7 Day Spring Bike & Hike Adventure

The 2015 itinerary has been improved! It will not follow exactly as described below, so if you are interested in the Spring bike and hike trip, please contact us for an updated version.


After a long winter, every square kilometer of spring in Northern Nagano is overflowing with new life as the natural world emerges from beneath it's snowy cover - and the people emerge from their homes to begin planting rice and preparing their fields for the summer.

This program is designed to offer a perfect balance between bicycle touring, allowing you to see more of the beautiful Japanese country side, relaxed walking, cultural activities, and a hike to the top of one of Japan's most famous mountains. There is no better way to experience more of the rural Japan lifestyle

This program is run in and around the small country village of Sakae Mura in Northern Nagano Prefecture, where you will have an opportunity to focus on and get an in-depth picture of traditional rural Japanese life. Daily activities will give you an opportunity to get out into the village, meet the locals, interact, communicate, and relax.

While we understand the desire to "see it all", hitting every major tourist spot in Japan, we feel there is great value in seeing less, but seeing deeper. With Sakae village as a base, you will have an opportunity to relax as you ride and walk through some of the last remaining areas of Japan where they least expect a tourist to show up.

This ride contains some hills, as well as a hike up a relatively steep, yet gentle mountain. We know that anyone with an average level of fitness, and that is willing to push themselves can make it - no matter how many days hours they spend in front of a desk.


Northern Nagano is famous for its snow, vibrant spring, and rural lifestyle. The Akiyamago Vally is famous for its remoteness and unique culture that has survived a century of modernization. This trip will include

  • A small hot-spring village in Japan's Snow Country - choose from 13 hot springs, or visit them all.
  • A night in a 200+ year old farm house turned family inn, with a traditional dinner prepared by a local chef who recently returned home from his work in a five-star Tokyo restaurant.
  • Picking wild vegetables with the locals - a tradition in this area that, less then one-hundred years ago - meant life or death for the inhabitants of this small village.
  • Seeing the famous "Snow Monkeys" of Japan - the northern most living primates that do not wear clothing!
  • A visit to the last geta maker in Nagano (wooden sandal craftsman). Hear his story, watch him at work and have any of your questions answered.
  • Hot Spring baths every night - ranging from those only visited by the locals, to baths famous around Japan - but so remote that they receive very few visiors.
  • Get muddy as you plant rice the old fashioned way - by hand. You will also get a comprehensive explanation about the ins and outs of rice farming in Japan.
  • Spend a morning, or an afternoon, or both gathering wild vegetables and bamboo shoots for dinner.
  • Bear meat, wild pig, and other game from a local hunter, following the centuries old traditions of the matagi (roaming hunters of Japan)
  • Participation in the annual yama-biraki Shinto ceremony to open Mt. Naeba, and pray for safety for all who use the mountain for work and pleasure.
  • Climb snow-covered Mt. Naeba - one of Japan's 100 famous mountains - with a select group of local adventurers. Watch the sunset and rise from 2,000 meters.
  • Visit local museums depicting the hardships faced by early settlers of this remote, snow-bound region.
  • A supermarket tour where our facilitator and professional chef points out interesting foods and explains how they are used and their history.


The itinerary for this trip is tentative and may change due to weather or unexpected One Life opportunities. Contact One Life Japan for the most recent detailed itinerary.

Day 1

Distance: Between 20 - 30 km, mostly downhill.

Activities: Meet in Obuse, a small town near Nagano city. After a short walking tour, we will gear up and ride toward Nozawa Onsen hot-spring village where we spend the night in a 200 year-old traditional farmhouse made inn. This family run inn boasts a chef (the owner's son) who is a refugee from big city life and five-star restaurants in Tokyo. The village itself is home to eleven hot-spring baths - all within walking distance. While most people make it their goal to visit all eleven, our personal record is four in one night.

Day 2

Distance: Between 20 - 30 km, mostly downhill.

Activities: After a morning bath, try your hand at making paper - famous in this area because of the unique climate and some of the cleanest water in Japan. The afternoon will be filled with a ride along the banks of the Chikuma-gawa - Japan's longest river. You will arrive in Sakae Village with plenty of time to relax or explore on your own, followed by a bath in the most local of local hot-springs.

Day 3

Distance: Between 30 - 40 km on hilly terrain. The uphills are hard, but the downhills make it worth it!

Activities: After a breakfast made from locally grown vegetables and cheese from the local dairy, gear up for a facilitated afternoon ride through the village that holds the record for the deepest snow in Japan's recorded history - one of the snowiest inhabited regions in the world. Learn about life in the countryside and the challenges they have been facing as Japan moved from isolation in the Edo period, to the current globalized ecomony.

Day 4

Distance:About 50 km mostly uphill.

Activities: Ride deep into the Akiyamago Valley, famous for remoteness, and having been settled by samurai warriors who were on the loosing side of a civil war in the 8th century. This ride may be the most difficult of the tour, but we have all day, so no worries, right! ;P The night will be spent at a traditional bear-hunter's inn within walking distance from a unique red-bath with exceptional medical properties.

Day 5

Distance: Anywhere from 5 - 30 km on hilly terrain by bike or foot.

