Nagatoro (長瀞) in the far north of Saitama prefecture has carved out a name for itself as a place for day trips and boat cruises down the Arakawa River (荒川), which depart a short way from the pleasant station situated on the equally pleasant shopping street.
You’re driven back to the starting point in the boat cruise branded vehicles and maybe food is included, we don’t actually know. It’s tempting to be critical of the boats. They are suffocatingly frequent and the river at Nagatoro gets mobbed at the riverbank pebble beach port.
It’s annoying as the beach is great, and across the river there are some decently-sized, quarry style cliffs that we would love to jump off. On the other hand, a place like Nagatoro’s economy depends on the tourist buck. The atmosphere is lovely and the shop, restaurant and boat company workers seem to make it a really pleasant experience to visit.
There are some good spots to be found if you head upstream a bit, walking along the Nagatoro Iwadatami (長瀞岩畳), or ‘tatami rocks’ (so called as their formation is like many tatami mats layered on top of one another).
Up here you avoid the long wooden boats and only have to contend with the slightly less frequent white water rafting variety. Head to the other side to enjoy being sprayed by some fine, small cold waterfalls feeding into the river, and a nice range of depths to swim, paddle and wade about in.