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25 Best Outoor & Adventure Experiences in Japan

25 Best Outoor & Adventure Experiences in Japan

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‘Adventure travel’ is a broad category of travel that means different things to different people. After all, one person’s adventures is another person’s boredom and clearly not everything on this list will appeal to all people. But hopefully it’ll pique your interest and get you thinking of all the fun that’s waiting for you all year round in Japan.

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Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are a registered travel agent, tour and charter operator. We’re here to help you plan, package and book your next trip to Japan including travel adventure in Central Japan. So let’s not mess around! Let’s jump into it with 25 recommended adventure travel activities in Japan:

1 / BALLOONING, HANG-GLIDING & PARAGLIDING


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Let’s start by taking to the air! There are plenty of hot-air balloon, hang-gliding and paragliding operators to choose from through-out Japan. A great way to enjoy the landscapes of Japan from above, enjoying ballooning or paragliding in the resorts of Hakuba allows you to see the mountains from the air in a tandem flight with a certified instructor. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Hot Air Ballooning, Hang-Gliding & Paragliding’ page.

2 / BIRD-WATCHING


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Japan is home to numerous species of birds including Hokkaido’s red-crowned cranes. As a country of diverse landscapes and contrasting seasons, Japan is blessed bird species including both endemic and migratory birds. Naturally, you’ll need to get outside of the cities to see the best of them with open landscapes of Hokkaido and mountains and forests of Central Japan being the great destinations for bird-watching. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Wildlife, Bird-Watching, Horse-Riding & Fishing’ page.

3 / CAMPING & GLAMPING


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Blessed with an agreeable climate and lush landscape, Japan is a fantastic destination for camping enthusiasts or anyone just looking to get away from it all. You can go remote if you want or take advantage of one of the country’s many well-appointed campgrounds. Spring and autumn are particularly beautiful times of year to get outdoors so time to start planning. For recommendations of the best camping destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Camping & Glamping’ page.

4 / CANYONING


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Also called ‘cayoneering’, cayoning is an increasingly popular activity in Japan. A combination of climbing, swimming, hiking and even abseiling along waterways through rock formations, cayoning is tremendous fun and can be enjoyed by both children and adults making it a great family activity. For recommendations of the best water destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Canyoning & SUP’ page.

5 / CAVING


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Commonly referred to as ‘spelunking’ or ‘potholing’, caving is – as the name suggests – the activity of exploring caves. While Japan doesn’t have a big reputation for caving, it is home to some marvellous caves and with the sport gaining popularity, expect more to be discovered. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Hiking, Trekking, Mountaineering, Caving & Climbing’ page.

6 / CLIMBING


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Climbing is an established and popular sport in Japan and with an estimated seventy percent of the land mass considered mountainous, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of rock faces waiting to be conquered. With most of Japan’s highest mountains found in the Japan Alps of Central Japan, it’s no surprise that the region is home to many of the best rock faces in the country. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Hiking, Trekking, Mountaineering, Caving & Climbing’ page.

7 / CYCLING


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Japan doesn’t have the tradition of Europe and North America when it comes to cycling as a sport however things are changing. Cycling in all forms is quickly becoming more popular as a recreational sport in Japan. The country boasts an excellent road system and some truly spectacular coastal and mountain cycling routes – a great way to exploring this very long and fascinating country. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Running, Trail-Running, Cycling & Mountain-Biking (MTB)’ page.

8 / FISHING


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Before you’ve even travelled to Japan you’re almost certain to love for eating fish therefore it’s no big surprise that fishing is a hugely popular pastime here. From fly-fishing in the alpine rivers of Nagano and Central Japan to the deep-sea fishing of Okinawa and Hokkaido, there is plenty for anglers to get excited about. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Wildlife, Bird-Watching, Horse-Riding & Fishing’ page.

9 / HIKING


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When it comes to hiking in Japan, Mount Fuji is something of a must-do for many Japanese and international visitors. Standing 3,776 metres tall, Fuji is readily accessible from Tokyo and acts as a beacon calling you out of the cities and into the mountains to enjoy some of Asia’s best hiking. The three ranges making-up the Japan Alps – and dominating Central Japan – boast the rest of the country’s tallest peaks and hiking routes that rival if not surpass Fuji, while the Hokkaido in the north and the southern islands including Yakushima offer some outstanding trekking and walking. Hiking trails vary in length and character with everything to leisurely walks on raised walkways to multi-day treks that demand expertise and specialist gear. Hiking season in most areas of the country runs from late-June through to November, with summer being a popular time to escape the heat and humidity of the valleys and coastal cities and head high into the mountains, followed by the stunning colours of autumn. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Hiking, Trekking, Mountaineering, Caving & Climbing’ page.

