Okinawa

Tropical Island Jungle canyoning series on discovery and exploration…

Canyon Magazine
Japan Exploration
August 2013

Okinawa is an island paradise more renowned for Japanese holidays on the beach and drinking cocktails than for canyoning. In our a brief week on the main island, discovering new locations and exploring the jungle river systems to we were truly lucky to find such area that provides a unique experience and an alternative to the mainland of Japan.

Like most of Japan, Okinawa has been mapped out very well but in the jungle there are still areas to discover and waterfalls to descend that are hidden away from easy access. Mixed with snakes, spider webs that span the river and flies as big as houses, this was an experience we won’t forget and that left us wanting to come back again to discover more.

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Flying from Tokyo to Naha only takes 2 hours and as soon as you step off the plane you can feel the heat. While searching the net for information, we found that there is little written about the jungles and river systems. Even with sawanobori being a huge activity in Japan, Okinawa appears to be almost virgin territory.

Not only is there a lack of information, sections of Okinawa are still off limits to the general public as they are part of US Military training areas and you could easily wander into some jungle warfare exercise. But one can’t help but wonder what could be in that area. Armed with only a little information and our gear, we make our way in the jungle to discover what is there. In following Issues, we will share more of our escapes into the Okinawan Jungle.

Our first port of call is to meet up with Arakaki-san, from Okinawa Produce, who does half-day, shower climbing trips in the Yanbaru Forest. Arakaki-san has been running these treksup various rivers for many years now and is taking us to a multiple waterfall course that has yet not been discovered by many people. After arranging to meet up at the local convenience store, we both drive to the starting point at the edge of the Yanbaru Forest. Weaving along a small road we finally park and grab all our gear. Our standard canyoning wetsuits are going to be a bit thick and hot today as the temperature has already reached 30 degrees.

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We all make our way along the main river and then move into one of the side rivers and begin our walk in to the Jungle. Here the flora and river start to change. With some small climbs along the edge of a waterfall the jungle keeps on taking over and getting thickerat each turn. Halfway in we make it to one of the waterfalls, about five metres, and climb over it. We continue on and finally reach the main waterfall of this course which is unnamed but is a wonderful ten meter high double waterfall. Everyone climbs up and dives off.

We all break for a quick lunch of Okinawan style noodles, prepared by Arakaki-san, before heading further down the river. Stopping off at one of the waterfalls we end up sliding down and jumping down instead of climbing. At the exit more people have come along to soak in the water. After finishing the half day tour, we moved on to another area to take a look..

The area known as Ta Taki is a waterfall which is fifteen metres high with a high volume of water flowing of the edge. This is now a quite popular area due to being advertised on television and is busy with people climbing up the river to see the falls. It was an amazing site and an amazing day.

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Okinawa is one of the places we will definitely be heading back to for further exploration. Thanks to Okinawa Produce Kamada for showing us some amazing sites and taking us through some beautiful places in the Okinawan jungle.