20 Best Outdoor Activities and Adventures in Japan

Japan, a mountainous island surrounded by the sea and covered with forests, is a wonderful place to enjoy outdoor activities and experience adventure. Here is a list of 20 best activities you should try for a thrilling time outdoors in Japan.

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1. Trek Through the Vast Nature of Hokkaido

Hokkaido, a land of natural beauty, is a good place to enjoy walking for people of all ages and abilities. The trails in the Rebun Island are beautiful with lots of wild flowers in summer. The trails in natural parks including Shiretoko can be enjoyed only if you wear proper footwear, while Mt. Daisetsu offers nice routes for prepared climbers. Why don’t you go out to enjoy breathtaking scenery whether it be with a guided tour or on an individual basis?

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2. Cycle Through the Fields of Hokkaido

Cycling is a good option not only as a way of transportation but as a way to enjoy magnificent scenery. Hokkaido is a nice place to cycle with a smaller population and less traffic than on the mainland. There are bike rental services in this popular tourist destination and some operators conduct guided tours, such as week-long bike tours.

3. Ski or Snowboard in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is one of the best places in the world to enjoy winter activities. It boasts the finest powder snow in Japan and a wide variety of courses. Most ski resorts in Hokkaido are extremely well equipped and offer apres-ski activities. If you prefer backcountry, Mt. Asahidake might be a good option thanks to its deep powder snow and some ungroomed courses.

4. Hike and Cycle Through the Oirase National Park

Oirase Gorge is a picturesque mountain stream in Aomori which stretches 14 km from Nenokuchi on Lake Towada to Yakiyama. Numerous waterfalls dot the river through the magnificent forest. The lush spring greenery and the autumn foliage are must-sees. You can enjoy both hiking and cycling here. There are several trails for hikers, while bike rental service is available in three spots throughout the park from April to November.

5. Ski Through the Powdery Snow at Hakkoda

Hakkoda is a fabulous ski resort for back country lovers. The Hakkoda Ropeway takes you up to the top of the mountain and there are a wide range of courses for all abilities. The centerpiece of the ski resort is the backcountry terrain with its deep snow powder. They offer snow hiking tours, too. The best time to visit this ski resort is in March so you can avoid frequent blizzards in January and February.


6. Trek Through Oze National Park

Oze National Park spreads throughout four prefectures: Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, and Niigata. The Ozegahara Marshland and the Ozenuma Pond is a wonderful hiking destination with various trails. They are popular especially in spring when the skunk cabbages are in bloom and in autumn when the foliage color changes. A number of surrounding mountains have nice trekking routes with huts, and an overnight trip is recommended if conditions allow. It’s better to avoid weekends to enjoy natural beauty leisurely.

7. Be Mesmerized by the Sunrise From the Summit of Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji, Japan’s most prominent mountain, is beautiful. If you climb it up, it might become more than just a beautiful icon. Many people from all over the world admit the hike is a life-long memory, especially the view of the sunrise from the summit. The official climbing season is from early July to mid-September. It’s better to go on weekdays to avoid crowds. You need to be equipped properly as the difference in temperature between the summit and the foothills is more than 20°C.

8. Canyon Down Waterfall Slides in Minakami

Minakami, two hours by car from Tokyo, is one of the best places to enjoy water sports in Japan. The whitewater rafting down the Tone River is exciting and you can enjoy the beautiful nature of the gorge, too. The popular canyoning course includes a 20m waterfall slide. There are milder courses as well. The only things you need are a towel, swimwear, and an adventurous spirit!

Website: www.canyons.jp

9. Have an Adventurous Summer at Okutama

It’s incredible to find such nature despite its proximity to Tokyo. Okutama is approximately 1 hour by car from Tokyo. Because the Tama River has a relatively gentle flow, you can enjoy a single-seat raft. Canyoning tours offer an admirable hike down through forested canyons with some small waterfalls. It’s a great escape from the concrete jungle!

10. Swim With the Fish at Izu and the Ogasawara Islands

Approximately 100 km from Tokyo, the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka offers a number of nice diving spots with dynamic geographical features. This peninsula is situated on the Philippine plate and the movement of the plate created unique terrain together with lava from the volcano. In addition, a boundary line of a warm sea current and a cold sea current off the coast breed a colorful biosphere. You cannot get bored in the area.

