I had always wanted to ride in Japan, however, had never found a reason to go. KC Deane had brought up the idea to go in October and experience the fall colours in addition to what Japan’s trails had to offer.

For those that don’t know, Japan is a world famous destination for winter sports. KC has been traveling to the Nagano region for the past decade and he was confident that the area would be perfect for mountain biking also. He was right.

Finally finding a window that would work with our busy schedules, we booked our tickets and were promptly on our way across the Pacific Ocean. The flight was smooth and easy. An eight hour direct nap from Vancouver, B.C. and we were on the other side of the ocean.


Geoff Gullivich KC Deane Scott Secco Navigating Tokyo station with bikes and luggage
Geoff Gulevich, KC Deane, Scott Secco Navigating Tokyo station with bikes and luggage.

Landing in the evening, we gathered our gear and headed for the subway system. Due to our flight coming in late, we had only minutes to sprint through the streets and to our train. Luckily it was late and the transit crowd was scarce. During rush hour, we wouldn’t have had a chance with bike bags and luggage. The trains are often crammed and ready to burst open with the local commuters. Fortunately, the train system is very efficient and easy to use for visitors.


Geoff Gullivich KC Deane Scott Secco Navigating Tokyo station with bikes and luggage
Geoff Gulevich looking worse for wear after a long flight.

Finally, we arrived in Myoko to be greeted with long-time friend of KC, who had guided and translated for him in past adventures to the region. We stumbled into the Hotel Kougakuro late in the night, only to wrestle our gear to our rooms and crash out after 18 hours of travel. The rooms were beautiful traditional Japanese layouts. A Zen like environment, with beds on the floor and tables to cross your legs at. Perfect after a long journey or day in the famous mountain resort.

Geoff Gulevich KC Deane Mountain Biking in Myoko
Geoff Gulevich, KC Deane build their bikes for the big trip ahead.

dinner at Hotel Kougakuro
Japanese delicacies result in human-snail stare-offs.

Due to the jet-lag we all woke up quite early, made our way to breakfast and to form a plan for the first few days of our trip. The Hotel staff were so gracious and welcoming, preparing a wonderful spread of fresh eggs, fruit, and coffee. Ohhhh coffee, nothing would have been accomplished without you.

We spent the next hour in the ski room, building our bikes and working the kinks out after travel. We loaded our gear and drove around Myoko to see what the town had to offer. We were out in rural Japan, where the little towns are lost in the mountains and full of lush Fall coloured forests.

Geoff Gulevich KC Deane Mountain Biking in Myoko
KC Deane and Gully take a moment to absorb the Japanese architecture.


KC Deane Mountain Biking in Myoko
KC Deane cruising through Mount Myoko's corners.

Japanese trail marker prayer
Even the trail marker prayers are built with purpose and passion.

The next two days we traveled all over Mount Myoko to explore the bike park and the trails much higher above. The bike park consisted of a muddy downhill track through the tall grass fields. The dirt had a clay texture to it, that made off camber riding very exciting. It was mostly off camber. Deciding to move higher on the hill to less traveled areas, we found the most beautiful Fall colours. Reds, oranges, yellows, and greens blending together to create a visual cocktail of water paint colours. Canopies so thick, they tunneled the trails and make them feel like natural waterslides.

Geoff Gulevich KC Deane Mountain Biking in Myoko
Coming out of the foggy gondola and into full excitement mode.

KC Deane takign a break while Mountain Biking in Myoko Japan
KC needing a quick fiver after hiking his bike up Mount Myoko.

KC Deane Mountain Biking in Myoko
KC Deane's pretty eyes were no match for the beauty of Japan's Fall colours.


We scaled our way down Mount Myoko to find ourselves at a beautiful Onsen (Hot spring) that had been framed up as a pool, between two large waterfalls. An indescribably perfect way to wrap up the day long mission we had been on. Once we managed to climb out of the onsen we made our way straight to sushi because that’s what you do in Japan…

Japan is a hotspot for volcanic activity and as a result, boasts more than 3000 freshwater baths. Most onsen's require bathers to disrobe completely. There’s also a strict “no tattoo” policy in most traditional baths. However, when in remote locations with an onsen to yourself, do your thing. I have plenty of tattoos and had no issues in the mountains. In the city, I did not attempt to visit the pools, out of respect.

