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.

Children’s Day: Flying Fish!

In the blink of an eye, Golden Week came and went. Holidays always fly by way too quickly! I packed as much as I could into my four days off,  venturing to new places, eating new food and meeting new people. By the end of it, I was left with lots of good memories… and about 500 photographs to sort through and edit!

Children’s Day, こどもの日, was one of the holidays celebrated during GW. Although no one knows exactly when this holiday started (anything up to 1000 years ago), it used to be a day to honour boys only. It officially became “Children’s Day” in the late 40’s.  

For this festival, families with sons hang up carp streamers outside their house and display warrior dolls inside their house. It’s also common for there to be ‘koinobori festivals’ in public places where you can go and see hundreds of carp flying high in the sky. It’s quite spectacular to walk underneath these huge 5 metre long streamers. They really do look like fish flying in the sky!  

A little bit about the background of koinobori… the carp, called koi in Japanese, are a symbol of good luck. They are a type of fish able to swim upstream by jumping up out of the water. These carp are said to have qualities of strength, courage and success. So, they represent the type of men that parents wish their sons will grow into.

Koinobori souvenirs

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~ Koinobori along the Tama River in Noborito, Kanagawa ~

Koinobori at Noborito 2

Koinobori at Noborito 4

Koinobori at Miura

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~ Koinobori in Miura, Kanagawa ~

This family shows a black carp which represents the father, a red carp for the mother, then one blue carp which represents their son.

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Koinobori in Miura 2

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~ Koinobori in Kawagoe, Saitama ~

Koinobori in Kawagoe

Koinobori in Kawagoe 2

Gogatsu Ningyo (warrior dolls) in a private house in Kawagoe

Gogatsu ningyo 1

Gogatsu ningyo 2