Archive for the 'Kayaking trips' Category

Last kayaking in Japan

August 4, 2007

My last kayaking in Japan – surfing in the river kayak at Nobiru beach.

The previous day we got back from the beautiful Ajishima on what we were told was the last ferry before the typhoon waves got too big, so I was expecting some big surf today. It was obviously storm surf but the height wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it might be, I’d say from crest to trough somewhere around 5 feet on the bigger waves. Some of the waves were breaking really nicely – holding up for a long time and then crumbling down while others were dumping so it was really pot luck on a lot of runs. The beach shape was also a bit funny causing the waves to break flatten and then reform into a shore break with 2-3 footers and a 20m run into shore.

I’m not sure if I am getting better or less scared of the surf (by the way I think a helmet really helps your confidence) but I was able to get on a lot of waves and was even waiting for the bigger waves….

Still not doing very much; starting to carve a bit on the wave face and I think I even got the steering rudder worked out but I definately need to engage with the ‘power pocket’ of the wave more. Still, enjoying the speed very much. As usual got tossed a few times but had great fun.

It was raining when I started around 10am but the sun came out and the beach got busier by 1pm when I packed up – exhausted. So that was it.

Thanks Japan for a great place to sea kayak and surf: the pacific is a lovely warm ocean to learn to sea kayak.

Thanks also to everyone who helped me, taught me how to kayak and provided priceless snippets of information about sea kayaking in Japan…


Summer’s here

July 24, 2007

At last sumer has arrived. 30 degrees washed out blue skies and bleached landscapes. The green of the rainy season will only last a few more days… This is my favorite time in Japan.

I went surfing again just to get in the sea and to cool down. The sea is still not super warm but is beautiful. Lots of washed up broken seashells on the beach from the recent Typhoon that I had to be careful off in my bare feet (practicing for when I ship my kayak boots back home on Monday).

The waves were only 1-2 feet high but I still had lots of fun carving and bongo sliding and I even managed my first, unexpected, roll in the surf – using the paddle in an extended C to C.

From 4 to 6pm I was all alone on this part of the beach. Then two surfers arrived and like assholes swam right out and just sat in the middle of the break I was surfing. I decided not to worry about it, it’s probably their break anyway.

About 30 minutes later a fisherman walked along the beach and started setting up his stuff right in front of where I was playing in the surf. I waved to him to make sure he saw me but before I had a chance to say anything, Plop, in went the heavy weight about 5m from me. Abunaii! I didn’t shout that but my wife says I should have – what an asshole. What I wanted to do was beach the kayak and start pumelling him… I restrained myself of course.

I find the problem with Japan is that because no one tells other people off – face saving is so important here – then people just do what they want. Around where they live or work they are restrained by duty (actually I think it’s “the neighbours”) but at the beach or in the mountains they are free to be totally sellfish. Hence beaches are covered in trash, car parks with piles of cigarette butts from the car ashtray, huge SUV’s drive down the beach, and Jet skiers come with 5m of swimmers. And fisherman act badly secure in the knowledge that no-one will say anything. And they would be right.

There are good and bad things everywhere right? I mean as Rik described in a comment here, the other extreme is North American rightousness…

I got rolled and had to swim three times (in 1-2 foot waves, I know!), once after battling through a small rip tide swimming the boat to shore I realised that a sit-inside kayak isn’t the right thing for me, for surfing. I should get a sit-on-top – be like surfers who never have to beach and bail, just climb back on if I fail to roll.

This one from dagger.
Some much nicer looking designs and a review of sit on top surf kayaks is here and here.

I also found out about the term Pearl in kayaking and a Plowing Ender, a related technique that I will try next time.

Of course proper surf kayaks are not sit on tops. Paddle Surfers United is a good place to read about boats like this one; the Reaction from Murky Water in Canada

the reaction

Surfing with a racing paddle

July 21, 2007

Having sold my sea kayak and paddle I am now forced to use the borrowed carbon fibre wing paddle for surfing. It was an interesting experience.

