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Adventure in Japan’s Great Outdoors and Explore Japanese Culture with 5 Unforgettable Summer Activities

Japan is a land offering a bounty of enchanting experiences. Throughout the islands, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, there are numerous activities to get in touch with the magic of Japan’s natural and cultural beauty. Although Japan is perhaps best known for its spring tourism, even after the cherry blossoms fall, many unique and exciting outdoor activities also await you in the summer. Commence your summer travels in Japan with stimulating water adventures, cultural immersion tours, and scenic bike rides all throughout this fascinating archipelago!

 

Dive with manta rays in the sapphire waters of Okinawa

 

© Prime Scuba Ishigaki

 

Ocean-lovers, rejoice! Okinawa Prefecture boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Japan. In particular, Ishigaki, one of the many islands in Okinawa Prefecture, is one of the most popular places in Japan for scuba diving. An abundance of sea life, most notably manta rays and green sea turtles, inhabit the waters of this island paradise. During the summer, divers have a high chance of encountering these majestic creatures, making the diving experience here one of a kind. The ocean around the islands is also home to adorable pigmy pipehorses, camouflage-expert crocodile fish, vibrant ribbon eels, and other outstanding sea life. With the right luck, you may be able to encounter the dreamlike marine life gliding through the ocean.

 

Whether you are an expert diver or a beginner, there are scuba diving activities for everyone to enjoy. Tours include transportation to diving points on luxury cruisers and multiple dives. Snorkeling options are also available if you are not keen on diving. 

 

After your diving adventure, bask on some of the most beautiful beaches Japan has to offer, and explore Okinawan cultural traditions that are different from mainland Japan. You can listen to the sanshin, an Okinawan three-stringed instrument similar in appearance to the banjo and the ancestor of the shamisen. You might also watch the graceful movements of traditional Okinawan dance or even take a workshop to learn to do them yourself! Finally, don’t forget to dine on Yaeyama soba noodles, fresh tropical fruit, the American-influenced taco rice, and other unique local dishes. Meat-eaters can also enjoy Ishigaki Wagyu, which rivals the famous Kobe beef in its tenderness. These are just a few of the singular cultural experiences to try in Okinawa’s tropical paradise.
 

Meet female free divers by day, and watch the glowing sea by night in Ise Bay

 

 

On mainland Japan, there is another locale known for its diving for a very different purpose. In Toba City, Mie Prefecture, you can meet ama, female divers that have been upholding the tradition of free diving for pearls and other ocean wonders for thousands of years. Join an ecotour through which you can watch a demonstration of the ama’s incredible work and converse with them over a delicious lunch of local seafood. You can also visit the the Ama Cultural Museum and Ishigami Shrine, a sacred space important to the ama. It is said that the deity enshrined here will grant the wishes of female worshipers.

 

If you prefer being on the water yourself, there are other tours to satisfy nature-lovers and adventurers. You can kayak in the gorgeous coastal waters of Ise-Shima National Park, soaking in the view of the uninhabited islands dotting the landscape. You might also get a glimpse of ama at work. Additionally, summer offers the exclusive chance for night kayaking in a glass-bottom kayak. You may get a chance to marvel at the bioluminescent “sea fireflies” that often appear in this part of the Sea of Japan during the summer months. 

 

Take your pick from a myriad of half- and full-day activities in Toba City. Accompanied with your friendly guide, you can immerse yourself in the local culture with these authentic outdoor experiences. In addition, be sure to also visit the nearby grand Ise-jingu Shrine, one of the most sacred shrines in Japan. It is home to the Japanese imperial family’s ancestor, the sun goddess Amaterasu, and is only a short train ride away from Toba City. With so many diverse experiences in one area, Mie Prefecture is not one to miss.
 

Paddle board around one of Japan’s most iconic shrines at Miyajima

 

The Great Shrine Gate of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine is undergoing renovation (time of completion undetermined).
Please be aware that the experience similar to that as shown in the picture is not available.

