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Destination Japan

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There’s mountain biking in Japan?

When you think of mountain biking destinations, Japan isn’t one of the first places that comes to mind. In a country where 70 percent of the landscape is covered in mountains this is surprising. Great geography delivers potential, however, it doesn’t always guarantee great trails. Being adventurers and bike riders the allure of investigating the country’s trail potential led us to explore what was hidden in the Japanese Alps.

Japan is a country shrouded in mystery and this is true of the Japanese mountain bike scene as well. While mountain biking is growing in Japan it is very much still at the grass roots level. Backcountry trail locations are tightly held secrets, local shredders tend to hide away from any attention in an attempt to keep trails under wraps but things are slowly changing. It is true that to get the most out of a mountain biking trip to Japan you need someone to show you around and this is probably why Japan has remained off the radar for a lot of mountain bikers and this is still part of what makes riding in Japan so special.

Contemplating the endless trail potential in Japan

Japanese mountain bike parks

A handful of Japanese ski resorts have realised the benefits of mountain biking in terms of generating year round revenue and Fujiten, Fujimi Panorama and Hakuba Iwatake mountain bike parks are shining examples of Japan’s best bike parks. Each park has its own unique character, from the black volcanic soil of Fujiten to the high speed runs and tech of Fujimi Panorama, to possibly one of the best ‘green’ flow trails I’ve ever ridden at Hakuba Iwatake. These bike parks provide a taste of what Japan has to offer. Japanese trail builders focus on speed and flow and these mountain bike parks deliver fun and stupid grins in bucket loads. With relatively small numbers of local riders the trails are kept in pristine condition so you won’t find many brake ruts on the trails even at the end of the season.

The black volcanic dirt and natural berms of Fujiten bike park

Backcountry flow trails

While the bike parks deliver one style of riding in Japan, it is the secret back country natural flow trails that will really blow your mind. Starting from high up in the alpine regions, these natural flow trails twist and turn down the mountainside delivering hundreds of metres of vertical descent. These trails have been carved into the mountain side over centuries of use, like natural dirt half pipes forming berms and natural features to play on the whole way down. Brown powder covers the trails begging you to push harder and harder into every turn offering seemingly limitless amounts of grip. Temples, castle ruins, shrines and onsens along the trails make great places to stop and soak up the scenery.

 

Riding these trails with the locals opened up a whole new perspective to trail riding for us. Riding aggressively and attacking corners is replaced with taking wide sweeping lines while scanning the trail for any natural feature to boost becomes all consuming. Japanese riders ride hard and fast but with a truly unique style that shows respect for the trails.

The trailside distractions only add to the experience

The Japanese Experience

A trip to Japan is more than just riding great trails. Every time we visit Japan we experience something different that blows us away. Japanese food is always high on most travellers list of top experiences while in Japan. I could write a whole post on how good the food is and what you have to try so I’ll save that for another day. We love living like the locals and are gradually making our way through the incredible variety of food available at “konbini” – convenience stores. Most of us wouldn’t want to spend too long in our local Seven-Eleven but in Japan that is a completely different story. Serving Ramen, bento, gyoza and surprisingly good coffee you could work your way around Japan relying entirely on konbini. We don’t rely soley on convenience stores for sustenance but you can imagine how good restaurants are if the local Seven-eleven dishes out quality food!

 

As we are bike riders and adventurers Japan offered too many options for us not to make the effort to explore what it had to offer. Japan really is one of those mountain biking destinations that is too good not to share and that is why we worked hard to develop a mountain bike adventure that you can experience too without the time and hassle of trying to find trails. Check out the website for more information and book your next mountain bike adventure with League of Trail.

How often do you get to finish a day of epic mountain bike trails with a view like this?

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