I got to the beach at noon and played around in 2-3 foot surf for a few hours. As ever I failed to roll except when setting up in advance (except once when the wave rolled me back up by itself). I need to find a roll that I can do from the back deck, which is usually the position I find myself having been tossed in surf: I’ve been leaning right back high bracing into the pile, trying to keep the bow from sinking…

The wing paddle peforms okay for high braces though it does have a tendancy to slide out but I found this managable, I could flip the blade to the back and draw back to finish on a low brace. However that might be to do with the size of these waves. Where it is less good is in the strain it puts on my lower back and joints punching through waves to get back out – the paddles inflexibility really takes it’s toll. The 60 degree feather was also too much in the surf and caused some soreness in my grip (probably gripping too tightly).

The waves today were very short frequency, about 6secs which is a short as they get here, so getting back out was the hardest part as you have to punch through at least 3 breaking waves.

I planned to go again on Sunday (9sec frequency and 4-5 foot waves predicted) but my body was too sore!

Surfing in the sun

July 10, 2007

Another evening surfing, this time in the sun.  Really beautiful day with the most beautiful sunset into the mountains. Alone on the beach and swimming in the warm Pacific Ocean (21 degrees now) I was overwhelmed by nostalgia for my soon to be lost Japan.

It is an amazing country.

No pictures again (makes blogging pretty boring) so here are some from Seacliffe Beach in Scotland (wikipedia) which will soon be my local surf beach.

copyright Edinburgh Kayak Club

The people surfing are members of the Edinburgh Kayak Club which will soon be my local club – I’m thinking of joining… You can see more pictures of their trip to Seacliffe beach in this gallery.

My surfing was ok. The sea was almost totally flat and the waves small but as usual the sand bar at Oku Matsushima pops up some nice little waves  perfect for a beginner like me. I guess 1-2 feet.

My only noteable event was getting cartwheeled when stationary and an unusually big wave suddenly reared up, I was hoping to hold on with a big high brace and leaning right back to the rear deck but as the front of my kayak disappeared down into the water my spray skirt popped a bit as the wave landed on me and water rushed in sinking the front and ending any hopes of saving it – I went over backwards and failed to roll.

Pretty exciting in an 8 foot river kayak in small surf wonder what it would be like in a 16foot sea kayak in huge storm surf?

Surfing in the rain

June 30, 2007

It’s the rainy season in Japan. Up here it lasts from June 20th – July 20th give or take a few days. When it’s over it gets VERY hot, like 35 degrees, so the rain is to be enjoyed.

I went surfing again today. I only really have time for surfing at the moment – I go when my kids go for their nap and am back not long after they wake up. As my social work cousin says “3 kids under 5” (apparantly it’s one of the indicators used in social work to predict high risk families – whatever that means).

When I got to put in at 2:30 the waves were looking great, long curling spilling waves.


Avoiding the six or so surfers (none of them that good) I started playing around. It was great! The waves were a bit higher than last time – maybe 2-3 feet.

After about an hour though the waves started to change. I missed one wave and then got dumped on by a huge wave paddling back out, I managed to brace into it and stay upright but it popped my spray skirt and I sank – funny feeling. (One problem with the river kayak is that it doesn’t have any flotation). I swam the boat to shore bailed and then padled back out but didn’t make it again, got rolled and failed to roll in the soup.

Same again beach and bail. Then I noticed all but two of the surfers had gone and watching the surf realised that the incoming tide had changed the waves to shorter dumping waves.

Anyway I persevered and surfed for another hour (bailing out twice more). I also practiced rolling in the surf – waiting in the surf zone and then rolling just as a wave was about to break on me coming up through the aerated soup.

I also realised what is wrong with my ‘big kayak’ roll: practising with the river kayak has made me lazy and I’m not doing enough to get the beamy sea kayak over (the river kayak is just so much easier).

5 weeks left in Matsushima, then 1 week in Tokyo then back to Scotland…

car and river kayak

ps I bonded my paddle together with an epoxy type resin and it worked really well – no hint of movement. But it is now a 30 degree feather fixed paddle that I can’t take home with me.

Surfing small waves

June 27, 2007

I think I finally got it today – how to surf properly.

I got to the put-in at 4.30pm (leaving work an hour early) and had two hours on my own before the first surfers turned up. The surf was small 1-2 feet, but I realised perfect for my level. I surfed a small break over a sand spit about 150m out which allowed about 100m runs before the wave petered out. This was part of the reason for ‘getting it’ I think as at the end of every wave I wasn’t beached! It was great fun.

The key I think is to paddle like billyo to get on the wave and stay in front of the pile so you don’t broach. Once you are up to speed it’s an amazing feeling and I was able to look around for the first time, skiming along the green part of the wave with the pile behind and in control.

