In May 2019, HokkaidoWilds.org co-founders Rob and Haidee Thomson, along with former New Zealand representative whitewater paddler Chris Auld, set a goal of paddling and documenting 50 river and lake canoeing routes in Hokkaido by the end of 2021 (see the press release here).
On the 14th of December 2021, they posted their Hokkaido 50th paddling route. This would complete their three-year ‘Backyard Expedition’, documenting popular paddling destinations all over Hokkaido, Japan’s northern-most island.
Along the way, they would make paddling friends of Hokkaido paddling duo Greg and Mari, as well as paddling buddies Taku and Mibo. They would also paddle with Hokkaido’s oldest canoeing club, the Hokkaido Wilderness Canoe Club.
Many routes and rivers still remain in Hokkaido to paddle, so this is by no means the end of HokkaidoWild.org’s foray into paddling – expect many more routes to be documented in the coming years.
Comment by expedition leader Rob Thomson
“Even before starting the expedition we knew Hokkaido was the perfect place to explore by canoe. These last three seasons have only confirmed that conviction. Hokkaido is home to Japan’s largest vistas, most remote waterways, most diverse wildlife, and some of Japan’s best whitewater. We may have ticked off 50 routes, but there’s still more to explore in the coming years.”
PADDLING DATABASE FEATURES
- GPX and KML route files for GPS navigation.
- Printable PDF topographical maps and official topo map references.
- Live river water level gague information including webcams.
- Put in locations and public transport information.
- Location-based search (find routes near you).
- Route guide plus photos.
- Onsen hotsprings nearby each route.
- Safety tips and frequently asked questions.
AINU PLACE NAMES
Where possible, HokkaidoWilds.org has included Ainu-language river, lake, and mountain names on route guide posts. HokkaidoWilds.org is committed to acknowledging historical and contemporary Ainu heritage of Hokkaido.
- Naoki Matsuzawa, owner and operator at Shikotsu Guidehouse Canoa. He originally taught Haidee and Rob how to paddle an open deck canoe, and went on to supply us (free of charge) with two brand new NovaCraft Prospector 16 canoes for the project.
- MRS Packrafts – they provided us with a bomber two-person packraft, the Barracuda R2 Pro.
- Shigeo Kobayashi – as a central figure in the Hokkaido canoeing world, he was always very supportive of our endeavours, so we owe Kobayashi-san a great deal of thanks!
- Day Two NZ – Based in Rotorua, New Zealand, Day Two has provided discounted gear, including PFDs and drysuits.
HokkaidoWilds.org is a non-profit voluntary association that exists to inspire people to explore and enjoy Hokkaido and the surrounding areas’ extraordinary outdoors by ski, bicycle, foot and canoe in an informed, safe and responsible way. In addition to detailed written route guides with great photography, we also provide GPS route files, custom English-language GeoPDF topographical maps (using Japan government map data), and safety notes. HokkaidoWilds.org is run by a Hokkaido-loving group of authors and contributors (see them all here).
HokkaidoWilds.org founder Rob Thomson is no stranger to adventure travel and expeditions. He previously cycled from Japan to Switzerland, and still holds the Guinness World Record for the Longest Journey by Skateboard (12,159km).
Rob Thomson (Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, HokkaidoWilds.org)
TEL: +81 (0)80-4228-6132 (Japan mobile)