Toyooka City, located in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, is well known for its hot spring town, Kinosaki Onsen, and its success at re-introducing the Oriental White Stork to the wild. But few know that Toyooka is also an ideal location to get out and enjoy various outdoor activities, taking full advantage of the area’s rich natural environment.
With its 68-kilometer length, the Maruyama River is the longest river in Hyogo Prefecture, running through Toyooka and emptying into the Sea of Japan. In 2012, the Lower Maruyama River and the surrounding rice paddies became registered with the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It serves as an important part of Toyooka’s nature, wildlife, and tourism. The river, with its calm waters and gentle gradient (a one-meter incline over the course of ten kilometers), is an ideal training ground for professional rowing teams.
There is a 1,000-meter B-class course officially recognized by the Japan Rowing Federation that is often used in national rowing competitions.
This summer, in anticipation of the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics, Toyooka is hosting the German and the Swiss national rowing teams, who are taking advantage of the idyllic Maruyama River to train twice a day, while also getting used to the hot and humid climate of the Japanese summer. The teams will stay until the middle of July, then travel to the official venue at the Olympic Village in Tokyo.
The athletes’ reaction to their training venue has been overwhelmingly positive. “Even though the weather is not quite ideal due to the rainy season, the rowing conditions are excellent, and the local crew has really put their all into creating proper training grounds and a training gym,” the German team’s sports director commented. “Since it is far away from Tokyo and everything is so calm, we can focus on proper preparations,” was one athlete’s verdict, while another added that “even though we train hard, it is quite a pleasant experience to row on this calm river, surrounded by the verdant green.”
Photo Credit: FISA
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the teams cannot take in the local sights at this moment in time. However, a number of athletes have expressed their interest in returning to Kinosaki in the future, to tour the local attractions and enjoy the onsen.
For the moment, everyone at the training grounds in Kinosaki Onsen is focused on Olympic preparations, while the locals hope that the town’s hospitality, and the training time spent on the Maruyama River, will carry the teams towards Olympic victories.
Visitors to Kinosaki Onsen can rent bicycles and easily bike north along the Maruyama River and reach the shores of Kehi Beach or turn the other direction and visit the Hachigoro Wetlands or the Genbudo Caves. The Maruyama River also provides a great location for boating, rowing, and watching races. The Maruyama River Kinosaki Boat Festival & Regatta is hosted annually in July or August for people to participate in and spectate. At the Hyogo Prefectural Maruyamagawa Kouen, visitors can enjoy various river and riverside activities, including canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and ice skating depending on the season. At the ice-skating rink (or pool in the summertime), visitors can take in a beautiful view of the river and mountains.