Well mostly in control. I got trashed three times and failed to roll – partly because of the surf but mostly I think my paddle which is now loose and spinning around in my hands. Need to get some loctite anerobic glue (used for thread locking should work on my steel shaft) although as I looked around for it I found the sumo stuff – maybe that’s the one for me!

sumo glue

As I was paddling around getting on waves, punching through etc I was thinking what an idiot to be surfing with this broken paddle but it was also good practice in a way – being so aware of paddle blade position.

When the surfers turned up it was instructive watching how they did it and I realised that surfing is much cooler and more interesting than surf kayaking. These guys are just so self sufficient – no masses of saftey equipment for them – just a board and shortie wetsuit…

The water was amazingly warm in the wet suit (though chilly without) and the weather was weird – 20km inland it was sunny and hot (26C) but getting the train home suddenly it got cold and foggy (unusual for here) with about 15kmph winds.

I finished up at 7:30 as the light was starting to fade. Tired and happy.

Again no pictures.

Flat but choppy and warm

June 24, 2007

I still don’t have a new waterproof camera so no pictures sadly.

The sea was flat with less than a foot of swell but with some wind blown chop and pretty warm. I spent 4 hours paddling around, fooling around in the water. I brought my carbon fibre racing paddle to practice with – felt funny but I got how it works.

I was also keeping a look out for a spot to practice the method of landing on a rocky cliffy shore that Marcus Demuth wrote about:

“Nigel taught us ‘landings in hostile environments’, which was by far my favorite new thing I learned. To land on a rock, or in a cliff-like coast, the kayaker clips himself to his own kayak with his tow rope, then slips out of the kayak and swims to, and finally climbs on, the rock with his paddle in his hand. He then places his paddle and himself above the high water line and crashing waves, and pulls his kayak up to himself on the rock with the tow line. I could not have been more impressed by this technique, and was eager to try it when it came to my turn. To launch, you let the kayak slide back into the water, sending it off with a good push, then, Yours Truly jumps off the rock into the Irish (or any other) Sea, gets back into the kayak with a re-entry roll, and then clip yourself off your boat.”

And also a place to do a seal launch from.

seal launch photos from jackson kayak

I found a perfect seal launch spot that could double as the landing spot. The only problem is that it is pretty high – 4m off the water (no where near as high as the above pictures though!) – which makes hauling the kayak up pretty hard work and also will take some bottle to do my first seal launch from…

Just 6 weekends left in Japan before we go back to Scotland for good so I may well run out of time.

I spent a lot of time in the water today pratcising various things. I started off rolling pretty well but my blade was sinking too deep so I tried to make some corrections. Sod’s law I then failed to roll. I tried a rentry and roll and failed at that too. I then tried a cowboy rentry but the kayak was too full of water and too unstable. I swam the kayak into shore – noting how easy it is for the kayak to get out of reach and how fast it moves away from you when you’re swimming – bailed and paddled back out. I then failed again twice more at rolling to my great surprise and frustration. I thought I had that roll nailed down and was really supposed to be practicing my offside roll. Anyway I took the opportunity to practice the paddle float rentry and various methods of sliding ito the kayak. I think my failure might have been related to the broken paddle as at one point I felt the blade twist and then slice through the water.

It is good to get this kind of shock though makes you realise that its probably complacency that kills most kaykers.

There is never just one reason

June 2, 2007

I failed today. I was aiming to reach the confluence point 38N 141E that I blogged about in March (I even upped my plan to the confluence project site).


This was my put-in at shibatahama with the ubiquious cars parked on the beach: all surfers.

The confluence is about 9km out into the Pacific, I got about half way out and decided to turn back. Of course there is never just one reason for failure:

1. The gps I had borrowed for the occasion:


(This is it showing the required WGS 84 protocol that is a requirement of the confluence project). The menu is in Japanese and I couldn’t get it to display location in Lat/Long without setting a “way-finding” flag, a double button push that would show that point “fixed” i.e. would not change as I moved so led to me pushing and cancelling each time to find my location. I was concerned that after another hour of paddling I wouldn’t be able to get the close enough (within 100m) to the point with “all zeros”.

2. I couldn’t remember how far a minute was in km (1.852 km). In fact my whole lat/long navigation was poorly considered and researched.

