Canyons Japan

Minakami Canyoning and Rafting

Refresh (and challenge) yourself in Gunma Prefecture

Canyons Japan
Perri Silverstein   - 4 min read

Minakami in Gunma Prefecture is known as the outdoor adventure capital of Japan. With every season offering challenging and rewarding thrills like skiing, rafting and paragliding, it's no wonder why this scenic area has claimed such a title. Recently I was invited for a weekend of canyoning and rafting with friends at Canyons Minakami. Let's just be clear: I do not like really like swimming and with temporary dyed pink hair, I knew I would be a dripping rosé mess by the end of the day. Yet, a part of me was seeking stimulation outside of Tokyo's 23 wards so off I went to be catapulted down waterfalls, cliffs and whitecaps.

Located in the picturesque Tanigawa Range amongst lush green is the Canyons Lodge headquarters that served as our home base for the day. The experienced guides hail from all over the globe with a large proportion being Japanese and Kiwis. Before every tour is the compulsory safety talk as, of course, working with Mother Nature is coupled with the fact that anything can go wrong. We all felt very safe and comfortable with our amicable guides, which we happened to have four of during our canyoning portion of the day.

My team of four friends and I was paired with a group of two women visiting from the Yokota Air Base. We came to find out that the majority of English-speaking customers at Canyons hail from the nearby US military enclave.

After suiting up in our form-fitting Neoprene gear, we made our way to the bus that took us to the Fox Canyons, about 10 minutes from the lodge. At the canyon course site we could hear the rush of the waterfalls in the distance and our hearts raced in anticipation. Before we took our first steps in the water we learned the various ways of sliding down the waterfalls; head-first, feet-first and my favorite, Superman style, were three of the sliding styles. The rocky, slippery canyon took some getting used to navigating. The first slide was a warm-up at only a one-meter drop. Sliding down was such an invigorating experience and it was obvious that the energy and anxious excitement amongst the group was rising. The big daddy portion of the course was the 20-meter beast of a drop, which we were able to slide and jump off of multiple times. Luckily, we had one of our guides wielding a waterproof camera to capture all of these spectacular, wonky-faced moments. As anyone can see from the pictures, our smiling (or terrified) faces speak for the type of adventure to be had at Fox Canyons. The entire course takes from three to four hours, depending on group size.

After a lunch of hamburgers and French fries at the resort and naps on the hammocks, we reconvened and organized for our rafting portion of the day. Tone River offers the thrills of a grade 3-4 rapids, so these are perfectly suitable for a first-time rafter. The 12-kilometer course takes about three to four hours. Our rafting tour was blessed with an onslaught of torrential downpour so the journey down the river was a lot . . . wetter than usual.

Despite the unfortunate weather during the afternoon, we all agreed that we would return to adventure in Minakami again. After returning our wetsuits, we all sipped on some well-deserved beers inside the Canyons resort and chatted with the staff. To end the day right we headed to a nearby onsen (hot spring) to rest our weary muscles (and wash the pink dye off my face).

There are a number of ways to arrive at Canyons Minakami by train or car. Take a look at the website for a complete listing of access information.

Perri Silverstein

Perri Silverstein @perri.silverstein

A free spirit who loves cats, ramen, nail art and of course, travel.