The Katsura River that snakes through Otsuki and past its landmarks is known for its picturesque views but also for the numerous ways it offers to have fun on the water, whether it’s rafting, tubing, or canyoning.
River Rafting, Tubing, and Canyoning
Rafting and Canyoning with Winds
Available from March until December. Each tour requires a reservation (booking can be done in English) of at least two people and will only go forward with at least four people in all.
Winds operates their watersports base a short 10-minute walk from Yanagawa Station.
They have English-speaking staff and offer half-days of rafting and canyoning or a full-day course to do both with lunch in the middle. The morning sessions start at 9:00 a.m. and the afternoon tour starts at 1:30 p.m. so you get plenty of chances to take in the natural beauty of the area while having a blast navigating the whitewater rapids. They also take snapshots of your adventure and upload them for you to download later.
Be sure to bring a swimsuit, towel, and proper footwear (wet shoes are available for rent) and goggles if you wear contacts or straps if you wear glasses (also available for rent).
After you’re done getting more “in touch” with Otsuki’s natural environment, you’ll likely have worked up an appetite so you can include an optional BBQ (requires a reservation for at least four people) at the end to help quell your stomach. Winds will provide the equipment but it’s “bring your own food/drink” so be sure to procure some beforehand.
Rafting and Tubing with the Fujiyama Adventure Club
Available from early April to early November. Each tour requires a reservation of at least two people and will only go forward with at least four people in all. Also, the size and floating capacity of the tube requires that participants weigh no more than 80 kg and be at least 140 cm tall.
The Fujiyama Adventure Club offers both river rafting and tubing tours with experienced guides on the Katsura River.
There are morning (9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) and afternoon (1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.) sessions for both every day, and since you’ll be getting wet either way, cloudy skies and rain won’t stop you from having a good time! Though the Club will provide life jackets, wetsuits, and helmets, be sure to bring a swimsuit, footwear you don’t mind getting wet like hiking sandals (you can rent wet shoes if you prefer), and a towel. Bringing goggles if you wear contacts or a strap for your glasses is also a good idea.
After half a day of fun and excitement, what could be a better way to close out the trip than a BBQ! The Club provides everything so you can spend a couple hours replenishing your strength and talking about the best parts of your time on—and in!—the water.
Upstream River Canyoning
Available from June to September. Requires at least four people in total for a tour to be run.
The Magi River is northwest of Otsuki proper and sets the stage for some excellent river canyoning in the wilderness (the Japanese call it “shower climbing” or sawanobori).
Tours are run in the morning (from 9:00 a.m.) and afternoon (from 1:00 p.m.) and are guided by a local hunter. You’ll venture into the great outdoors, wading upstream through the river, climbing up small rock faces, and jumping into deeper pools—if you can muster the courage.
The life jacket, helmet, wetsuit, and wet shoes are provided but you’ll want to bring a change of clothes, towel, and some thermal underwear to stay warm. Bringing goggles or a strap for your glasses is also a good idea.
Since the waters are so clear, you might spot some trout swimming around as you navigate the surroundings.
Saruhashi Bridge by Boat
Only available in April, May, October, and November and requires at least four people in total to be run. Explanations are carried out in Japanese, so we recommend bringing someone who understands the language or using a translator app.
Once you’ve visited Saruhashi from above, you should consider seeing the ancient bridge from below in the gorge, giving you the same angle and view made famous by renowned ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige.
After visiting the Otsuki City Museum, you’ll don a life jacket and hop into an inflatable boat to paddle your way down the Katsura River, which flows slower around the bridge and the breeze from the gorge provides a nice 30-minute escape from the heat in summer.
The view from below also gives you an appreciation for how difficult it must have been to build the bridge back when there were no modern construction methods and tools—it’s a long way up!
Tubing Downstream with EDDiFFUSION (Eddy)
The size and floating capacity of the tube requires that participants weigh no more than 80 kg and be at least 130 cm tall. Explanations are carried out in Japanese, so we recommend bringing someone who understands the language or using a translator app.
It’s just a 3-minute walk from Saruhashi Station to get to where Eddy launches its tubing tours downstream on the Katsura River and its tributaries.
You can reserve a tour (no minimum number of participants) in the morning from 9:00 a.m. or in the afternoon from 1:00 p.m. It lasts for about two hours, but either way you’ll need a swimsuit, towel, and footwear for getting wet like wet shoes or sandals with straps. Eddy provides everything else for you to get started on your outdoor escapade.
The tour will take you down calm steady waters and faster-flowing sections before a short break and photos. After jumping off a rock into the river a few times, you’re ferried back to the base at Saruhashi Station and that’s a wrap!
Since you can do this in just a couple hours, including it on your itinerary becomes a lot easier and you’ll be able to see scenery you can’t get to from land.