Thirsty for Adventure: Where to go Canyoning in Japan
Canyoning, or shower climbing (sawanobori) as it is known in Japan, is travelling through canyons by hiking, jumping, climbing, abseiling and swimming. And sliding - canyons make excellent natural slides. In its most pure form, canyoning requires technical rope and navigational skills. These days however, many tourism operators offer a less challenging form of canyoning for those without the experience. It's still tough, and definitely scary, but so thrilling.
In recent years canyoning has become more popular in Japan, with a surprisingly large number of tours springing up all over the country. The landscape is perfect for it I suppose, with Japan's mountainous river filled countryside.
I have compiled a list, not exhaustive but offering many options for places around Japan you can try canyoning. Most of them offer free pick up, but check in advance to be sure.
The most popular destination for canyoning, Minakami is a hot spring town easily accessible from Tokyo, with many options to choose from. This is because it is known as an "adventure town", with rafting, bungee and canyoning on offer.
The most well-known canyoning company in Japan, for English speakers, is canyons. Run by a New Zealander, everything is English friendly. You can also stay at their lodge and have a (rather delicious) BBQ dinner. Although this is not the most spectacular venue in Japan nature wise, it is the easiest in terms of proximity to Tokyo and English language.
- Nature Navigator (English OK, 8000 yen, 3.5 hours)
- KAPPA Club (Kid friendly, 8000 yen, 4 hours)
- Top Minakami (7500 yen, 2.5 hours)
- Minakami BigWave (6600 yen, 2.5 hours)
- Max Rafting (6000-8000 yen, 3.5 hours)
- With Sports (8500 yen)
Okutama is part of the Chichibu National Park, the closest national park to Tokyo. This makes it the most convenient location for those living in Tokyo to try canyoning.
This course is suitable for kids about 10 and older. You will do plenty of climbing, abseiling, jumping and sliding. You can book the optional BBQ for after. Note that their group sizes can go up to 18 people, so it's not the most personal tour you can do.
Shibukawa (Ikaho Onsen), Gunma
Shibukawa is home to Ikaho Onsen, a nostalgic hot spring town halfway up Mt. Haruna. The area is perfect for outdoor activities, the many shrines and temples, and of course the hot springs.
Hakuba is located a few hours from Tokyo in Nagano. It is accessible by shinkansen, and very popular with foreign visitors from Australia for its winter ski season. What people don't always know is that it is stunning in summer, full of lush green meadows and wildflowers. So it makes sense that they offer canyoning tours there.
Evergreen is a popular activity company in Hakuba offering many English language tours like skiing, snowshoeing and canyoning. You can slide, jump, swim, do 1 zipline and jump down a 15m high waterfall. In May and June they don't allow children as the water is too high.
*FOR EXPERT CANYONERS they also offer a high level full day tour
Known for views of Mt. Fuji, green tea and Izu's beaches, Shizuoka is not the place you imagine when you think of canyoning. Nethertheless there are some providers offering canyoning tours here.
A long course with fairly small groups. They have a 14m repel, 22m jump, lots of slides and lunch included.
We have a whole article on this easily accessible onsen area. As for where to go canyoning:
- Omuche (6000 yen, 2.5 hours, dogs allowed)
- ITTAN (10000 yen, 12+, 6-7 hours) *They also offer some extreme options like night canyoning
Most people go to Nikko and Hakone on their first visit to Japan, it is as famous as the golden pavilion in Kyoto. It seems you can even do a short canyoning course there, although it doesn't seem to be as surrounded by nature as others.
Another one in Tochigi, this time in the onsen town of Kinugawa. You can combine your visit with Nikko, Tobu World Square and Nikko Edomura themepark.
Most famous in this area is the Kurobe Dam, Japan's tallest dam built in 1963. So this canyoning is best combined with Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (separate days), because that is a stunning hike.
The highlight of this course is the 8m high waterfall jump. This course is suitable for all levels, and can be combined with a rafting tour.
Gifu is a landlocked prefecture in central Japan. It is most well known for Takayama and Shirakawa-go - historic cities with quaint folk houses and thatched roof cottages. There is a lot more to do than just these highlights in Gifu, so I recommend not limiting yourself. As for the canyoning -
These are full day tours with varying difficulties. This is a good option if you're looking for a particularly challenging course.
- Shirotori - Adventure Rafting (English OK, 6000-10000 yen, half or full day, BBQ included in full day)
- Mountain Life Hida (English OK, 6500 yen, 3 hours)
Famous for the giant Buddha and the deer park, you can also go canyoning in Tenkawa Village in Southern Nara.
Upstream of the famous Mitarai Valley, you will enter the hidden Kousegawa. Great wilderness here, although they do not offer free pick up which makes getting to this wilderness more difficult - you will need a car.
Mere minutes from Kyoto and famous for Japan's biggest lake, Shiga is an ideal day trip from Kyoto (and much quieter!)
They can customise their course based on your requirements. They can offer varying levels of difficulty and length. You'll get to see one of the 100 best waterfalls in Japan here, in Yabuchi Valley.
People usually go to Hiroshima to visit their atomic bomb history museums/sites and go to see the iconic torii gates over the water on Miyajima. But if you travel one hour to Yuki city you can go canyoning!
This is run by the Yuki City DMC as a non-profit promotional activity. They offer English run tours of varying difficulties. You can also book a trekking course with them.
One of the least visited prefectures, and home to the beautiful blue Niyoda River and Shimanto River. These are said to be the clearest rivers in Japan - perfect for canyoning!
Known mostly for its capital Matsuyama, home of the bathhouse that inspired Spirited Away, Dogo Onsen, Ehime also has some lovely nature if you head into the mountains.
- Forest Canyon (6+, 7000+ yen, half or full day)
- Good River (Family or adult courses inc. huge 40m slide, 4000+ yen, half or full day)
Tokushima is famous for the Iya Valley, a remote mountainous area where they still have ancient vine bridges suspended between valleys. in the past these were the only way to get across. One of the most beautiful places I've been in Japan, but also some of the worst roads I've driven on.
Oita is most famous for Beppu, the hot spring town. Yufuin is another nearby trendy town, but the true highlight is the more rural Kunisaki Peninsula. The canyoning however, takes us to a whole different part altogether.
I haven't done this course yet, but the water seems to be a really pretty shade of blue. It is located in the Fujikawachi Valley is said to have lots of good waterslides while being okay for families.
This one is located far outside Kumamoto City, in between the picturesque Amakusa Island (visit it!) and Miyazaki Prefecture. Access is okay as it is right next to Watari Station.
This subtropical island off the Southern coast of Japan is famously known as the "jungle island". It has enormous cedar forests with trees that date back over 1000 years, and is an amazing place for hiking, and for canyoning.
For a more tropical feel, you can canyon on Iriomote Island in Okinawa. You'll be able to trek through dense jungle and mangrove forests and it's the one place you won't get chilly.
If you choose the full day course, they will include lunch. You can also combine the half day course with kayaking.
When you hear Niseko you think powder snow and the expensive ski resort area that is known to be full of Australians in Winter. But actually it's nice in summer too.