3. The waterproofing for the gps consisted of a clear zip-loc bag inside a waterproof map case. This combination was leading to fogging that made the reading difficult to see and caused problems both in following a heading and in reading the lat/long location safely. I was worried that as the seas were picking up I wouldn’t be able to find the confluence safely.

4. I was late to the put-in and so missed the ideal tide configuration (though tide wasn’t huge so not that significant).

5. However the wind was. Because I was late I was having to paddle into more wind, forecast at 5knots in the morning rising to 15 knots in the afternoon from the SE: ideal for blowing me home but not great on the way out.

6. I promised my wife I’d only do it ideal conditions and this wasn’t ideal. It was a nice sunny day and the waves weren’t huge but the wind was creating some chop, white horses and the occasional breaking wave.

7. My paddle was broken (not fatally but not ideally either) and I didn’t have a back up. More about that later.

8. I got pretty wet breaking through some biggish surf on the way out and wasn’t super confident getting back in safely.

rip tide through surf

None of these reasons was enough to make me stop on their own, but added together I did stop, turn around and head back in. I paddled for an hour solid on the way out, which by my reckoning was 5km out, and only about 25 minutes with the wind at my back and surfing the waves on the way home.

It was an interesting experience for me: setting out alone with nothing in front but the ocean as far as the eye can see. I spent most of my time second guessing my decision making: is this the right thing to do, is this safe, what happens if…

There is something about the wide open sea that is disconcerting, I don’t know if it’s just me, perhaps so, and that has been my fascination and with people who go off into it alone. I have all the more respect for what Andrew McAuley set out to do.

I’m sure my failure was also partly to do with my kayak, had I been able to paddle faster in a more ocean worthy kayak I might have gotten there before I had time to get nervous…

When I got back all the surfers who had been on the beach had gone. From the sea the surf looked really big and, hitting at an angle, the waves were zipping dramtically along the tetrapod sea defences. I got a bit nervous that there was some reason why all the surfers had gone – the tide had changed at 11:30am did that mean dumping waves now?

Anyway I was quite please with my entry in that I stayed dry! I came in along the edge of a riptide that I had taken out. The rip was keeping the surf small and manageable. At one point have broached on a wave I found myself turned around and heading out into the surf in the rip – it was very strong. Fortunately another wave came through which I back paddled onto and surfed in bum first. Happily no one there to see.

rip tide 2

This rip (above – between the surf and the tetra pods) was pretty strong and so I decided not to empty the kayak and fool around in the surf.

a proper tube

The surf looked great though – even some proper looking tubes.

I took some pictures with my film camera which, if they are any good, I will post later (*here*). I’ve not decided whether to try for this confluence again: it wasn’t great fun, it was a four hour round trip drive and I’ve only got 10 weeks left in Japan… However I would also be sad to leave it un-done.

*EDIT* What I should have read in advance, a good account by Douglas Wilcox of GPS use and explanation of the “GOTO” function that I assumed would be part of my borrowed unit but wasn’t. L I N K

Surfing the river kayak

May 26, 2007

not today but same place

This picture is from last year – no camera today.

3 hours of fooling around in the surf today in my borrowed river kayak. It was a beautiful day, 24degrees and sunny and the beach was relatively disserted. (But it still bugs me how Japansese people seem to think its okay to drive on the beach, all these guys with their motors parked right next to where they are fishing or having a bbq – it doesn’t just bug my environmental happiness but also my sense of aesthetics…)
skirt and helmet

No photos except this one of my new spray skirt and helmet. The helmet was great, super comfortable – I forgot I was wearing it, the spray skirt was okay. It fit but not really tight enough. It’s fine for rolling and most waves but when I mistimed a run and got pounded by a big breaking wave part of the skirt popped, a crack but enough to let enough water in that I had to beach and bale. But for 5,000yen what can I expect?

The surf was pretty big, from the road it looked nice and I parked about half way along the beach thinking I could get out no problem but when I got to the shore I realsied I needed to walk a bit… The great thing about this beach is the shape, it curls round and hence has a range of waves from big to flat so you choose your height.

the curved beach gives wave variety

I, being a wimp, chose the middleish; 1-2 feet waves which allowed me only about 30m of surfing. The nice big waves (my guess today was 4-5feet) were breaking pretty far from shore and running for at least 100m. I hate myself for not being more machO!

