What is Rafting

Rafting is an outdoor sport in which eight or ten people board a specialized whitewater boat and work together as a team to go down a raging river.

About Rafting

Types of rafting

Types of rafting
Types of rafting2
When we speak of rafting, we generally mean rafting tours.
Our experienced guides provide a safe and enjoyable experience for many people to experience the nature and rapids of the river.

The classification is called commercial rafting.

The rafting tour in Japan is a very popular activity. Rafting tours in Japan are said to have started on the Yoshino River in Shikoku, where there are fierce currents, and in the town of Minakami (Tone River) in Gunma Prefecture. It started in the 1990s, led by Japanese guides who were working in Cairns, Australia at the time. Around 2000, rafting became more well known, and rafting on intermediate level rivers such as the Nagatoro in Saitama, Okutama in Tokyo, Nagara River in Gifu, and Hozu River in Kyoto became more popular.

Meanwhile, in addition to commercial rafting, there is also private rafting and race rafting.

Private rafting has been a mainstay since the 1990s, especially for university expedition clubs. In the early days, rafting was a means to an end, a means to an end, but since the 1990s, rafting has become a means to an end, a means to an end, Rafting skills increased, and the sport evolved into race rafting, which will be discussed later.
However, it is still rare to find people who do completely private rafting.

The reason for this is that the cost of a boat alone is about 300,000-400,000 yen, and if you include the equipment, the price increases to a certain level, and then there is the problem of storage space.

Race Rafting Race rafting is a team rafting competition where each team competes for speed. The "Ribaben" (Japan River Venture Championships) and other events began to flourish around 1990. At that time, the focus was on university expedition clubs and some rafting guides, but in the 2000s, professional teams were established, and both men's and women's teams began to take the top places, including winning, not only in Japan but also in world competitions
. In addition, in 2017, a rafting world championship was held on the Yoshino River in Shikoku, raising the profile of race rafting to a whole new level.

Rafting equipments

Rafting equipment includes boat, paddle, life jacket, helmet, wetsuit, and water shoes.


Boat|Rafting Equipment1 Boat|Rafting Equipment2
Boat|Rafting Equipment3
The main equipment for rafting is the boat.
Rafting boats are different from regular rubber boats and are designed for whitewater.

There are three main features of whitewater rafts.
  • Equipped with a self-bailer (automatic drainage function)
  • Front (bow) and rear (stern) are warped
  • Material is made of reinforced rubber (resin)
Rafting boats are structurally more of a "float" than a boat.

Because it is a float, it has great buoyancy, and even if it is filled with water, it requires an automatic drainage function through a hole in the bottom of the boat to drain the water out.

Until about 2005, it was common to see rafting boats without automatic drainage (commonly known as bucket boats),

The bucket boat is a rafting boat that is used to paddle and turn the boat, but when the boat is full of water, it becomes almost uncontrollable, so in recent years, you almost never see a bucket boat anymore.

Another characteristic of rafting boats is that the bow and stern (or bow only, depending on the boat) are bowed up. This is to reduce the amount of water entering the boat and to reduce the amount of water pressure received, thereby increasing propulsive force when the boat hits waves in a rapids.

The main materials used in boats are PVC (plastic) and Hypalon (reinforced rubber).

PVC is thinner and lighter, but PVC is also more prone to tearing when it hits rocks.
Because they are inflated with air under pressure, they are difficult to repair once broken. However, depending on the damaged area, a tear of up to 5 cm from the pinhole can be repaired by an amateur.

As special solvents, adhesives (glue: PVC and Hypalon are completely different), coagulant (hardener), and primer (primer) are required. As for tools, brushes, rollers, paper files, weights of about 10 kg, and a heat gun are needed.

The boat should have D-rings and outer lines, bow lines, and if possible, swath lines installed, etc.

Boat manufacturers include Achilles in Japan and NRS, Zebec, and Hojo overseas.

To inflate the boat, you will also need a blower, hand pump, etc.

RYOBI is recommended for the blower and Carlson for the pump.


