Shopping, relaxation, cosplay–these are just some of the fun things you can try in Japan. But if you’re an adventure-seeker and adrenaline junkie, Japan can also be one of the nicest destinations for outdoor recreation.
Minakami is a four season hot spring resort town in the region north of Gunma Prefecture. It is located near the Tanigawa range of mountains and just a 70-minute bullet train ride from Tokyo’s busy streets. Because of its closeness to the mountain range, Minakami has become famous for its natural scenery, hot springs and traditional crafts. Be it winter, summer, fall or spring, Minakami is now recognized as the country’s premier outdoor adventure sports destination here and abroad.
This is also one of the places to go for snow sports. Although it’s not as well known as its neighboring ski towns, Minakami has a total of 9 ski fields and has been famous for its easy access to backcountry skiing and snowboarding around the Tenjindaira ski field. If you’re not into snow sports, another great option in the winter months is snowshoeing, a guided tour into the glaciers and waterfalls around the area.
If you’re into nature photography, Minakami’s snow-capped mountains could just be the perfect subject to focus on. According to hikers, there is a spectacular panoramic view of the Tanigawa Range and Mount Hotaka.
Summer is also a perfect time to visit Minakami not only because of the number of activities that the natural terrains suggest, but also because of the endless activities being held there in a year. During the early summer, many fireflies may be observed on the walking trail of the Jomo-Kogen area of Minakami. Locals celebrate the Hotaru (fireflies) Festival every year around this time. There’s also Summer Splash, which is an annual mountain music festival that brings out international artists as well as th the country’s best live acts and DJs for one all night party in the mountains.
You can also try canyoning here in Minakami. Canyoning is an adventure sport that involves making your way down a river by a combination of hiking, swimming, sliding down chutes and jumping from waterfalls. This thrilling sport is one of Minakami’s most popular summer attractions. Also, there are several companies that run whitewater rafting tours on Minakami’s Tone River. The full 12 kilometers of raftable river has several areas that cater to all skill levels from first timers to experienced rafters.
September is also the time for adventurers to celebrate the Minakami Adventure Festival and this year, the event will be held September 29-30. Operators and tour companies often offer at this time, special packages to visitors to try their activities. Yubiso Park becomes the center of the event, where food stalls and shops open, offering various items for all ages. Many big brand names also bring up their products and sell them at cheaper prices. Special events like trail run, adventure race and rafting are also held during the last week of September.
If you want something fun, exciting and crazy at the same time, head down to the bungy bridge in Minakami, get yourself strapped to a bunch of rubber bands and hurl yourself off a bridge. Yes, most things in Japan are crazy but this is just one those things you have to try. The bungy jumping operation is run by Bungy Japan and runs from spring to mid-November.
All that snowboarding, hiking, river rafting and Bungy jumping will definitely make you want to relax your muscles. Take a dip down Minakami’s natural hot springs found across the mountains and valleys, around which resorts of various characters have been built. Some hot spring baths around Minakami include Takaragawa Onsen, Hoshi Onsen, Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen and Mantenboshi no Yu, among others. Some resorts are largely developed towns consisting of numerous big hotel complexes, while others are ryokan isolated deep in the mountains.
Minakami is one of those places in Japan you can always visit either for relaxation or adventure, at any time of the year. In fact, you might want to check All Nippon Airways’ new campaign for foreign visitors to Japan, called Experience JAPAN, which offers fares to any of ANA’s destinations within Japan for as low as 10,500 yen.