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This spring I had the pleasure of traveling to Japan with a group of friends including Jackson Paddlers Darin McQuoid and Diane Gaydos in addition to our other friends: David Maurier, Rok Sribar, Laura Farrell , Shannamar Dewey and Japanese paddler, Yoshi Takahashi, owner and proprietor of Spirit Outdoor.

During our trip we enjoyed 12 days of kayaking throughout central region of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. In those 12 days we managed to get on 12 different sections of river. Some of the rivers were short park and huck sections, while others occupied full days of sorting our way down tight canyons, walled out gorges, and thick forest. But the trip started much easier. Our first day we drove from Tokyo to the Agatsumagawa. The Agatsumagawa is the most scenic class III run I have ever done. The river is in a vertical wall gorge, with walls standing at times 6 feet apart and 200 feet tall. In the heart of the gorge, is the lone “hard” rapid and sports three holes and a pocket to keep you honest.


The following day, we hit the nearby Tonegawa which is a popular rafting run and was the scene of a rafting slalom race the day we were there. Darin had run the river last year at high water and reported it to be class IV+ big water with huge holes to dodge. This year, we had a more normal medium flow and found the river to be class III-IV and very manageable. The river started off with a beautiful gorge before opening up in the valley. The valley in a strange way was every bit as beautiful as the gorge. This region had once been the location of a thriving ski resort industry. As such, high end hotels had been built lining the river. These days, the industry has died down and most the hotels are abandoned, but remaining is an eerie contrast between the natural beauty of Japan and the manmade beauty of fancy resorts.

That afternoon, with half the day remaining, we decided to drive up the Tonegawa to one of its tributaries, the Yunokoyagawa. The Yunokoyogawa was the first creek boating on our trip, though unlike the rest of our boating… was road side. Surprisingly, the creek offered a nice tight gorge full of challenging drops and few small waterfalls. At the take-out, the river falls off a two tiered twenty footer before quickly hitting the confluence and getting impounded by a lake. That night, we stayed one last night in Minakami before heading out to the Nakatsugawa drainage for a few nights of camping and creeking… that story to come.