Geoff Gulevich KC Deane Mountain Biking in Myoko
Gully and KC drop into Mount Myoko Bike Park.
Geoff Gulevich Mountain Biking in Myoko
Geoff Gulevich enjoying the mountain onsen between two waterfalls after the group had to hike down most of an unrideable "trail".


The following day we had an early warning that a typhoon was moving in. 200 mm's of water to sideline us for the next two days. If you’re from the West Coast, you’re used to the rain anyway. It wasn’t much to worry about. However, the trails in Myoko would turn to a much more unrideable condition. We decided to be productive and make our way over the mountain pass and into Nozawa Onsen.


KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen Japan
The boys exploring the village of Nozawa Onsen.

Geoff Gulevich KC Deane Mountain Biking in Myoko
Geoff and KC turning a hiking trail into a dual slalom track.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
Shredding possibly one of the best natural trail corners of all time.

Nozawa Onsen is a ski village and a weekend getaway for the Japanese. Often you smell sulphur in the air from all the thermal activity producing onsen's, that send warm water down most of the creeks and rivers around the village. It is generally a warm and lush area but you would never know considering its reputation of record amounts of snowfall every winter.


KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
KC and Gully soaking their feet in a public onsen after a day of pedaling.

KC Deane mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
KC weaving through the trees with precision.

We found ourselves at the Shirakaba Hotel whose owners had three sons; All of which were phenomenal skiers and had made professions out of it. Two of which loved to mountain bike also. They connected us with the local riding crew, who became our guides for the week.
The Shirakaba Hotel had a beautiful café attached, where we spent all of our mornings. Enjoying some the best coffee of the trip, this is where we created the day’s plan and became friends with the hotel’s family.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich and the Compass House crew
KC and Geoff bonding with the Compass House mountain bike crew in front of one of the larger temples.

Take Ueno owner of Compass House
Take Ueno owner of Compass House.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen Japan
KC and Geoff trying not to get lost in the morning fog of Nozawa Onsen.

Nozawa turned out to be our gold mine. We were shown some incredible trails, through the ski hill and around the small town. Smooth, loamy and natural trails zigzagged down the hill through Buddhist temples that stand tall in the woods. These temples are hundreds of years old, made of precision cut pieces of stone and lumber; each one crafted and placed with reason. The woodwork was shaped so beautifully, it steals your attention in a drawn out feeling of awe.


KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
Getting a wheels on perspective of these beautiful structures.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
Gulevich turning things up with little body english.

KC Deane mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
KC Deane coming in hot on the greasiest section of trail.

Geoff Gullivich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
Trails go literally right beside the beautiful temples of Nozawa Onsen.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
The hike to a prayer spot quickly turned into wanting lunch and a Japanese obstacle course to get there.


Exploring a new part of Nozawa every day, we saw terrain that was better than the last. The weather wasn’t in our favour for most of the trip but somehow seemed work out for us just in time. The moisture in the clay filled dirt lead to a handful of hilarious crashes. After surviving the slip and slide called Nozawa, we packed our bags for the last time of the trip and headed for the center of the earth, Tokyo.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
Keeping the train tight on our favourite trail.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
The eerie fog made the trails very tricky to navigate but stunning to view.

Shinto Shrine
Uhhhh... no photos allowed...

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
Gully taking advantage of the delicious street side snacks.

The train system was definitely much busier this time and we were “those idiots” taking up all the space with our gear… Sorry Japan…
After that bit of chaos, we were able to drop off our bags at the Prince Hotel, which was very conveniently next to the train system. Quickly polishing up, we made our way into the Tokyo night.

KC Deane in the Tokyo Subaway
KC Deane recharging his energy level before a big night in Tokyo.

