Transformative Adventures Through the Soul of Japan
Travel has changed. Nowadays, people no longer want to be mere passive sightseers but active participants in foreign cultures who contribute positively to the development of local communities. Adventure Travel (AT) is an increasingly popular answer to the changing demands of international tourism.
The quintessence of AT, which is to seek to foster sustainability and connections with the land and its people through a variety of fun activities, nature and cultural experiences that are bound to transform travelers' very souls, was the topic of the Adventure Travel World Summit 2023, held from September 11th to 14th. The event attracted more than 750 participants from around 64 countries to Hokkaido, the first Asian host of ATWS, and the ancestral land of the Ainu, an indigenous people with their own unique culture and language, making the northern island the perfect setting for discussing the summit's stated theme - "Harmony." ATWS2023 wasn't all talk, though, as it also included Adventure Travel tours showcasing the appeal of Japan's lesser-explored regions.
Deep dive into the realm of the nature and Ainu Culture: Hidaka Ainu Adventure, Hokkaido
This exciting five-day tour, Hidaka Ainu Adventure, is inspired by the journey of 19th-century British explorer Isabella Bird, who visited Hidaka in south-central Hokkaido in 1878 and got to know the ways of the Ainu there.
Follow in Isabella Bird's footsteps with the help of an Ainu guide who'll lead participants in prayer to Kamuy (spirit-deities), a visit to a Kuca cise (an Ainu hunting hut), and a barbeque with the Ainu of the Biratori region of Hidaka. Swap stories, expand your horizons, and make meaningful connections with people who live in harmony with the land. Participants of the tour will also visit the Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum dedicated to the preservation of important tangible Folk Cultural Properties of the Ainu. There, you'll learn more about the Ainu culture through hands-on activities like making ohaw (fish/meat and wild plant soups) or carving traditional Ainu patterns into wooden coasters. Hidaka Ainu Adventure also includes a stay at Biratori Onsen Yukara known for its therapeutic hot springs and a multi-course meal featuring local vegetables and beef.
Nature is another important theme of the tour. Participants will get a chance to enjoy the unspoiled landscapes of Hokkaido as they traverse Biratori and Urakawa, enjoying the tranquil sights of grazing horses and cattle, as well as Biratori's Lily-of-the-Valley field, a famous landmark in early summer in Hokkaido. More panoramic views will be available from atop Mt. Apoi during a 5-hour hike up the majestic mountain.
The sights are sure to become lifelong memories for Hidaka adventures who'll see firsthand that a harmonious coexistence with nature is both possible and worth it.
Quest for an intact beauty of Japan: Explore the Best of Shikoku by E-bike and SUP
Shikoku, one of Japan's four main islands (located in the southwest of the country), is a pristine paradise that until recently has not been known that well by international tourists. This AT tour, Explore the Best of Shikoku by E-bike and SUP, aims to remedy that.
Travel the Shimanami Kaido expressway that connects mainland Japan with Shikoku on e-bikes and enjoy scenic views of the Seto Inland Sea and its myriad islands. One intriguing stop on the route is the Oyamazumi Shrine, which houses armor and weaponry of the Murakami Kaizoku (corsairs) who once ruled the area as part of a powerful "water army" that maintained order around the Seto shipping routes. The theme of the AT tour is also expressed through a visit to Dogo Onsen, Japan's oldest and arguably most famous hot-spring area. The overnight stay includes a performance of geisha dancing, intended to put the participants in the spirit of taking a journey deep into the heart of Shikoku.
Participants will also travel high above sea level with a bike ride nearly halfway up Mt. Ishizuchi, the highest peak in western Japan standing at 1,982 meters tall. The mountain is also the source of the Niyodo River. Frequently voted as the river with the best water quality in Japan, Niyodo's color is so mesmerizing that locals have nicknamed it "Niyodo Blue." You'll have the pleasure of discovering the charms of the river during a standup paddleboarding (SUP) experience and a visit to the Ino-Cho Paper Museum, where you'll make traditional Japanese paper from vegetation nurtured by Niyodo. The river has also long blessed the area with ingredients for Sake making used by the Kameizumi Sake Brewery, another exciting stop on the tour.
This AT journey is a non-stop showcase of the best Shikoku has to offer, combining the island's scenic landscapes, unique history, and centuries-long traditions to expose travelers to a whole new side of Japan, possibly changing their lives forever.
Following ATWS 2023, Japan's Adventure Travel is sure to attract even more attention, especially given the wealth of potential AT destinations that the country has to offer. The Japanese archipelago is incredibly diverse, stretching north to south from the subarctic forests of Hokkaido to the subtropical beaches of Okinawa. Thanks to such a varied landscape, Japan is gaining international attention as an exciting AT destination, where fresh perspectives are forged and travel itself is redefined.