The Mt. Awa Skyrace is one of the most distinctive trail running events in Japan, heading up the clearly-defined ridgelines of this beautiful, 1,293-meter-high peak. The toughest category is a steep run up on snowy surfaces, making it also one of Japan’s most challenging races. But even casual trekkers and hikers will find excellent trails for all interests, from a long approach to Mt. Awa, to a trail that will take you through the woods and up to the top of Yagigahana rock. There are also scenic tanada—terraced rice fields—in many areas around Shitada, and a hike through them is both beautiful and an intimate introduction to the beauty of the traditional Japanese countryside (and, often, the friendly local people as well!).
This challenging road with roots in the samurai age takes you from Sanjo/Shitada across the border into Fukushima. Its name, which means something like, “an 80-ri crossing” (ri being an old measure of length) referred to the tough terrain through which it passes, and the arduous journey on it. The road played a major role in history, with the head of the ruling Nagaoka Clan being killed along the way during one of the last battles of the feudal age. Today you can take part in a bus tour exploring this historical, natural pathway.
This unique trail run event heads up into Sanjo City’s mountainous areas while snow still lingers on Yagigahana. It was here on Mt. Awagatake that the Skyrace was held as the opening event of 2019’s Skyrunner World Series, one of the world’s most prestigious endurance sport series. With a total length of 35 kilometers and an ascent and descent covering 2,752 meters, this is the highest such course in all of Japan. At the same time a vertical kilometer race—a four-kilometer course that rockets up one kilometer—was also held, another local event that is also a world-class competition.
Shitada is home to some beautiful peaks, including Mt. Awa, Mt. Sumon and Mt. Banya. Rising to their peaks are trails to please hikers of all abilities, from beginners to seasoned climbers.
On the Igarashi River, right here in Shitada, is one of Niigata’s only rafting areas—and it’s a good one! Great scenery, a sparkling river and some exciting rapids that anyone can handle with the help of the experienced guides.
Whether a pleasant cruise through the fields on one of the town’s e-bikes (rentals available), or long-distance road touring through the distinctive rural landscapes and beautiful mountains, Shitada is great on two wheels.