10 Exciting Outdoor Activities for Adventure Seekers in the Kansai Area

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  • Are you a nature lover, outdoors enthusiast, or adventure seeker? When we go on vacation, we sometimes look for very different things. Some people are happy relaxing at the poolside reading a book; others prefer to check out local sights or shop until they drop in a city. However, some like to experience an exciting adventure out in the countryside. If this sounds like you, then Kansai (関西) is a great place to get some refreshing outdoor fun.

    Why Choose Kansai for your Adventure Experience?

    Many regions in Japan definitely have many tourist spots where you can enjoy the outdoors, and although each region has similar yet special cultural traditions, they all have something different and wonderful to offer. The Kansai region, especially, has its own diverse beauty and outdoor attractions that await its travelers.

    From experiencing how to become an Iga-ryu Ninja (伊賀流忍者) in Mie (三重), log rafting in Nara (奈良), trekking and chasing waterfalls in Wakayama (和歌山), hiking and dining in Osaka (大阪), seeing the beauty of Lake Biwa (琵琶湖) in Shiga (滋賀), traditional tours in Kyoto (京都) to famous onsen and hiking spots in Hyogo (兵庫), every prefecture offers its travelers a unique experience. So if you are looking for exciting things to do in Kansai, check out this list of 10 destinations for outdoor activities in the Kansai Region!

    1. Walk the Abandoned Fukuchiyama Railway (国鉄福知山線) Trail and Tunnel in Takedao (武田尾)

    When trains were diverted to its new tracks, the 4.7 kilometers long trail of the abandoned railway became a hiking destination for adventurous local and foreign travelers alike. The trail actually covers two cities in Hyogo Prefecture: Nishinomiya (西宮) and Takarazuka (宝塚).

    The abandoned tracks offer beautiful views of the mountain, ravines, tunnels, and the old steel bridge. You can actually look for the Mukogawadainitetsu Bridge (武庫川第二鉄橋) in Google Maps and you can see pictures of the old bridge. It is recommended that you bring a flashlight as you will pass through a dark tunnel.

    How to get there
    If you are coming from Osaka, take the JR train to Takedao (武田尾). From there, start your hike going to the tunnel and end the hike near Namase (生瀬) Station. Or you can start at Namase and end at Takedao and take a refreshing bath in the hot spring near the station.

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    2. Ride a Boat on the Hozugawa River (保津川下り)

    Kyoto, with its rich cultural history, is a home for various tourist spots. From well-maintained traditional wooden houses, shrines, and temples to gardens and imperial palaces, this is definitely a place to put on top of your travel list.

    This tourist attraction was once used for transporting logs, grains, and charcoals centuries ago. However, when railways opened and better roads were built, people opted to use trains and trucks for transporting goods and the boat ride was opened to the public for sightseeing. Nowadays, Hozugawa River boat ride is one of Kyoto’s famous attractions. Famous personalities and royalties had also experienced this boat ride in Kyoto.

    If you want to experience the 16 kilometers long ride in a Japanese boat while enjoying the beauty of nature such as colossal boulders, mountains, mysterious deep pools, wildlife, flowers and trees, intriguing geologic formations and the rapids, Hozugawa River Boat Ride in Kyoto is definitely a place to go.

    How to get there
    Take JR train going to Kameoka Station (亀岡駅) and walk about 8 minutes going to Hozugawa-kudari Boarding Site

    Hozugawa River Boat Ride website
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    3. See the 48 Waterfalls of Takihata (滝畑四十八滝)

    Do you love chasing waterfalls? Then Takihata village in Kawachinagano is the place you are looking for. There are many waterfalls in the area including the Kotaki (光滝), Otaki (大滝), Gokotaki (御光滝), Gongentaki (権現滝), Chigotaki (稚児滝), and Arataki (荒滝) waterfalls. They’re known as the 48 Waterfalls of Takihata.

    If you want to go camping, there are campsites and a barbecue place around the area. The Takihata Kohan (滝畑湖畔) Barbecue Place, Kotakiji Camping ground, and Araki (荒木) Campsite have the necessary facilities for the campers to use. So after trekking and admiring the charm of those waterfalls, you can set up a camp on one of their camping sites while you relax and enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds you.

    How to get there
    Take the Nankai train (南海電車) to Kawachinagano Station and walk a minute or two going to bus stop number 7 or the Takihata Community Bus bound for Takihata Dam, get off at the last stop, and walk for fifteen minutes.

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    4. Try the Biwako Valley Zip Line and Skywalk (びわ湖バレイジップラインとスカイウォーカー)

    Located in the southwest of Shiga Prefecture, with an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level, Biwako Valley is perfect for those who love adventures. At the mountain top, you can experience the thrilling “Skywalk” – the five meters above the ground walk on a hanging bridge, spider web’s net and a round log.

    There is a stunning scenic view of the mountains overlooking Lake Biwa, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Japan, and nearby towns through their zipline course. There are also many facilities you can enjoy such as the ropeway ride to the mountain top, the Biwako Terrace to enjoy your favorite meal and view, and fun rides and activities. Also, during the winter season, Biwako Valley is a famous spot for skiing.

    How to get there
    Take JR train to Shiga Station and take the Bus going to Biwako Valley. From Biwako Valley Bus stop, it’s a one-kilometer walk from there.

    Biwako Valley website *Japanese only
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    5. Go Traditional Log River Rafting in Kitayama (北山)

    Located in a small village in Kitayama, this one-of-a-kind traditional river-rafting will absolutely give you a worthwhile experience. While the usual or common river rafting is by rubber boats where everyone sits throughout the ride, the Kitayama river rafting is far from the usual rides.

