As a sister race to the UTMB, insane climbs are to be expected from the Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji. In fact, there’s over 24,500 feet of elevation gain to tackle as you circumnavigate the mountain, making it one of the most challenging events on the Ultra Trail World Tour. After the race, there’s plenty to do in and around Fujikawaguchiko. Besides hanging out on the shores of Lake Kawaguchi, you can go hiking in Aokigahara forest, take a cable car up to striking panoramic views, and experience some of the world’s largest and fastest roller coasters at Fuji-Q Highland.
Niseko United is a collection of four ski resorts – Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Hanazono, and Annupurri – all situated on the same volcano, known for its heavy accumulations of fluffy, dry powder. While most of Niseko is more deep than steep, you can still get some advanced runs in off the Niseko Village gondola. While it’s tempting to hit the sake and sushi as soon as you leave the slopes, make sure to carve out some evenings for night skiing. It’s increasingly rare for resorts to stay open after sundown, but Grand Hirafu does it every night.
Rishiri-zan (5,650 ft) is a conical volcano that seems to rise directly from the sea. It sits on a tiny island less than 40 miles in circumference. Despite its size, there are endless backcountry routes to explore, catering to a range of abilities. Summit approaches from the south and west tend to have better snow while being steeper and more technical. Approaches from the north tend to be better for intermediate skiers. However you get there, the summit offers rare 360° views of the sea that you won’t soon forget. If you don’t want to make the haul to Rishiri Island, you can find excellent backcountry skiing on Hokkaido’s main island. Mount Tokachi (6,800 ft) offers a mix of alpine terrain and tree skiing, and it is known for having some of the deepest powder in Japan. Another good option is Mount Yotei (6,250 ft), where you can make a 450-foot descent into the crater at its summit. It takes 5 to 8 hours to skin up and the ski descent is 4,950 feet, so make sure you have some energy reserves before dropping in.
Jigokudani Monkey Park is a unique place near Nagano where you can see Japanese macaques in their natural environment. What’s special about these wild monkeys is their love for bathing in natural hot springs – called onsens. It’s hard to describe the wonder you’ll feel from seeing these monkeys swim and play, just like children. Visiting Jigokudani is a rare opportunity to connect with another species in a way that will make you question how different we really are.
You might not think of Japan as a tropical locations, but the islands of Okinawa will change your mind at first glance. Your only troubles in this beautiful region will be deciding which of its 100 islands to visit. The two most popular clusters are the Kerama Islands, near Naha, and the islands near Ishigaki. Within the Kerama Islands, Tokashiki is known for having the brightest, bluest water and world-class snorkeling sites. Among the Ishigaki cluster, Iromote Jima is considered the best place to go kayaking, while Kuro Jima is the best place to snorkel, since it’s surrounded by the largest coral reef in Japan.
The Sapporo Snow Festival is held each year in February in the capital of Hokkaido. It’s one of the most popular wintertime events in Japan, featuring snow and ice sculptures of astonishing scale. There are also fun side events, like snow slides and snowball fights.
The Kurama Fire Festival is an annual reenactment of a unique ceremony held in the year 940 AD, after an earthquake struck Kyoto and a shrine was moved to nearby Mount Kurama to protect the city. Each year on October 22, villagers carry huge flaming torches through Kurama in a burning parade. The event includes a Shinto ceremony and ends around Yuki Shrine with a large bonfire.