Canyoning in Yamanashi

A whole day of big waterfalls and beautiful nature.

Rufus Starbuck   - 5 min read

I went canyoning last year and had a great, though occasionally scary, time. After the tour our guides told us about the "next level" of canyoning adventures that they do - special trip to more remote canyons that last a full day. These run to a schedule and the day I had free just happened to coincide with one of their most thrilling tours down in Yamanashi. The description says that it has 30 waterfalls and fast flowing water and is not for the faint hearted.

We camped the night before and were picked up at Enzan Station at 8.30 in the morning. Our guide took us to the start point and gave us our wetsuits, life-jackets, canyoning shoes, harnesses and helmets. Sizes were from details we'd sent the week before. The company has no permanent base down there so everything is run out of the back of a van expedition style. It is best to be wearing your swimwear when you arrive as there is no changing room.

Fully equipped, we learnt how to make a backpack out of a gear and sling it over our shoulders. We had a 2 hour hike ahead of us to the top of the canyon so were walking in our swimwear to keep cool.

The hike was pleasant though we had been warned we needed to be reasonably fit. We were straight into the forest and soon came across the mountain stream that would be are challenge for the day. There's a well-worn path along the bank that is frequented by hikers. Our strange attire and antics on the way back down drew plenty of looks and comments from the weekend walkers. The interesting thing about the hike for this canyoning trip is that you are seeing all the obstacles you will face on the way down. I'm not sure if this is such a good thing as some of the torrents of water rushing through gaps in the rock looked quite intimidating to me! Definitely not the kind of thing I would usually look at and wonder if I could swim through.

The hike only took us about an hour and a half. It wasn't too taxing and was through a really pretty mountain valley. The final turn in the trail brought us to a huge waterfall pounding into a pool. Walking up and around that, we could see another three waterfalls above it. This, we were informed, was the start point.

Due to the deep pools at the bottom of each waterfall on this course there is no need to use ropes, which some canyons require. Having seen the height of the waterfalls we'd just passed it then clicked that we were headed down there with nothing to stop or slow us. Gulp!

Wetsuits on, it was time to start. The first series of waterfalls were amazing. We swam around in the pools and one by one were lined up by the guide to be swept over the brink into the swirling waters below. It is really exhilarating as the water catches you, sweeps you over the edge and you are tossed around in the maelstrom below. There is also a sense of relief as you break free and surface again. Your team mates disappear underwater then bob up looking a bit shocked before a big grin breaks out over their face.

The big waterfall in the opening section is 25 meters and scary. You can't see down it from the top and as you are maneuvered into position you can hear the water crashing down into the pool below. I was nervous at the top but after a point there is not much you can do and literally just go with the flow. You are buzzing after the big drop and then looking back up and watching the next person come down, you realize that 25 meters is high. We all walked back up and did it again, even those that had to be talked into it the first time. A gaggle of hikers were watching and photographing us with much laughter and shaking of heads.

After this challenge was successfully conquered we ate a packed lunch on the side of the river and, having enjoyed a short rest were off for the rest of the course. It is a real mixed bag from here on in with jumps (some of them pretty high) into crystal clear water, slides down some tight chutes that spit you out, and some gentle floating down the river. Just as your regain your breath and your pulse slows again there is another jump/waterfall/slide that gets you pumped up once more.

The finish brought a mixture of relief and being a bit sorry that it was all over. It was a great day I am keen to explore a few more of the canyons of Japan as a result.

Rufus Starbuck

Rufus Starbuck @rufus.starbuck

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