Action & Adventure
A one-time host of the Winter Olympics, Nagano is famous for its winter sports. Yet summer is no less busy. Escape to upland Nagano when it turns steaming hot and cool down via canyoning, a one-of-a-kind adventure.
Canyoning sites are in Hakuba, which is easy to reach via Nagano City or Matsumoto.
From Tokyo, the fastest option is the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagano, about 1 hour 45 minutes away, and transferring to a bus at Nagano Station bound for Hakuba, another 65 minutes.
The smoothest option is the daily Super Azusa train leaving from Shinjuku at 7:30 a.m., bound for Hakuba about 4 hours away. Otherwise, you can get an express train to Matsumoto and change for the local Oita Line, about 4 and a half hours in total.
Canyoning is a sport also known as canyoneering (U.S.), kloofing (South-Africa), torrentismo (Italian), and barranquismo (Spanish)
The canyons in Hakuba are basalt, rock formed from rapidly cooled lava from volcanic activity
Canyoning involves making your way down a rugged ravine and its river in a dramatic fashion: plunging down waterslide-like cascades, leaping from the canyon walls, ziplining into crystal clear pools. You may need to hike from time-to-time, but you spend most of the day on the rocks and in the water. All this takes place in a beautiful woodland setting in the Northern Alps.
Along with instruction in canyoning techniques, the organizers provide wetsuits, helmets, and other gear. For lots of whitewater and adrenaline, try to go in May and June when there's heavy meltwater from the mountains. Children and families tend to participate more frequently from July when the flow has slowed somewhat.
Canyoning hosts include Evergreen Outdoor Center and Hakuba Lion. Prices run about 8,000-9,000 yen, and in most cases, all you need to bring is a bathing suit, a towel, and a sense of adventure.