Gear|Rafting Equipment1
Gear|Rafting Equipment2
Gear|Rafting Equipment3
Gear|Rafting Equipment4
Gear|Rafting Equipment5
Gear includes team gear and individual gear.
Team gear includes rescue equipment called a sweep kit and first aid, while individual gear includes helmets, life jackets, etc.
Team Gear Example
  • rescue gear
    10mm x 40m static rope, 2 x 7mm prusik, 4 x carabiners, 2 x pulleys, 2 x 1" x 7m waving, etc.
  • First Aid
    Triangular hood, bandages, gauze, adhesive bandages, scissors, tweezers, nail clippers, tissues (dry and wet), poison remover, disinfectant, water, and fracture fixation devices,
Personal Gear Example
  • helmet
    A specialized whitewater helmet is required.Shaped to resist water pressure, many whitewater helmets have holes to release water pressure.
  • life jacket
    Life jackets with buoyancy for the grade of the river. Life jackets for rafting require greater buoyancy because, unlike kayaks, if you fall into a river, the buoyancy to hold on to is only about a paddle.
    For guides and leaders, those with quick-release harnesses, cow tails, and other rescue parts are suitable.
  • throw bag
    It is a rescue tool with a rope that floats in the water inside a bag.
  • flip line
    A tool with a carabiner attached to a 2m to 5m piece of waving tape. It is used when the boat is turned over.
    It has a wide range of uses, such as when mooring a boat or as an anchor during rescue activities.
  • Carabiners
    Carabiners with rings are the basic type of carabiner for use in rivers. Carabiners without rings have a high risk of becoming entangled in the rope when they are swept away.
  • river knife
    A knife used during a rescue to cut ropes and, in some cases, to slice through boats.
    It should be set in a place where it can be quickly retrieved, such as the knife holder of a life jacket, so that it can be used in an emergency. On the other hand, you also need to be careful how you place it because it can cause injury.
    In addition, to avoid violating the Firearms Control Law, you must be careful about the length of the blade. (By law, you cannot carry a knife with a blade longer than 6 cm in length.)
  • whistle
    On the river, it can be difficult to communicate by voice due to the sound of the rapids. Whistles and body language are often used to communicate.
    This is one of the most important tools that you will need, especially during a rescue.


Clothing|Rafting equipment1
Clothing|Rafting equipment2
  • Appropriate wear
    Wear appropriate for the season and water temperature is important.
    When the snow melts, a full 5mm dry suit is essential, and even during the normal season, a 2-3mm wetsuit fit is recommended. However, in mid-summer, light clothing without a wetsuit may be more suitable, given the risk of dehydration.
  • Appropriate footwear
    Footwear is important not only for access to the river, but also for rescue in case of emergency.
    Basically, you need something that stays securely on your feet and doesn't come off.
    Leaders and guides in particular should have soles with a firm grip that allows them to run around on rocky terrain and, preferably, with good toe coverage.
    Although toes will show, many guide staff wear sports sandals with reinforced "chaco" soles.

About Rafting Tours

Before joining the tour

Those preparing for rafting1
Those preparing for rafting2
First, decide on the dates you want to go rafting and the rivers you want to visit.
Once you have decided, find out how to get there from your starting point.

If you are driving, check the estimated travel time on Google or Navitime. If you are driving, check Google or Navitime for estimated travel time and confirm whether parking is available. Be sure to allow plenty of time for accidents, traffic jams, car breakdowns, etc.
If by train, first check the timetable, then find out if there is a shuttle service from the station and if you need to make a reservation for it.

Most rafting tours are offered in advance. Most rafting tours require advance reservations.

There are many different types of rafting tours available, so you can book your rafting tour online.

Because you can't join a rafting tour on the wrong day or on the wrong course, it is best to book in advance.

If you get the dates or course wrong, you will not be able to participate on the day of the tour, so be sure to check and make your reservations carefully.

At least one day in advance, you must bring the necessary belongings with you.

Check the rafting tour page to make sure you have everything you need with you at least one day in advance.

In general, you will need a swimsuit, towel, and shoes that you don't mind getting wet.
Please check this page for a detailed list of what to bring on a Big Smile rafting tour.

Summary of what to bring, what to wear and how to dress for rafting

Tour day

Before Rafting
On the day of your rafting tour, try to arrive 10 minutes early.
Then, go to the restroom! ←This is important.

Rafting is a water-based activity, so your body heat will be deprived. This will make you physiologically need to go to the toilet.
However, there are no toilets in nature. So be sure to use the restroom well in advance.

Once it is time to gather, you will be briefed on the tour flow, fill out forms, and change clothes. After that, please follow the tour flow and enjoy rafting to the fullest!

Places where rafting is available

Rafting destinations in Japan

There are numerous rafting spots in Japan.


Rafting destinations in Hokkaido
Shiribetsu river
Level Spring ★★★ Summer ★★
Niseko is a great place to experience rafting. Yotei, the Shiribetsu River is a powerful spring rafting course. The water volume calms down outside of the snow melt and the summer course is a slower rafting experience in the great outdoors.
Level ★★★★
It is a rafting location close to Furano and Tomamu. The Mukawa River is said to be the most intense river in Hokkaido. It is especially intense from late April to mid-May when the snow melts. It is characterized by many rocky stretches and large drop-offs. The water temperature is quite low during the thaw season, so be prepared.
Rafting is also available on the Toyohira River and the Akan River.

