Rafting (tipping, swimming, and diving) along the Shiribetsu River

On a rare sunny day this month, I joined a rafting tour along the Shiribetsu River.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by the friendliest staff, divided into groups and suited up with our guides. The wet-suit 'onesie' you are outfitted with feels like overkill at first, but I quickly learned that it was the most essential thing to staying (mostly) dry and warm!

My group was two Japanese girls from Chiba who were first-timers like myself, and our guide Yuji-san. Being from Chiba, the girls were not familiar with Mt. Yotei and were adorably gullible when Yuji-san told them the sliver of white on Yotei was actually an accumulation of bird poop.

All guides could speak English and Japanese with amazing fluency. Another Nepalese guide, Busan, had me floored with his impeccable Japanese skills. His jokes were well delivered in both languages, creating a light-hearted and fun environment while communicating safety points to be aware of while in the water.

The Shiribetsu river was rushing clear and cool with lush banks bordering us. It was not very fast, but before I could even think of being disappointed, we were bumping into rocks, dipping into rapids, and tipping into the river. It was so incredibly fun. My face was in perma-smile mode. I was taken by surprise several times with our tips, dunks, and sudden swims. At one point, we stopped to jump off the boats stacked 3-high into a deep pool. We continued down the river, met with more surprises and light rapids, paddle high-fives and competitive splashing.

I learned that although Japan does not have Level 5 rapids, they boast Level 4 rapids in some places and for Niseko, April and May are the best times for rapid rafting provided by the snow melt. Although it was not an extreme rafting experience, I left feeling surprised by how much fun I had. Thanks to my guide, Yuji-san and the other guides at Hanazono for creating such a memorable experience.

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Rafting along the Shiribetsu River in Niseko

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