Adventure Travel in Japan? Welcome to the Kinugawa River!

NAOC Rafting Tour

So many visitors are rightly fascinated by Japan‘s culture, food, and mix of ancient and hyper-modern, with a dash of nature thrown in. But not many associate it with adventure travel. Yet just a two-hour train ride north of Tokyo, the Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen areas boast not just historic, UNESCO World Heritage architecture but also a network of natural waterways, which beckon visitors with exciting water-themed activities – rafting, canyoning, river boat rides, and more – from late April through November. The Kinugawa River is particularly famous for the dynamic beauty of its natural river valley, where warm weather water activities give visitors the opportunity to feel at one with nature.


NAOC Rafting Tour


NAOC launched in 2000 as the first rafting operator in the local prefecture, Tochigi. The company, led by experienced outdoor guides, provides safe rafting on a tributary of the Kinugawa River.  The journey carries rafters along clear water, through the breathtaking seasonal river valley, including waterfalls and cascades, which can only be conquered through the cooperation of everyone in the boat.

The three-hour excursion runs April 21-November 25, with departures each morning and afternoon; once daily in November (a wetsuit and hot shower afterward are included). Reservation: Tel 0288-70-1181 (no English; your hotel concierge can call).
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NAOC Canyoning


Yes, canyoning hits Japan! NOAC’s canyoning adventure has you diving into waterfall pools and plummeting down watery/rocky slides. To reach your destination, you’ll also need climbing skills to pass through the water and wet rocks. Canyoning is a thrilling river sport giving you firsthand experience in Japan’s outdoors.

This three hour-tour runs June 1-October. 8, with morning and afternoon departures. There are four course options: Fukama Canyon (adventurous, featuring diving, sliding, and climbing), Happy Canyon (low impact, good for families), Eight Canyon (walking through mountain paths with pristine nature, such as waterfalls, fountains, sliders, etc.), and Oak Canyon (a premium canyoning experience: trek through deep woods and play in a natural pool, with a water slide and diving). Fees: 8,000 yen, including guide (no English), life-jacket, helmet, wet suit, hot water shower. Reservations: tel. 0288-70-1181 (No English. Your hotel concierge can call.)



Kinugawa Traditional Wooden River Boat Ride

Join a dozen or so other adventurers on a traditional wooden boat ride along the Kinugawa. Your happi-coat and straw hat clad captain maneuvers the vessel along the rapids. At the same time, you and your boatmates pull up the clear, plastic protector along the sides of boat, as the thrilling white water splashes up during the fun-filled 40-minute ride. More Images.

Runs April 16-late November, daily 9 am to 3:45 pm. Fee: 2,800 yen per adult. Reservation: tel. 0288-77-0531 (No English; your hotel concierge can call.)

Arranging Water Activities and Other Excursions

Tobu Nikko Station offers a concierge service for foreign tourists, with staff ready to provide guidance in English, including arranging accommodations and local tours. For those traveling directly to Kinugawa Onsen Station and not stopping in Nikko, questions can be asked and arrangement made in advance via email with the Nikko concierge office:

About Tobu Railways Co. LTD

TOBU Railway Group is a major Japanese corporate conglomerate consisting of approximately 90 companies. Tobu Railways covers the longest operating distance in the Kanto area, leading to numerous tourist attractions, including: Asakusa and TOKYO SKYTREE TOWN in Tokyo; Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen, famous as world heritage sites and natural hot springs; the Tatebayashi and Ashikaga areas, known for their blooming flower fields; and historic Kawagoe, where the atmosphere of the Edo era lives on.