“Do you want to go rafting?” is a question form used in one of the books I regularly teach higher elementary kids from with the word rafting being interchangeable with other exciting activities like snorkelling, climbing, surfing, rollerblading and so on. It’s one of my most preferable units in the book as such guessing game activities always seem to go down well with the kids.
The very same question was posed to me way back in the middle of July 2005 by my girlfriend of the time and I was keen so we drove on up into Saitama Prefecture one morning to experience a spot of rafting on the Arakawa River amidst the heat and humidity of a Japanese Summer. A 90 minute car-ride north-west of Ikebukuro takes you to the vast Chichibu-Tama Kai National Park area which is the fifth largest of its kind in Japan. It is famed for it’s mountains and waterfalls but you can also go out on a large, sturdy inflatable boat.
There was some sort of safety preparation and dry paddle practice with the training crew (a fun bunch of people from my memory!) before we could hit the water. I really wanted to get into the water to cool down on such a scorching hot day but we didn’t even get wet getting into the boat. From previous experience of rafting in southern France and New Zealand, I fully expected to get soaked from capsizing at some point but it wasn’t to be. I had to basically go overboard to cool off in the water at one point when we stopped for a little break.
All-in-all it was fairly tame and leisurely hour or two of rafting. It may have been a step-up from the jungle river cruise at Tokyo Disneyland, and co-operating with fellow rowers was the same as that, but it was a far cry from my aforementioned previous adrenaline experiences.
A helmet and life jacket may have been provided but I was more afraid that I’d miss a very important, if not life threatening, instruction by simply not being able to understand it. I think I must’ve had this rafting raft jump scene from ‘Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom‘ (1984) in mind!
To be more precise, Nagatoro is the area of this national park which is most famed due to it’s interesting rock formations on the river banks known as Iwadatami; flat rocks supposedly arranged like a tatami. Once we were done with the rafting I was able to jump off a few of them which was very enjoyable.
The Nagatoro Gorge is designated as a national monument for its unique scenery and strange rock formations. With this rafting experience, there was ample time to enjoy the beautiful natural fresh green landscape of the valley as we gently flowed down the river.
I didn’t really do anything other than just turn up for the trip but from research in the modern day it seems that there are quite a few rafting companies working in the area who will take you out on the river amidst some fine scenery. My disposable camera shots from the time don’t really do the place justice but it really is worth seeing it and why not see it whilst on a raft!
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Autumn Leaves In Chichibu’
Click here to read ‘Wakeboarding In The City’
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Top 10 Saitama Sights’