Adventure travel in Japan means more than the thrills involved in experiencing Tokyo’s speed and dazzle. Japan also has plenty to offer in the way of adventure tourism far from urban distractions. With its rugged landscapes, rural Japan is an entirely different world to the bright lights of its big cities. Unlike five-star hotels, for example, Japanese country inns, called ryokan, are small-scale and feature personal, closely attentive services.
Fuji may be the most visited of Japanese peaks, but the country has hundreds of accessible mountains that offer a wide range of challenges. For example Japan’s second highest peak, 3,192-metre Kita-dake, is a relatively short distance south of Fuji. It’s one of a fantastic assortment of peaks in the surprisingly wild and undeveloped Minami Alps. It is a challengingly steep two-day climb from its 2,230-metre-high base camp, and the views from its higher elevations are beyond description. The extreme amount of moisture that’s almost always present makes footing a challenge on the way down. Another great place to climb is Hokkaido island’s Daisetsuzan National Park. Its multiple peaks, varied landscapes, fumaroles, and deep snow make it feel like another world.
Try bypassing the big ski resorts and explore the undeveloped peaks, mysterious forests, volcanoes, and powder up to two metres deep in off-the-beaten-path Hokkaido near Tokachidake mountain. This involves much trekking through deep snow to get to the tops of the exquisite runs, but that’s part of what makes it such an adventure. Most of Japan’s ski resorts are highly safety conscious and either ban or strictly control off-piste skiing, but adventure-tourism companies now compete to provide off-piste backcountry ski treks at such recognised experts’ resorts as Asahidake.
Rural Japan seems to have been made for cycling. The roads are well-paved and the terrain and scenery ever-changing. Many attractive bicycle tour routes can be found on the internet – consider in particular the quiet, bucolic Noto Peninsula on Honshu. One notable cycling adventure is crossing the straight between Honshu and Shikoku islands on the Shimanami Kaido expressway bridge system, which boasts a 67 km dedicated bike lane that soars above the ocean and touches down on nine islands.
The underwater rock formations in the warm, clear waters off the coast of the island of Yonaguni Jima seem like the ruins of a lost city. No consensus yet exists whether they’re the remnants of a 12,000-year-old lost civilisation or just the result of erosion caused by currents. Still, the pyramids, staircases, and apparent statue of a turtle are a dive to stir the imagination. The sense of adventure is even more pronounced in winter, when migrating hammerhead sharks and humpback whales cruise by.
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