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Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

  • The mighty Yoshino River, Shikoku’s largest and considered one of the country’s three great rivers, has itself forged one of Japan’s most popular outdoors destinations as it has flowed thunderously down to Tokushima from the Ishizuchi mountain range for over 200 million years. Lying close to the entrance of the Iya Valley, deep in the mountains roughly 90km west of Tokushima City, the Oboke and Koboke gorges boast expansive, breathtaking scenery that can be equally enjoyed either from lofty mountainside vantage points, or deep down on the waters themselves where a host of activities are offered.

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Named in ancient times as though they were siblings, the Oboke (‘big dangerous steps’) and Koboke (‘small dangerous steps’) lie roughly 6km apart from each other and both combine dramatic white limestone cliffs with waters whose beautiful blue-green hue almost belies their sheer power. The snaking, narrow waters of the Koboke are among the fastest flowing in Japan, while at the Oboke gorge the river flow is wider and the rocks rougher. Observation decks can be found close to Oboke station on the JR Dosan train line, from which the gorge dramatically unfolds beneath. By car, Japan National Route 32 also offers great views as it passes through Oboke.

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Roughly 1.5km from Oboke Station, meanwhile, is the Lapis Oboke rest area, which houses a cafe, gift shop and, less conventionally, the Yokai Yashiki. This is a small museum dedicated to the myriad monsters and ghosts, collectively known as yokai, that populate Japanese folk tales. Artifacts gathered from across the country tell of such fearsome entities as Oniuba, who eats any children he finds playing by a shrine after dusk. Some English-language explanations are offered, while a giant red oni (devil) suspended from the ceiling observes all. A smaller museum located above the Yokai Yashiki displays precious stones. A joint ticket to both museums costs 500 yen (juniors 300 yen), open from 9am with last admission at 4.40pm.

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Embarking from a dock close to Lapis Oboke awaits the most relaxed way of riding the river. The Oboke Ravine Pleasure Boat (Oboke Yuransen) takes a 30-minute route that passes by a succession of stunning views, including a number of rocks that resemble animal forms. Among these are Komori (‘bat’) Rock and Shishi (‘lion’) Rock. The cruise, running daily from 9am to 5pm, departs and returns to Oboke Yuransen terminal with tickets costing 1,080 yen (children 540 yen).

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    For the more daring, the Oboke and Koboke stretch of the Yoshino is regarded by whitewater rafting enthusiasts as one of Japan’s very best spots to practice the activity. Several companies offer the experience here, with Happy Raft having native English-speaking instructor-guides. Despite the fearsome appearance of both the waters and surrounding rocks (the gorges’ names encourage this impression, of course), Happy Raft’s operators ensure that even the fast rapids of the Koboke are safe for first-timers to tackle when accompanied by its certified guides. Tours are priced from 5,500 yen for a half-day of rafting, with selected high season dates from July to September charged at 7,500 yen.

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Oboke and Koboke Gorges: Dramatic Siblings of the Yoshino River

    Other similarly vigorous activities offered in the Oboke and Koboke region include canyoning and hydrospeeding. The easiest access to the sibling gorges is by car, with Oboke taking around 1hr 40mins (106km using Japan National Route 32, tolls apply) to reach from central Tokushima City. By train, the Dosan line from Tokushima Station to Oboke Station takes around two-and-a-half hours, and costs 2,100 yen for a single ticket.

    大歩危
    Address
    徳島県三好市山城町重実-上名
    Phone
    0120-404-344
    小歩危峡
    Address
    徳島県三好市
    Phone
    吉野川
    Address
    徳島県三好市
    Phone
    Iya Valley
    Address
    Tokushima Pref. Miyoshishi Ikedachoumatsuo - Nishiyanyama Village
    Phone
    0120-404-344
  • Roadside Station Oboke (Monster House and Stone Museum)
    Address
    Tokushima Pref. Miyoshishi Yamashirochoukamimyou 1553-1
    Phone
    0883841489
    Oboke Gorge Sightseeing Pleasure Cruise
    Address
    Tokushima Pref. Miyoshishi Yamashirochounishiu 1520
    Phone
    0883841211
    Happy raft
    Address
    Kouchi Pref. Nagaokagunotoyochou Ikadagi 221
    Phone
    0887750500
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