Kantou Touhoku

Rafting in Kanto and Tohoku 1
Rafting in Kanto and Tohoku 2
Minakami (Gunma)
Level Spring ★★★★★ Summer ★★
This is rafting on the Tone River, the "Bando Taro", one of the three most violent rivers in Japan. The Tone River flows out of Mt. Tanigawa, and the melting snow from Golden Week to June is one of the most intense periods in Japan. The high water "Ryukese" is the best. In the summer, the river is less watery, but the course is gentle and natural, offering an otherworldly rafting experience.
Nagatoro (Saitama)
Level ★★★
This is the rafting location that probably attracts the most customers in the Kanto area. You will go down the Arakawa River, which has a very good balance of intense rapids and gentle currents. It is accessible as a day trip from the Tokyo metropolitan area, and the course is easy enough for beginners to enjoy. The location of the event, Chichibu Nagatoro, is also a sightseeing spot, Kumagaya City in Saitama Prefecture, which has the highest temperature in Japan, is a popular rafting spot where you can enjoy the cool water in hot weather. You can enjoy the rapids such as "Seigo no Se", "Kotaki", and "Futamata" while viewing the national natural treasure "Iwadatami" up close.
Okutama, Tokyo
Level ★★★
This is rafting on the upstream portion of the Tama River, which flows out from the Okutama area. Because of its easy access by train from Tokyo Station, it is a popular rafting spot mainly among customers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, especially during the summer months. The course descends the Ontake Valley toward Ome City, and is especially thrilling at the "Mitsui-iwa rapids" after a series of rapids in the early part of the course. After that, you can enjoy numerous rapids such as "Tatechin" and "Misogi.
Rafting is also available on the Kinugawa and Mogami Rivers.

Chubu Hokuriku Koushinetsu

Rafting destinations in Chubu and Koshinetsu
Level ★★★
When it comes to rafting spots in the Chubu region, the Nagara River is the most popular by far. It is easily accessible by car from Nagoya and Gifu, and despite its proximity to the city, the water quality is among the best in Japan. It is called one of the three clearest rivers in Japan. The morning course and afternoon course take you down different courses, but there are many rapids such as "Sandan-no-Seke" and "Kemushi-no-Seke" where you can enjoy a powerful rafting experience.
Tenryu River
Level ★★
The area around Iida City in southern Nagano Prefecture is a rafting spot on the Tenryu River. Although there are few rocky areas and drop-offs, the river has a large volume of water, allowing rafters to enjoy long-distance rafting.
Other rivers include the Saigawa and Kurobe Rivers.


Rafting destinations in Kansai1
Rafting destinations in Kansai2
Hozu river
Level ★★★
This is the most popular rafting location in the Kansai region. It is a 30-minute train ride from Kyoto Station, and two stops away is Arashiyama, one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Japan, making it a rafting spot where you can enjoy rafting and sightseeing as a set. The rafting course takes you down the Hozukyo Gorge, where not a single house stands. There are more than 10 rapids including "Koyu Falls" and "Otakase. Animals such as monkeys and deer often appear, and the trolley train that runs along the river adds to the extraordinary feeling. Enjoying the scenery of each season is also recommended.
Nara Yoshino river
Level ★★★
This is a rafting spot in the southern part of Nara Prefecture. Rafting courses are available from Shimoichiguchi to Gojo City. The downstream portion of the Nara Yoshino River has been renamed the Kino River and flows into Wakayama City. It is a popular river for rafting and kayaking. It is called the Nara Yoshino River in the rafting industry because it shares the name with the Yoshino River in Shikoku.
Kitayama river
Level ★★★
A rafting spot in Wakayama Prefecture... Although Kitayama Village is the only enclave in Japan, all the surrounding towns are not in Wakayama Prefecture, but in a special location in Mie and Nara Prefectures. The surrounding population is quite small, so the water quality is excellent and the rapids are high. This is a recommended rafting spot for nature lovers.

Shikoku Kyuusyuu

Rafting destinations in Shikoku and Kyushu
Yoshino river
Level ★★★★★
The Yoshino River, known as "Shikoku Saburo," one of Japan's three most violent rivers, is one of the best rafting spots in the world. It is the best river for rafting, with high water volume in summer (mid-May to mid-September) due to the Kagawa water supply. The "Koboke Course" on the Tokushima Prefecture side in particular has a large volume of water and large drop-offs, and the closer you get to the goal, the more intense the rapids become. On the other hand, the current between the rapids is gentle and you can enjoy swimming and playing games in the beautiful emerald green Yoshino River to the fullest. By the way, the quality of the hot springs in the nearby Oboke Hot Spring Resort is also excellent.
Kuma River, Niyodo River, Naga River, etc.

Where in the world can you go rafting?

