I love summer in Japan

August 7, 2006

Sunday 6th August 2006


Before I wrote all hail the Eskimo roll but I’m back to all fail the Eskimo roll!

Nori invited me to go kayaking with him as he planned to meet up with some friends and go to Kinkasan depending on the weather. The forecast was for small waves but potentially some difficult wind – opposite the wave direction. In the event the wind was almost non existent and the sea was calm.

I got up at 6:45 and, having stopped to buy ‘esa’ (a kind of lugworm), on the way was 10 minutes late to meet Nori. I was then delayed another 10 minutes trying to find him (no mobile phone coverage) in the big port of Ayukawa. This launch site (or putin, eh Nori?) was from the very place I suggested wouldn’t be a good launch site is my last post about Ajishima or Kinkasan. Today I was going to find out I was wrong about a few things:

  • Ayukawa is a good launch spot for kayakers. To the far west of the port is a small concrete ramp down to the water and parking space for about 10 cars. This is a popular and often used putin; there were 6 or 7 kayak cars when we arrived.
  • The tour boats that leave from Ayukawa do not go whale watching. Although they are adorned with whale images and are named after whales (such that they would make you believe that was their purpose), the boats only ferry people to Kinkasan. The whales that used to be brought back to this town were caught hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This town was just the whale boats’ home port. All this stopped with the worldwide moratorium on whale fishing in 1982 (1985 start). Japan still catches 900 whales a year supposedly for scientific research, the meat from which is available in many restaurants. (read more here). There are few wooly jumper causes that I support but I have to say I am against catching whales and eating them. I was trying to reason out why I feel like this and the best I can do is a principle that there are some animals that we just shouldn’t eat: dogs, and cats, gorillas and chimps, whales and dolphins (horses are fair game and tasty too!). Of course in some countries they eat cats and dogs and although I don’t eat them too, I think this is okay because these animals aren’t endagered. The others are somehow of higher intelligence and are endangered species, this combination takes them off the menu in my opinion. But this is a moral and subjective opinion and not an absolute, therefore when a Japanese person suggests that I am against eating whale meat (like Nori did) I try not to be sanctimonious about it. But I am against it you hear me Norway and Japan.
  • Many teachers (including my teachers at paddlecoast) are opposed to using the paddlefloat as a tool for learning the Eskimo roll. This is because there is a risk of shoulder dislocations, according to Nori. So please beware (although personally I found it a useful step – my post about it here).

So anyway we set out at 8:50. Nori paddling his new-to-him North Coast Shore Line kayak and me in my big red bus. (His secondhand kayak cost 140,000 the same as my plastic one and his even came bundled with a built-in compass and spray skirt – damn I wish I had gotten a second hand kayak!)


We paddled around the headland at a pretty solid pace, no time for pictures, to the surf beach. It took maybe 45 minutes so I guess 3-4km. The plan was to review the waves and if small enough surf in to meet Nori’s friends on the beach. Just before we got there however we got a call to say his friends were all on Kinksan but seeing as we were here anyway we should go for some surfing action.

The waves were too big for me. I estimated 4-6feet high and the big ones dumping. I might have gone for it but there were a few swimmers and surfers so I thought an out of control novice might be dangerous!

waves from the sea

Nori went for it though – he’s pretty good. On his first run he capsized and rolled up but took on some water I think so he beached, bailed and paddled back out through the surf (looked cool his kayak at 45 degrees through the waves) to try again.


on the rocks

I saw him fiddling with his watch strap and replace his cap with a helmet then in he went again. It was interesting that when you catch a wave you cut left or right to surf down it, obvious maybe (that’s what surfers do), but I had thought it might be straight run in a kayak. Anyway Nori disappeared behind a big wave face and then I saw him pop through the surf and roll up, again he beached and bailed his boat. and paddled back out to me.

Nightmare, he said he got dumped on big time and lost both his cap and his watch. Maybe his watch strap wasn’t one properly. He was very lassaize faire about it, I would have been pissed.

While Nori was getting trashed I did some Eskimo roll practice on my own. I failed three times setting up in between gasps of air. I was getting up but in hindsight not keeping my head down long enough. I decided to try my hand roll with my (pre-inflated for the purpose) paddlefloat but failed at that too – not enough air in my lungs damn! I wet exited, did a mounted re-entry and pump. The water was lovely and warm and crystal clear. I was in about 4m deep water and could see the ripples on the sandy bottom.