11. Enjoy the Seasonal Natural Beauty at Kamikochi

Kamikochi, located 1500m above sea level, is one of the most popular mountain resorts in Japan. You can enjoy an easy day hike up the refreshing trails or you can make an overnight trek to the Northern Japan Alps as Kamikochi is a gateway to massive mountains with peaks around 3000m. Please remember to prepare properly according to your destinations. The park is open from mid-April to November 15.

12. Enjoy Summer Activities at the Mountains in Hakuba

Hakuba, a well-known ski resort in Nagano, is heaven for outdoor sports lovers in the non-winter seasons, too. In addition to trekking through the surrounding mountains, you can also enjoy canyoning, kayaking, mountain biking, and more. You can rent gear or join a guided tour. No experience is required to enjoy the magnificent beauty of nature.

13. Ski and Snowboard at Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is recommended for families and people who want to enjoy a more Japanese-style holiday. This ski resort offers various options including CAT tours, snowshoe tours, a kids’ park, and apres ski attractions. You can enjoy strolling in narrow alleys in the onsen atmosphere or soothe your pain at the relaxing hot springs.


14. Have a Mystical Encounter Hiking Through the Kumano Kodo

The Kumano Kodo is the collective name of pilgrimage routes consisting of 5 routes in the Kii Peninsula. The area has been visited by numerous pilgrims including retired emperors and aristocrats since the 11th century. The routes stretch through deep forests that are paved when they cross through villages but unpaved in the mountains. The walk through the moss-covered mystic forest is refreshing. Both one day hikes and multiple day treks are available.

15. Cycle in the Fresh Ocean Wind at Shimanami Kaido

The Shimanami Kaido is a wonderful cycling route traversing the beautiful Setouchi Inland Sea. The route is a 60km expressway linking Onomichi on the mainland and Imabari in Shikoku. You can cycle through it as the bridges connecting six small islands have side roads for pedestrians and bicycles. There is a rental cycle system with terminals dotted alongside the route which allows you to rent a bicycle and drop it off at a different terminal at your leisure.

16. Enjoy Water Sports at the Yoshinogawa River

The Yoshinogawa River, approximately 4 hours from Osaka by car, is Japan’s most exciting rafting spot with magnificent rapids. From a tranquil family rafting to an adventurous tour in the Koboke Gorge among dynamic backdrops, a fantastic day is assured. If you go canyoning on the tributary creek, you can enjoy the natural beauty of a valley and the challenging 40m slide into emerald green water. Some companies offer canoeing and kayaking tours, too.

17. Enjoy the Untouched Nature at Yakushima

Yakushima, located approximately 100 km south of the city of Kagoshima in Kyushu, is famed for its beauty of untouched nature. While trekking through deep moss-covered forest is popular among tourists, this small island also has a number of mountains with peaks between 1000 to 2000m. Easy one day hikes to multiple-day treks can be enjoyed in numerous trails. Please be noted that this area boasts Japan's highest precipitation with heavy rainfall, though they also have many sunny days.

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18. Kayak in the Blue Ocean at Okinawa

Okinawa, famed for its beautiful sea, has much to offer including canoeing or kayaking. If you'd like to enjoy a subtropical atmosphere featuring dense mangrove forest, Yanbaru or Kesaji is a good option on the Okinawan mainland. Ishigaki Island and Iriomote Island offer nice paddling, too. You can stretch your legs to the blue sea in each area. The shoreline of Yagaji Island is recommended for exclusive sea kayaking. There are some English speaking operators.

19. Snorkel in the Tropical Sea

For those who wish to dive into clear water, snorkeling is an answer. You don’t need any licenses or experience; all ages and abilities are welcomed as long as they bring a towel and swimwear. Gear can be rented. There are lots of operators and guided tours throughout most of the islands to see colorful tropical fish and coral. The Blue Cave in Onna or Ishigaki Island are recommended for their varieties of attractions.

20. Dive Off Islands

If you have a diving license, the Kerama Islands are a must-visit. 35 minutes by high-speed vessel from Naha, the water in the area is so clear that you can see down to the bottom from the surface. The area boasts an abundance of coral species, too. Another place worth visiting is Yonaguni Island with over 70 dive sites including its famous underwater ruins.

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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