When the suffocating summer heat hits Tokyo, staying indoors and turning up the air conditioning to eleven is one option. Another – more environmentally friendly and less socially stigmatic – one is taking off your clothes and engaging in watery merriment within day trip distance from the big city. So grab that tube of sunscreen and escape the concrete jungle for some certifiably refreshing aquatic activities.
Four ways to get wet
Originally from Hawaii, stand-up paddle boarding or SUP has become quite the trend in Japan. While simply riding and paddling is challenging enough for most beginners, some preternaturally talented practitioners even engage in ‘SUP yoga’ these days. Anyway, you need to know how to stand up before pulling off a reverse warrior pose, and that’s where the good folks at ZAC come in.
Based out east in the peaceful, suburban surrounds of Higashi-Ojima, they offer beginner-to-intermediate classes on the calm Kyu-Naka River. If you’re a complete newbie, opt for the ‘Tokyo SUP Experience’, a one-hour class that’ll see you practice all the basic manoeuvres.
The standing part in particular is more strenuous than it looks – we were stiff as, well, a board the day after – and the jellyfish in the water practically rule falling out as an option, but the instructors are friendly and speak enough English to make you feel comfortable. All classes, including the tours to the Skytree that are available for more confident boarders, require you to wear shorts or tights.
Tokyo SUP Experience ¥4,500. zacsports.com/suptop.htm.
If getting utterly soaked while paddling a wobbly boat through the rapids of a majestic mountain landscape sounds like your idea of an enjoyable summer day, then a rafting tour with Forest & Water will be just what the doctor ordered. These cheery, English-speaking locals will pick you up at Ome Station and drive you to their forest hideout 15 minutes up the Tama river.
This is where things get real: you’ll be asked to change into a wetsuit, pull on a life vest and helmet and jump back in the car for transport to the deceptively calm starting point. Once on board, you’ll be taught how to paddle and balance yourself, and then it’s off to the rapids. In addition to rafting, you’ll get to jump from cliffs, swim and splash in the crystal-clear river. It doesn’t get much more refreshing than this on a hot day, and tours take place even when it rains – you’re going to get wet anyway, so why worry?
Tours range from a 1.5-hour deal to all-day experiences that can be combined with barbecue. Make sure to bring a swimsuit (to wear underneath the wetsuit) and a towel for the shower afterwards.
From ¥5,800 (prices vary seasonally). www.fw-raft.com/okutama.
You can go deep-water diving in Tokyo, albeit only on a technicality: the Nangoku scuba school is based on Kozushima, part of the Izu island chain that’s over 100km away from but administratively part of the capital. Certified instructor Yusuke Suzuki offers all-inclusive, three-hour introductions to diving, no licence required. You can take a jet ferry (2 hours 40 minutes from Takeshiba terminal) or fly (55 minutes from Chofu Airport) to Kozushima.
Intro to diving ¥12,960. kozu-nangoku.com/kozu-english.html.
Although the Shonan coast down in Kanagawa is the capital region’s most famous surfing spot, Chiba’s beaches often boast better waves. Several Tokyo-based companies offer one-day tours to the Pacific coast for beginners; we like Nikkori Surf, who’ll teach you the basics for ¥10,000 (rentals and transportation included). Tours depart from Mizue Station in Edogawa at 8am and return to Tokyo early in the evening.
Basic class ¥10,000. nikkorisurf.com.