Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Action & Adventure

Kuma River Boat Cruises 球磨川下り

A proud history of boating adventures

Extreme sports and thrill seeking may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of traditional Japanese culture, but on the Kuma River you can experience exciting boat rides in the spirit of wild old-fashioned Japanese pastimes dating back to the Edo period.


  • Beautiful views of the area's riverside vistas
  • Both gentle and thrilling boat rides in traditional wooden boats
  • Cozy winter rides with built-in heaters

How to Get There

The launch point for the boats is a 20-minute walk from JR Hitoyoshi Station.

Getting to Hitoyoshi Station from Kumamoto Station can take between an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether you take the Kyushu Odan, Kumagawa express lines, or the Hisatsu local line. Taking the local train from Kumamoto will require a change at Yatsushiro Station, while the express line will take you directly there.

By far the most unique and memorable way to travel in Hitoyoshi is by the Hitoyoshi Steam Locomotive, which departs once per day from Kumamoto Station and requires reservations well in advance.

Quick Facts

The Kuma River is 115 kilometers long and eventually ends at the Yatsushiro Sea

Its pristine waters are rated as one of the top three most rapid rivers in the country

Flooding is common during the rainy season in June

A gentle cruise or a white-knuckle ride?

There are a number of different courses you can choose when visiting Kuma River for a boat ride, ranging from slow and gentle to fast and thrilling.

There are two main fast routes for the rapid shallow stream: the long course or the ultra-rapid course. Expect water splashing over the sides as your boatmen - one at the front and one at the back - expertly maneuver you through the rocks.

Alternatively, the short and middle courses avoid the rapid shallows, making for a much gentler ride. Enjoy the scenery from the vantage point of your little wooden boat, and listen to the guide who will point out key features of the area.

Different options are available depending on the season, so confirm your selection before visiting to avoid disappointment. The view will also appear noticeably different depending on the time of year you visit, so bear this in mind when making travel plans. The faster routes tend to be more expensive per person, but you can hire an entire boat for groups or special events.

Summer-month options

The wooden boat rapid rides are only available from April to October, while the gentle courses are open throughout the year, although these can sometimes be canceled due to poor weather or flooding.

During the summer months there are whitewater rafting trips, where you'll be outfitted in a helmet and life jacket as you climb aboard a modern rubber raft for a white-knuckle ride. Expect to get wet!

Staying warm in winter

With 70,000 tourists taking a Kuma River boat cruise every year, this is certainly one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.

Summer is the most popular time to visit for the warm weather and the rapid shallows, but winter has a uniquely Japanese charm: you can opt for a "kotatsu fune," a boat that includes a traditional heater to keep your feet warm while you get a view of the river that most never see.

Views for all seasons

Visit in spring for gorgeous views of Japanese cherry blossoms, or in the autumn to see the spectacular changing of the leaves. If you're lucky, you might see a yomeiri fune, a boat traditionally taken by a bride in formal kimono as she goes to meet her groom.

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