The following day, we got up at 8.30 to head for Okutoro Road station, which was about an hours drive. We were heading to Ikada Log Rafting – the only place in Japan where you could do this type of traditional rafting. Large tree trunks are bolted together and you sit on a bench in the middle (though I doubted they had that in olden times) as the current pushes you downstream, with a few fun rapids along the way. We took the morning option, which left at 10.20, so we made it to the road station by 9.45 and checked in.
I didn’t take my phone or camera on the actual ride, as I was a bit worried about it falling in and losing it forever, but I don’t think you’d actually need to worry. The rapids were not as bad as I’d anticipated (though a waterproof case might be a good idea just in case), and although my legs and shoes got wet at one point (when it was quieter you could sit on the side of the raft and let your feet drift through the water – which was lovely and cooling in the hot weather), so if you were careful I think you could do it.
Overall the whole experience lasted 1.5hours, and cost ￥6000, which I think was kind of worth it. The men who run it and steer the raft through the rapids were also really kind, and told us all sorts of interesting facts, and let me have a go at steering at one point (I sucked, so bad.) and helped make the trip even more interesting, especially on the longer, slower stretches of river.
There is also a camera-man who takes photos from the shore, which you can buy later. As I didn’t have my own photos, I decided to buy one for 1,000yen, which was expensive but not as bad as most theme parks, to be fair.
We grabbed lunch at the road station – they had an all-you-can-eat buffet for just over 1000yen. With our shoes mostly dry, we headed back to the car for a 2 hour drive to Shirahama, famous for its beaches and being twinned with Hawaii.
I could see why it was twinned with Hawaii, the sand was gorgeous, and it was unlike any other Japanese beach I’d seen. It was quite crowded, with swarms of young Japanese guys and girls playing loud music, drinking and walking around in bikinis/shorts. I was kind of surprised since the Japanese aren’t really beach-going or tanning people on the whole, but I suppose this is the only beach that I’ve seen with this kind of atmosphere. We stayed there for most of the afternoon, before heading out to get food.
We also checked into Guesthouse Shirahama, which was all of a 5 minute walk from the beach, and only 2,000yen per person for a night in the shared dorm – with only 4 bunk beds though, we had 3 and there was one Japanese guy who also stayed overnight. The owner was super lovely, and offered a load of advice on good restaurants and places to go, and again, a definite recommendation.
After dinner, we grabbed a few drinks from the local conbini (which also sold aftersun, beach balls, and so many other things I’d never seen in a conbini before), and headed back to drink on the beach. To our surprise, there were what felt like thousands of candles lined up along the sand, and several people with fireworks. We stayed there for a while, until they started putting out the fireworks and I desperately needed a wee, but it was a really nice, relaxing evening – and I think I’d definitely go back to Shirahama – though maybe on a weekday when it wouldn’t be so busy.