Tokyo is the home to roughly 13.6 million people with an additional 13.4 million visitors every year. It is a lot to take in. From the bright neon signs that fill the skies, the vast amounts of people flooding the streets and the wonderful smells of local restaurants. It is a lot for your brain to process. Sensory overload.

Shibuya
The crowd flow in Shibuya is indescribable in words. You can see the street shut down at every red light, hundreds, maybe even a thousand people cross in every which direction.

Our first stop was a downstairs hole in the wall sushi joint, literally did not have a name. For only twenty dollars, you can stuff yourself silly with the best sushi you will ever have. You can’t go wrong with a choice in restaurant as they are all amazing. Next, we made our way to Robot Restaurant, in the Shinjuku district. If you haven’t heard of it, you should definitely look it up and then go, just for that reason. Imagine twenty girls dressed up, hammering on Suzuki drums while giant animatronic robots battling for ninety minutes. Lasers, robots, music… What else do you want?


Robot Restaurant
Robot Restaurant in all its glory.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich at Robot Restaurant
KC and Geoff try to not look like tourists...

Robot Restaurant
The lounge before the main show was filled with futuristic tunes and sake. Lots of sake.

Geoff Gullivich at Robot Restaurant
Geoff Gulevich getting over excited to see robots.

Robot Restaurant
It ramps up slowly....

Robot Restaurant
The Suzuki drums begin to thunder...

Robot Restaurant
Then there's lasers!

Robot Restaurant
And finally your brain explodes...


The following morning, we woke up with a bit under the weather, for some reason… Went to the Tokyo fish market. A legendary spot, where thousands of people and all the top restaurants come to bid on the catches of the day. The energy was incredible. You can find almost anything in the world you could ever want here.

Finally, we cruised back to the hotel, grabbed our gear and made our way to the airport. We were beat. It had been a long exciting trip and our energy levels were depleted. We sprawled out in the corner of the airport lounge we commandeered and reflected on the time we had spent in this beautiful country. The weather wasn’t perfect, the riding took some creativity but the overall time spent in the East was rich of culture, amazing people and unbelievable experiences.

It was time to go further east, back to the West.

KC Deane Geoff Gulevich mountain biking in Nozawa Onsen
KC and Gully say "Sayonara, Japan!"



