PRESS RELEASE | Backyard Expedition completed: 50 Hokkaido paddling routes in three years

Posted on Dec 17, 2021
Posted on Dec 17, 2021
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Sapporo, Japan | Northern Japan outdoor information website has completed their three-year 'Backyard Expedition' goal of paddling 50 canoe routes in Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. Fueled by inter-regional restrictions on travel due to COVID-19, the team, comprised of Hokkaido-resident paddlers from New Zealand, Canada, China, and Japan, made the most of being 'limited' to adventures in their own backyard for the last two years. The team intends to continue documenting other popular paddling routes around Hokkaido.

In May 2019, 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’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.”



Browse all the routes on the map below.
Shioya Blue Cave


  • 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.


Where possible, has included Ainu-language river, lake, and mountain names on route guide posts. is committed to acknowledging historical and contemporary Ainu heritage of Hokkaido.


We’d like to thank the following for their support for our project over the past three years.
  • 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.

ABOUT 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. is run by a Hokkaido-loving group of authors and contributors (see them all here). 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,
TEL: +81 (0)80-4228-6132 (Japan mobile)
Instagram: @rob_tomo

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Filter by location

About Filters

REGION: The general mountain/geographical region the route is in.

BEST MONTH(S): Time of year a route is suited to visiting. Some pop all season, some are more limited.

DIFFICULTY: How strenuous a route is, and how technical it is. Full details here.

FREERIDE/SKITOUR: Very subjective, but is a route more-of-a-walk-than-a-ski or the other way around? Some routes are all about the screaming downhill (freeride), some are more about the hunt for a peak or nice forest (ski-tour). Some are in between. 

MAIN ASPECT: Which cardinal direction the primary consequential slope is facing, that you might encounter on the route. More details here.

ROUTE TAGS: An eclectic picking of other categories that routes might belong to.

SEARCH BY LOCATION: You can find routes near your current location – just click on the crosshairs (). You may need to give permission to to know your GPS location (don’t worry, we won’t track you). Or, type in a destination, such as Niseko or Sapporo or Asahikawa etc.

Please let us know how we can make it easier to narrow down your search. Contact Rob at with your suggestions.

PRESS RELEASE | Backyard Expedition completed: 50 Hokkaido paddling routes in three years Difficulty Rating





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GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.