Forest clad valleys and rushing clear mountain rivers provide an excellent environment for refreshing the soul. Just soaking up these pristine vistas makes one feel invigorated and alive. But why not go one step further, and jump into the rivers to really spice up your holiday?
Minakami is a quaint Japanese-style resort about one hour from Tokyo on the Joetsu bullet train line. The return trip will cost you about 11,000 yen. Get off at Jomo Kogen station – the visitor information center is right in front. Minakami’s scenery changes enormously through the seasons – sakura blossom in spring, cool mountain summers, fire-red autumn leaves across mountains and valleys, and deep white powder snow in winter.
Photo: Jun Takeuchi on Flickr
Traditionally Minakami is a hot spring (Onsen) resort catering largely for weekend escapes for the worn out citizens of Tokyo. Minakami boasts 18 famous onsens, most of which are associated with traditional Japanese inns (ryokan). One can get a great night’s sleep on a futon atop Japanese straw tatami mats, after a refreshing soak in the hot pool. Some hot pools are outdoor (rotenburo), and some are mixed bathing. Tatsumikan ryokan offers spacious Japanese-style rooms overlooking the Tone river, and large segregated onsen baths for men and women.
Photo: Ken Schwarz on Flickr
Your ryokan stay and onsen soak will be particularly appreciated after a day on the slopes in the winter. Minakami has a number of excellent ski fields. These include Hodaigi Ski and Camping Area, Norn Minakami Ski Resort, Oana Ski Area, Okutone Snow Park (which also offers night skiing), and Tanigawa Dake Ropeway. Snowboarding and snowshoeing are also available.
Try Canyoning down this waterfall to really get your adrenaline pumping
Photo: koji fujimura on Flickr
In recent years outdoor adventure activities have blossomed in Minakami, adding further appeal for younger visitors. Rafting is a popular way of enjoying the river. Springtime affords the most exciting raft rides as snow melt swells the river level. For a different perspective on a river why not try canyoning? Your operator (Canyons) will harness you into a spectacular waterfall to enjoy the ride of your life. Or perhaps get an aerial river view by bungy-jumping from one of Minakami’s two new platforms? Try the 40m one first and then aspire to graduate to the 60m jump. Or for a real birds-eye view of Minakami, spread your wings and try tandem para-gliding at the Grand Volee School.
For more relaxed activity, kayak across one of Minakami's sparkling lakes.
To calm down a little after all this adrenaline, you could participate in one of Minakami’s workshops. Dole edutainment facility offers fruit picking and sampling experiences. Mizukikoukan is located at the entrance to Minakami onsen and here you can learn about freshwater fish close up. Nousanbutsu Kakou No Ie offers visitors the chance to make (and eat) soba noodles. Tsukiyono Vidro Park is 110 years old and here you can try your hand at making glass items. The glass factory has been in operation since the Meiji Period and has supplied chandeliers to the Imperial Palace and National Diet Building in Tokyo.
So head on up to Minakami to get your circulation and adrenaline pumping.