While 2020 has been a challenging year, for me it has also been a hugely significant one as it has seen me relocating from the UK to a new job, home and lifestyle here in Japan. Here are just a few of my most exciting and memorable new experiences this year:

#5: The Maruyama Senmaida

While travelling with Thomas on a forthcoming video project in late summer, we had the chance to stop by this incredibly scenic spot located near Kumano City - one of just a few remaining rice terraces in Japan, carved into a steep hillside surrounded by steep wooded hills.

View of the Maruyama Senmaida

#4: Rock climbing in Ogawayama

Until this year, outdoor rock climbing was something I had long been fascinated by but had never worked up the courage to try. I was lucky to finally have my first experience in this beautiful and little-known spot on the border of Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures.

Climbing a rock slab in Ogawayama

#3: Camping and hiking in Kamikochi

This summer, I escaped the heat and crossed off one of my top bucket list destinations with a weekend camping trip to Kamikochi, a national park sometimes called the Yosemite of Japan. Peaceful forest trails, spectacular mountain views and close encounters with curious macacques made this a perfect summer getaway.

View of Mount Hotaka in Kamikochi

#2: Zen meditation at Kenninji Temple

The philosophy surrounding Zen Buddhism is one aspect of Japanese culture that has fascinated me from a young age, and on a recent trip to Kyoto for a forthcoming video, I finally had the opportunity to learn about it firsthand. Sharing the experience with a charming and patient monk, by a beautiful traditional garden with a gentle patter of rainfall, this was as close as it gets to a perfect moment.

Experiencing Zen Meditation at a sub temple of Kenninji

#1: Hiking to the summit of Mount Kai Koma

For my first ever real mountain hike, I set out with Joe on an overnight trek to the top of Mount Kai Koma in Yamanashi. After a challenging full day of climbing, camping out in sub zero temperatures and a final push to the summit, we were rewarded with jaw-dropping panoramic views, with Japan's four highest peaks visible from a single spot.

View of Mount Fuji from the summit

By Matt Evans, japan-guide.com

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