Ready to escape the summer heat and dive right into the water? Nothing compares with the gem-like beauty of the Kinomata River.
When it comes to beautiful blue waters in Japan, do you think of Hokkaido’s Blue Pond? Well, a little north of Tokyo, there’s a much closer place to enjoy the beauty of H2O. The Kinomata River is a tributary of the Nakagawa River, a larger body that runs through the prefecture of Tochigi, and this lazy stream is popular thanks to its clean, clear water. The river is crystalline, straight down to the rocky bottom, and the reflecting light gives the water a vibrant blue color as it runs through a valley that look like a Studio Ghibli background.
From local fishermen, who call the Nakagawa River and its tributaries a “natural sweetfish factory” due to the fish that thrive in this clean water, to hikers who explore the surrounding valley, and the many people who come to revel in the cold river water, the Kinomata Valley is slowly gaining a reputation as a must-see destination in the area thanks to some great word-of-mouth reviews.
While it’s tempting to compare the river to the Blue Pond or Miyagi’s Okama Crater Lake, Kinomata Valley is unique because it isn’t just a beautiful sight, it’s also a pretty fun destination. Groups of students on summer vacation, locals walking their dogs, families with young kids, and even some international travelers will all come to this little swimming hole on hot summer days, to splash around in the shallow parts of the river or even do some short laps where the water gets deep! You’re free to take plenty of pictures of the picturesque blue water running through the rocks like a seam of turquoise, but you can also jump right in and enjoy the cool rushing of the water in this shady little oasis.
Even when it’s too chilly to swim, many visitors also come to enjoy the foliage growing up on either side of the water in Kinomata Valley. There are trails along the river banks and bridges stretching from one side to the other, making it a good place for a relaxing hike or a little photography session. In spring, the forest comes alive with fresh green growth, and fall brings a mosaic of reds and yellow to the trees. Plus, for those with a particular interest in botany, the area is famous for a particular type of willow tree, called obayanagi in Japanese (オオバヤナギ), or Salix urbaniana. So whether you’d like the dip your toes in the stream from the pebbly shores, immerse yourself in the chilly, vibrant blue waters, or admire the view as you stroll through the trees, make sure to pay the Kinomata Valley a visit next time you’re in Tochigi.
Name: Kinomata River / Kinomata Valley (木の俣川/木の俣渓谷)
Address: Momura, Nasushiobara, Tochigi
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