MENTIONS: @Gulevich87 / @KCDeane / @Gunder / @scottsecco



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Japan

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62 Comments

  • + 41
 This looks amazing, I really like the contrast of the ancient peaceful forest and trails vs the crazy robot sensory overload. Looks like a good time.
  • - 8
flag RedRedRe (Nov 18, 2016 at 8:30) (Below Threshold)
 Some of these are sacred areas. May look cool, but it is like riding the bike in a cemetery for us.
  • + 36
 @RedRedRe: KC and I have been to Japan 10 times and have become very close friends with the local riders in each location. Many of whom were our guides on this trip. Every where we road was not only 100% legal but we where actually encourage to ride each of these locations by our local guides / friends. Our goal on every trip we go on is to get invited back, so I can assure you we did nothing dissrespectful.
  • - 15
flag RedRedRe (Nov 18, 2016 at 9:01) (Below Threshold)
 @Gunder: I ensure you some of these pictures could be published on a Japanese site that advocates for closing the borders. If your friends and guide were ok with it, it does not mean it is ok with the 99.9% of people.
  • + 6
 @RedRedRe: You can use that same argument with any trail riding shot here at home with people that do not want to accept biking. When traveling I always default to the locals for what is allowed / acceptable. In this case we shown these locations by locals and where encouraged by them to ride everywhere we we rode. Biking was 100% allowed everywhere we rode and we were encouraged by the local authorities as well.
  • + 9
 @Gunder: Dont bother, this guy is a troll. As someone who is part Japanese and has been there many times- you did nothing even remotely wrong.
  • - 19
flag RedRedRe (Nov 18, 2016 at 9:46) (Below Threshold)
 @Gunder: it has nothing to do with bikes. I m just telling you it is like shooting the videos of photos at 9/11 memorial. I lived in Japan for 10 years.
  • - 17
flag RedRedRe (Nov 18, 2016 at 9:49) (Below Threshold)
 @Joebro1995: really you are "part" japanese but have no clue of the culture or speak japanese? Maybe you are the troll.
  • + 15
 @RedRedRe: You sound like a fun guy
  • + 17
 @RedRedRe: @RedRedRe: Red Bull runs a downhill race at a temple in Kyoto.
Their feet are in a foot onsen, it is made for sticking your feet in it,
Please don't get your panties in a bunch.
宜しくお願い致します。
  • + 2
 @dirtybikejapan: it is not made to wash your feet. I stand correct on all accounts, besides all the thumbs down. Read the comment of an acutal japanese person "below the threshold".
  • + 15
 Aaaand the bucket list grows once again
  • + 2
 Such a cool place. I was blown away by Japan and want to go back many more times. BTW that robot show... there are no words. Hands down the craziest/coolest show I've ever seen.
  • + 8
 Obviously a fake story because the train was late. Japanese trains are never late.
  • + 3
 Ha you are correct there but I think he meant the hour was "late". Not the train, never. The trains aren't even EARLY. They are ON TIME.
  • + 2
 @twozerosix: The bullet train is so precise on time that since it began operation, if you were to add together all the times it's been late, it would total only about 15 minutes.
  • + 1
 @Rocky-Urban: I believe it!
  • + 5
 Maybe don't sit on, lean your bike against and pack your bag on altars. Part of experiencing different cultures should be respecting their sacred spaces. Don't be a kook like the two dudes in the last photo.
  • + 3
 As someone who has been living and riding (and trail building where possible) in Nagano and near Nozawa for the past 10 years, I highly recommend visiting this beautiful area. BUT I would never recommend it as a bike destination. Other than a couple of lift access resorts, there are very few trails here and they are not very long. Also the trails don't network; usually there is one trail and you need to drive or take a long ride through town to get to another one. Most trails are not mtn. bike trails, they are very low traffic hiking trails and therefore you can't build on them or manipulate them.

