When I was living in Tokyo, I used to love to browse the travel agencies by the metro stations for unique things to do around Japan. The glossy fliers always had beautiful shots of maple leaves or people relaxing in hot springs and I’d gather them up and take them back to my apartment, poring over them for kanji I recognized or the occasional place name written in English.
It was one of those train station flyers that alerted me to Nagatoro. This tiny little town in Saitama Prefecture (just northwest of Tokyo) doesn’t have much but most people don’t come here for the town. They come, instead to “shoot the rapids” on the Ara river.
In truth, the rapids are pretty tame but the 30 minute jaunt in long wooden boats passes through some amazing scenery. At the end of the ride, there’s also the chance to do some serious scrambling on the Iwadatami Rocks, prehistoric giants that once graced the bottom of the sea floor.
Nagatoro became popular after an NHK (Japan’s national television station) drama was filmed there back in 2007 or 2008. It’s still pretty well off the regular tourist radar though, so if you’re looking for something not in any guidebook, this little corner of Saitama Prefecture is worth a look.