Activities: Explore the Akiyamago Valley on bike or foot. Hunt for wild vegetables with a local, visit the museums and traditional thatch-roof house, or just relax and read a book next to the irori fire pit. We will spend the night in a remote mountain-side lodge with its own hot-spring bath.

Day 6

Distance: A four - five hour hike on steep terrain.

Activities: >Participate in a Shinto ceremony to "open" Mt. Naeba, one of Japan's 100 famous mountains. After the festival and lunch with the locals, join a few intrepid soles who will make the first hike to the summit where you will watch the sunset from 2,000 meters. After the chilly sunset, retreat to the warm mountain-top hut for a hot camp-fire dinner and lots of sake.

Day 7

Distance: A 2 hour hike down, followed by up to 40km on bike, almost all downhill.

Activities: After a 5am sunrise wake-up call and a short nap later we will fuel up with a simple mountain-top breakfast. A short hike down the mountain to waiting bikes and a downhill cruise out of the valley and into the farming community below is where we say sayonara. You have the option of leaving on an afternoon train to arrive at your next location, or just relaxing and spending the last night in the village and catching an early morning train.

Pricing &Whats Included

Price per person:

The base price for this trip is 230,000 JPY


Bikes, gear, snacks, accommodation, 6 breakfasts, 7 dinners, most lunches, entrance fees, guides, support van, maps, photos. (See below for details.)

Does not include transportation to and from start and end points. Find travel options and costs here.

  • Bikes:

    Our cross touring and mountain bikes are selected to make your trip the most comfortable and enjoyable possible. Our frames are sturdy, stable, and light-weight, fitted with ultra-comfortable seats, handle bars and grips. Pannier saddle bags allow you to easily carry warm clothing, water, snacks, and any souvenirs you pick-up along the way.
  • Meals:

    Dinners, breakfasts, and most lunches are included. Perhaps the most important part of any trip to Japan is the food. While the well-known sushi and sukiyaki are available, we seek out local, traditional meals that have developed in the region over the centuries defining and being defined by the local culture and history. Wherever possible we choose fresh, local, organic ingredients grown by farmers we know - you will even get to meet some of them. Lunches will either be at local restaurants or luxurious picnics with macrobiotic, traditional vegetarian and zen foods overlooking beautiful mountain valleys.
  • Accommodation:

    Accommodations range from 200 year-old family run minshuku inns, mountain-top huts, and opportunities to stay in a local's home. Every night offers a hot-spring bath, comfortable traditional cotton yukata robe, and a oh-so-heavenly futon on a traditional straw tatami floor. Our main interest in choosing accommodation is the friendliness and openness of the owners. While they may not all speak English, we will be there when needed to translate and facilitate communication.
  • Entrance Fees:

    Most museums, baths, festivals, and other entrance fees are covered so you are free to go anywhere and do anything your wanderlust takes you.
  • Facilitators &Communicators:

    You have the option of riding with bilingual facilitators that have studied the area and culture and are anxious to share as much as you want to hear, and probably a lot you didn't even know you wanted to hear. (Of course, we will shut-up if you ask nicely). Alternatively, you can strike out on your own with scheduled meeting points. Either way, we will be available every step of the journey, whether you are trying to communicate with your host for the night, the old man at the vegetable stand, or trying to find a certain color of kimono for that perfect souvenir. We can also provide printed translations of important museum exhibits and explanation of various foods and interesting cultural artifacts found along the way.
  • Support Vehicle:

    Not only do we carry your luggage and have elaborate picnic lunches waiting at the perfect lookout point, but we also carry people when needed. If you would rather spend more time at a museum or napping on a mountain top while the rest of the group rides on, our support vehicle will help you catch up. Want to walk instead of ride? The support vehicle will take your bike to the next meeting point. Had enough up-hills for the day? Our support vehicle will carry you to the top leaving you to enjoy the cruise down.
  • Maps:

    Reading a map in Japanese can be a daunting task. We try to make it a little easier by adding some English where it makes sense, as well as important landmarks and points of interest. We even give you a pen to keep notes on the map of the one of a kind encounters and experiences you have along the way.
  • Getting There &Away

    Transportation Options

    Transportation to the start point is fastest by Shinkansen bullet train. Transportation from the end point to Tokyo and other destinations is available via JR trains, and a slightly faster bus/bullet train combo. Start time and location may vary slightly to accommodate all participants travel options. We will send a detailed itinerary once everything has been finalized.

OLJ Programs & Tours

OLJ Tour Basics

We believe in A Better Way

One Life Japan's goal is to promote the recognition and exploration of possibility - the possibility within ourselves and within society to create a better life.

Possibility is born with an awareness and understanding of the whole process of life - its vast expanse with all its subtleties, with its extraordinary beauty, its sorrows, its joys, and its challenges. This understanding is the first step to cultivating the capacity to think freely without culturally learned fears and formulas, to begin to answer for oneself what is real, and what is true.

We make use of the uniqueness, contrasts, and beauty of Japan's culture, nature, and history to introduce a holistic view, promoting an awareness of complexity, ecology, culture, and self.