Oboke and Koboke are narrow canyons near the edge of the Iya Valley in the mountains of Tokushima, a prefecture in Shikoku, Japan's smallest main island. The stretch of the Yoshino River that runs through the valley here is prime whitewater rafting, canyoning and kayaking territory.
If you choose not to challenge the rapids, try the sightseeing boat cruise, or ride a bus that runs above and beside the river between March and November. In November, there's a special trolley called the Oboke Trolley Train. The area also offers museums dedicated to gems and mythical creatures, and some great onsen as well.
It takes one hour and 15 minutes from Haneda Airport (Tokyo) to Tokushima Airport, and 30 minutes by bus from the airport to Tokushima Station. From Tokushima Station, it takes one hour and 35 minutes to Koboke and one hour and 40 minutes to Oboke on the JR Tokushima Dosan Line (limited express) via Awa Ikeda Station.
The hourly limited express trains between Okayama and Kochi also stop at Oboke Station. It is also possible to get to Oboke in 40 minutes by bus from Awa Ikeda Station. There are four bus departures a day.
The majestic Yoshino River is Tokushima's largest river and flows across many of the island's prefectures from west to east. Following the river upstream, you'll come upon the spectacular V-shaped gorges of Oboke and Koboke and areas inhabited by wild deer, monkeys and boar.
The landscape is marked by steep mountainsides, the very trait that inspired the canyon names. Oboke and Koboke are translated as “big dangerous steps” and “small dangerous steps,” respectively, owing to the sheer slopes with narrow paths that can indeed be tricky to walk along.
Oboke and Koboke have become a mecca for lovers of the outdoors, and the canyons play host to some of Japan's most adventurous activities, including thrilling whitewater rafting, canyoning and river kayaking.
Narrow, rocky Oboke Canyon and its river rapids create the perfect conditions for whitewater rafting. The powerful water flow and significant drop-offs make it the place to experience some of Japan's finest rafting. The World Rafting Championship was held here in 2017.
Oboke is typically the starting point for both full-day or half-day cruises, and outfitters can accommodate a range of abilities, from the casual explorer to more dedicated outdoorsmen and women.
Further downstream from the whitewater rapids, the Oboke Sightseeing Boat Cruise offers a tranquil 30-minute ride through the gorge on a small tour boat. There are one-of-a-kind sights to be appreciated in all four seasons, with snow-capped mountains in the winter, wild cherry trees coloring the hillside in spring, fresh green leaves in summer, and the warmly colored leaves of autumn.
Be sure to stop at the Lapis Oboke rest area, which houses both a gem museum and a yokai museum. The yokai museum will introduce you to the fascinating ghosts and fantastic mythical beasts of Japanese folklore. The Yokai Festival is held every November.
The gem museum displays rocks and gemstones from the area as well as around the world, and tells you about the unusual geological strata of the Oboke Canyon. The facility also includes a tourist information center, a cafe, a free foot bath, and shops, making it an ideal place for a break.
Oboke also serves as a jump-off point into the Iya Valley, one of Japan's remotest regions, with unusual vine bridges, centuries-old thatched-roof farmhouses and breathtaking mountain scenery. Combine a visit to the Iya Valley in with your trip to Oboke and Koboke. Oboke Iya Hot Spring Village is a great place for a mountain onsen break.