Skip to main content

This Spring, Japan finally fully opened to international travelers after 3 years of restrictions. Our busy trip schedule reflected this change, as we ran 5 trips during the Spring to various locations nationwide. Pickleball Trips got to host travelers from around the United States to explore Japan, play with local players, improve, and participate in exciting cultural experiences. Let us tell you a little more about Pickleball Trips’ flagship destination and why traveling with us to Japan is such a unique experience in the pickleball world.

The Back Story

Daniel and Jon, Pickleball Trips co-founders, grew up in Japan and attended public Japanese schools. As a result, they are both fluent in the language and experienced in the culture. Daniel lives in Japan and has worked in the outdoor travel industry there. He also brought pickleball to Japan and has helped grow it over the last decade.

Pickleball Trips began with just the Japan trip before expanding to worldwide destinations. More than any other country, our trips to Japan visit in-depth locations most tourists never go to or wouldn’t know to look up. Our knowledge of the country, ability with the language, and personal connections are unrivaled. That is why visiting Japan with us is such a fun and unique experience.

Western Japan

On the Western Japan tours, we visited one of the main pickleball hubs in the country. Although Tsuyama in Okayama Prefecture is a small town, it has several pickleball clubs, including the only university club in Japan at Mimasaka University. The players here are so welcoming and excited that Americans visit their small town to play pickleball together. In addition, Tsuyama hosts cultural assets like Buddhist temples and Tsuyama Castle. At the Buddhist temples, trip participants experience a zen meditation, tea ceremony, and calligraphy class. Watch out in the zen meditation, though… part of the discipline is whacking anyone who moves with a stick.

Other destinations on the Western Japan tour include Hiroshima, Osaka, and Kyoto. In addition to the heavy and thought-provoking peace memorial museum, Hiroshima hosts a stunning Japanese Torii gate in the bay. Osaka is a high-energy city with lots of shopping and nightlife. And Kyoto is Japan’s ancient capital, gorgeous city, and cultural center of premodern Japan. All this makes for a fantastic, varied trip that gives you a glimpse into Japanese society, culture, and pickleball scene. It is perfect if you have never visited Japan before, or if you want to see some of the main tourist attractions.

Interior Japan

The Interior Japan trip visits less-known destinations in Japan. Starting from Tokyo, we drive to Tochigi Prefecture, where an enthusiastic pickleball player built 4 courts, launching one of the largest clubs in Japan. They host us there for clinics and open recreational play with more energetic Japanese pickleball players who feed us too much food. Tochigi is a beautiful rural prefecture, but players here are just as enthusiastic and addicted as elsewhere.

Next, it’s onto Nagano prefecture, where we visit locations such as Karuizawa, Shibu Onsen, and Matsumoto. Each location hosts unique charms, but we play pickleball with local players and participate in cultural experiences such as soba noodle making, hot springs, hiking, and wash paper making. In Shibu Onsen, we stay in a ryokan-style Japanese accommodation, sleeping on futon mattresses on straw tatami mat floors. There is a hot spring onsen in the facility that is perfect after a long day of playing pickleball. The interior Japan trip is definitely off the beaten path compared to the Western Japan trip, but it visits many of our favorite locations in the country. It is perfect if you enjoy seeing the countryside or have visited Japan.

Future Trips

From 2024, we plan on running one Western Japan and one Interior Japan trip each Spring and Fall. In addition, we are planning to continue custom trips to Japan for private groups. For a Japan pickleball travel experience, there really is no company like Pickleball Trips. Join us for the trip of a lifetime by checking out future trips here.