Visitors to Japan have likely heard about the cherry blossoms, hot springs, and Mount Fuji—maybe even the snowy slopes of Niseko and sun-kissed islands of Okinawa—yet much of Japan's great outdoors remains unknown. Take the relatively under-visited regions of Shikoku and Tohoku, one a short flight west of Tokyo, the other an easy train trip north, which reward travelers who veer off the beaten path with scenic coastal trails, hikes to sacred peaks, and a host of other experiences in nature.
Ehime in Shikoku, located in southwest Japan, is a case in point. The prefecture is home to one of Shikoku’s main cities, Matsuyama, as well as attractions like the traditional hot springs of Dogo Onsen and the Shimanami Kaido cycling trail. Less known to travelers to Ehime, however, is Western Japan's tallest peak, 6,500-feet (1,982-metre) Mount Ishizuchi, a place that brings into focus Japan’s traditionally close connection to nature.
Considered one of Japan’s seven sacred mountains, Ishizuchi has been a site of worship for more than 1,000 years in the syncretic (the combination of different forms of belief) Shugendo religion, whose practitioners still commune with nature here through activities such as mindful forest hikes and waterfall meditation. Whether the mountainside is verdant in summer, painted white with snow in winter, ablaze with red foliage in fall, or accented by blossoms in spring, there are many ways to take in Ishizuchi's deeply natural surrounds and understand why generations have found a sense of the spiritual here. For experienced trekkers, there's the chain-assisted Tameshi-no-Kusari route, which delivers dramatic mountain scenery but also quiet moments at mountainside shrines. For a far gentler experience, there are easier trails to hike after a cable car ride 4,265-feet (1,300-meters) up the mountain. Or, if walking isn't your thing, you could explore the area's network of cycling routes, which are especially scenic on the 11-mile (18km) Ishizuchi Skyline road.
On Shikoku’s southern coast, Cape Muroto in Kochi provides a different expression of Japan's natural side. One of 10 UNESCO Global Geoparks in Japan, its designation was awarded in part because of the insights the local environment gives into land formation processes and plate tectonics. You can see that yourself on hiking trails that take in rugged coastline, subtropical vegetation, and geological formations that hide fossilized remains.
As with Mount Ishizuchi, there's also a strong spiritual element to Muroto. Namely, Shikoku is famous in Japan for an 88-temple pilgrimage connected to the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kukai (posthumously called Kobo Daishi). While the full, 745-mile (1,200km) trek can take months, three of the
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Though her work on Saturday Night Live keeps her tethered to New York City, comedian Chloe Fineman can most often be found criss-crossing the country to film in Los Angeles or back to the Bay Area, where she grew up. Recently, for her campaign with Nütrl Vodka Seltzer, she got to see a new place: Mexico City. “First of all, my brain still can’t understand how it’s a three-hour flight from LA [and five hours from New York], so I could meet all my friends in the middle,” she says. “And it was the most beautiful city. We saw luchadores wrestling, and the food was unbelievable. Some of the best meals in my life were in Mexico City!”
Osaka is half the size of Tokyo but just as much fun. Lightning-quick shinkansen trains link the two cities in a little over two hours while nearby cities of Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara are an easy day trip. Osaka itself is home to its namesake castle, scores of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, and a belting street food scene. The central districts are defined by Honmachi, Dōtonbori, Namba (Minami), and Kita (Umeda) although Osaka Bay is a handy base for visiting Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) and Universal Studios Japan. Mingling Japanese and Western traditions, these are the top-rated Airbnbs in Osaka’s coolest neighborhoods.
If it seems like everyone and their mother is trying to use points and miles to go to Japan these days, you’re not wrong. But can you really blame them? Between the people, the history, the culture, the architecture, the nightlife, the shopping, and of course, the food, Japan is an absolute dream of a destination for so many, including honeymooners planning their once-in-a-lifetime vacations.
A four-hour drive from Denver, the rural town of Granada, Colorado, is home to just 450 people—and, at the end of a bumpy dirt road, the now-empty barracks and haunting buildings of “Camp Amache.” Also known as the Granada Relocation Center, Amache was once an internment camp for nearly 10,000 Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes between 1942 and 1945. Now, after decades of preservation efforts by local volunteers, this site has officially become America's newest national park.
When the Ranch at Malibu opened in 2010 as a luxury health resort on 200 acres in California’s Santa Monica Mountains, its approach was somewhat radical: Guests signed up for a full week of group hikes, fitness classes, spa treatments, nutrition consults and communal, organic meals without caffeine, gluten, soy or dairy. The goal, says its founder Alex Glasscock, was “for people to mentally and physically reset and recharge.” On April 15, a second location, the Ranch at Hudson Valley, is scheduled to open near Tuxedo Park, N.Y., in a slate-and-stone lakefront mansion surrounded by state parks. Glasscock hopes the 25-room property, which he describes as “like a big, luxury dorm,” will facilitate connections between those who stay. Guests will do yoga under the ornate plaster ceiling of the former ballroom and, in Glasscock’s ideal world, come to dinner in their pajamas and robes. This new outpost offers a few additional treatments including colonics and energy healings — which incorporate techniques such as hypnosis and sound therapy. In winter, guests can sled or snowshoe, and in summer there’s paddleboarding on the lake. The Ranch has also relaxed a few of the restrictions: You can book three nights at the Hudson Valley property instead of the seven required in Malibu, and, in concession to the most common request of all, caffeine is no longer taboo — organic Nicaraguan coffee is served at breakfast in both locations.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Tiffany Chan, a 32-year-old dog owner based in Hong Kong. This essay has been edited for length and clarity. Business Insider verified Chan's receipts.
Japan, slightly smaller geographically than California, boasts a much wider array of activities and attractions than most countries its size. Technically a volcanic archipelago consisting of four main islands, almost four-fifths of Japan is covered with mountains. The Japanese Alps run down the center of the largest island, Honshu. The highest peak and Japan's most famous mountain is Mount Fuji, a cone-shaped volcano considered sacred by many Japanese.
A trip to Japan offers travelers a range of unforgettable experiences, from sampling the rich culinary heritage to discovering remnants of the country's samurai past. What you might not know is that Japan is also a prime destination for outdoor adventure sports. If you are into skiing fine powder snow or diving with sea turtles, hiking sacred peaks or heading off on rural bike rides, Japan has all that and more.
Travelers can't get enough of Japan, voted the best country in the world in the 2023 Readers' Choice Awards. But until now, remote workers looking to live and work on the alluring archipelago were limited to 90-day stays.
If you’re on the lookout for a truly sustainable safari experiences that combines animal welfare with an unforgettable, immersive travel experience, then check out the tours offered by InsideAsia Tours and InsideJapan Tours.
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