At first I was nervous about this new-to-me kayak but after some rolling and bracing practice (as you’d expect easy to roll) and getting a feel for turning around easily I got a bit more confident. I started bongo sliding a few waves in and then surfed. It was easy to get on the waves – the kayaks big fat bum meant it got picked up quickly – and the round end stopped the nose diving. It was also easy to turn around and get off the waves. Breaking through waves was tougher than with the sea kayak. I was also not happy with the lack of flotation in the river kayak – no bulkheads and no back up bags… Need to think about this.

I wiped out twice and failed both times to roll up in the surf (disappointed) and hauling the waterlogged kayak to shore is hard work (lost my shades in one of the wet exits).

Water temperature was 16degrees and after a while got a bit cold. But I really enjoyed myself: fun, easy and great to be on the water. Also realised that I can probably sell my sea kayak earlier than I thought and go surfing for the last month…

A rainy day.

May 19, 2007


I had arranged a tour with Noriyuki Hoshi – my tour guide of Miyagi and my ski buddy, Jonathan. But due to some poor communication that got blown out, so I went with Nori and his “club mate” Abe-san. They are planning to cross Sendai bay (about 70km) in September. Good luck! がんばってね

All of these photographs were taken by Abe-san. Who very generously sent me them.


We set out from my usual put-in at Oku-Mastsushima. Nori lent me his North Shore, Shoreline kayak (which was awesome!) Abe-san was paddling the same but without a skeg and Nori was in an waterfield kayak (Japanese brand). The forecast was for rain to stop around 9am and slowly turn to sun around noon but as you can see in the photos it rained steadily all morning.

rafted up rearranging my foredeck

We did a very simple circuit of one of the islands. There was no wind and only small swell and it was a pleasure to paddle. We ducked in and out of the caves that I know quite well by now.
caves 1

Paddling with the swell was great as the Shoreline kayak accelaerated quickly and so surfed easily.

Low tide was at 11am and at a few points there were some breaking waves, Nori and Abe-san didn’t seem to interested in these though so I just followed their lead. We were making good progress and I was surprised how easy it was to keep up. This pace in my own kayak would have been tiring.


We came to one spot that where the waves were breaking (I actually remember trying to get on these waves once before without much success) and I decided I shouldn’t miss the opportunity to mess around (with some back up in case things go wrong). As I was practicing some bracing I hit the limit of secondary stability and capsized but rolled up first time, this gave me confidence that there wouldn’t be a problem with the small surf.

The waves were about 50cm and running for about 100m. They were breaking due to a huge bed of seaweed and so were irregular, breaking at different places and running at different angles and fun! Sometimes a larger wave would form and it was possible to get triangular waves as the waves interferred with one another.


Punching out through the waves was fun too. I did some bongo sliding and managed to catch, surf three waves. The first one was great and I got a decent run. The second was ok. The third was one of the bigger waves and I enjoyed the speed. At the end of the run, I broached round to bongo slide the last bit, high bracing into the wave


It was all going great until just about as this picture was taken. The wave disappeared and I capsized. I then couldn’t roll using my usual, short roll because the seaweed was preventing me getting the paddle round. I tried for the back-up roll that Shibata-san had taught me but failed, twice, and had to wet exit. (Thanks to Nori for the timely reminder about where the spray skirt pull cord was – at the side rather than front) .

As I came up, just outside the surf zone I let go my paddle which was dissapointing – I want to keep hold of that. Anyway after a short discussion about how best to rescue I went for a rentry and eskimo roll (maybe I should have rolled up with my paddle as practice?)

pumping out

We then pumped out (that’s Nori pumping at the back using the built-in pump on the Shoreline’s deck) rafted for stability (and closing my eyes to look good). The water was the same temperature as the rain and the air (about 15 degrees C) one of those days when the junctions are all blurred. We then paddled in to shore and did some rolling practice in the rain

rolling up

(this roll one wasn’t so good – note the sinking paddle blade)

I tried again the failed back-up roll and couldn’t do it. The Shoreline doesn’t have good knee braces and it was hard to get a good hip flick – this was Nori’s conclusion… Hmm I need more practice. After a few minutes rolling though I got really cold – Abe-san pointing out my purple lips so we set out for home through the lake-like part of Matsushima bay.

going home

I practiced refining my stroke and cadence and finally decided on a 15 degree feather (have been experimenting with zero, 15 and 30 recently). I really, really enjoyed the Shoreline kayak. It is the best kayak I have paddled so far (beating my own of course, the North Shore Mistral and Calypso and two waterfield kayaks I have paddled with tour guides). Fast – easy to get up to speed, manouverable, good secondary stability, nice tight cokpit – fit me well – and surfs well. The only complaint was knee braces.

