8 Best Rivers for Swimming in Japan

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Writer’s Profile

Bryce was born in California, but raised from the age of 3 near Seattle, Washington. He’s been living in Tokyo for about 7 years, and graduated from Temple University, Japan with degrees in economics and international business. He loves traveling of course, but also cooking, snowboarding, some video games as well. His biggest interest is songwriting/music production, more specifically electronic music… (think Skrillex, Marshmello, Daft Punk, etc.) He also has terrible humor as you’ll notice, but he hopes you’ll enjoy it!

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Japan’s natural beauty extends beyond its famed cherry blossoms and majestic mountains; it also boasts an array of picturesque rivers perfect for a refreshing swim. From hidden gems tucked away in lush forests to tranquil streams meandering through serene countryside, Japan offers a diverse range of swimming spots sure to delight water enthusiasts. Not to mention, they are a great alternative to the beaches of Japan if you’re looking for some swimming. While beautiful, some of the Beaches of Japan can be a bit crowded and even a bit dirty near the busy bays. Let’s dive into the top rivers for swimming in Japan, each offering its own unique charm and opportunity for aquatic adventure.

1. Akigawa


Nestled in the scenic outskirts of Tokyo, the Akigawa River offers a refreshing escape from the bustling city life. Its crystal-clear waters wind through verdant valleys, creating idyllic swimming spots framed by towering trees. Popular areas along the river, such as Hinohara Village and Okutama, provide ample opportunities for picnics and riverside relaxation. This is the perfect river for a relaxing day trip from Tokyo to catch some rays, enjoy some swimming, and even some fishing. Consider bringing some bbq gear if you want to get the best out of the day by grilling some fresh treats for you and your friends.

2. Katsura

Flowing gracefully through Kyoto Prefecture, the Katsura River enchants visitors with its emerald-green waters and stunning natural scenery. While it’s often seen by most from nearby the bamboo forest and may not seem like a “swimming” river, rest assured places up or downstream are perfect. Renowned for its pristine beauty, this river invites swimmers to immerse themselves in its tranquil ambiance while surrounded by lush bamboo groves and moss-covered rocks. Be sure to visit Arashiyama, a charming district along the river known for the Bamboo forest, as well as its historic temples, scenic bridges, and traditional tea houses.

3. Nogami

Nogami is a river located in the nature-filled area of Saitama, specifically in the northern area of Chichibu. Chichibu is already an area known for its nature and onsen, so it’s not surprising to know that there are some great swimming options here. Whether it’s jumping off some rocks or enjoying a nice riverside picnic, it’s quite an enjoyable experience. Keep in mind that the river currents can get rather strong and in some locations it’s advised not to swim, so be sure you’re in fit swimming shape (and this goes for most rivers, of course)

4. Nagatoro

Another great river located in Saitama Prefecture, the Nagatoro River is a popular destination for both swimming and river rafting. Adrenaline junkies flock to this scenic spot to brave the thrilling rapids, while families and casual swimmers enjoy the calm waters and sandy beaches. After a day of aquatic adventures, visitors can explore the charming town of Nagatoro, known for its traditional festivals, historic shrines, and scenic hiking trails.

5. Niyodo

Shikoku, the smallest of the main 4 islands making up Japan, is full of nature spots to enjoy. You may know that it’s very famous for hiking considering the 88 shrine pilgrimage that takes months to complete. That’s for another time though, we’re here to talk about swimming! The niyodo river is an incredible turquoise color, and is so distinct that its warranted the term “Niyodo blue.” with plenty of great spots up and down the river, youll have no trouble enjoying a relaxing swim in these amazingly colored currents. Be sure to check out the Nikobuchi Waterfall as well!

6. Karuizawa

Nestled in the mountainous region of Nagano Prefecture, the Karuizawa River is a haven for nature lovers seeking a serene swimming experience. Surrounded by dense forests and picturesque landscapes, this river offers pristine waters ideal for a refreshing dip on a hot summer day. After swimming, visitors can explore the charming town of Karuizawa, known for its upscale boutiques, elegant cafes, and historic sites such as the iconic Karuizawa Ginza Street.

7. Nagara

Flowing through Gifu Prefecture, the Nagara River offers a mix of natural beauty and cultural heritage. While swimming opportunities are limited due to the river’s strong currents and designated fishing areas, visitors can still enjoy scenic views along the riverbanks and participate in traditional cormorant fishing tours. After exploring the river, be sure to visit nearby attractions such as Gifu Castle, Nagaragawa Ukai Museum, and the charming streets of Gifu City.

8. Kawayu

While this river is not so much for swimming, it is still an important  and remarkable location to note for all you outdoor water enjoyers. This unique phenomenon is actually an onsen, and the warm water flows in a large stream. Here you’ll be able to enjoy a communal bath made from the flowing water, or actually dig your own hole on the riverbank and enjoy the hot spring water like that! Talk about unique things. Technically, you may be able to dig a hole deep enough to swim… must be difficult, though. This incredible location is in the Wakayama prefecture, home to its own plethora of nice nature escapes.

With these incredible rivers, Japan’s aquatic wonders await your exploration, promising unforgettable moments and refreshing experiences amidst nature’s splendor. Be sure to enjoy them, responsibly though! This means no littering as well as doing your own homework on what sections are best and permitted for swimming. Unlike beaches, the time frame for rivers may be shorter as the water can get really cold due to mountain runoff as well as the strength of the currents! But rest assured, these spots offer some incredible swimming opportunities and serene surroundings. So pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, and sense of adventure, and dive into the beauty of Japan’s rivers! 

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