Last week at the height of cherry blossom season, we headed down to Azumino to enjoy some early spring rafting! The combination of fast currents, snow-capped mountains, and blooming cherry trees are perfect for an exciting and scenic day on the water.
We began at the Shisuien park, a 5-minute taxi ride away from Niimura Station on the Kamikochi line train. The park sits on the bank of the Azusa River and includes campgrounds, BBQ pits, indoor lodging, hot springs, and restaurant. With the help of the Hakuba Adventure Club, they offer rafting as well.
Before heading off on our cruise, we donned wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets, and our guide Mappun lectured us about water safety. He also explained a few basic commands that he would give on the tour, and after a few drills we pushed off into the river.
From our raft we had wide-open views of the country fields around us and the distant Japanese Alps. Along the Azusa River, some 3,000 cherry trees were in full bloom. Everything was quiet except for the sounds of birds, water, and Mappun chanting “ichi, ni! ichi, ni!” to help us paddle in rhythm. Occasionally, cheers roared up from behind as another group tumbled through the whitewater or got into a splashing war with another raft. As we floated down the river, we enjoyed the spring scenery and chatted about our plans for Golden Week.
After riding through the course and lifting the boat back out of the water, we returned to Shisuien. We took off our wetsuits, hopped in the hot springs, and relaxed after a long bout of paddling. Finally, we headed out to the barbeque pits and grilled to our hearts’ content. We ate shish-kebabs, yakisoba, and grilled veggies below shady cedars while enjoying the idyllic scenery of Azumino.
Rafting at Shisuien (via Hakuba Adventure Club)
Time slots: 9:00-11:30 or 13:00-15:00
Period: Early April to late October
Price: Half Day course (One hour rafting)
Adults/7,000 Yen, Children/5,000 Yen
Access: Take the Kamikochi line train from Matsumoto Station to Niimura Station (15 min.). From there, a 5- minute taxi to Shisuien.
Websites: Shisuien Website (Japanese), Hakuba Adventure Club Website (Japanese)