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Eugene Teal Surf School & Clubhouse
Catchin’ a wave, hangin’ ten, wipeout... You’ve heard the lingo—now it’s time to put your feet where your mouth is, and get out to sea on a real live surfboard. To avoid spending your day swimming with the fishes, one of Japan’s top surfers, Eugene Teal, is on hand to donate his pearls of wisdom to your aquatic armory. The Hawaiian native was the Japan Pro Surfing Association’s longboard champion in 2005 and 2011, and has over ten years’ experience teaching newcomers both here and in his home country.
Teal’s surf school and clubhouse in Onjuku, on the Chiba coast, caters to amateurs and killer boarders alike. Test the waters with a two-hour beginner class, just ¥8,000 including surfboard and wetsuit rental. Wizened surfers can improve their skills with a one-on-one “level up” session with the maestro himself (¥6,000 for two hours; students must bring their own equipment). Or try your hand at the newest water-sports sensation, stand up paddling (SUP), where surfers stand upright on their boards and steer with a long paddle (¥8,000 including board, wetsuit and paddle rental).

For a weekend getaway, the clubhouse offers overnight accommodation for just ¥2,000 (¥2,500 during July and August; ¥3,500 during Golden Week). Surfers who don’t need a lesson can still take advantage of the board (¥4,000/day, ¥3,000/half day) and suit rentals (¥2,000/day, ¥1,500/half day) offered at the shop.

809 Iwawada, Onjuku-machi, Isumi-gun, Chiba. Tel: 0470-68-5488. Email: etsurf@hotmail.co.jp. Nearest stn: Onjuku. www.kanaloa7.tv/teal

Evergreen Outdoor Center
Since 2000, Evergreen has been a leader in outdoor recreational activities, ecology tours and mountain-safety courses in the Nagano region, with a full menu of safe, sustainable and professional year-round programs. Evergreen’s staff are focused on making every experience a safe and memorable one. The friendly and professional bilingual guides are passionate about taking you along a path of excitement, personal challenges, teamwork and outdoor immersion.

Hakuba is the gateway to Japan’s Northern Alps; it has massive peaks, fantastic, clear blue lakes and fresh, flowing mountain streams. Whether you’re after a relaxed day canoeing on the lake, a challenging day of cross-country mountain biking, or wet and wild adventures in Kamoshika Canyon, you’ll come away with experiences not easily forgotten.

Evergreen’s summer camps for children are the ultimate get-away for kids keen on serious fun. Find out about the variety of camps on offer throughout the summer for children aged 8-16. Many corporate groups around the country have come to see the benefit of Evergreen’s team-building programs, too. These exhilarating and inspiring activities can create a foundation of trust and communication that will pave the way for a group to achieve its goals together in the future.

So, when you fancy escaping the frantic urban pace during the summer months, head to Hakuba and join Evergreen for some epic adventures in the Japan Alps.

4377 Happo-One, Hakuba-mura, Nagano. Tel: 0261-72-5150. Email: tours@evergreen-outdoors.com. www.evergreen-hakuba.com

Forest Adventure
In three stunning locations not far from Tokyo, Forest Adventure can unleash your wildest natural fantasies while consolidating a wholesome and natural relationship with your surrounding environment.

Crazy capers include zip lines stretching over 100m, Tarzan swings that fly you from tree to tree, and dizzying canopy walks with rope ladders. However, these high jinks have no harmful effects on the local environment; Forest Adventure places natural harmony at the top of its list of priorities, so that kids and adults can have a fun—and guilt-free—outdoors experience.

The Mt. Fuji location lies just ten minutes from Kawaguchiko IC on the Chuo Expressway by car. The adventure course is available to anyone aged 10 or older, or over 140cm tall, while the canopy course is open to anyone over 110cm tall. In Odawara—only ten minutes from the station by car or bus—you can immerse yourself in an immense forest with 300-year-old trees overlooking a gorgeous stream. The courses there are open to kids aged six and older, and over 110cm tall. Finally, hit up Hakone just 12 minutes away from Hakone-Yumoto station by foot, or two minutes via the free shuttle bus. This park, in the heart of Hakone, offers a full course to anyone aged 10 or older, or over 140cm tall. Reserve for any of these activities online or by phone.

