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Stewing in the cicada-serenaded soup of summer can be a trying time in Japan. During the hottest months, it would be easy to give up hope and melt away into a mess of sweat to emerge again only in autumn. There are many years I would have done just that, if it were not for the savior of summer, the greatest of August antagonists: clear, cold mountain rivers.

On a particularly hot and sweaty weekend, I decide to cool off at the flagship of Kyushu’s swimming spots: Shishigawa Gorge, deep in the mountains of Miyazaki Prefecture. It has everything one could want from a swimming hole — except for a rope swing, but we’ll forgive it this one shortcoming.

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