Summer Fun on the Tama River

The water was fast flowing and icy cold, the round stones on the river bed clearly visible. Tiny fish swam freely below the surface while ducks paddled by above them. On either side of the river, lush greenery overflowed the banks and the dense forest created the illusion that the rest of the world was very far away.

Then suddenly, straight down the middle of the river, cutting into this serene, natural setting, came boat loads of adventurers! As we navigated the rapids, we cheered and splashed each other. Our guide shouted out instructions and we tried our best to work together, alternating from forward to reverse stroke, moving to the left or ride side of the raft to steer around small rocks, and diving to the floor when we were about to bump into a boulder.

Half way down the river, we stopped at a flat area and traded the paddles for some water activities like balancing games, wrestling on top of the boats and cliff jumping. Then towards the end of the ride, we jumped out again but this time to float on our backs to the end goal. Despite being the middle of summer, the water was freezing, and I’m glad I listened to the instructors and wore a wet suit! Still, it was so nice and relaxing. When we finally got out of the water, we were rewarded with some hot tea and cookies provided by the rafting company. And that wrapped up an extremely fun day!

The Tama River is one of many rivers that flow into Tokyo Bay. The mouth of the river is surrounded by concrete and industrial buildings – honestly I wouldn’t ‘hang out’ there, let alone actually get in the water. But if you follow these rivers upstream, it’s a completely different story. Okutama is an area about 2 hours west of central Tokyo, or about 70km upstream. I go hiking in this area a lot, and it’s a popular place to go camping, too. It’s a great place if you’re craving some outdoor adventures!

Final note:
There are many companies to choose from, but if you’re interested, we were very happy with ours called Okutama Rafting.

Koinobori for the Kids

Happy Children’s Day!

May 5th in Japan is a national holiday dedicated to celebrating the happiness of kids. I love the carp streamers that are displayed for the week leading up to Children’s Day. They are bright and colourful, and peaceful yet powerful. The carp, known as koi in Japanese, symbolise strength as the fish are able to swim upstream.

One of the most famous places around Tokyo to see the koinobori is Sagamihara in Kanagawa prefecture. I made the 1.5 hour train and bus journey on the weekend. There were so many families enjoying the nice weather. It was really great to see kids playing around in the water, skimming (or just throwing) pebbles and generally having a good time. It reminded me of my childhood days playing at a river down the road from our house. Those were the days! I wish all of the school students I teach and have taught, as well all the kids around the world, a healthy and happy life.

Koinobori flying at Hana no Miyako Park near Mt Fuji on Tuesday.

Mt Fuji