I say this not to be negative but just to not have riders come here and be disappointed with the riding aspect of their vacation. All of the other aspects like culture, nature, castles, temples and shrines etc., is worth the visit.
  • + 3
 In case it might have slipped your perception for whatever reason, I should like to point out that the photographer of those beautiful pictures was Grant Gunderson!
  • + 1
 WHAT!!!!! I go to Nojiriko (where mt. Myogo is) every winter and summer! I'm so surprised that you visited all the same spots I have! I've been on those same ski lifts a million times! I'm glad you all had a blast.
  • + 4
 You should've visit Hokaido.
  • + 3
 I've always wanted to go to Japan. The culture is so unique and the biking and snowboarding looks amazing.
  • + 2
 Actually that looks like a complete waste of time from a biking perspective. A great trip, but the should have left their bikes at home.
  • - 6
flag kuchbud (Nov 18, 2016 at 13:53) (Below Threshold)
 How so? The mountains in nagano are similar in size to rossland. You clearly miss the point / you clearly are talking out of your ass.
  • + 16
 They may be the size of Red or Granite, but as someone who has ridden both areas extensively, Nozawa onsen and the outlying areas really don`t have any good trails. There are small parts of trails that can be ridden, but there are no trails purpose built for modern day mtbing in any way, shape, or form. Of course, you can have fun on your bike anywhere, even a mall parking lot can provide endless hours of fun and skill progression. But other than to say you have ridden there, there is really nothing to offer. The Japanese riding community is about 15 year behind North America. There is massive potential for trails, and the Japanese have a very large outdoor enthusiast population, but the vast majority of them are senior citizen hikers. Thus mountain bikers resort mostly to riding hiking trails, although a few parks have sprung up over the last 5 years or so. There is nowhere that has such an extensive, dense, and varied trail network such as Rossland, and thats in part due to a lack of motivated diggers and trail associations. I can assure you that the riders and photographers definitely had to scour the area and really work to get the few cool shots they did, and it would not translate into a great place to spend the day riding, where as Rossland has a lifetime of trails for every taste within 5 minutes of downtown. But its not all doom and gloom, there are people like me who are spearheading the movement to get small groups of passionate riders up and onto the mountains with plans and tools to get proper trails built. Unfortunately, when the pros come through, what i wish they would say is "wow, great country, awesome people, amazing landscape, but hey, where are the great trails? Lets get people together and build some." A little honest criticism can go a long way to helping people step their game up. I think these trips would be a great way to create awareness of the need to bring japan`s trails up to snuff.
  • + 5
 @kushmasta24: see lukemech's comment for your suggestion that I am missing the point. As for talking out my a$$, yes I do that regularly. It's actually a really good party trick! ????
  • + 12
 @lukemech: Agree. I think that there is a lot of land use issues since my impression from living in Japan when I did (2002-2004) was that, even when youwere inthe middle of nowhere and it seemed like unpopulated land, it was someone's. THe mtns have endless potential and the dirt where I was (Akita and then travelled in several other places) was perfect there just weren't alot of purpose built trails.
I think that alot of land use issues are probably just the locals being too polite to ask if it is Ok to use it. I think that people are probably ok with it, but just no one asks. Like, riding the bikes in the places they did. While it is not like ridiing across a cemetary it is just something that 99% of the 250million would never do. Sitting on a shrine is not against any rules, because Japanese don't need those kind of rules. My wife constantly tells me "Just have common sense". As Canadians we simply don't have an innate respect for these things they way Japanese (my wife included) do. She was pretty shocked by the photo of them riding down the steps under the shrine. As anyone, including myself with my relative lack of common sense should be. These steps are likely at least 1000 years old. Walk them.
  • + 5
 @cameronbikes: and @lukemech. Thanks for the reality check
  • + 2
 Every time there's a vid or photo epic from the Land of Rising Sun, I just want to pack my gear, max out my credit cards, and book a trip. Awesome stuff.
  • + 2
 I'm with you there, at this point whether its for skiing or biking, I have no excuse must make it over there.
  • + 6
 MTB is slowly groing in Japan thanks to few dedicates local pro-riders doing things right. As for snowboarding or skiing Hokkaido is powder country. Definitely worth the trip,
  • + 2
 The best part is, travel smart and you don't have to max the credit card out. I did Japan last winter for $1,500 for two weeks, airfare included ($650 out of LAX). Stay in hostels, eat at convenience stores and take public transportation everywhere.
  • + 2
 huwaw... Nice read mate... Pictures are awesome and colourful. Seems like your riding in a rain-forest.
  • + 3
 Whats with the low resolution photos?!
  • + 5
 Never mind, my stupid computer was acting up. These are amazing!
  • + 1
 great pictures but where is the video ?? the dude 's got a gopro cap i mean i thought i 'd see some footage .....
  • + 2
 no video? FML.
need a video of this so bad.
  • + 3
 One is coming shortly from the great Scott Secco
  • + 2
 Superb place to Ride, and eat, and have fun.
  • + 2
 Stoke levels at maximum. Level up.
  • + 1
 Oh man, i need go to japan!!!
  • + 1
 Robot bar ! So strange . They even sell Zima there lol
  • + 1
 i would feel so Lucky to ride Rocky and Scott in that Specialized World..
  • + 0
 awesome brofest! would love to ride a full susser down the side of a japanese temple, wow
  • + 1
 Robot Restaurant is amazing! Was there in December. Would recommend.
  • + 1
 Great shots, looked like a rad trip!
  • - 3
 f*cking internet troll a*shole. Riding bikes is OUR sacred activity so EVERYONE should tiptoe around US to please our "customs". Right? Don't agree, eh? Then gtf off Pinkbike ya loser pedestrian!

