Tokyo Paradiso

August 30, 2006

Thursday 24th August 2006

Not many people would believe you if you described Tokyo as paradise. But just 70 minutes on a commuter train south east of the capital is the company Algaforest, a beautiful rocky coastline and the balmy Pacific Ocean.


tokyo area

Algaforest is a tour company run by Shibata-san a very well respected paddler in Japan and all round cool guy. He lived in Canada for a few years as a young man where he learned first canoeing then kayaking. He has spent a summer in Greenland and a 5 month solo expedition from Oslo up to the Russian border along the exposed Atlantic coast. His English is great. He told us that he has never had a job that didn’t involve kayaking – respect.


shibata-san Shibata-san from Algaforest website

I went with my friend Francis who was visiting me from Scotland. He is a complete beginner which affected our day. On the whole he did really well especially in the afternoon when the wind picked up and we got some chop but he got tired and the blazing August sun threatened to turn him (actually us both) lobster red. We were picked up at 9am at the last station stop on the Keikyu line (misoguchi?) and we cut our day short and headed back to Tokyo about 4pm.


We set out from a rocky harbour and paddled about 2km along the coast, Francis getting a feel for his boat – an older new Zealand made plastic boat with a rudder and high initial stability. I was in a Waterfield Kayak (a Japanese brand that I have seen a lot of paddlers using) with no other name on it I’m not sure what one, but it was 57cm wide and really very nice. I was also using for the second time a greenland paddle supplied on request by Algaforest. The paddle wasn’t as nice as the the one I used with paddlecoast proving not all paddles are created equal!


After about an hour or so we stopped at a small island for a swim and to eat lunch; the temperature was about 32 degrees and we really needed to cool down. Shibata-san had brought scuba masks so went swimming and rock hopping looking for fish and other life.

I have never swum in such warm water. I think at least 26 degrees celcius. It was like wading into a luke warm bath and I never felt cold even after at least an hour in the water. It was also really amazingly clear with visibility at least 5m underwater. I didn’t want to get out of the water but rumbling stomaches moved us to lunch.


After lunch we paddled to the point, looking into Tokyo bay and all the maritime traffic – the bay includes one of Japan’s busiest sea lanes. On the way back there were lots of free divers diving for Uni (see here) and we had to be careful to give them some room and not knock them out when they surfaced unexpectedly!

paddle down

We agreed to head back to the original launch point and I would do some rolling practice with Shibata-san.

Wearing the mask (which also fitted over my nose) was a great help initially as was Shibata-san’s enthusiastic encouragement and perceptive pointers. A long story short – I can roll like crazy now. My C to C roll got much more powerful as I was directed to keep my left hand much closer to my shoulder – really worked. Shibata-san then taught me the screw roll or short roll. After a couple of failed efforts (and ‘ground rolls’) Shibata-san got out of his boat and assisted directing the blade, straight away I felt the difference. The key thing is to slide the blade along the surface of the water, not pull it through. Once I got this that was it. Lots of power and success!

I really like this roll because it is fast, there is no need to wait underwater while the blade slices through the water. Its just roll and up.

Shibata-san also taught me another roll to use when your short roll fails – the put-across roll – rather than push the blade up through the water to try again, you change hand positions to extend the paddle (like the long pawletta) straight out to one side you then roll up. This again was successful. So I have three rolls that work and are realistic self rescue options. (I probably could do the long pawletta now too just haven’t practiced it). What a feeling. It was also great in the warm water just rolling and rolling and rolling.

We finished up and showered down using a hose pipe, basic but very refreshing. Then Shibata-san dropped us back at the station and we were drinking in Tokyo at 6.

Lastly here is our route map:



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