Japan is a country full of lush nature, and there are many recommended spots for outdoor sports like hiking, fishing, or rafting. Here are 5 places to consider if you want to enjoy Japanese outdoor activities.
If you want to go trekking in Japan, Yakushima is the biggest recommendation. This island is about 60km south of Kyushu's Osumi Peninsula and has the mountain range called the "Yojo Alps" featuring around 40 mountains that are over 1,000m tall including the 1,936m tall Miyanoura-dake. Yakushima is also famous for its huge cypress trees that are over 1,000 years old. The island's biggest tree, Joumonsugi, is said to be 7,200 years old. To reach this tree, it takes about 6 hours by trekking on the trolley road from the Arakawa Tozanguchi. The round trip is a distance of about 22km, so make sure you're prepared! For people who aren't confident in their trekking skills or for those who don't have too much time, it's recommended that you go to Yakusugi Land to easily see Yakushima. There you can enjoy the sight of big trees like the 1,800 year old Buddasugi, the Tenchuusugi, the Mitsunesugi, and more, as well as wild animals and mountain flora.
1. Trekking in Yakushima, Kagoshima
Rafting down rapids in a rubber boat is a thrilling experience you can have surrounded by nature, so it's a popular activity. In Japan, there are more than 50 rivers where you can enjoy rafting. Among them one of the most recommended is Minakami in Gunma. The Tone River is one of Japan's representative rivers thanks to its currents, and it's the only river in Kantou that's affected by the weather over the Sea of Japan. Because of that, thanks to the large snowfall in winter, from April to July the river floods from the melt and you can enjoy world-class rafting. Minakami is famous for being a hot spring area, so after you have an exciting time rafting, you can relax in one of the springs.
2. Rafting in Minakami, Gunma
Mt. Fuji, revered since ancient times as a religious symbol, was registered as a World Heritage site in 2013 and every year, more and more climbers flock to it. There are currently 4 climbing routes up Mt. Fuji. On Shizuoka's side, there's the Fujinomiya Route, Subashiri Route, Gotemba Route, and the Yoshida Route on the Yamanashi side. The most popular of them all is the Yoshida Route. It's easy to access from Tokyo, and there are many mountain huts along the route so if you need a break or if the weather suddenly changes you can hide out in there. It's longer than the other routes, however, so if you're not confident in your strength you might want to consider other routes. Mountain climbing season is usually from July to mid-September, but it changes depending on the level of snow remaining that year so please check the official website and other reliable sources before you go.
3. Climbing Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka
If you've ever wanted to fly in the sky, you should check out the hot-air balloon flight in Niseko. Niseko has a popular winter sports image, but actually there are plenty of activities there in the summer as well. Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area on the highest peak of the Niseko mountain range arranges hot-air balloon flights during the summer. You can take flight on days when the wind is gentle, once in early morning and once in the evening, and children over the age of 1 are allowed to ride. You enter the basket, the balloon begins to swell thanks to the hot air from the burner, and you'll slowly begin to rise from the earth for an experience that you can't have in any other aircraft. You might be a little nervous before you ride, but the sight of the Hokkaido nature from the sky is like nothing else. It will definitely become one of your trip's greatest memories.
*Photo is for illustration purposes.
4. Riding hot-air balloons in Niseko, Hokkaido
For those of you that have made your way all the way to Japan and want to experience aquatic sports, you must try swimming with dolphins. There are many spots around Japan where dolphins live, but the most recommended place is Mikura Island, part of the Izu Islands chain. There are about 100 wild dolphins living around this island, and there's almost a 100% chance you'll meet dolphins in the ocean. The Mikura Island dolphins aren't afraid of humans, rare for dolphins around the world, and sometimes you'll be able to swim with them for more than 30 minutes. Make no mistake, swimming with wild dolphins in the open ocean is a special experience you'll never forget.
Also, you can swim with the dolphins with just a life jacket. No scuba qualifications required!
5. Swim with the dolphins on Mikura Island, Tokyo
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.