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Unazawa Tani - Canyon Magazine

Unazawa Tani

A dark black volcanic rock canyon with rich lush green moss only 1.5 hours from Tokyo…

Canyon Magazine
Japan Trip Report
June 2016

Dark volcanic rock, lush green moss all under cover of trees with abseils, jumps and slides, what more could you ask for only 1.5 hours out from central Tokyo?

Unazawa Tani located in Okutama, Tokyo is one of our favourite canyons that only takes 3.5 hours from start to finish but has the ability to be done in so many different ways and every time you run it, it’s always a great day out.

I have been running this canyon for some years now and take everyone from overseas who contacts us to go canyoning through it. It’s one of those canyons you can do multiple times and never be bored of it. Even during the different season, the canyon offers a different view each time. At one time it was a very popular canyon for the commercial companies but they have now moved a lot of their efforts towards Kawanori Tani. If you start early enough you can do Unazawa Tani and Kawanori Tani in a single day leaving you fairly well exhausted.

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Unazawa Tani takes a 45 minute walk up from the car parking area along the hiking trail to Otake Mountain where the entry point is on the ridge line. It’s quite a popular area for hikers to look at the waterfalls, so most likely you will see someone or a group hiking up to the halfway point. Once up to the marker point it’s a quick descent down along the ridge line to the start of the canyon.

As soon as you arrive, its dark rock and moss straight away. The volcanic activity of heating and cooling in the area must have been great all those years ago as you can still see the layers upon layers everywhere you turn. A quick suit up and off we go. The starting section of the descent is pretty simple, a few down climbs, a couple of slides and a short abseil if you don’t feel like down climbing one of the areas. With this canyon we try and keep to the centre of the river as much as possible to not damage all the moss that has been growing for years.

Shortly after, you reach the first rappel of 20 metres. Originally set as webbing tied to 2 trees, it can be a bit unnerving. Even with commercial companies using this canyon, not one of them has placed a proper bolted anchor yet. A good through checking of the webbing to make sure its ok and we descend into the enclosed gorge just before the next rappel.

The next rappel is know as Otaki (Big Waterfall in Japanese) and is the highlight of the entire canyon. It’s a 34 meter waterfall rappel straight down with a small overhang in the centre. You can actually do this with 1 single 60m rope as at the bottom there is a small ledge which you can step on and do the rope pull down from there or if you want something more fun, adjust the rope so one end is longer and then slide down the last 4 metres pulling the rope behind. You could also setup a guided rappel as there is a good tree right in line as a bomber anchor.

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Negi Taki (Twisted Waterfall) is a hollowed out gorge section with a 13 metre rappel and a great overhang before landing in water. Here you can really see the striations of all the volcanic activity. I have done this so many times that I’m able to finally rappel this with a single jump from the top without touching the wall and reach the bottom. At the bottom of Negi, is a short 4 metre slide. There are also some rocks where you can jump off. With the whole Negi Taki, you can do this multiple times if you want as there is a sawanobori route which takes you back to the top of the waterfall all to do it once again.

Finally its down to the final waterfall Mitsukama no Taki (Three Kettle Waterfall) following the walking track down from Negi Taki. Mitsukama no Taki is a 3 level waterfall, with the first section being a great play area, with a 6 metre slide and 4 metre jump. It’s worth while playing here, sliding and jumping. The other 2 sections can be rappelled from the top using one of the trees as anchors or if you’ve had enough you can climb out and follow the trail back down to the car.

And that’s it. All done. You can keep following the river down back to the car parking but it’s probably easier just to jump on the trail and head off to the next canyon in the area Kawanori Tani!

More details, maps and topographic beta available in the database section.