Mt. Fuji 8545-1, Fujisan, Narusawa-mura, Minami-Tsurugun, Yamanashi. Tel: 090-3345-0970. Email: fuji@foret-aventure.jp

Odawara 4391 Kamenokouyama, Kuno, Odawara-shi, Kanagawa. Tel: 080-4330-4030. Email: odawara@foret-aventure.jp

Hakone 749-1 Chanohana, Yumoto, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. Tel: 080-4219-2206. Email: hakone@foret-aventure.jp. www.foret-aventure.jp

Gakuto Villas, Hakuba
Though Hakuba, of 1998 Nagano Olympics fame, is primarily known as one of the best winter ski holiday destinations in Japan, most have yet to experience its fabulous greener side. In fact, there are more activities on offer there during the summer months than in the colder “white season.” Come spring, Hakuba comes to life. It sheds its snowy blanket and the beautiful mountains become a haven for those fleeing to the cool, crisp air of the Japanese Alps.

Gakuto Villas lies in the peaceful, tree-lined Wadano Mori at the base of Happo One, the largest winter ski area and the hub of summer activity. Now finishing its second winter season, each eco-chic villa is in impeccable condition. Self-catering facilities and a charming living and dining area provide a flexible living space adaptable to your needs whether you are visiting with your family, friends—or even your work colleagues. With fabulous restaurants within walking distance, you’ll have plenty of excellent dining opportunities. You can also make the most of the gorgeous summer nights around a BBQ; a firm favorite of the locals—and the Gakuto Villas staff, too.

So to lie back in the sunshine with a juicy novel, soak your muscles in a local onsen, or burn off some energy hiking or biking among the stunning peaks, Gakuto Villas is your perfect countryside escape in Hakuba.

Hokujyo, Hakuba-mura, Kitaazumi-gun, Nagano. Tel: +813-4577-3310. Email: gakutovillas@create-living.com. www.gakutovillas.com

Harbor Circuit
Get your pulse racing, regardless of the weather, at this indoor kart paradise. Harbor Circuit is based on similar venues in the UK—the home of indoor karting. First-timers shouldn’t worry as all gear is rentable and you don’t even need a driver’s license. All you need is a spark of curiosity.

Anyone over 130cm tall—regardless of age—can hop into the Sodi RX-7, with a Honda GX270 engine, made by France’s premier kart maker. Seats and pedals are adjustable for your comfort. There is also a kart tailored for twelves and under. Mounted with the Honda GX160 engine, the Funkid is chain-driven, meaning it runs quietly to keep those little ears intact.

A real-time ranking system allows groups of friends or family to compete, and individuals to smash their personal best. Regular endurance races and time trials are open to the public.

Safety is a top priority, with crash prevention brake lamps, and coverings on engines and mufflers to prevent burns. This all makes it easier to fly round Harbor Circuit’s pumping course layout, complete with a flying junction and tunnel. Sharp corners and twisty turns test even the most experienced drivers. But it’s beginner friendly, too—though you won’t fly round first time, completing the course will bring satisfaction, as well as relieving stress—and even provides a measure of exercise. Once you try, you’ll be hooked.

2F Harbor Circuit, Chiba Sports Plaza, 13-26 Dezuminato, Chuo-ku, Chiba. Tel: 043-441-3243 (Japanese only). Email: mail@harbor-circuit.com. Open Mon-Fri, 2-11:30pm, Sat 11am-11:30pm, Sun 11am-9:30pm (final admission 30 min before closing). Cash only. Nearest stn: Honchiba. www.harbor-circuit.com.

Nozawa holidays
Though famous for its slopes, Nozawa Onsen in Nagano is the perfect year-round destination. Come in the green season for mountain hikes, followed by a relaxing soak in one of many free onsen baths around the village. For something more adventurous, try mountain biking, Chikuma River canoeing, or hitting the golf course and adventure center in the nearby Madarao Resort. From mid-July until end of August, put your bike on the main gondola to get a lift to the top—and cruise down at your own pace.

