Mike Harris stands out as he strolls along the streets of Minakami, Gunma Prefecture. He’s 182 centimeters tall, has ginger dreadlocks and speaks in a thick New Zealand accent — but he’s also fluent in Japanese and has made Minakami his second home.
Harris is one of many New Zealanders who first came to Japan chasing snow but ended up staying for good. He also founded Canyons, Japan’s first canyoning company, back in 2000 — a time when Minakami relied solely on its winter and onsen (hot spring) tourism season.
Only two to three hours by shinkansen from Tokyo, Minakami is a thrill-seeker’s paradise. Here, you can raft down roaring rapids, jump from 10-meter-tall cliffs, bike through beech forests or paraglide from soaring peaks.