10 / HORSE-RIDING


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While the association of Japan and horse-riding might not immediately spring to mind, it is a popular sport here and one that can be enjoyed in areas including Central Japan and Hokkaido. Horse racing is a popular sport with many Japanese horses competing and winning major races around the world while visitors can enjoy horse-riding in various locations including Kiso Valley in Central Japan. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Wildlife, Bird-Watching, Horse-Riding & Fishing’ page.

11 / KAYAKING & CANOEING


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Kayaking is a great way to explore Japan’s many beautiful rivers and lakes with Central Japan again being one of the best regions to do so. Home to the majority of Japan’s highest mountains, rivers often originate in the higher reaches of the ranges and come gushing down to the world below. In doing so, Central Japan is blessed with some of Japan’s best white water and kayaking. Of course there’s plenty of stuff to explore too, with kayaking and canoeing being a popular pastime for families. For recommendations of the best water destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Canyoning & SUP’ page.

12 / MOUNTAIN-BIKING (MTB)


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Quickly gaining popularity, MTB is a great way to get outdoors and explore the mountains and forests in Japan with the ski resorts of Nagano and Central Nagano increasingly well-setup for mountain-bikers. Expect to see a lot more development over coming years as MTB really takes-off in Japan. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Running, Trail-Running, Cycling & Mountain-Biking (MTB)’ page.

13 / MOUNTAINEERING


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Also called ‘alpinism’, mountaineering combines hiking, climbing, skiing and traversing alpine landscapes at any time of year including in the snow of winter. Unlike hiking which can be enjoyed by almost anyone, mountaineering typically requires a high degree of skill and specialist equipment and an element of risk and should only be undertaken with adequate expertise and in partnership with other experienced climbers and/or a guide. Needless to say, home to the majority of Japan’s tallest mountains, our home of Central Japan is the premier mountaineering destination in the country. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Hiking, Trekking, Mountaineering, Caving & Climbing’ page.

14 / RAFTING


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Japan has plenty of rivers on which to enjoy rafting including those gushing down from the mountains of Central Japan including the famous Tenryu River – see Tenryu Traditional River Rafting – in southern Nagano. Another activity that can enjoyed by both adults and kids, it’s a great activity for families and a terrific way to cool down and have a whole lot of fun in the middle of summer. For recommendations of the best water destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Canyoning & SUP’ page.

15 / RUNNING


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Japan is a great country to enjoy running. Its climate is agreeable, road conditions a good, drivers are considerate and the scenery is outstanding meaning that any visitor can enjoy running here. There are plenty of marathons, half-marathons, ultra-marathons and shorter races to choose from with the Tokyo Marathon – held in March each year – being the most famous with Osaka, Yokohama, Naha and Shonan International Marathon in Kanagawa rounding-out the top five in terms of participant numbers. Over recent years ultra-marathons and trail running – see below – have enjoyed increasing popularity with both being seen as a challenging yet massively rewarding ways to experience Japan’s beautiful landscapes. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Running, Trail-Running, Cycling & Mountain-Biking (MTB)’ page.

16 / SKIING & SNOWBOARDING


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With over 500 ski resorts and truly world-class snow conditions, Japan can lay claim to being Asia’s premier winter sports destination. Resorts are spread-out across the eastern half of the country in Central and North Japan. Our home of Nagano is home to the greatest number of resorts – with more than 80 individual ski resorts – while neighbouring Niigata, Gifu, Gunma and the more distant prefectures of Tohoku also have their share. Of course Nagano’s great winter rival is Hokkaido in the north which boasts some truly outstanding snow and great resorts. In the end, whether you opt for the resorts of Nagano or Hokkaido – or perhaps somewhere else! – you’re sure to love it. The snow really is fantastic, the resorts are well-organised and well-priced and people are friendly. For intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders, getting off-piste and diving into the deep stuff will have you hooked and coming back again and again. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling & Winter Fun’ page.

17 / SNOWBIKING


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As the name suggests, snowbikes are bicycles fitted-out with fat tyres allowing you to ride on snow. Anyone who can ride a bike can jump on and immediately enjoy the snow, a much easier learning curve than skiing or snowboarding or for those who already know, a fun alternative for a morning or afternoon of exploring a resort.
For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling & Winter Fun’ page.

18 / SNOWMOBILING


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Want to go a little faster in winter? Snowmobiling in the ski resorts of Nagano is a thrilling way to enjoy the beautiful snow-covered landscape. The rare and previous combination of beauty and speed! Available in resorts including Shiga Kogen and at some of the resorts of Hakuba, snowmobiling is fast, fun and unforgettable. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling & Winter Fun’ page.