    The raft is made up of logs with metal or wooden handles that rise from the base of the raft. The riders must stand in a line all through the ride and the only safety gear is life vests and the boat railings and handles. The guides have none of these; their only gear is a wooden oar that they use to navigate through the rapids. Are you in for this kind of adventure? Then pack your backpacks and head to Wakayama!

    How to get there
    From JR Kumanoshi Station (熊野市駅) and then ride the Kitayama Village Bus (北山村営バス) to Okutoro Koen (おくとろ公園).

    River Rafting website
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    6. Do Treeing, Canyoning, Kayaking, and Rafting in Gojo (五條), Nara

    Searching for interesting things to do within Nara Prefecture, I never thought I would find this kind of outdoor activity. Aside from well-preserved traditional houses, Gojo is also a must visit place for individuals who are seeking for adventures.

    The fast flowing river of Yoshino (吉野川) is an excellent place to go kayaking, canyoning and rafting. They also have “treeing”, or tree-climbing activities. Even beginners can join in those activities since they are organized by trained and professional guides. The events are organized by a local company named EverGreen and you can contact them for reservations.

    How to get there
    Take the JR train to Gojo Station and then take the Gojo Nishiada (西阿田) 50 bus and alight at Ada Elementary School in Haracho (原町). From there it’s a minute walk to Ever Green’s Office. According to the company’s website, you can Take JR train to Oada Station (大阿太駅) and they offer a free bus pick-up to up to 7 people so it is better to contact them and made reservations ahead of time.

    EverGreen website *Japanese only
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    7. Go Caving and Visit the Pirate’s Lair in Wakayama

    One of the best sites for caving adventures in Kansai is the Sandanbeki Cave (三段壁洞窟), located inside the Yoshino-Kumano National Park (熊野枯木灘海岸県立自然公園). The cave stretches underground in a two-kilometer long rock wall and there’s an elevator from the top that will take you 36 meters underground to the cave. Inside the cave, you can see right before your eyes the raging waves crashing against the rock wall and the rare seawater spout from the rock called “Shiofuki-iwa” (潮吹き岩; Spouting Rock). The huge statue of the water god, Benzaiten (弁財天), sits in a larger section of the cave.

    Centuries ago, the cave was used by the pirates to hide their ships and the government recreated the pirates’ hideaway. The replicas of the ships and the pirate’s armaments are displayed in another part of Sandanbeki Cave for tourists to admire.

    How to get there
    Take the JR train to JR Shirahama Station (白浜駅) and from there take the bus bound for Sandanbeki.

    Sandanbeki Cave website
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    8. Hike the Highest Peak in Osaka, Mt. Kongo (金剛山)

    Osaka is not just famous for its food and its shopping districts. It also has nature parks and mountains to cater its local and foreign travelers’ different interests. For hiking enthusiasts or those who simply love nature walks, Mt. Kongo is a hiking spot that you should not miss.

    The trail going up is beginner-friendly. It is maintained and there are wooden and concrete stairs that even children can hike without difficulty. If you don’t want to go to the summit on foot, the ropeway ride is your option. The ride going up will give you the breathtaking view of the forest below your feet. From the Ropeway Station, it is only a 15- to 25-minute walk, depending on your pace, to reach the mountain’s peak.

    How to get there
    Take the Nankai train to Kawachinagano. From Kawachinagano take the bus going to Ropewaymae Station (ロープウェイ前駅) on bus stop number 3. You can alight at Kongozanguchi Station (金剛山口駅) if you want to get to the top on foot or at the Ropewaymae Station if you opt to ride on a cable car.

    Osaka Info Mt. Kongo website
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    9. Sail and Get Up close to Naruto (鳴門) Whirlpools at Awajishima (淡路島) in Hyogo

    One of the biggest whirlpools in the world is located in Naruto Strait, a channel between Naruto, Tokushima (徳島) and Awajishima, Hyogo. The tidal whirlpool is caused by the fast inflow and outflow of seawater in the narrow strait, thus creating vortices as wide as 20 meters in diameter.

    Although the whirlpools can be seen from the Naruto Bridge, if you want an exciting experience, try going on a boat that sails up close to those whirlpools. The boat is operated by Uzushio (うずしお) company in Minami Awaji-Shi (南淡路市) and you can check their website for schedules and reservations.

    How to get there
    Take the JR train to Sannomiya Station (三宮駅). From there take the bus bound for Fukura (福良). The cruise ship company is only a minute walk from there.

    Uzushio Company website *Automatic translation available
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    10. Cross the Tanize (谷瀬) Suspension Bridge in Nara

    With 297 meters in length, the Tanize is considered the longest suspension bridge in Japan. If you are not afraid of heights and are looking for some adventure, this bridge definitely should be included on your travel list.

    This bridge was built to connect the two villages of Uenoji (上野地) and Tanize in 1954. Although quiet old, the bridge is safe to cross. At 54 meters high above the river and with its narrow width, the bridge sways a lot. Combine that with the beauty of the Totsukawa River down below and the view of the mountains, crossing this bridge is indeed a thrilling and breathtaking experience.

    How to get there
    Take the train until JR Gojo Station and then take a bus to Shin-Omiya Station (新大宮駅) and get off at Uenochi Teiryujyo (上野地停留所).

    This list is only a few of what the Kansai Region has to offer. From big cities to small villages, the region has interesting places to visit. If you already have visited the cities’ destinations and looking for some thrilling yet fun outdoor activities, why not explore a little bit and check out one of those places? I guarantee you that they are all worth to visit!