The Japanese love of Hot Springs, or "onsen" is inseparable from the national character. People will gladly travel many hours just for the chance to have a soak in one of the many thousands of hot springs throughout this volcanic country. The "onsen" experience, like so many things in Japan, is a multilayered experience. Some hot springs form the focal point for a whole tour...
A boundless range of other activities can be found in Hakuba and area, from canyoning to paragliding to rafting to kayaking to canoeing, arts and crafts and more!
The Nagano Prefecture area and beyond offer a variety of sightseeing opportunities, from the laid back ambiance of Matsumoto, with it's justly famed Matsumoto Castle, to he beauty of Zenkouji Temple in Nagano City, to the resort shopping town feel of Karuizawa...and more.
There are many hiking opportunities around the Hakuba area, ranging from challenging multiday hikes to ones that are more suited to the "strolling". The one constant is views of the Japanese Alps and the surrounding countryside that is sure to soothe the soul.
Japan is a cyclist's paradise in a number of respects. Forgetting the highways for a moment, it is a country of well kept roads, many of them with very light traffic (thanks to those highways!) which lead you through blissful scenery and villages where time seems to have stopped, or at least has slowed down a bit, with a refreshment stop or lodging for the night never more than a few km...
Hakuba can be your base for many fascinating day trips, on the way up or back from the major centres, or to break up your ski vacation.
I've been convinced for a long time that by bicycle is the best way to travel. It gives you enough range to visit some distant places, yet allows you to go at a pace where you can stop and take it all in as well.
Though I've been lucky enough to cycle many of Japan's mountain highways and byways, I had never taken the chance to go "off road" until recently. My original reasons for loving cycling hold true for the mountain bike as well… it allows you to reach a breadth of beautiful backcountry area you wouldn't necessarily be able to get to all in one day on foot, and still allows you to stop and admire the view when the feeling strikes you. Oh, and not to mention, the thrill of testing your skill and concentration while hurtling around rocks, tree roots and brush on the descent!
Karey from Sweetriders coached me along on my first day out. A pro rider, with a number of Japan Down Hill titles under her belt, her Instruction was top notch. A perfect mix of focusing on the fundamentals, while encouraging us to find our own comfort zone, it led to an extremely t enjoyable day out along some beautiful trails in Iwatake and Sanosaka, along the Hakuba valley.
Sweetriders lead a number of mountainbike clinics, "free rides" and events in the Hakuba and Nagano area. Feel free to ask for more details, or contact Karey directly as it is her passion to spread the love of mountain biking in Japan.