19 / SNOWSCOOTS & SNOWDRIVES


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While you might not of heard of them, ‘snowscoots’ and ‘snowdrives’ are easy devices to learn, allowing visitors of any age to enjoy the snow. Snowscoots involve standing on a split board with a handle while snowdrives are odd devices comprising a seat on a single short ski. Both area easy to use and within one or two attempts you’ll be gliding down the slope and usually getting a lot of reaction from those going past you who may never have them before. Much easier to learn than skiing or snowboarding, snowscoots and snowdrives are great fun for newbies, kids and families, or anyone just wanting to have some fun on the slopes! For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling & Winter Fun’ page.

20 / SNOWSHOEING


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Snowshoeing is another way to enjoy the winter landscape of Central and North Japan, although at a notably slower pace than snowmobiling! Renting gear is inexpensive and once on your feet, walking over snow is easy and self-explanatory. A great way to enjoy the landscape and hopefully spot some wildlife, snowshoeing is well-suited to anyone wanting an alternative winter activity to skiing and snowboarding, nature enthusiast and photographers. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling & Winter Fun’ page.

21 / STAND-UP PADDLE BOARDING (SUP)


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SUP has quickly established itself as a popular past-time in Japan. Simple to learn, SUP allows you to you enjoy the water at a leisurely pace while giving you a full body workout. By standing on the board, you have a view of the surrounding landscape and water below – a great way to enjoy Japan’s beautiful lakes. For recommendations of the best water destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Canyoning & SUP’ page.

22 / TENRYU TRADITIONAL RIVER RAFTING


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Looking for an adventure experience steeped in tradition? Then you need to head to the Tenryu Riverlands in southern Nagano to experience traditional river rafting in timber longboats or bamboo rafts. Guided by an experienced local boatsman, you’ll sit tight in the boat or on the raft and descend the beautiful waterways of Tenryu, going from serene and calm stretches through the thrill of whitewater. For recommendations of the best water destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Canyoning & SUP’ page.

23 / TRAIL-RUNNING


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Another sport that has quickly grown in popularity in Japan, trail running events are now taking place all over the country. Races vary in length and location, from leisurely kids and families races of a couple of kilometres to events of over 50km or 100km requiring elite fitness and durability. People who take-up trail running quickly get hooked by the combination of a sport that requires true fitness and the challenge of running on unsealed tracks through beautiful landscapes. Often held in national parks, Central Japan is something of an epicentre for trail running events with many events taking place each year. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Running, Trail-Running, Cycling & Mountain-Biking (MTB)’ page.

24 / WELL-BEING, SPIRITUALITY & TRADITION


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Spirituality and mindfulness might seem out of place on a list of adventure travel, but not in Japan. Japan’s native religion of Shinto has a long tradition of nature worship while the syncretic religion of Shugendo Buddhism is all-about getting into the mountains and challenging yourself both spirituality and physically. The World Heritage-listed Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails on the Kii Peninsula is just one example of the cross-cover between outdoor pursuits and the spiritual, with the Ontake Kodo and Togakushi Kodo pilgrimage trails in Central Japan being other examples of this long and seductive tradition. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Well-Being, Spirituality & Tradition’ page.

25 / WILDLIFE


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Any conversation of wildlife in Japan has to start with our favourite guys, the famous snow monkeys of Jigokudani! While the monkeys are wild they come to the park on a daily basis through all seasons of the rare, giving visitors a rare chance to get up close and personal to these curious creatures.

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Japan is home to an array of wildlife including black bears, spotted deer, Japanese serow, wild boar and the cute and curious tanuki. You might ask, what is a tanuki? Often referred to as a raccoon dog, tanuki are the real-life animals which inspire the ubiquitous states you see all over Japan at the entrances of many homes and businesses.

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Of course as an island nation, there’s even more to see in the seas surrounding Japan including countless species of fish, dolphins, whales, sharks, octopuses, turtles and many, many more. Naturally, the best place to spot wildlife is in the national parks of Japan of which there are more than thirty spread across the country. For recommendations of the best destinations and experiences in Central Japan, see our ‘Wildlife, Bird-Watching, Horse-Riding & Fishing’ page.

BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1-RATED TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR


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Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We have the local knowledge of where to go, when to go and what to dowhen you’re there to make sure you get the most out of your adventure in Central Japan! As a registered travel agent we can arrange adventure experiences and tours, transport, accommodation and inclusive packages. So no matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered including getting you to the best outdoor destinations and events in the region.

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For guests wanting to access these destinations in the comfort of their own transport, we can arrange a private tour or charter customised to fit your needs, starting and ending at any destination in the region. Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations in combination with any activity that suits your schedule. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.

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We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of your adventure in Central Japan and help you discover even more!

Why choose us?

Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano and Central Japan.

Got a question about visiting Nagano and Central Japan? Contact us at snowmonkeyresorts@machinovate.com and let’s get planning together!