It is a fact that the summer heat of the Kansai region of Japan can be difficult to deal with, especially for those who are accustomed to more arid climates. Walking out your front door into the heat immediately turns your body into a waterfall of sweat and leaves you feeling hot and sticky. Well, lucky for you, the beautiful Yoshino River can provide relief from the dreaded hot and humid weather (known as “mushiatsui”) and is also a great setting for a BBQ.
Yoshino is a popular destination for swimming in Kansai, due both to the nice scenery and the fact that the water here is not yet polluted by human activity. In fact, this mountainous region often sees the highest amount of rainfall in all of Japan. This means hundreds of fresh-water creeks feed the Yoshino river as it makes its way from its headwaters around Mt. Odaigahara down through Yoshino and beyond.
The natural beauty of this area has been appreciated since ancient times with the bank of the Yoshino River once being home to an imperial villa for Emperor Tenmu and his wife and successor, Empress Jito. Later on in the Edo period, the river was used for a more practical purpose as a means of transportation for timber harvested in the area. Nowadays, the river mostly sees recreational use by swimmers, anglers, kayakers, and more.
Where Can I Swim and Enjoy BBQ?
Though a number of dams now restrict the amount the flow of water in the Yoshino River, it has made the waterway more suitable and safe for outdoor leisure activities. In the Kamiichi area (accessible via Yamato-Kamiichi Station “大和上市駅”), the river bed becomes especially wide and provides a large space for people to set up tents and spend the day swimming in the river’s cool, shallow waters. Furthermore, there is a nearby Lawson convenience store and a small grocery shop that have supplies visitors might need to enjoy their day (the earlier you go the better). It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk to the riverbed after you exit the station, but it is simple enough to find.
The Miyataki area of Yoshino (where Tenmu’s old imperial villa was located) is probably the 2nd most popular place to BBQ and swim in Yoshino. Miyataki got its name from the idea the area’s boulders and rocky features make the river resemble a series of waterfalls. The river is narrower in this area which makes the water deeper and current quite hazardous, especially after heavy rainfall. However, in the dry spells of the summer, when the river’s current has slowed down a bit, it is not unusual to see folks jumping from the small rocky ledges and boulders into the deeper waters of the river. I tried it a few times myself and it was a lot of fun. Obviously, this is not an activity that you should unless you are sure of your ability to do it safely.
The Miyataki area is unfortunately more difficult to reach than Kamiichi, being located about 6.5 kilometers away from Yamato-Kamiichi Station. To reach the area you will need a car, a rental bike, or be okay with taking a long walk. There are also buses but their schedule is not consistent and they stop running fairly early in the day. (more info about buses here)
Outside of Kamiichi and Miyataki, there are numerous places one can go down to the river and swim. In fact, you can basically just stop anywhere (as long as it is not disruptive to someone else) and go swimming wherever you want. That being said, having a BBQ is a much more strictly controlled activity and is basically restricted to the areas of Miyataki and Kamiichi.
Please check the following announcement page before going out.
⇒ Yoshino Visitors Bureau
【Summer time】To everyone who plays in the river (Notice of Yoshino-cho BBQ Designated Area
So why not come out to the Yoshino River and enjoy one of the great resources of this region? When the summer is in full swing you certainly won’t regret it!