Rafting in the world1
Rafting in the world2
Bali Island (Indonesia) is a famous tourist destination. It is for the general public and has a certain amount of intensity. On the other hand, Nepal, a mountainous country, has numerous rafting spots that can be enjoyed by beginners and advanced rafters alike. Rafting is also available in India and Bhutan.
North & South America
In North America, the Colorado River in the U.S., the river of the Great Canyon, is famous, as is the Kicking Horse River in Canada. In Latin America, the Futaleufu River in Chile is famous, and rafting is also available in Costa Rica and other countries.
In Australia, the Tully and Barron Rivers in the Gold Coast and Cairns are famous. New Zealand is famous for the Kaituna and Wairoa Rivers in Rotorua, North Island, and the Rangitata River in the Canterbury region and the Kawarau River in Queenstown, South Island.
Europe has rafting on many rivers in most countries, although few places are particularly famous for it. Race rafting is especially popular in Eastern Europe, especially in Slovakia, and there are race rafting teams in many towns along the rivers.
The Zambezi River (Zimbabwe and Zambia), which is said to be the fiercest river in the world, is located around Victoria Falls, one of the world's three greatest waterfalls. In addition to the Zambezi River, many of the world's most ferocious rivers, such as the Orange River in South Africa and the White Nile in Uganda, are located in Africa.

How to paddle rafting

Rowing methods used on rafting tours include "front paddle," "back paddle," "caught," and "squatting.
These four basic types are explained below.
Incidentally, the more difficult the river, the more "right yawing", "left yawing", "jumping", "right front left back", "left front right back", etc.

Forward paddle

Forward paddle
Forward paddling is a method of paddling that propels the boat forward.
The key point is to paddle deeply using your body. The yellow spatula (blade) part of the paddle should be paddled firmly with the image that it is all submerged in the water.

It is also important to paddle with your body. Lean forward and tilt the paddle so that it is at an angle of about 60 degrees to the water about 1 meter in front of you, so that it receives (catches) more water resistance, It is important to paddle as if you are sinking deeper rather than pulling the paddle backward.
In the second half of the paddle, you should also use the force to pull backward.
Also, when the boat has gained some speed, it is more important to paddle quickly without shaking the boat or your body, even if the landing area of the blades is somewhat reduced, rather than paddling with all your might.
In my image, it is like paddleing in low gear at the beginning of the paddling and in high gear when you gain speed.

As for rafting, it is a team effort. Also, since rafting is a team effort, it is important that everyone in the crew on the boat paddles with the same timing.

back paddle

back paddle
Back paddle is a method of paddling that propels the boat backward.

First, hold the blade portion of the paddle as far back as possible without touching the water.
To bring it further back, twist your body outward.
To paddle backward using the principle of leverage, place the shaft (hand-held stick) part of the paddle against your waist to serve as a fulcrum.

Submerge the blade part in the water. The yellow part of the blade should be completely submerged in the water so that the paddle does not float.
Start paddling, here is the key point.

Row using only the twists of your body.
If you try to paddle with your hands (arms) even a little, you will lose the fulcrum.

All the time, the fulcrum should remain on the hips. Always keep the fulcrum attached to your waist and use only your body's twist (return) to paddle.

Hold on

hold on
The "hold on" is one of the safety postures to avoid falling out of the boat.
The risk of falling out of the water is slightly higher than the other, "squat," but it is easier to respond quickly and is often used as a safety posture when you want the customer to paddle.
First, lean your body inward and place your inside hand on the bottom of the boat while holding the T-grip. It is important not to release the T-grip at this time.
Next, with your outside hand, hold the outside rope through the top of the paddle shaft.

Then, with your outside hand, pass through the top of the paddle shaft and grasp the outside rope. At this point, hold the shaft of the paddle between your sides (between your arms and side chest).
If the current is not a rapids that causes the crew to jump, look ahead to check the situation.

Get down

get down
The "crouch" is a safety posture that keeps you from falling out of the boat.
It has a lower risk of falling out of the water than "hold on," but it is also an instruction that can take longer to take this posture or to return to the next instruction.
First, release the T-grip and stand on the bottom of the boat. Next, squat down in the boat with the shaft portion firmly between your legs, holding the paddle in place.
Next, grip the rope on the outside of the boat (or the back rope on a bouncy river). Again, with your opposite hand, hold the paddle firmly so that it is not in front of your face but in front of either shoulder on either side.
On bouncy rivers, pull back your chin to avoid hitting your face with the back of the helmet of the person in front of you.
A bouncing river is a situation where the drop is so steep and the volume of water is such that the crew is blown forward. This is common in the Yoshino River in Shikoku.

Rafting Fun

The fun of rafting is, above all, the exhilarating feeling of teamwork as you float down a raging river.
In addition to that, you can get off the boat and swim along the way, play games using the boat, and be healed by the natural scenery and negative ions, You can enjoy an extraordinary experience.
It is sure to be a fun experience for any group of family, friends, or couples!

Rafting is a great way to bond with your friends. Rafting is a great way to bond with friends and is attracting attention not only from the general public, but also as an educational activity for schools, such as school excursions.