How to choose a canyoning company in Japan

Japan canyoning has come a long way in the last 20 years. (As background read; Pioneering canyoning in Japan) There are now over 150 operators "canyoning" in Japan. (I use term canyoning loosely here as many of the operators (around 95%) that run non-technical VERY basic courses that mostly involve walking up and down shallow river gorges adding a few slides and jumps.)  It is one of the most popular river sports in Japan now over the summer months. In Minakami alone on a busy summer saturday, over 1000 customers may take part in tours offered by the 15+ operators.

There is, however, still a lot to do. At present there are ZERO REGULATIONS for the adventure tourism indsutry in Japan! That's usually pretty surprising for people from overseas as Japan has an image of being so organised and regulated. So in theory, if you wanted to start a canyoning company you can just buy the gear and start the next day with zero experience. Actually that is exactly how quite a few of the currrent operators have started up.  As a result there is a very wide spectrum of the levels of tours being offered and the experience/skills of operators.

From my personal experience visiting other canyoning companies websites, talking with guides, training guides or physically going on their tours, the skills spectrum tends to fall for the most part to the VERY LOW end of the scale, hence the concentration of non-technical (VERY basic) course providers.


If you want to go canyoning  then things you should check about a company:

1. How long have they been operating canyoning
This is not the best measure as some companies have been operating unsafely for along time but at least it gives some indication of experience.

2. Are their guides qualified by an internationally recognized organisation
This should be at least every tour leader if not every guide.  You can ask for guides names and organistions they are affliated with and easily do checks online with most international organisations.

3. Is their gear safety certified
Many companies in Japan tend to use cheap "replica" equipment to save money. Asking if their harnesses are certified or for a list of equipment. You can check certification of various equipment here:

4. What are the policies for cancelling a tour due to adverse conditions

They should have guidelines on tour cancellation based on water levels and weather conditions.

To move forward in Japan regulations need to be put in place to protect the safety of customers, protect the environments we use and also ensure the quality of the trips. Only then can the industry become truely sustainable.  This is a task for the Japan Canyoning Association but als central government needs to support organisations that are trying to internationalize safety standards in Japan.