The southwestern coast of Shakotan Peninsula had been on my mind for a while. We had paddled most of the rest of Shakotan’s coast, but this somewhat enigmatic southwestern side had been left somewhat untouched. Perhaps it was the main highway running the length of the coast that had reduced its appeal. Perhaps it was that not many other paddlers we knew of paddled this coast. Perhaps it was the great heaving Tomari nuclear powerplant at the southern end of the coast that was putting people off.
A closer look, however, suggested the main highway ran high above the coast, suspended on large overbridges. Personally, I was very keen to paddle past the nuclear power plant, otherwise secluded from view from the main road by a high headland.
The night before our paddle, we parked up in our campervan at the 24-hr toilets in the parking lot next to Kamoenai Bay. It was a windy night, with gusts rocking the van at times. Things weren’t looking good for an extended paddle from Kamoenai down to a beach just past the Tomari nuclear power plant.
In the morning, the wind was still blowing hard. My alarm went off at 4am, but we decided to sleep in.
At 6am, we finally roused ourselves. Realistically, it was already too late to arrange the shuttle and commit to paddling over 20km down the coast. So, we drove down to the secluded cove at Benten-jima, to see if we could at least put the kayaks in for some skills practice.
By the time we arrived at Benten-jima Island, however, the wind had dropped and it appeared the day was shaping up to be beautifully calm and pleasant. A real change from the windy, cold, somewhat dismal-feeling morning.
To our surprise, there was a number of families with full overnight camping setups looking very at home on the concrete embankment next to the shore.
We wasted no time in getting the kayaks off the van and into the water. We decided to paddle north along the coast to Kamoenai Bay – where we’d parked overnight – and paddle back. A super non-committing paddle that suited our desire for a late-start, easy paddle.
We started off with a quick paddle around Benten-jima Island. It was connected to the mainland by a concrete bride. A young family was playing in the concrete swimming pool on the island.
We then started the leisurely paddle north along the coast.
Mercifully, the main highway was indeed suspended high above the coast, meaning that apart from the large concrete pillars holding up the road, we didn’t really notice it.
A feature of this section of coast were the low rocky intertidal rocks jutting out into the sea. Some of them formed passageways, so we paddled into all the gaps we could find, to find out if they connected up.
Here and there were deep coves, ending in nicely protected beaches. One in particular caught our attention.
There was a sheep.
Tied to a rope, it watched us paddle into the cove, chewing on its cud.
We pulled up on a small sandy beach beside a large disused concrete landing. I walked up to look at the roped-up sheep, and was started by another sheep, this one not tied up, and extremely friendly.
It walked right up to me and nudged me in the leg, clearly demanding a stratch.
A quick scratch on the head seemed to satisfy the sheep’s desire for interaction, so we took some photos and left them be.
Their owner wasn’t around, so we still don’t know the story behind this large intrusion of concrete and development in this otherwise very nice cove.
We carried on along the coast, dropping in on coves as we went.
We don’t have photos of it, but of all the places we’ve paddled in Hokkaido so far, this section of coast would arguably be the most suited to rock-hopping. There were some fun submerged rocky reefs where the very small swell was breaking over. We didn’t have our helmets with us, so didn’t want to get too frisky, but the area clearly had potential.
Nearing Kamoenai Bay, we paddled into an artificial channel carved into the intertidal zone.
Haidee took the opportunity to practice her rolls.
The paddle back to the put-in at Benten-jima Island was non-eventful…a perfect end to a relaxing Sunday paddling exploration.