 

If you enjoy being on top of the water, an island a short ferry ride away from Hiroshima City has another perfect activity for you. Perhaps one of the most famous images of costal Japan is of a pair of enormous red pillars resting serenely in the sea. These pillars form the gate to the renowned Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. Located on Miyajima, or “Shrine Island,” this UNESCO World Heritage site attracts throngs of visitors for its exquisite torii, or shrine gate. The giant vermillion archway stands 16 meters tall and boasts 1,400 years of history. It is a rare sight even in Japan as it is built directly into the tranquil sea. Miyajima is also famed for its friendly deer often found roaming the island town as well as for its local pastries. This island makes an excellent cultural day trip from the historical sightseeing of Hiroshima City during any season. Nonetheless, a visit during the summer is all the more enjoyable because you can marvel at Itsukushima-jinja Shrine up close while paddle boarding.

 

Where else do you have a chance to glide around such an exquisite shrine other than this part of Japan? While stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), you will have a wide range of vision to admire the spectacular Setouchi Islands and the gorgeous torii directly from the water. At the start of the tour, you will receive a SUP lesson by certified staff, so even beginners are warmly welcomed. Those who are more experienced in SUP have the option of participating in a two-kilometer adventure crossing the sea. Courses last for about three hours, so you will still have plenty of time to explore the quaint, well-preserved town and beautiful island hiking routes. Don’t miss this unique tour best experienced during the summer!
 

Get your heart pumping on the magnificent Niyodo River

 

 

If you prefer a more exhilarating aquatic experience, you will find your perfect adventure in southwest Japan! Thrill-seekers will not want to miss the outdoor river activities that await them in the Nakatsu Gorge in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku. The Niyodo River is nicknamed the “Niyodo Blue” for its fantastic waters shimmering in cobalt and turquoise. Its pristine condition allows for exciting canyoning and packrafting tours all summer, which could make sensational social media posts.

 

English-speaking expert guides will take you on tours that depart twice a day and ensure your safety. They are also happy to take photos and videos for you to show off your adrenaline-pumping Japanese adventure. Canyoning participants will descend down cliffs and pristine waterfalls in their action-packed adventure. Packrafting is perfect for those who want a calmer adventure along the crystal-clear waters and forest greenery. However, you can still get your adrenaline pumping by optionally tackling the class II rapids. For those who prefer a relaxing experience lounging by the river, sauna tents are also available for rent. Packages include the tent, wood, and essential oils.

 

No matter how you spend your day, complete your Japanese cultural experience by staying at a local hot spring inn. You can soak in the warm waters of the open-air hot springs, which are said to have a number of healing properties. Let your body relax and rejuvenate from a day of adventure while listening to the whispering waters and chirping summer insects. Traditional-style Japanese inns like these also often offer splendid local cuisine, a perfect complement for enjoying cool summer nights.
 

Cycle to the majestic waters and flourishing flowers in the hills of Hokkaido

 

 

While Japan has an abundance of water activities, it is also home to other wondrous landscapes and terrain. If you prefer to spend your summer out of the water, Hokkaido is the place to go! Being the northernmost prefecture in Japan, it features cooler temperatures and lower humidity than most other areas of the country in the summer. It also boasts idyllic scenery featuring rolling hills, rustic farmhouses, and fields of flowers bursting with a multitude of colors. At the foot of the majestic Tokachidake Mountain Range in Daisetsuzan National Park lies Biei, a town well known for its diversity of eye-catching natural beauty. 

 

Cycling is one of the best ways to enjoy all the picturesque scenery and natural culture Biei has to offer, so why not join an award-winning cycling activity in the summer? Choose among several cycling courses, and expert guides will lead you on Yamaha electric-assisted bicycle tours. With the help of Japanese technology, you don't have to worry about your ability to zip up and down the hills! Visit the Shirogane Blue Pond, a body of vividly blue water that well lives up to its name, and the nearby Shirahige Falls. Alternatively, explore flower farms such as Shikisai no Oka, a hill blanketed in a rainbow patchwork of flowers which peak during the summer months. These stunningly beautiful natural sites make the perfect backdrops for posts on your social media of choice. Tours will let you visit other natural wonders often not listed in guidebooks. You can select between full- and half-day adventures, so bring your camera, and let your local guide take you to the wonderful landscapes of Hokkaido’s great outdoors!
 

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