theres a lot going around under the name of ‘canyoning’ these days….and not all of it is really canyoning.
‘canyoning’ means going into ravines that you need special access techniques to get to. walking down a stream is not canyoning.

Like icefalls, Japan is covered in canyons – sets of waterfalls that drop down through narrow mountain gorges creating strange micro-ecologies almost no one will ever see.

+30c days, high humidity and temperatures at 2500m getting to around 20c makes any ice formation impossible but theres still stuff to do far from the over-crowded outdoor ‘adventure’ meccas that is all many ever see of Japans wilderness.

‘Big Canyoning’ is, well, the big version of canyoning; multi-day trips through long canyons, well off the grid, with big waterfalls to abseil down, big pools to swim across, waking up and going to sleep actually inside the canyon. Big Canyoning requires special gear, special logistics and commitment, with every big canyoning having its own character and requirements.

big canyoning japan

a good example of Big Canyoning gear: jump suit, gaiters, padded harness, rappel gloves, headtorch, lots of rope and webbing. Volcano-canyoning on Kuchinoerabu-jima, Kyushu.

big heli canyoning japan rescue

different example of Big Canyoning gear: lightweight and minimal, well packed for the approach by air. heli-access canyoning in Niigata

During summer we run some of the winter climbing areas as canyons – same place, through the looking glass.
Like Big Wall climbing, Big Canyoning means youre self-sufficient and immersed in the route, and the nature of the canyon defines the experience. you carry all the gear, adapt to the situation and stay in the frame the whole time.
Waterfalls that we climb in winter we now rappel, frozen pools we edged around we can now swim across, the down jackets and goretex pants are replaced with wetsuit socks and boardshorts, the sub-zero nights in frozen tents are now spent warm, swinging in hammocks. That frozen kingdom of winter ice is now green and alive with birds, deer and fish.

big canyoning in japan forecast

big canyoning in japan forecast

big canyons in japan forecast

examples of Big Canyons: committed approaches followed by long descents using specialist techniques thru untouched places.

big canyons in japan 4

jungle hammocks: the only realistic way to stay cool and free of bugs, deep in the humid canyons of Japan

be aware that these are serious canyons, just as comitted and remote as the climbing in winter. amazing places few ever get to see. like winter climbing most canyons are 2 or 3 day undertakings, with solid approaches and total self-sufficiency.

big canyons in japan 5

fixing the first of many anchors over the 2 days and 2000m of canyoning descent. notice the ‘mist’ in the background, as we actually start the descent above the cloud level. 


big canyons japan kuchinoerabu

the tiny kuchinoerabu-jima: 15km2, pop.120, Sth China Sea. click the image for location.

more details will come soon, but right now its looking like any time until late april/early may (pre-typhoon season) will be ideal, starting from Kagoshima (Kyushu) and being a 3 day venture (1 day out, 1 day in the canyon, 1 day back).

kuchinoerabu canyoning japan looking down into the top of the kuchinoerabu canyon: 700m of descent thru active volcano to the sea

the canyon itself is simply amazing, starting with an approach up a very active volcano, a descent thru narrow ravines, ancient magma chutes and waterfalls, ending at the sea. difficulty level is ‘not hard, but really adventurous’: none of the rappels are too full on, theres little water and no swimming, the approach is about an hour, its a full day inside the canyon and we can have a gear drop at the half way point. this is a bizarre place thats truely a once-in-a-lifetime trip: we guarantee no one else is running this one, with the iceclimbingjapan team being the only people to have run the length of the canyon.

kuchinoerabu canyoning japan

gearing up: Japans big canyons demand specialized gear. note the orange suits, radios and access gear

prices will come very soon, dependant on whats involved, but for now the cost will include all specialized gear, guiding, logistics, accomodation on the island, transport to-from Kagoshima, food on the island and any specifics. groups will be limited to about 8, but we can run more trips if numbers or logistics demands it.

kuchinoerabu canyons japan

crossing the volcanic crater enroute to the top of the canyon.

Summer of 2012 sees us headed into several areas, including special trips to Kuchinoerabu-jima to drop down an active volcanic ravine and a full 3 day descent of O-jiro sawa on the NE flank of Kaikomagatake. like winter ice climbing trips, these Big Canyoning trips need preparation and a baseline of equipment, so check off the following to make sure you have what it takes for Big Canyoning in Japan:

like always we cover all the pro gear, guiding, permits and training. basic gear you need to bring is:

  • minimum 4 liter water carrying capacity (approaches are hot and dry. MSR dromlite bags are ideal)

  • water purification tabs/drops

  • suitable clothing: wicking and/or baselayers with long sleeves and legs to protect from the sun and abrasion (boardshorts over skins are a good choice). jumpsuits are good for deep jungle canyons.

  • sun hat

  • trail running shoes (no hiking boots or ‘special’ canyoning shoes, gaiters are good for some canyons)

  • large day pack (40L is good, make sure its tough)

  • leather rappel gloves (gardening gloves are good)

  • change of clothes AND warm layer (it can still get cold and you wont want to be wet all the time)

  • headtorch with extra batteries

  • several dry bags (real ones, no garbage bags, dont rely on a single waterproof pack design)

  • hammock (mexican/SAS hammocks will do, but ones with bug mesh like the Hennessy Hammock are much better)

  • light sleeping bag or quilt (it still gets cool at night)

  • food for each day (we will provide stoves – no fires)

  • sun cream

  • bug cream

  • bear bell (seriously. except for kuchinoerabu-jima trips)

what you DONT need:

  • walking poles

  • i-pods and any electronics you are concerned about being affected by water

  • wetsuits (unless otherwise prescribed)

  • stuff dangling off or strapped to backpacks (pack better/larger pack if so)

be prepared for lots of walking, lots of rappelling, lots of swimming. if your rappelling experience is minimal we go thru it all with you – by the end of the trip you should be an expert. a baseline of fitness is:

canyons japan

yet another 4am start, this time for a 3 day Big Canyon in summer. O-jiro sawa, Kaikomagatake.

for more information

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