Thanks again Nori (and sorry for the cancellation) and to Abe-san for the photographs.

route map

A little puddle

May 12, 2007


Harbour just south of Onagawa.

A beautiful spring day in Northern Japan. The weather was warm, 18 degrees with a strongish though abating westerly (15knots) and cold water (I estimate 10-12degrees, at least 3 degrees colder than in Matsushima). Today was a half day, putin at 10.30 out by 3pm.

I left from a beautiful and totally silent little harbour, with birds twittering in the trees and a feeling of complete tranquility. It was really unusual.


panorama made with the excellent autostitch


In the wind shadow and in the protection of the inlet the water was undisturbed, not flat calm but just a bit wobbly… It was also super clean and clear with visibility of about 5m. I tried to take an image of this clarity and it didn’t come out but I got another effect that I quite like.


The coast is fyord like with a combination of cliffy headlands and small beaches and unusually for Japan (where planted cedar dominates) a mixed, decidous forrest whose colours my poor quality camera is barely capable of capturing.


The lack of swell (and the protected areas under the cliffs) allowed me into the rock gradens to play around and explore without fear of being dashed against the cliffs like last week. It was fun playing in some white water and interesting how little support well aerated water gives you… I mean I know that but still when you experience it it’s still a surprise.


I then paddled across one of the bays past what I can only describe as a sea of bhoys, each mooring a line of shellfish. Though I’m not sure that I would eat these seeing as the nucleur power station is just round the next headland – you can just about see the pylons marching across the landscape in the background.


There was also a series of salmon farms with the salmon leaping high out of the water.

I stopped for lunch at a small beach (took some more “for sale” pictures)

ate my onigiri (rice ball) lunch


and even did some surfing: about 100m off to left there was a small break, over foot deep rocks below, which ran for about 50mbefore dashing on the cliff. There was an easy out and it was easy top get on these waves and fun, though somewhat limited. Made me sure I want to get a spray skirt for my borrowed kayak and get into surfing…


I paddled out, with the wind at my back, around the headland. The wind was strong but not too serious, I was more worried about the energyI would expend fighting back into the wind than the conditions. Further out was a coatguard vessel lay anchored at the bay entrance. I wonder why? I know the sea conditions were quite bad this weekend, 20km offshore the waves were 5m+.


I paddled about a km downwind round the headland, enjoying the bouncy ride and more agressive ocean – gave me the feeling of the North Pacific proper – keeping far from the rocks to avoid the reflected waves and to “maximise my down time”.

Heading, slogging, back I paddled straight across the bay, surfing the swell running in and keeping my head down into the wind. What is nice about paddling upwind is that weather cocking means all your efforts are expended in forward motion rather than corrective strokes.


about half way back the wind started to die down


and I could just enjoy the swell.


I took this series of images from the middle of the bay: a 360 degree panoramic. It doesn’t show much except the sea state sadly my camera is so bad, the landscape doesn’t come out…
Back inshore I was fooling around in the rock gardens taking some more pictures when disaster struck. I was always worried about dropping my non waterproof camera in the sea but instead I dropped it – in order to brace into an unexpected wave – onto my skirt only to find that there lay a puddle of water.

This is the last image my camera ever took:

wet phone

Ah well. I’m philiosophical: it was rubbish anyway, the colour was always off, no zoom, impossible to see the viewfinder in bright sunlight, poor image compression etc etc. I’ll just have to shell out on a proper digital camera.

Lastly here is my route and this link showing where I was at a larger scale.


kodomo no hi (aka boys day)

May 5, 2007

5th May is boys day – officially childrens day but seeing as March 3rd is girls day (hinamatsuri) it’s also known as boys day. Families with boys fly carp kites (koinobori) on large poles

from wikipedia

My son, Kazuma (一真 meaning one truth) was celebrating his first boys day with his “Matsushima grandparents” the Miura-sans. So I went kayaking.