We paddled on to Kinkasan where we met up with Nori’s friends, 6 other kayakers – the most I’ve ever seen in one spot in Japan.

kayaks on the beach

They all had nice kayaks, one Current Designs, A perception (I think) and the rest a Japanese brand called Water Field Kayaks. All frp or grp non of your (my) cheap rotomoulded polyethylene kayaks. As well as Nori’s beautiful Shore Line:


When Nori said he friends he really meant a loose connection of kayakers who go together sometimes. They have a message board in Miyagi and let each other know when they are going and where.

Nori and I headed up to the shrine on the hill on foot, while a bus ferried all the tourists up (a bit poor form I think). The island is really beautiful and the landscape much more ‘English’ that Japanese with its (deer tended) lawns and mature decidious trees.


The deer are semi tame (like in Nara) they can be a bit intimidating if you start feeding them (someone else was for this picture).


The shrine was ok and we threw in our 5 yen and prayed. Architecturally not that great but there was a bronze ‘thing’ sculpture/vase/totem that had some nice carvings/casting on it:


I also like these lanterns:


When we got back down the hill Nori’s friends were in the process of buggering off without us. Heading to the beach we just came from.

see ya

We ate lunch and then followed them. When we got to the beach there were yet more swimmers and surfers so Nori said we should swim the boats in, good experience but I wished I hadn’t left my fins in the car!

8 kayaks on teh beach

From the beach I did some body surfing – really easy in the big breakers while the others sat around chilling. Maybe the height was more like 4 feet that 6. Nori in front of the surf:


30 minutes later we launched through the surf. One member of the group couldn’t get out, got capsized twice so we helped push him out. Having gained confidence body surfing I figured it would be pretty easy to get the boat out and it was, you just power through.

We then paddled back to Ayukawa – at slightly too fast a pace for me, I wanted to play in the rock gardens and take some pictures. Some sea fog descended giving us 500m visibility but making the colour in my pictures weird.

group of 8


Near the port we stopped to do some rolling. After a quick drink break I put on a helmet and Nori assisted my rolling attempts. I failed again. The set and sweep was good (said my teacher) but I just wasn’t getting my body far enough out from the boat and near the surface. I also wasn’t keeping my head in the water long enough. (I did manage a couple of ‘ground rolls’ hitting the bottom with the paddle!)

Anyway the real reason was I was exhausted. It was about 3pm and we had been paddling, walking or surfing all day. (Not that that is an excuse one needs to be able to roll when exhausted too!) I’ll practice some more on my own.

As I was failing at rolling Ryo Itaka was teaching another newbie (the guy that had trouble getting through the surf) some self rescue techniques; cowboy re-entry, paddlefloat rescue and a re-entry and roll (though this was not practiced). They also did a TX assisted rescue. We went up to watch.


It didn’t go that smoothly. A miscommunication saw Ryo swallow some water which made him feel sick (I wrote about Ben Westaway puking after drinking too much salt water). Ryo Itaka‘s student, still in the water, was getting tired.


Nori helped but it took him a long time to get out of the water using the cowboy method. Lucky it was warm. Then there was a problem with his rudder cables. (I really don’t think they are a good idea – lots of stuff on the rear deck to get in the way of a self rescue).

Ryo, who was fine after a few minutes, spent a year in Durham as an English exchange student. Here he is posing with me in the fog:


He is a cool guy and his English is pretty good. He also teaches at yuyukan the sports store in Sendai where I met Nori. I remarked to Nori that a remarkably high percentage of kayakers can speak English. (I also think there are a lot of old beardys but that’s the subject of another post)

By the way Ryo reckoned I look like Allesandro Del Piero and my wife was saying that too – watching the world cup final. I find this very flattering not just cos Del Piero is handsome and plays in the same position as me but because del Piero looks a bit like Cannavaro – the best defender in the world and a total stud. What do you think?

me delpiero cannavaro

In the end I didn’t have time for fishing but I had a great day kayaking in 30 degree sunny weather and balmy 22 degree water along a beautiful coastline. I got home and my beautiful wife was cooking ‘karage’ (fried chicken) my favourite, I had a cool shower with my kids to wash all the sand off and a beer with dinner. I was asleep before 10.

I love summer in Japan.

Lastly here is our route:



2 Responses to “I love summer in Japan”

  1. […] I love summer in Japan but I also love winter. You can do things here that you simply can’t do in the UK. Today I […]

  2. […] made another trip to the island of Kinkasan at the weekend, the previous time being August 6th 2006. But I decided to spend the time with my children who have been a bit neglected by me recently, so […]

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