The Hozugawa River that winds its way from the lush green mountains of Kameoka to Arashiyama is a prime summer attraction and should definitely be part of your Kyoto Prefecture travel experience.
This stretch of river that runs toward Kyoto city is full of excitement and thrills. There are two main options to experience the river and the various whitewater rapids. You can opt for the adventuresome whitewater rafting tour or the traditional kudari boats.
Joining a whitewater rafting tour from the city of Kameoka, downstream is the clear choice for the thrill seekers. Once you change clothes, put on the life jackets and helmets, you’ll head to the river for a quick introduction and practice before setting off down the river with your boat mates. There are half-day (¥4,000) and full-day (¥8,000) rafting options available. A few points along the river are where you can hop out of the boats and jump from rocky cliffs into the waters below.
Big Smile Rafting which offers tours in six rivers nationwide, is the most English-friendly whitewater-rafting operator. At the Kyoto branch, “Papa” and his staff can explain safety procedures and answer questions in English, and you can easily make reservations on their English website. They are located next to Kameoka Torokko station.
Kudari boat ride
The most historic way to travel the Hozugawa, while staying relatively dry, is to take the kudari boats. They also depart from Kameoka. The longboats are traditionally constructed from wood (although in modern times, it is more likely these days they are made of fiberglass and wood) and are navigated through the rapids, by boatsmen as passengers sit 20 strong in the middle.
During rainy days the boats are roofed, but on beautiful sunny days they are completely open. Tickets for the kudari boats cost ¥4,100 for adults and ¥2,700 for children. The two-hour trip is highlighted by an array of natural scenery and the chance to see some local wildlife, especially birds. There are even market boats that appear near the end of the trip, essentially floating convenience stores that serve drinks and snacks to passengers in the more popular summer months.
Know before you go
The benefit of the kudari boats is that the trip will take you from Kameoka to Arashiyama. The whitewater rafting tour starts in Kameoka, goes downriver and then participants will return back to Kameoka by train and the tour finishes where it started. If you have your own kayak, raft or canoe, you can also enjoy a wild ride from Kameoka to Arashiyama on your own schedule.