River Rubbish clean up crew

More rafters = less river rubbish

Report from Daigo Shibata

River Rubbish clean up action

The Mitake Canyon is a beautiful river gorge located along the Tama River and is my “home river”. The canyon is located 90 minutes from the center of Tokyo and is famous for its many outdoor activities including rafting, hiking, bouldering and trail running. In particular, it’s also well-known for canoe slalom paddling and has a long history of producing Olympic paddlers. The canyon is also where the popular “Mitake Cup” rafting competition takes place twice a year where paddlers from all over Japan gather.

The “River Rubbish” Problem

Although the Tama River is usually very clean, as of lately river rubbish has become a problem in this area. There are two reasons for this. The first is the large amounts of rubbish that flowed down the river when a huge typhoon hit the area last year. A bridge broke in half and was washed away leaving debris lodged in the river. There were also logs, signs, bicycles, refrigerators and even a motorcycle that got carried down the river and got stuck.

The second reason is the rubbish left behind by tourists who flocked to the Mitake Canyon to swim and barbeque near the river during the summer. The number of people who came to spend time outdoors increased this year in particular due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, some of these tourists irresponsibly left behind all their rubbish in this beautiful gorge.

Given this, we held many river clean-up days this summer. Every Monday morning and every Sunday evening, we checked the river banks and picked up rubbish. This was a good way to not only clean up the river but was also a time for us to think about and share ways to solve this “River Rubbish” problem.


River Rubbish clean up action

The Ome River Clean-Up Event

On October 24th, 2020, we held an event called “Ome River Clean-up Marathon”. 31 rafters in 8 raft boats paddled through Ome City from end to end for 15km. The goal for this event was to pick up as much rubbish as possible along the way. Teams were ranked by the total weight of rubbish picked up. The results were amazing. The total amount of “River Rubbish” picked up was 1331.5 kilograms with the top team picking up over 321 kilograms of rubbish!

How to reduce River Rubbish

Mitake Gorge

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that rafters love rivers with no rubbish!

In order to keep our rivers clean, we can use our rafts to help clean up the rivers. I also want to find a way to encourage more people to take care of our rivers.

During the typhoon last year, there were people who deliberately threw rubbish into the river. To them, this was not their river, therefore throwing rubbish into the river was not their problem. I believe that if more people can experience the river through rafting, they will begin to respect and love the river. If more people respect the river, there will be less River Rubbish in the future. The more Rafters, the less River Rubbish!

Read more about sustainable rafting on our sustainability page.