Do what the locals do anywhere you may travel. Do not listen to troll a*sholelickers.
  • - 3
 I think these videos "around the world" very often show mtbikers or westeners as ignorant of other cultures and not respectful. Riding in Japan sacred areas and near the temples is just an insult. The hot springs are not places where to go wash your feet.
This is like filming a bike video at the 9/11 memorial.
Just plain stupid. Dont complain if anglos are considered less intelligent by the rest of the world.
  • + 1
 KC and I have been to Japan 10 times and have become very close friends with the local riders in each location. Many of whom were our guides on this trip. Every where we road was not only 100% legal but we where actually encourage to ride each of these locations by our local guides / friends. Our goal on every trip we go on is to get invited back, so I can assure you we did nothing dissrespectful.
  • + 3
 Actually no, at many onsen there are also smaller 'foot baths' where the expressed purpose is to remove shoes and just soak your feet. Now, if you tried to go full monty and take a bath in the foot wash, that might be disrespectful. Tattoos or no. Attitudes toward tats are changing and a double standard exists between Japanese and foreigners so that it might be more 'accepted' if a Canadian gaijin has tattoos...still best to feel it out and indeed at private inns with onsen it's not as big a deal.
  • - 2
 @Gunder: I ensure you some of these pictures could be published on a Japanese site that advocates for closing the borders. If your friends and guide were ok with it, it does not mean it is ok with the 99.9% of people. Can you speak Japanese? You may have been there 10 times visiting your buddies, but you need to learn their rules. The hot spring with bikes is the same as taking a crap in a swimming pool for us. No joke. Riding in the temple area is like Danny Macaskil making a video at the 9/11 memorial or a cemetery. You friends may have been ok with it, but you should know they may not tell you NOT to do something just because they think it will be rude of them. You may be invited back by your contacts (invited? do they pay for your trip?) but you are making the anti-visitors Japan grow bigger.
  • - 2
 @twozerosix: really. Do you speak Japanese? Ever been? Is it ok to bring a BIKE in the hot springs? or RIDE in the TEMPLE area? The Japanese attitude towards foreigners has become very bad in the past 10 years. All of the above is unacceptable. Like making a video at 9/11.
  • + 1
 @RedRedRe: Yes. Yes, I do. Yes, just got back from my third trip there.
Based on these photos, I didn't see any bikes in hot springs, or in temple areas. Not sure what you are basing these ideas of 'disrespect' or 'rules' on, but its not the same thing as riding a bike in a church, or jacuzzi.
In any event, the best practice is often "do as the locals do" and with the riding network of friends that the authors seem to have built, I would defer to those who know the area for established norms of behavior.
  • + 0
 @twozerosix: what you mean there are no bike in temple or hot springs? Can you read what the signs say next to the pictures. I wonder if some real japanese person would write here to make things straight. But they wont and if they do, they will not criticize. Just waisting my time with kids lol
  • + 8
 @RedRedRe: Thanks for all of your comments, appreciate it.

@Gunder We never ever ride inside of a temple or shrine. Did your guides even tell you to bow before going through the gate? Probably not, otherwise they would never encourage you to ride inside of it. As for foot bath, it's a place for warming your feet, not washing them. Now you know it Wink I understand that you grew up in a different culture and make mistakes. That's inevitable sometimes but it's just sad that none of the locals didn't teach you the culture. I know this because I was the partypooper when Matt Hunter, Casey Brown and Conor Macfarlane came here to ride but we still had lots of fun!
  • + 3
 @jin0824: Jinya - thanks for your comments. Sounds like mistakes were made. Hope visitors can learn from it.

@RedRedRe - thanks for sticking to your guns and helping us visitors become more educated to potential pitfalls
  • + 2
 Smokin some darts Gully?
  • + 1
 Man! Supper jealous. Why do I feel like I'll never make it there?
  • + 1
 What a hard life they have
  • + 1
 pics look amazing on my screen! damn... I'm going back to Japan!
  • + 0
 How can I do this trip?!?!?!?

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