Kayaking in Okutama, Tokyo


  Yesterday we joined a kayaking tour in the Okutama river valley, about two hours away into the western mountains from central Tokyo by express train. Okutama appears in Haruki Murakami's novel IQ84,  and the tour was organized by Tokyo Snow Club, with lots of participants. 

 We changed from a special rapid express at JR Ome Station (90-minute ride from JR Shinjuku Station) to a local train heading deep into the Okutama river valley. After about 30 minute ride, we got off the train at JR Shiromaru Station, one stop before JR Okutama Station (see the above photo). 


  The above photo shows the Okutama river valley viewed from the bridge adjacent to the JR Shiromaru Station.

  From the bridge, we hiked to the launch site for about 15 minutes. 


  Most participants were absolute beginners, and we practiced around the launch point before heading out.  


  Then we paddled upstream into the narrower river canyon for an hour. The map below shows my kayak's track. The map was automatically generated with my Polar V800 watch by turning my GPS and tracking (rowing) mode on.  


  On our way back to the launch point, the kayaking instructor suggested we jump off the rock into the river water.  Three brave men challenged.

    Our kayaking instructor is in the center of the next photo. 


  We paddled for a total of two hours and had a group photo session before landing. 


  Landing was the most-difficult part of the kayaking: it's so hard to keep the balance when we were trying to get off the kayaks. I fell into the water and got totally soaked.  So did many other participants (grin). 


  it was only 1:20 pm, but the sky is getting darker with rain clouds approaching. 


    We took a local train to JR Sawai Station and visited a sake brewery just after 2:00 pm. Some of us enjoyed sake tasting, some enjoying late lunch, and others just chatting. Though visiting the local onsen (hot spring) was planned as an optional tour, my friend and I decided to leave here early, and returned to central Tokyo and tried Chicago-style pizza and craft beers (see yesterday's article). 

   After the "appetizers," we moved to the press club, as our friend and jazz vocalist, Harvey Thompson was performing there in the evening. 


  Seeing the big deep-pan pizza an hour ago, Japanese portion of nachos looked even smaller. Even the beer glass looked small. 


  Great music: low but mellow voice of Harvey, with great musicians of the band. 


   Another friend of ours joined our table, and soon his lovely wife joined us, too. He treated us with a nice bottle of California wine (from Duckhorn Vineyards). Hooray!