Nozawa Holidays owns and operates four fine places to stay in the area. Lodge Nagano is open all year, and provides a fantastic base for hiking through the surrounding mountains and visiting the village. Alpine Villa Nozawa, open December through May, is a ski and snowboard lodge with spacious Japanese-style rooms. For a private escape, pick Nozawa House, a beautiful wooden holiday home hidden in the tranquil forest. It’s just the ticket for school holidays, a romantic getaway, corporate event, or just a sweet, relaxing weekend. They are also open throughout Golden Week for some prime spring skiing.

Nozawa Onsen village, with its traditional charm, amazing food and friendly people, is inviting at any time of year—and just three hours from Tokyo. Don’t miss August’s Run and Bike Festival (http://runandbike.jp/rbinnozawa). Get a video taste of Nozawa Onsen at http://vimeo.com/39454520.

Tel: 050-5532-6026. Email: lodgenagano@gmx.net. Skype: markbaum. Nearest stn: Togari Nozawa Onsen or express bus from Nagano. www.nozawaholidays.com and www.lodgenagano.com.

The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum
As a bonsai points upward, so should those with an interest in the minature tree head north of Tokyo. Where else should the world’s first publicly-run bonsai museum be opened but in Saitama City, where the culture of bonsai growing is designated a traditional industry? Folks have long come from around the world to this district where famous growers hone their leafy wares, to take in the natural surroundings, talk to experts, and buy some specimens for their own collections.

Now, the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum has now been established to promote and develop this culture, and thereby consolidate Saitama’s status as the home of bonsai in Japan.

The collection of the former Takagi Bonsai Museum of Art forms the nucleus of the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, with bonsai pots, beautifully shaped stones—known as suiseki—that were traditionally used as decorations for some juicy garden-based chin stroking—and paintings, including ukiyo-e woodblock prints, all depicting everyone’s favorite potted plants. The museum is also taking on the grand aim of systematically collecting and publishing documents related to the wonderful world of the diminutive trees, including history, folklore, growing techniques, and more.

English, Chinese and Korean headphone guides are available, in order to make international visitors feel at home and discover the arcane Japanese art with ease.

¥100-300, group discounts available. 2-24-3 Toro-cho, Kita-ku, Saitama. Tel: 048-780-2091. Open Mar-Oct Fri-Wed 9am-4:30pm & Nov-Feb 9am-4pm (last entrance 30 mins before), closed Thu (except hols), New Year and between exhibitions. Nearest stn: Toro. www.bonsai-art-museum.jp

Immerse yourself in nature’s beauty while luxuriating in your own private onsen at Seikansou, one of Kanagawa’s premier Japanese-style inns. Just 90 minutes by limited express train from Shinjuku, this elegantly appointed nine-room ryokan offers guests a truly sublime experience every time. Five of the rooms come with an outdoor rotenburo bath, many of which enjoy sweeping views of Mt. Yusaka and surroundings. You will find there’s nothing quite like relaxing in healing thermal waters while taking in the stunning vistas of the natural landscape. And whatever the season, you’re guaranteed something special. Enjoy the verdant greens of spring and summer, seas of red and yellow leaves in autumn, and the mist drifting lazily off the surface of the water in winter. 

Hakone is famous for its forests, mountains, and hot springs, and Seikansou can make a fine base to explore the local area—though with all the comforts on offer, you might well just stay in the ryokan. Exquisite, multi-course meals are served in the comfort of your room, after which guests can enjoy a late-night drink at the bar.

Seikansou also has a communal footbath with mountain views, a free internet terminal and a concierge service providing sightseeing information. Rooms start at ¥26,150 per person (plus a ¥150 bath tax). Seikansou is based just 15 minutes walk from Hakone-Yumoto station, or one minute on the local bus (¥100).

19 Yumoto-chaya, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. Tel: 0460-85-5795. Check in: 3pm; check out: 11am. Nearest stn: Hakone-Yumoto. www.seikansou.jp