Minakami in Gunma Prefecture is famous for its myriad of outdoor activities no matter the season. Today I participated in two, and learned about the many more available in this fun mountain town!
My morning activity was canoeing on Lake Akaya through a company called Lakewalk, which specializes in canoeing in the area.
I met my guides, and several fellow canoe-ers, at the lake. We had a brief introduction on how to canoe, took a picture, then got right down to it. I think the hardest part was carrying the canoes down to the lake!
The wind was a bit strong, but we still spent about two hours canoeing.
The scenery on the lake was beautiful, although some clouds came in to cover the sun about half way through. We saw bridges, ducks, fall colors, and waterfalls.
The two hours went by really fast, but everyone enjoyed the activity a lot. Thanks everyone!
After finishing up with canoeing, I met with Mike, who is the head of Canyons. He took me to a local place called Yamaji for lunch, which features delicious food in a beautiful wooden lodge. In fact, the proprietor built the entire lodge himself using wood cut from Minakami's forests! I loved the hand-carved sign:
After lunch, I returned to the Canyons Alpine Lodge to sign some release forms and get geared up. Canyons is a company which hosts tons of outdoor activities throughout the year in many different locations around Japan. All seasons have different featured activities; from river rafting in the spring, to canyoning and caving through summer and fall, to snow sports in winter, Canyons does it all. They've even invented a new sport... snow canyoning!
I would be canyoning down Fox Canyon, a high thrill challenge, only 15 minutes away. Canyoning is basically jumping, sliding, and swimming down a river's rapids and waterfalls in a canyon. This sport may have been born in Europe, but it suits Japan's beautiful waters well.
We started out nice and slow...
First up was the 20 meter tall waterfall. There's no slow-going here, as I went straight off the deep end... literally! I hooked onto a rope, was lowered part way down the falls, and then whoosh! It was over fast, but the adrenaline rush caught me quickly, and I couldn't get enough. There's a lot to do at this waterfall, including jumps in different places. I also had the chance to rappel down the cliff face to drop into the water.
Next up was a baby waterfall compared to the big one we did. At only 5 meters, this little guy gave us a lot of chances to practice different ways to, well, fall! Besides feet-first, like at the last falls, there's also the standard jump-off-a-cliff style:
And the much scarier head-first style:
During the ride, your camera may get a little wet...
But you should keep on diligently taking pictures anyway...
At the end of the course, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Or at least, thank your guides for getting you through it, anyway!
Soaking wet, cold, but happy, it was now time for a hot bath! We went back to the Canyons Alpine Lodge to take off the wet suits and grab bathing gear.
Minakami has a ton of beautiful onsen, and I have had the chance to try a different one each night, as well as a few local restaurants with some great food. Minakami is truly a haven for outdoor sports, but offers more than that for sure.
I really enjoyed my day, and am definitely planning on trying more activities. Thank you so much to Riverwalk and Canyons, and my wonderful guides, for a fun and busy day!