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Escape the Heat with a River-Rafting Adventure in Okutama!

Date: 09.14.2020

Feeling cooped up at home? Looking for an outdoor activity to keep you cool in the summer heat? Well, look no further—go river rafting!

Just ninety minutes west of Shinjuku by train in Okutama you’ll find the beautiful Tama River. The perfect place to escape the bustling city, connect with nature, and enjoy leisure time with your friends.

A mere eight-minute walk from Mitake Station is BIGSMILE, a rafting company that offers everyone from novice to expert the opportunity for adventure on the Tama River.


Get Ready for Adventure!

When you arrive at BIGSMILE, you’ll be greeted by rafting guides who will check you in and show you to the changing rooms where you can gear up for your rafting trip. You should bring a bathing suit, T-shirt, shorts (preferably quick drying, since you are certain to get soaked!), and a bath towel. The tour company will provide you with the other gear you need, including life jackets, helmets, and raft paddles. You can also rent water shoes for ¥300, wet suits, and a cord to secure your eyeglasses, if needed.

Each group will be given a waterproof pouch for storing personal items (including the all-important face mask). You can leave your clothing, shoes, and other belongings in a secure locker and take the key that is attached to a waterproof bracelet, which you can wear while on the river.

Once you’re ready to go, you’ll be briefed about the journey ahead and given safety instructions. Activities on the river come with risks, so make sure you take precautions and follow all instructions given to you. There is at least one English-speaking guide as well as information sheets and forms in English.


It’s Rafting Time!

After the briefing, the guides will check your protective gear to make sure you’ll be safe and secure throughout the trip. Then, you’ll proceed with the other participants down to the river and be paired up with a guide and assigned to a raft.

Each raft can accommodate up to seven people. You can come with a group of friends or join a raft with other participants after arriving. Once everyone is in the raft, your guide will show you how to use your paddle to move the raft forward and backward, as well as how to secure yourself in the raft when you run the rapids. You’ll spend a brief time practicing your paddling skills and learning the strokes necessary to effectively guide the raft as a team.

Now that you know how to maneuver your raft while staying safe, it’s time to start paddling! Your group will work together to paddle forward, navigate rapids, and have fun during your hour of thrills on the river.

River rafting is a mix of calm and excitement. At times you will float along, relaxing while you take in your surroundings, enjoy the breeze, and watch people barbecuing along the river, but then suddenly you’ll hit the rapids and the thrill begins—your adrenaline starts pumping as you descend!


Take a Pause

Halfway through your journey, you’ll reach a small calm pool of water surrounded by rocks where you’ll have a chance to take a break. Take this opportunity to cool off by floating in the water—you can even create a chain with your fellow rafters and let the gentle current carry you down the waterway.

Or if you want to stay dry on land, challenge your friends to a stone-skipping contest and see who can get the most skips!

Play around, splash each other, and let loose! No waterproof camera to capture these exciting and fun-filled moments? No problem! Your guides will use their cameras to take plenty of photos during your rafting trip!

When it’s time to hop back into the raft to continue your journey, switch seats with your friends so you can view the river from a different angle.


Complete your Journey

After maneuvering more twists and turns in the river and using your paddle to playfully splash water on your friends, you’ll find yourself at the end of your journey! Once you’ve climbed out of your raft and back onto land, your guide will lead all participants to a bus that will take you on a ten-minute ride back to the BIGSMILE base. Enjoy these few minutes on the bus by reminiscing with your friends and resting your body, exhausted from all the paddling!

At the base, you can take a few moments to strip off your wet clothes, towel yourself dry, and put on clean clothes. While you’re doing all that, the guides will prepare a slideshow of the photos they took during your journey, which they will show you after you have finished freshening up. Enjoy reliving the highlights of your river-rafting adventure, and purchase any images you would like to take with you to remember your day!

River rafting is an activity you can actually do in Tokyo. Gather your friends, book a spot, and enjoy nature while floating down the Tama River!



BIGSMILE Okutama Base


Address: 1-178-1 Mitake, Ome-shi, Tokyo 198-0174

Price: ¥3,908–¥9,499 per person

Total Time: Approximately 3 hours

Rental gear available


This article was written by Katheryn Gronauer.

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