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My First Rafting Experience in Okutama

An adventure in far western Tokyo

When thinking about Tokyo, the first images popping into your head are—of course—urban landscapes, skyscrapers and bustling neighborhoods. It surely is one aspect of the capital of Japan, but did you know that Tokyo is also home to the beauties of nature? Each time I come to Okutama, I am amazed by the stunning views of its mountains, clear rivers, and luxurious forests. Though I had hiked in this area before, rafting was a first for me. And one thing is certain: it won’t be my last time.

With the late summer heat still upon Japan, the idea of being refreshed by the pure water of the Tama River sounded perfect. Bigwave offers the opportunity to try rafting as well as canyoning. While canyoning might seem daunting, there’s no need to be especially fit to be able to enjoy rafting to the fullest. As soon as they pick you up from the station, Bigwave’s staff welcomes you warmly, like family—it’s a great way to start the experience. They explained the safety information in detail, so you feel very secure, all the time.

A Team That Runs on Fun

Throughout our time together, the staff members were energetic and joyful. This really stood out for me, because the experience was very different from what rafting would be like in Europe. The Big Wave team wants you to have fun and to leave the place with great memories. Ken-san, the instructor on our boat, didn’t just brief us about safety and how to behave on the boat, he also talked about the joys of life in Okutama in general. He told us about the natural surroundings and the superb sake made at the brewery we just passed by. While we were in the raft, he also encouraged us to wave at the people passing on the high bridges. He was very cheerful and didn’t hesitate to make jokes in order to make the whole experience even more friendly.

For my first time, I was lucky—the currents were not too strong that day, so it was a very smooth, enjoyable ride. I was surprised to see how popular rafting was among young women—they made up the majority of the people on the rafts. Young people in Japan seem to really enjoy these kinds of activities.

Adrenaline Rush

During the ride, I felt like time stopped. It’s just you in the raft, surrounded by nature and very friendly people with whom you can share a good laugh. Going down the river had some exciting and thrilling moments, but the instructor was here all the time, to guide you through the process and to guarantee each moment is safe, great fun. It was really amazing to be able to enjoy such an unforgettable ride, being refreshed by the crystal clear water while taking in the astonishing view of the surrounding mountains and forests at the same time. The ride includes swimming in the river and for those who dare it, jumping from a four-meter-high rock. It’s a great rush of adrenaline to finish off the experience.

Working Up an Appetite

After all of those emotions, you might feel hungry. I, for one, did. Conveniently enough, Bigwave offers the opportunity to book a BBQ for lunch. Different types of meat, vegetables, and yakisoba (a popular Japanese dish made of noodles and vegetables) were on the menu. It was so good to be able to eat right after changing back into our warm and dry clothes after the rafting session. It was the perfect ending to this late morning spent at the Bigwave facilities.

Johann Fleuri

Born in France, I have been living in Tokyo since 2015 where I work as a foreign correspondent for french media (daily newspaper, magazines). My first trip in Japan was in 2009 and after numerous other trips in the archipelago, I settled in Tokyo five years ago. I really enjoy my life here. Besides my work as a journalist, I have also published two books on Tokyo. In my spare time, I like to keep exploring the country. Even though I am such a city girl, I also enjoy nature, the sea, hiking and outdoors activities.

Access

3-116-1 Tomioka, Ome, Tokyo
If you’re interested in going on a rafting trip with Big Wave, pick-up is available from the south exit of Ome Station on JR Ome line (Please arrive 30 minutes before the tour).