My day on the river entailed much more than I expected it would. I went straight to the fishery in the morning, where my homeroom class (which includes all of my favorite classmates) loaded onto the school’s oversized van of a bus and traveled 15 minutes down stream to the Nakagawa River. I was so excited to finally get to experience the Naka (‘gawa’ is the Japanese word for ‘river’ so I’m guessing its real name is only the Naka River). We unloaded all of our kayaks underneath a bright-red steel bridge and before long my entire class, three different teachers, and our kayaking coach were all on the water. We stayed within the same area today but I was told that next spring our class will kayak a 30 kilometer stretch of the river. I can’t wait!
Near the bridge was a fantastic rapids shoot that we each got to experience several times. The current was really moving, so when on my 2nd pass I tipped I didn’t feel too bad. By the time the day was up nearly the whole class had taken a nice refreshing dip one way or another = ) I decided it was too risky to take my camera in the kayak so unfortunately no pictures. So let’s paint a mental image instead. The sky is overcast, yet where you can see the bright blue sky poking through it looks as if it too wants to dive into the rushing turquoise current of the Nakagawa. The rapids on our left are small but plentiful, while to the right is where the real adventure lies. Three large rock outcroppings, each splattered with mildew and defiant little river plants, shoot out of the foaming water as if to add an additional element of risk to the pass. The forest on both sides of the river is thick, green bamboo with its countless leaves swooping in the chilly breeze. As you begin your run you hear from the trees the screech of golden eagles as they glide overhead in search of a meal smaller than the sudden abundance of kayaks that have overtaken their stretch of the river. The pass leaves your heart bounding, your kayak drenched, and your arms and face sore, the first from paddling and the second from smiling…
But that was just the first half. After our sack lunches along the stony riverbank we moved further downstream to where the class had our first 和船 – Wasen lesson.
The traditional Japanese style river fishing boat is one tricky craft to maneuver. With the bamboo staff you have to think opposite of what your instincts tell you. As we took turns tackling the new challenge, my classmates laughed, joked, wrestled, pulled pranks, and tried (in vain) to catch the minnows that swam around our feet. A reporter from the town newspaper was even there taking pictures and I was interviewed (in Japanese so I hope I understood what he was asking me correctly). By the time we headed back to the fishery we were each soaked, tired, and happy. What more can I say? It was another great day.