Are you looking for some heart-pounding fun to enliven your Japanese experience?
From Tokyo’s ever-evolving city streets to Niigata’s unspoiled nature, Japan is full of activities that are sure to satisfy your inner adventurer. With Tokyo’s contrasting vibes of modernity and tradition, you can partake in experiences that encompass both state-of-the-art technology and age-old customs. In Niigata, exchange the urban environment for scenic landscapes, and craft an outdoorsy excursion that will nourish your mind and body.
ZERO LATENCY VR at Joypolis
To many, Tokyo stands as a city of the future—characterized by its endless high-rises, neon lights, modern conveniences, and impressive technologies. Experience this flashy reputation firsthand with a virtual reality (VR) experience at Joypolis, an indoor amusement park located in the high-tech entertainment district of Odaiba. The VR experience, called ZERO LATENCY VR, allows up to six people to play simultaneously in the world’s first free-roam VR attraction. The facility offers a variety of first-player shooting games where you can immerse yourself in fictional worlds like never before. Once you don the VR equipment, you will immediately forget you are in Tokyo and your sole focus will be survival. With options ranging from a futuristic space adventure to an apocalyptic zombie outbreak, the VR games are guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping!
Climbing Tokyo Tower’s Outdoor Staircase
Recognized as one of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks, Tokyo Tower is an icon in the city’s skyline. Completed in 1958, the broadcasting tower stood as a symbol of Japan’s rebirth after the war and was the country’s tallest freestanding tower until the completion of Tokyo Skytree in 2012. Among tourists, the 333-meter tall tower is most popular for its observation decks at both 150 and 250 meters, which offer stunning views of the cityscape and beyond. While most people ride an elevator to the 150-meter observation deck, you can also take a 600-step, open-air staircase. Enjoy the breeze and the satisfying ache in your legs as you wind up the vibrant orange structure! Take moments, to catch your breath and enjoy different perspectives of the city. In total, the walk takes between 12 to 15 minutes. You will receive a well-earned certificate documenting your trek, which Tokyo Tower only awards to people who have climbed the stairs! Given Tokyo Tower’s popularity, opting for the stairs is a great way to differentiate your experience.
Place yourself in the mind of one of Japan’s most renowned warriors with an exhilarating and authentic samurai course. The master sensei, Yoshioki Sumida, has been practicing swordsmanship for 26 years and is one of the two top ranking instructors at Toyama-ryu Iaido martial arts school. The two-hour experience starts with a jaw-dropping demonstration in which Sumida swiftly slices a rolled tatami mat into three sections in under one second! Then, Sumida provides a brief lecture about samurai combat techniques and types of Japanese swords (available in English). You can even hold a 400-year old katana. Next, you will don traditional training clothes and try swordsmanship firsthand. Practice sword forms, spar with Sumida, and even learn how to slice cleanly through a rolled tatami mat with a real sword. Once you connect with the coiled mat at just the right angle–like slicing through air—you will instantly feel a sense of accomplishment. Afterwards, Sumida gifts you a certificate to commemorate your training. Thanks to its immersive content, this samurai experience is a unique way to elevate both your heart rate and your Japanese adventure!
Ryuodo Cave: “Sado’s Blue Grotto”
Sado Island is a small isle located off Niigata’s western coast and is abundant in traditional and natural charm. In addition to its lush landscape, the island is also home to a collection of lava-formed caves—called the Kotoura Caves—on its southern tip. Of these seaside caves, the largest one, named Ryuodo Cave, has gained recognition among outdoors enthusiasts for its captivating scenery. Reminiscent of Italy’s “Blue Grotto,” Ryuodo Cave’s clear blue waters juxtaposed against its lava-imprinted rock formations make for mesmerizing visuals. Venture into this cave and admire its unique features up close with a kayaking tour hosted by the Ogi Diving Center. The friendly and knowledgeable staff provide all the necessary equipment, as well as paddling instructions, before leading you into the ocean waters. Despite the cave’s relatively close distance to the coast, its presence feels isolated and mystical. Inside, the cave’s cool temperatures and silent atmosphere provide an enchanting escape from summer’s heat. Follow the call of adventure as you paddle through the crystal waters, and bask in the thrill of exploration.
Cycling Around Lake Kamo
Inhale the refreshing breeze and explore Sado Island with a bicycle rental from Sado Outdoor Base, located beside the scenic Lake Kamo. The facility offers both cross and e-bike rental options, allowing you to personalize your excursion based on your preferred activity level. Given its location, Sado Outdoor Base is an excellent starting point for a tour around Lake Kamo and the waterside community. Recognized as Niigata’s largest lake and one of the 100 Landscapes of Japan, Lake Kamo offers natural beauty year-round. Follow the lake’s cycling path, and enjoy captivating views of the distant lakeside town silhouetted by lush mountains. As the massive lake is also renowned for its oyster farming, which began in the 1930s, the surrounding fishing community is filled with quaint seaside vibes and traditional architecture. During or after your exploration, be sure to stop by caMoco café 湖ASOBi to recharge with sweet or savory treats along the water.
Swimming at Masudomari (Uono River)
Masudomari, located in southeastern Niigata and a part of the Uono River, is not a spot you will find among the prefecture’s known tourist destinations. This hidden gem is a cherished spot for locals and a frequent retreat during the summer months. Characterized by its crystal waters, lush encircling nature, rocky river banks, and small waterfall, Masudomari is a popular swimming spot largely untouched by tourism. With the sounds of nature around you, glide through the clear waters and rejuvenate your mind and body in the gentle environment. No matter how you choose to spend your time, Masudomari is an excellent off-the-beaten-path spot to mindfully move your body amid Niigata’s nature. Please note that this area is not supervised by trained personnel. Therefore, it is important to exercise caution while swimming.