Water Sports in Japan: Best Lakes and Rivers for Water Sports


Japan, an island nation surrounded by water, offers a plethora of water sports to enjoy! It’s not just the ocean, the country boasts numerous beautiful lakes and rivers perfect for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, and more. For the more adventurous, there’s whitewater rafting, windsurfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, or sawanobori (a thrilling mix of hiking and wading upstream) and even things like flyboarding. 

Whether you’re into adrenaline-pumping activities or prefer to relax lakeside, Japan has something for everyone. Check out our list of the best lakes and rivers for water sports in Japan, and get ready to kick off summer with a splash!

1. Kawaguchiko (and the Fuji Five Lakes)

The Fuji Five Lakes region, including Kawaguchiko, is a stunning area known for its iconic views of Mount Fuji. These lakes, namely Yamanaka, Kawaguchi, Saiko, Shōji and Motosu, offer a fantastic selection of water sports for every thrill level. Let’s be honest; the idyllic image of kayaking or canoeing through a lake with Mount Fuji reflected off the water sounds magical. Paddleboarding is especially popular for people who want a scenic stand-up perspective. There are even tour operators who focus on sunrise and sunset paddles for an extra special, Fuji-filled experience!

2. Itako City, Ibaraki

Ibaraki Prefecture, a coastal paradise facing the Pacific Ocean, isn’t just about stunning scenery. With abundant rivers and lakes, Ibaraki offers a full spectrum of water adventures. Head to the charming city of Itako, nestled in Ibaraki’s southeast. Founded on a network of canals from the Edo Period, Itako’s rich history is intertwined with water. Here, you can enjoy classic water sports, but for the truly daring, there’s something epic: flyboarding! Strap on some jet nozzles and prepare to soar high above the waters of Lake Kasumigaura for a guaranteed adrenaline rush.

3. Otsu, Shiga (near Kyoto)

Edited with Afterlight

Nestled on the shores of majestic Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, Otsu offers a water playground unlike any other. Kayak across glassy waters, gazing up at Mount Hira, or feel the rush of windsurfing as you carve across the lake. With Kyoto and Shiga’s natural beauty as the backdrop, Otsu is the gateway to a breathtaking side quest on your journey in Japan. If you want something a little slower, paddleboarding lets you soak in the spectacular scenery at your own pace while a leisurely cruise unveils hidden coves and charming lakeside villages. No matter your speed, you’ll see why Otsu is so special, and Lake Biwa is so majestic!

4. Ikeda, Ibusuki

Nestled on the southern tip of Kyushu, this captivating region boasts a natural wonder – Lake Ikeda, famed for supposed sea monster sightings. If you don’t mind the possibility of sharing the water with the mythical creature, you will see Mount Fuji’s little brother, Mount Kaimon, mirroring its snow-capped peak in the crystal-clear waters as you glide across on a kayak or canoe. Ikeda isn’t just about lake life, though. Head down to Ibusuki’s coastline and test your skills on a banana boat ride, or, for the ultimate challenge, try flyboarding – imagine soaring high above the water, feeling like a superhero propelled by a jet stream! Ikeda and Ibusuki promise a water sports adventure unlike any other, all under the watchful gaze of Mount Kaimon.

5. Satsumasendai, Kyushu

For an epic water adventure, Satsumasendai is the place to be! Here, crystal-clear lakes and vibrant rivers wind through the landscape, inviting you to dive into a world of water sports. Imagine kayaking across the glassy surface of Lake Imuta, gazing up at Mount Kawanabe reflected in its depths. Or, feel the rush of whitewater rafting down the Sendai River, navigating thrilling rapids surrounded by lush greenery. Whether you crave an action-packed adventure or a meditative paddle under the mountains, Satsumasendai’s lakes and rivers have something for every water sports enthusiast. Needless to say, Kyushu is Japan’s island with the best options for water sports!

6. Nishinomiya, Hyogo (near Osaka)

Trade the bustling cities of Kansai for the glistening waters of its lakes and rivers. Thrill-seekers can ride the waves at the Japan Water Sports Complex, the country’s first cable wakeboarding park. Here, cutting-edge cable car technology propels you across the water at exhilarating speeds, letting you hone your wakeboarding or wakesurfing skills to their peak! For a calmer experience, explore the scenic lakes by kayak or canoe. Keep your eyes peeled; you might even spot Mount Rokko peeking through the clouds in the distance! 

7. Ichikawa, Chiba

If you want to stay close to Tokyo, Chiba has you covered! We already know it’s one of the top surfing spots in Japan, but there are all kinds of water sports here to keep you entertained. This city, nestled beside Tokyo, boasts serene lakes and rivers perfect for a day trip. Kayak or canoe on the Edogawa River’s glassy surface, where the city skyline’s reflections shimmer on the water. If tranquility is your jam, head to the serene Gyosen Park and lose yourself in the peacefulness of its lake. When you need a nearby vacation from your vacation, Ichikawa is the perfect place. 

8. Yashio, Saitama

Yashio in Saitama is where your inner thrill-seeker or serenity-finder can rejoice! Find serenity paddling across the glassy surface of Takizawa Reservoir on a kayak with the majestic Mount Tsukuba on the horizon. Feeling adventurous? Challenge yourself with a multi-day adventure exploring hidden coves. If you head to the Arakawa River, you cruise the gentle rapids on a stand-up paddleboard. Or, embark on a refreshing sawanobori trek upstream, navigating around smooth rocks and encountering vibrant fish darting between your legs. It’s a one-of-a-kind way to immerse yourself in the Saitama countryside and cool off on a hot summer day!

9. Inawashiro, Fukushima

For water sports with crystal clear waters and breathtaking views of Mt. Bandai, dive into adventure at Lake Inawashiro, Fukushima! No matter your skill level, Inawashiro’s waters promise an unforgettable experience. Picture yourself conquering rapids on a thrilling whitewater rafting trip, exploring hidden coves on a paddleboard, or canoeing as a romantic getaway or a family adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a curious beginner, Inawashiro’s diverse water sports scene caters to all skill levels, promising an unforgettable experience in Fukushima. 

10. Otake, Hiroshima

Imagine paddling past the majestic form of Itsukushima Shrine, the vermillion gates seemingly floating on the water’s glassy surface. This isn’t a dream but a reality in Otake, Hiroshima! Otake is all about breathtaking scenery and cultural immersion. Kayak or canoe on the tranquil waters of the Ota River, soaking in the serenity of wooded landscapes and the distant silhouette of the shrine, or try stand-up paddleboarding on the serene Otake Lake for a touch of adventure. Otake’s water sports offer a unique blend of nature, culture, and serenity, making it an unforgettable experience for water enthusiasts and sightseers.

Now that you know some of the best places in Japan for water sports, where will you dip your toes in first?

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