Flooding With Fun: Japan's Kinu River

A rafter enjoying a refreshing dip in the falls. Photos courtesy of the Tobu PR Team.
A rafter enjoying a refreshing dip in the falls. Tobu PR Team photos.

You won't regret trying out one of the wondrous water activities on Japan's Kinu River whether you're a local or just passing through

By Brian Gage

If you're an avid adventurer stationed in Tokyo who finds the hum-drum of daily city life exhausting and drab, the nearby Kinugawa (literally translating to Angry Demon River) provides some of the most exciting and dynamic waterways in all of Japan.

Throughout the warm weather season, the Kinu River offers some of the most fantastic waterway exploration opportunities in the country. Ranging from extreme to serene, the river is situated in a valley that provides stunningly beautiful views sure to heighten any activity you choose to enjoy.

Aquatic Adventures

A raft team cruising through some rapids on the Kinugawa.
A rafting team cruising through some rapids on the Kinugawa.

Batten down the hatches! The NAOC Rafting Tour is far and away the most exciting way to experience the Kinugawa. The only way you're getting through the river's cascading waterfalls and whitewater rapids on a measly rubber raft is by working together with all of your fellow rafters and guide to bring your party to safety.

The tour is led by experienced and skillful guides who speak fluent Japanese, as well as a bit of English. The tour itself has a duration of three hours, and you are more than welcome to use one of their steaming hot showers upon return (you'll probably want to!).

The tours run from April 21-November 25, and they are scheduled to occur twice daily at 8:45 am and 12:45 pm until November, when there is only a 12:00 pm option.

The cost of the excursion is 7700 Yen per adult (0r roughly $68.50) and your purchase includes a tour guide, a wetsuit, a life jacket, a helmet, and access to a hot shower after the trip.

Upon completion, not only do you get the satisfaction of having busted out of your comfort zone and conquered a fast flowing river on a piece of floating rubber, but you can also let everyone know that you braved the "Angry Demon River" and lived to tell the tale!

Address: 871-2 Kinugawa Onsen Taki, Nikko City, Tochigi
Access: Kinugawa Onsen Station, Tobu Kinugawa Line then Shuttle bus to the site. (Reservation required for a shuttle bus.)
Reservation: Tel 0288-70-1181

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Canyoning in Japan

Along with the exciting rafting adventure, NAOC also offers a phenomenal canyoning journey. Canyoning is a sport that combines climbing, sliding, swimming, and journeying along a meandering and gorgeous river valley into an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Canyoning on the Kinugawa allows visitors to take on a multi-terrain viewpoint of the area, providing opportunities for swimming in deep and refreshing pools and climbing atop slippery boulders to complete their guided journey and truly become one with the natural beauty of the area.

Some canyoners taking a plunge down a natural waterslide.
Some canyoners taking a plunge down a natural waterslide.

NAOC offers four course options, depending on the conditions of the day and the adventurous spirit of the participants: Fukama Canyon, Happy Canyon, Eight Canyon, and Oak Canyon.

Fukama promises a more thrilling experience complete with diving, sliding, and climbing, while Happy canyon is less intense and ideal for families. The Eight and Oak Canyon trips each consist of scenic treks with astoundingly beautiful natural sites, sure to impress any canyoner.

The canyoning tours are available from June 1-October 8 and depart twice daily at 8:45 am and 12:45 pm. The tours usually take about 3 hours, costing 7500 Yen (about $66.75) per adult and 6200 Yen (about $55.15) per child, including all of the necessary protective equipment and a seasoned guide.

Address: 871-2 Kinugawa Onsen Taki, Nikko City, Tochigi
Access: Kinugawa Onsen Station, Tobu Kinugawa Line then Shuttle bus to the site. (Reservation required for a shuttle bus.)
Reservation: Tel 0288-70-1181

Wooden Boat Ride

And for those interested in a shorter means of enjoying the river, the Kinugawa Traditional Wooden River Boat Ride takes guests on a 40-minute cruise through the rapids. The vessel is manned by two traditionally clad guides who steer through the choppy waters and ensure a fun and safe trip for all.

A packed trip on a traditional wooden river boat.
A packed trip on a traditional wooden river boat.

The ship fits about a dozen occupants, and each of them is responsible for doing their part in hoisting up a clear plastic barrier to stop the water from sucking everyone inside.

The Traditional Wooden River Boat Ride is operational from April 16 through late November and boatloads embark continuously throughout the day from 9:00 am- 3:45 pm. It costs 2800 Yen (Roughly $25) per adult and gives visitors a taste of what traveling along the river may have been like in centuries prior.

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Address: 1414 Ohara, Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko City, Tochigi
Access: Kinugawa Onsen Station, Tobu Kinugawa Line, followed by a five-minute walk
Reservation: Tel 0288-77-0531

For Short-Term Visitors

If you find yourself with a short stop-over in Tokyo on your way elsewhere, the small city of Nikko is merely a 2-hour ride on the Tobu Railway North from the capital city. Nikko is extremely close to the Kinugawa, and offers a concierge service for foreign tourists, with staff ready to provide assistance in English.

(Nikko is famous for its inclusion in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites for its many ancient shrines and temples. If you have a bit of extra time in the area, it is definitely worth checking out!)

The staff can help you arrange local tours and accommodations near the river, as many of the people you encounter along your way to experience all the Kinugawa has to offer will probably speak only a small amount of English.

Japan's "Angry Demon River" is one of the most stunningly beautiful waterways in the country, and with so many exciting activities to offer, it is most definitely worth a visit.

Some rafters enjoying their day out on the river.
Some rafters enjoying their day out on the river.

Brian Gage is a resident of Amherst, Massachusetts and a lover of all things outdoors. He enjoys traveling to exciting new locations, attempting to take in the most beautiful natural sites he can see. He is an avid hiker and climber and can be found at the Hadley Central Rock Gym on many of his free days.