The weather was warm and sunny, one of the first such days this year up here in chilly Tohoku. Air temp 22c, water temperature 14c, 5m/s southerly wind with 1.5-2m swells from the south/southeast.

I set out at low tide (11am) with lots of fishermen on the beach and fishermen’s wives climbing on the rocks collecting whatever it is they collect at low tide around here.


I’ve paddled my planned route before, out to the caves around the headland, find a lunch spot then back. I had about 5 hours of paddling planned. There were lots of sport fishermen out too in small boats and I even saw one of them catch a fish, looked a decent size but the fishermen didn’t look so friendly so I didn’t get any closer than this to take the picture


It was great to be kayaking again after a long layoff. The S/SE swell direction is the best (biggest) direction for waves into Ishinomaki and Matsushima and they can roll in unimpeded. The light wind meant few wind blown waves and it was a pleasure kayaking in the bigish swell. I set myself the challenge of actually trying to capture a swell in a picture: hard to do

try 1

version 2

version 3

It is much easier when the swell hits some rocks! Or even when it breaks and at low tide the swell was breaking in lots of places, it’s actually quite a tricky spot; when I joined the boat club and was hiring motor boats I was advised not to go out around here as there are numerous reefs and boomers…

surf on a reef

Today was one of those days though that I wished I had someone with me, then we could have surfed some of these breaks. One in particular was great the waves were spilling and running for at least 100m. But alone and a km from a rocky shore in coldish water I erred on the side of caution. Again.

breaking waves

breaking 2

plungng swell

The caves were great and also a bit scary as the sound of the waves pounding in the dark is enough to spook anyone especially as you need to keep the paddle in the water to stay in place…


classic profile


Of course where there are caves there are sea stacks and around here there are numerous. Almost as many sightseeing boats as come to see them


stack 4

famous stack

Beyond the headland the sea was rougher, I didn’t take many pictures as I was being bounced around and my biggest fear is always that my non waterproof camera phone gets wet…

I found a lunch spot mostly protected from the surf

lunch beach

And even remembered to take some kayak pictures – I need to sell this kayak in a few months prior to going back to Scotland.


90,000yen or 450pounds if anyone is interested.


I realised a few things today, first that I am a warm weather kayaker – it’s just so much more enjoyable when its warm, second I’m just not that into long distance kayaking I like the idea but the reality is different. I remember that was my feeling when I went kayaking for the first time – you have to paddle everywhere you want to go! River kayaking you just fall downhill… Lastly I realised that I will miss kayaking in Japan a lot, I paddle in a very beautiful area with warm water, caves, cliffs, surf beaches…

masculine landscape

I got back to the put-in at 4pm and despite being exhausted decided I should do some rolling practice – best time to practice is when you are tired and also in relatively cold water. I did a few rolls – no problems – and some sculling and bracing. Great fun and 14c is warmer than I thought – actually perfect for my climaprene top.

I realised yet another thing – this is the kind of kayaking I am into (greenland style?) where you don’t really go anywhere much you just muck around on the water, do some surfing maybe, rolling and sculling, get wet.

I’m going to try and go kayaking at least once a week for the next three months (a challenge in itself!) and now that the days are getting longer hope to be able to nip off after work for some evening surfing.

Warm water under a red bridge

March 10, 2007


Warm water under a red bridge is the title of a Japanese movie by Shohei Imamura that is sexually weird, allegorical and fascinating. It is also my first kayaking trip of 2007.

As it was my first trip I decided to stay in the bay with the protection of almost flat calm water. The water was surprisingly warm though (about 10-12degrees I guessed) although the air temperature was only about 4 or 5 brrrr. There was a light wind, 8-10kmph, and although my kayak does okay in medium winds in a light wind it weathercocks so I spent a lot of my time edging and paddling on one side trying to go in a straight line. The photos that follow show some the aspects of Matsushima bay.


A row of small fishing boats, moored against bamboo poles, with huge outboard motors (smallest in the row was 75hp). I recently saw an exhibition of photographs from the bay 30 years ago and it was so different – all wooden boats, hardly any concrete. It made me realise that the uglification of Japan didn’t happen, it is happening now. More on this another time.


It was a very low tide which expose dthe fact that, outside of the dredged routes for the sighteseeing boats you could just about walk across some parts of the bay at low tide. Above the oyster farms.


And here stacks of unused scallop shells which are waiting to be seeded and farmed.


