Yen 2,000-3,000 per day. Ski schools in English are available. If you bring children, many of the bigger hotels offer kids clubs, with a wide range of activities. The local tourist information offers good updated information in English of all ski schools and kids clubs.
If you are not eating on the slopes, you’ll be enjoying one of the many restaurants around the ski resorts. You can find small local restaurants in the villages, and also dining places on the top of the mountains. Menus are generally available in English, and food is reasonably priced: lunch for under Yen 1,000, and dinner for Yen 1,000-2,000. Beer is also not expensive at around Yen 500, and in some resorts the after-ski crowd is rather lively due to the many Australians.
After dark night skiing is possible on many slopes, usually until around 9pm. The resort buses go on until 11 or 12pm, to get you back from your après-ski.