Canyoning in Gunma

Canyons Group
Our Canyoning group at the mouth of the Canyon

Have you ever wanted to explore canyons while floating through rapids and jumping off of waterfalls? If so, the FuJET trip to Canyons in Minakami, Gunma is the perfect trip for you! This trip starts with an adventure-packed Saturday filled with a morning of exploring Fox Canyon (highlight: being lowered halfway down a 20-meter waterfall and then dropped the rest of the way into the pool at the bottom) and an afternoon of white-water rafting, bungee jumping, or mountain biking, followed by an evening barbeque and dance party. Sunday features a relaxing soak in an onsen with amazing views and some of the best curry around.

Even if the thought of floating through canyons and jumping off of waterfalls doesn’t give you an anticipatory adrenaline rush, I’d highly recommend this trip. It was one of the first big activities I participated in after arriving in Fukushima last year and it is definitely one of my favorite memories of my first few months. I am not a particularly adventurous person and, I’ll admit, when I first heard about the trip, I was pretty intimidated. It doesn’t help that I’m afraid of heights, so the thought of the waterfall in the middle of the course didn’t make me feel much better. However, I talked to a lot of people who had gone on the trip in the past (including someone who didn’t know how to swim when they went) and they all assured me that they felt completely safe and had a great time. After some deliberation, I signed up. I came to Japan for new experiences, after all, and this definitely counted as a new experience.

We took a charter bus to Gunma on Friday night after work and the bus ride there set the tone for the rest of the trip. It’s a fairly long drive, but we kept ourselves occupied with songs, games, and merriment (and probably drove our bus driver nuts in the process). We got to the lodge shortly after 1 AM and went straight to bed, since we would have to be up early the next morning to start our day of adventure.

Canyons Waterfall
If you look closely, you can see everyone else in the water below!

Saturday morning started off with a light breakfast before heading out to the bus that would take us to the start of our course. Once we had arrived at the canyon entrance, our guide led us into the water and gave us some basic safety information. After that, it was time to begin! The course started off easily enough, sliding down some small rocks and floating through rapids. The water was nice and cool, which felt good in the late September heat. About halfway through the course, we got to the big waterfall. Watching my fellow FuJETs get lowered over the edge and out of sight was a bit unnerving, so if you’re afraid of heights, I would recommend being one of the first few people to go. Also, as an added bonus, you get to watch the rest of your group from the cool water of the pool below.

Canyons Rafting
Succeeding at not getting stuck on the rocks

Compared to the waterfall, the rest of the course seemed pretty easy: a few more small waterfalls to jump off of (no more than 6 meters tall) and some more rapids to float through before our guides led us out of the water and back to the bus. After returning to the lodge for lunch, we split up for our afternoon activities. I went rafting, which was a lot of fun, even if the water level was so low we had to bounce up and down in the boat to get over a few rocky patches. We rounded out the day with a barbeque and dance party back at the lodge before getting some much-needed sleep.

Before starting the long drive home on Sunday, we stopped at Takaragawa onsen, a beautiful outdoor onsen with some of the most incredible views I’ve ever experienced from an outdoor bath. Takaragawa features a mixed-gender bath, but most people bring a towel to cover themselves with. However, they also have separate baths for men and women for people who don’t feel comfortable with the mixed bath. If you’re not interested in the onsen, there’s a restaurant inside with delicious curry, ramen, and other things for lunch.

All in all, whether you’re new to Fukushima or not, I’d highly recommend this trip. For new FuJETs, it’s a great chance to meet people from other parts of the prefecture (I met two of my closest friends outside my area when we wound up as roommates at the lodge) and it’s a wonderful way to kick off your JET experience. For current FuJETs, how many other chances will you get to explore a canyon and descend 20-meter waterfalls? Finally, if you only take away one thing from this review, I hope it’s this: don’t let a fear of heights or water or adventure stop you from participating on this trip. I never thought I would be able to say I had slid down a 20-meter waterfall, but I’m so glad I did. This is a great trip with great people and you will have a great time! If you’re interested in more information about this year’s trip, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1314228068591851/