Experience: Oboke Gorge Boat Cruise

I’ve taken quite a few boat rides during my time in Japan, but none of them had been in Shikoku. So during our family vacation to the smallest of Japan’s four major islands the other month, we made sure to grab a seat on one of the boats that cruised up and down the Oboke Gorge in the western part of the Iya Valley.

The Iya Valley is one of those “hidden” regions in Japan, marked by forested peaks, craggy river valleys, copious amounts of snow in the wintertime and roads so small you wonder just how you and the tour bus headed your way are going to squeeze through without someone taking a plunge off the cliff.

While the views from the narrow lanes of the valley are lovely, you get a better perspective of the region’s geology from the boat cruises (called kawa kudari) that leave from near the Lapis Oboke building. This isn’t an adrenaline rush kind of boat trip, however. (That can be found not too far away on another branch of the Yoshino River.) Rather, this cruise is a leisurely 30 minute jaunt up the river to see some of the more unique rock formations along the riverbanks. While the guide only spoke Japanese, we were provided with a very detailed English leaflet that explained both the rock formations and the entire geological history of the area.

A scene from the river cruise
A scene from the river cruise

Boats leave at least once an hour from the dock on the riverbank, which is reached via a 7-8 minute walk down the hill (ramps are provided the entire way) from the main ticket building. You have to remove your shoes when you enter the boat and life vests must be worn by all passengers.

Compared to some of the other experiences I’ve had on river cruises here in Japan, I didn’t necessarily feel this was a good investment of our money (it’s Â¥1080 per adult, kids are half price). But with a 4-year-old along, we couldn’t exactly live it up on a whitewater adventure and the scenery was undeniably appealing. I’d try to time your visit for autumn, when the colors in the gorge are livened up by the changing maple trees.

The boat dock area
The boat dock area

9 thoughts on “Experience: Oboke Gorge Boat Cruise

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  1. I’m planning to go to Tokushima this coming autumn (first time to Shikoku, yay)!
    Thanks for the useful info! Do you know when exactly is the best time to see the autumn leaves?

    1. Glad the post might help, Celia! This past March was our first trip to Shikoku as well and we were surprised by just how much we loved it. I hope to go back soon and really delve into Tokushima and Ehime prefectures. For fall leaves, I’d check japan-guide.com. They do the fall color reports every year and while they don’t always report from Shikoku and Kyushu, you can check past years and reports to get a good idea on when things turn.

      1. Thanks yeah, I do check japan-guide a lot. Just thought you may have come across some local info while there 🙂 I was actually planning to go during GW but it didn’t work out, so I’ve done most of the research already, just have to choose a weekend. Cheers!

      2. I collect all the brochures from everywhere we go, Celia, so let me give them a glance today or tomorrow now that I am home in Japan and I will see if they mention any specifics. 🙂

      3. Celia, sorry it took me so long but not a ONE of the brochures I have (and I have about 30 …) listed a specific time in autumn to see the leaves. They all just said autumn foliage or fall colors. I’ll keep looking but Shikoku is not one of my better-traveled areas. However, last year, a special series of posts on Taiken Japan (I think it’s taiken.jo or taiken.co.jp) listed the Top 10 fall foliage spots in various regions of Japan. Thanks to them, I really stepped up my foliage game here in Kyushu. You have to search their page specifically for foliage but it might be worth a shot. Let me know how you get on!

      4. Hi Mandy, thanks so much for looking into it! I suppose it varies each year, so maybe they try not to publish any specific dates just in case. Not to worry! I’ll check out a few other blogs and see what others have said.
        Cheers 🙂

    1. Oh good! The gorge was lovely but the pace for us was quite slow and we had done a similar cruise – which was a bit more fun and covered much more gorge – in Saitama.

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