playground for all ages
“Shikoku Saburo” they call it
The Yoshino River which flows through Nishi-Awa is considered to be one of the three greatest rivers in Japan. As such, it’s nicknamed ‘Shikoku Saburo’ – Saburo being the traditional name for the third son of the family. This name is considered very evocative, and it’s a source of pride to people in Shikoku. The Yoshino rises from Mount Kamegamori in Kochi Prefecture and flows to the east. In Otoyo it turns to the north and crosses the Shikoku Mountains. The gorge formed here named Oboke Koboke, is a famous attraction of Nishi-Awa. In Ikeda, Tokushima Prefecture it turns to the east again and flows into the sea north of Tokushima city. Its major tributaries include the Ananai, Iya, Dozan, Sadamitsu, and Anabuki Rivers.
World-class white water rafting
Shikoku Saburo and his tributaries represent a vast adventure playground for people of all ages and interests. The Yoshino River itself is the best in Japan for white water, with many Class III and even Class IV rapids. On the Oboke Koboke section, smooth, calm sections of emerald green water are interspersed with rocky chutes that make the water boil and churn between the huge boulders – an ideal stretch of river for rafting.
Several rafting companies offer full and half-day tours led by professional English-speaking guides, with a tasty riverbank lunch included. You can just roll up at any of the rafting bases during the season and you’ll be assigned to a boat seating eight paddlers. You’re provided a wetsuit, helmet and lifejacket, and sufficient instruction for a safe day. The raft glides down the majestic river with its magical backdrop of mountains, blue skies and clouds. The guides have a whole repertoire of entertaining games for the flat stretches, and you spend as much time in the river as the boat. On the rapids, the whole boat and crew is engulfed in foaming water for seconds at a time.
“ The guides have a whole repertoire of entertaining games for the flat stretches, and you spend as much time in the river as the boat. On the rapids, the whole boat and crew is engulfed in foaming water for seconds at a time.
Great for canoeing and canyoning too
This section of river is equally good for canoeing, assuming you have the necessary expertise. You can bring your own canoe, or rent one in the area. The tributaries of the Yoshino River also have their routes for practised canoeists.
Canyoning is another fun adventure activity involving water. It doesn’t require any particular skill or experience. Your guide takes you deep into a valley with a tributary of the Yoshino River. The creek flows through a scene of great natural beauty, cascading over majestic rocks. You trek through the canyon, swimming, sliding, jumping and scrambling to the start point. Then you slide back down through chutes into pools of emerald green water, and zip-line across dramatic spans. All the equipment is provided – you only need to bring swimwear and a towel.
Quiet and serenity if that’s your thing
TFor those who like to enjoy the river more quietly, there are pleasure boat rides. At Oboke, open boats make an ascent of a section of the river that flows gently between huge rocks canted to forty-five degrees by ancient crustal movement. Green mountains tower above the gorge. As you glide up and back down the river, you can see cormorants perched on the rocks drying their wings. At Minoda no Fuchi further downstream to the east, the river and valley is wider, with large rock formations in mid-stream. In both locations, you can enjoy the changing seasons, with pink cherry blossoms in spring, and autumn colours in the fall. In winter, the boats are equipped with stoves for your comfort.
The rivers have fish in them, and provided you have the gear and a permit, there’s no more relaxing way of enjoying the rivers of Nishi-Awa than fishing. The water is incredibly clear and cool, so swimming during the hot summer season feels like a rare luxury. There’s nobody to tell you not to jump off the rocks or splash your friends.