Story and photos by Darin McQuoid
Things were lining up perfectly for 16 days kayaking with friends in a well-developed country that hides a surprising amount of un-run rivers. With the world’s third largest economy and stable political conditions, what can go wrong? Nonrefundable tickets bought, and a week later everything changes. On March 11, 2011, Japan suffered the strongest earthquake in its recorded history; this triggered the Fukishima I nuclear accidents, one of the worst disasters in the history of nuclear power. Uncertainty about the trip remained constant for the next two months as we heard mixed reports about how good (or bad) of an idea it was to continue on with our expedition.
Following the advice of locals, we landed in Japan with a good attitude of adventure and the loosest of plans. Local kayaker Yoshihiro Takahashi greets our barrage of questions with a smile and continues to do so over the next two weeks as we do tsunami clean up and chase waterfalls picked from a tourist guidebook. The devastation of the tsunami damage is shocking, even two months after the disaster. In contrast, the rest of the country is functioning as normal, and businesses are happy to have their first tourists since the disaster. Japanese whitewater continually impresses with not only how high quality it is, but the immense variety offered. We get to run everything from low-volume bedrock creeks to large rivers swollen with spring snow melt. Enough words, I’ll let the pictures do the talking as I dream of returning to Japan.
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