Many of the points below are etiquette pointers we hear often from local sea kayak guides who have worked hard to gain understanding and cooperation from local fishing operations. Somewhat like Japan’s agriculture sector, Japan’s fisheries are dominated by small-scale fishing operators. These operators work in close harmony with each other, cooperating closely with each other in their access to fishing ports, set fishing gear, and access to and from shoals. Outside access to these areas, in the form of sea kayakers and recreational anglers, therefore, can be a point of friction in popular recreational-use zones. Sea kayakers need to keep this in mind as we visit these spectacular places.
- Be friendly
When interacting with local fishing operators, be friendly and open, and ask for advice on put-in locations and parking areas, if unsure.
- Fishing ports are off-limits to kayakers
A Hokkaido-specific bylaw prohibits the use of fishing ports by small recreational crafts, including kayaks and canoes. The bylaw was updated in April 2022 to allow some recreational craft to apply for exemptions at some ports, but this update does not include sea kayaks, canoes etc. (see p. 2, Item 2 of this document).
Fishing ports are, in principle, only for use by fishing operators. Use by the public, including parking, is generally not allowed.
Camping along shorelines is generally accepted – just make sure to avoid camping near fishing huts (banya 番屋). Unless you’re on a longer multi-day trip, generally camping in fishing ports is frowned upon. Even then, make sure to make an effort to ask local fishing operators where an appropriate place is to bed down for the night.
- Fishing operations have right of way
As a staunchly fisheries-first nation, Japan’s recreational users of the sea are expected to not interfere with fishing operations. For sea kayakers, this applies to not getting in the way when landing and setting off near fishing ports (even the small ones), not blocking access to fishing ports, keeping out of the way of small fishing craft close to shore, etc.
- Illegal fishing is a crime in Japan
This point needs its own blog post, but suffice it to say, any unauthorized harvesting of sea-urchins, mussels, abalone, octopus, lobster etc is strictly and heavy-handedly prohibited in Japan. Fishing for fish (whether by live bait, lure etc) is not as heavily regulated.
4 thoughts on “Hokkaido Sea Kayaking Manners Guide”
Hi Rob – I’m a sea kayaker from Portland Oregon. I’m in Japan for the first time and just falling in love with it. I’m thinking of returning in the future and would love to meet sea kayakers here and do some trips. Are there clubs active? Any outfitters you would recommend? I paddle the Oregon coast all the time and am used to being out on the open seas.
Hey Paul, there are a few small Japanese-speaking clubs here and there, but I only know of a couple in Hokkaido. The Gnome Outdoor Club (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063549486205) and Muroran Sea Kayak Club (https://m-seakayakclub.localinfo.jp/). Both very local! As for outfitters, I haven’t come across any sea kayak rental places in Japan. There is a very strong concern over liability here. If you do find anything, do let me know!
As usual, excellent, practical advice!