There are hundreds of these shellfish beds some in quite interesting states of repair.


This is a panoramic of three pictures stitched together using autostitch (highly recomended program). Autostitch is all the more impressive when you consider that I was floating (no tripod) and that there was at least 3secs between each picture (my mobilephone camera…)


Anyway the pictures was to show the cocklers, 14 of them in a row all over 60 years old (but that’s too much detail for the internet). What will happen to activities like this when this generation passes? There are so many things like this in Japan that are only done by the over 60’s.

Although Matsushima is famous for the shellfish most peeople come for the view around the bay. It is one of Japan’s Three most scenic places

the wave

with crazy rock formations like this one Yoroi-Jima (also known as the wave)


from the front.

sightseeing boats

The bay is busy with sightseeing boats running every 30 minutes around the bay (which makes for a slightly hairy crossing near the harbour).

weird rocks

There are some very beautiful rock formations


wave shapes and undercuts


I particularly like the tide colours.

Matsushima 松島 means “pine island” and most of these islands have pine trees hanging on top, often in quite extreme locations.


This one (attached to land by the red bridge) also contains a shrine.


On the way back I stopped by the sailing club. The building in the background was designed by Hitoshi Abe a famous, locally based and in my opinion brilliant architect (though this bulding is not his best).

kayak covers

This is the stack of kayaks of the local kayak club (don’t you want one of those kayak covers?). I had attempted to contact them, so I could use their kayaks and get involved with the club, but after nosing around for a few weeks gave up. But today I met the main guy and his sidekick – they had “buzzed me” in a fishing boat earlier and when I landed they came to say hello. Old guys and very friendly, I just about understood them… They invited me to go kayaking with them sometime and I got their business card. Afterwards I felt a bit bad that I wasn’t more respectful (more bowing was required from me) but I was tired and trying to drink my hot chocolate. They gave me some Wakame – a kind of seaweed – that they had been out collecting. My wife cooked it up (boiled) later – oishii!


This on my way home at 4.30, the dragon boat with a couple of smaller boats behind marking the busy channel that I had to cross.


A scaffolding tower in the sea, not sure of its function.

march 10
My route.

(Location map at various scales and zoomable yahoo map)

I love winter in Japan

January 14, 2007

Ask any Japanese person “What’s your favorite season” (they like questions like this) and the vast majority will say either spring or autumn. The reason usually being “it is comfortable” (and also “the beautiful cherry blossoms” or “the beautiful fall colors”). Very few will say they like winter and even fewer, the hot and humid summers. This has been my observation at least.

Me 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 went skiing in the morning and kayaking in the afternoon.


The nearest ski mountain is 45 minutes away from my house, I ahev at leats 10 other places within 2 hours drive. The snw quality is the bst I’ve ever skied on, fluffy, powdery snow. Its totally great.

My afternoon kayaking was very shortI just took out the new river kayak for ‘spin’ on the river / sea which is a 2 minute walk from my house.

The kayak is totally uncomfortable and I won’t use it again till the summer when I can go surfing – and wear less clothes, hence fit it better. I wouldn’t want to spend more than a couple of hours in it. I missed my sea kayak, it’s big roomy and comfortable but more importantly sea-worthy.


Interesting though how different the two kayaks are, this river kayak literally turns on a dime. The water was warmer than I had expected.

Finding shelter from 20knot winds

November 23, 2006

The wind was really blowing today. 10m/s the forecast said (thats about 20knotts to you and me). But the great thing about Matsushima is you can always find shelter.


The view from the normally lake-like Matsushima bay with frequent whitecaps in the middle distance. Although it doesn’t look bad in this picture, there was no way I was putting into this wind.


Fortunetaly just 1km round the headland was this bay – totally protected from the wind and very inviting.

…with some nice architecture…


as you can see from my deck I took my new hand- line (home made) for fishing, a net and an anchor. I didn’t fish much though as the best spots were in the wind and I was staying close to shore to avoid that.

beautiful sunny weather


And because of the rounded bay shape even some clapotis – these were off 6 inch waves, I would love to see what happens when the big stuff rolls around this cove.







a deep one too


maybe 50m?


Maybe a lot more, still can’t see the end but the narrowing cave suddenly gives me the willies and I back track out again. (shame about the plastic bottles huh?)


It is very unlike Scotland though; 14 degrees, out of the wind, on November 23rd.


my lunch destination