“FUKU-!”… “CANYONING!” Wait, what?!
There was once a time that if someone asked me, “Hey, do you want to jump down waterfalls and use rapids as a genuine mode of transport down a canyoning course this weekend?” quite frankly, I would have thought they were insane. You’re more likely to find me with a book in one hand and a cup of Earl Grey in the other, nice and cosy in the safety of my own little apartment. Even getting water up my nose in the shower turns me into a spluttering, floundering mess, but despite this, I sent my confirmation for the Gunma canyoning trip to FuJET. As soon as I clicked send, I began the odious process of psyching myself up.
Friday 13th September came around quickly and the mixed feelings of dread and excitement mingled in my stomach as I tried not to get all superstitious. Once I’d convinced myself that we weren’t all going to be decapitated by Jason Voorhees at Canyons and had the opportunity to vent nervous spiels to Jess on the train, I felt a lot better. The bus trip down was a mini event in itself, full of drunken frolics, a camera that held the authority on who was the fairest of them all, Moff dollars and deep conversations about teaching English in Japan.
Once we got to Canyons, we laid out our futons and made a little bed of blankets in the closet just in case for Emi. Then it was time to catch as many Zs as humanly possible in a short space of time. In the morning, the nerves set in over breakfast and I barely stomached half a croissant and a cup of tea before heading out to get suited up to face those darn rapids and waterfalls of Fox Canyon. After we’d all hopped around the changing room, trying to get the ridiculously tight wetsuits on, it was time to be doused with sprays of cold water and get on the bus. I was amused by the contradiction our guide Ogi made on the bus, “Only do what you feel comfortable doing and if there’s something that you feel is beyond your limits, just don’t do it. But the only way out of the canyon, is to do the canyon.” Oh thanks, really reassuring.
Once I’d been dropped down the 20 metre waterfall, all my fears vanished. The rush of adrenaline was beyond incredible as we slid and jumped off whatever the gorge had to offer. I had a little fright during a canyoning fail of being swept the wrong way by the current at one waterfall. It felt like I was under the water for a decade until I felt the relieving tug of one of the guides, who then proceeded to push me back under the waterfall. At the end of the course, I had got over my fear of being submerged into water and I felt like I could conquer the world.
After a hearty lunch of burgers and all the trimmings it was time for take two of outdoorsy, adrenaline filled activity as a group of us headed out to paraglide. We spent the bus trip singing renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody and other classics, which at one point could have left us stranded at a konbini by an annoyed bus driver (just kidding, he totally loved it). Compared to canyoning, paragliding was a peaceful and calming experience, overlooking the beautiful view of Gunma below which looked like a model railway town from 400 metres up. Thanks to Paul, we also got some great footage. I also heard some great stories from the bungee jumpers and rafters too.
After all that, it was time to get our BBQ on back at canyons and I probably got a little bit too excited that the bar was selling cider. It was a fantastic evening of food, booze, chatting and dancing well into the night with the guides and Gunma JETs. The next morning we all headed down for a well-earned soak at Takaragawa onsen. Again, I probably got a little bit too excited over my dam curry, destroying the dam with my mighty spoon and devouring the village of pickles below.
I am unbelievably glad that I faced my fears and was all ‘genki’ about this trip. Since moving to Japan, there has been a host of challenges and canyoning left me with a can-do attitude. A massive thank you goes to the organisers, all you FuJets for being great company and Canyons.