Outdoor Adventures with Canyons Minakami
Some would say they’d like to visit Japan for a Zen experience. There are numerous beautifully landscaped gardens all over Japan for one to explore around in a leisurely manner. In the center of these relaxing gardens are tea houses, wherein you can enjoy some green tea and wagashi (those delectable Japanese confectionery that’s so beautifully shaped that you would want to have it on display rather than eat it).
Or some would visit Japan for its temples; or taste and explore its sumptuous food (after all, a lot of tourists and travelers hop around the globe just for the country’s native food alone); or discover its urban jungle and see the cosplayers in Harajuku and Shibuya.
Some would want to scale the grandeur that is Mt. Fuji or scale one of Japan’s numerous mountain ranges. A number of these mountain ranges have trail paths for leisure walking in which hiking gears are not necessary at all. On some of the famous mountain ranges, cable car rides are also available such that one can see the magnificent landscape sans riding a helicopter. Some of these mountain ranges offer exciting thrills that the more adventurous would absolutely seek and Canyons Minakami offer just that kind of treat.
Nestled in the midst of the grand Tanigawa Mountain Ranges in which the mighty Tone River courses through, Canyons Minakami offers outdoor adventures that can cater both to neophytes and professional adventure seekers.
For Winter Sports, they have Snow Sports School, and have Backcountry, Snowshoe and Caving tours.
For Summer, Summer! They offer, Canyoning, Whitewater Rafting, Mountain biking, Canoeing, Paragliding and Bungy Jumping (on the way to the Canyons Lodge one can actually see people doing the bungy jumps - quite a welcome indeed!).
For our group, although we were adventurous enough to try the bungy jumping and paragliding, we wanted to try the water activities hence chose to have the Canyoning (Saturday) and Whitewater rafting (Sunday) package. We headed off to Minakami early Saturday morning. After registering and depositing our overnight bags, we set out to our first activity for the day: Canyoning.
As defined by Google, “Canyoning is the sport of jumping into a fast-flowing mountain stream and allowing oneself to be carried downstream at high speed.” And yes, that was just exactly what we did, cascading down natural chutes and waterslides!
First step of the activity was donning on suits, lifejackets and headgears provided by Canyons Minakami (all gears are included in tour price; insurance is also included in tour price, FYI) after which we went on a short walk to get to the canyoning start point. This start point may vary depending on the level of water and water current (TIP: for more thrilling descent, time your canyoning when the water volume is high; typically around May ~ July albeit Minakami Canyons offer Canyoning Tours from April till mid-October).
Upon arrival at the start point, we were oriented on the positions that we should assume as we glide with the mountain stream. Of utmost importance whilst on gliding mode: keep your hands crossed over your chest at all times and your legs firmly aligned with your body - we don’t want those arms or legs getting snagged in the canyon rocks and hindering a smooth descent through canyons. There are at least three ways of gliding down the chutes, as informed by our guides but my favorite position is gliding head down as it gave me the best position when landing down the waterfall (didn’t have to swallow much water). Now before you’d say this is just for ultimate daredevils, check out Canyon’s FAQs page to appease you; swimming skills is not even required. By the way, I was a first-timer.
The activity is not just one long glide from start point down to the big waterfall drop. We glided down chutes from one point to another and walked a bit towards the next point when there wasn’t much water in the canyon. With this stopovers, we were able to try different positions in gliding. There were also points in which we were encouraged to jump off from a cliff to crystal clear pools.
Our course was along Fox Canyons, the most popular in Minakami, in which apart from it being an amazing canyon, it boasts of a 20 meter waterfall. In which we have to make the drop.
Recalling the experience, “exhilarating” is an understatement. If you can make the climb back up, you can do the jump again.
The second day was more of group activity – White Water Rafting! A tip though: Canyoning was more exhilarating for me so it would have been better to have done the rafting first and then Canyoning the second day. Nevertheless, rafting along Tone River is as much exciting! The photos say it all.
Raring to go for the adventure NOW?
Check out the Canyons Group website: http://canyons.jp/en
For inquiries, call 0278-72-2811; office hours: 8am to 5pm
Canyons Minakami Access: http://canyons.jp/about-us/access
Have a great summer!
All photos by Maha Maula