Posted on Aug 10, 2023

Posted on Aug 10, 2023

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1 day(s)





Water clarity




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Cape Erimo 襟裳岬 is a dynamic cape in southern central Hokkaido, at the very end of the mighty Hidaka Range 日高山脈. Thrashed by high winds for much of the year, when the winds do let up it is easily one of Hokkaido's top sea kayaking destinations. Expect hundreds of harbor seals lounging on the rocks, heaving Pacific Ocean swells, and a vibrant local kelp-harvesting culture. Paddling the cape requires careful respect for local kelp-harvesters' right-of-way, but given the right timing, paddlers will find this to be a very interesting look into a special part of the Hokkaido coastal human landscape.

We visited this route on Jul 22, 2023

Paddlers: Haidee, Timbah, Martin


Route Map

Need to know details


Cape Erimo is a prominent, rocky cape at the southern terminus of the Hidaka Mountain range in central Hokkaido. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, it is about a 4hr drive southeast from Sapporo, or a 2hr drive south from Obihiro City 帯広市. In this route guide, we describe a paddle along the western side of the cape.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

Western side of cape: The prevailing summer wind and swell at Cape Erimo is from the east or southeast, so most paddlers will put in on the western side of the cape. Put in at the nicely protected beach about 150m east of Toyo fishing port 東洋漁港, here. There’s a wide set of concrete stairs to the beach. If you’re arriving by car, after putting in, vehicles should be parked in the fishing port parking area next to the small park and toilets here. It’s a 5 minute (500m) walk back to the put in from there. If you arrive after around 11am, it may also be possible to put in at the fishing port itself, if all of the konbu harvesting for the day has finished. You’ll need to talk to the Fishing Coop 漁業組合 at their office at the port here, to ask for permission. Officially, as per Hokkaido bylaws, recreational vessels (including paddlecraft) are not allowed to use fishing ports in Hokkaido.

Eastern side of cape: If the swell and wind happens to suggest paddling along the eastern side of the cape, you’ll be launching from a surf beach here, at the northeasterly terminus of the kelp-drying fields. This is the southern terminus of the expansive Hyakunin-hama beach 百人浜; literally ‘100-person beach’. There was once a boat accident on the beach where 100 people had to swim to shore. Waves here can be dumpy.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

This is an out-and-back paddle, so the take-out is the same as the put-in; the small beach to the east of Toyo fishing port. If absolutely necessary, it’s also possible to take out at the small beach at the tip of the cape, here. The dirt road accessing the beach is private, however; unauthorized vehicles are not allowed to drive down it, but the general public is free to walk down it. Therefore, it’s a steep 250m haul of the boats up to the nearest spot to load boats, here. Cars should never be parked in the one-lane road pullouts; temporary parking to load boats is OK.

It’s also possible to do a full ‘circumnavigation’ of the cape, taking out at Hyakunin-hama. We’d advise to scout the surf beforehand, as there can be large dumping waves on the surf beach.

General notes

Of all the day-paddles that exist in Hokkaido, Cape Erimo arguably has the most depth. Weather, human landscape, ocean-use rules, access, fauna, technicality, history – all of these factors combine to form a perfect storm of intrigue. With the mighty Hidaka Range as a backdrop, the scenery while paddling the cape is second to none.

  • Weather: It’s best to assume it’s always windy at Cape Erimo. Take a look at the forecast right now (, and it’s unlikely you’ll see anything below 10kts (20km/h) for weeks on end. This makes it a just-out-of-reach destination for most sane sea kayakers; if you see a few days of settled weather, drop everything and go, because weather windows in the area are diminishingly rare. The constant wind also means that it’s a brutally difficult place to make a living for the kelp harvesters that depend on the rocky reefs for their livelihood.
  • Human landscape: Kelp (昆布 konbu) is an extremely important part of Japanese cuisine. It’s only rarely eaten as-is. Primarily, it’s sold as a dried product, and then soaked in water to produce umami-rich stocks as a base for a wide array of dishes; not only in restaurants but also at home. Rare is the Japanese household that doesn’t have a stash of dried konbu in their pantry alongside containers of salt, sugar, spices, and mirin. Naturally-grown (as opposed to farmed) Hidaka-region konbu is well-known within Japan as being particularly high quality. The konbu harvesting season is strictly regulated. Therefore, from July to October, local konbu harvesters are engaged in a literal race against time to make the bulk of their annual income. “Every second counts,” explained retired sea kayak guide Yanagida-san when we asked him about harvesting culture. On good weather days, harvesters rush in their small boats to gather their quota. Once the freshly harvested konbu is on dry land, it’s again a race against time to get the konbu spread out to dry before natural bacteria starts the rotting process. From 5am till around 10am on a harvesting day, the coast is buzzing with energy; boats revving, 660cc trucks’ accelerators pinned to the floor, crane arms swinging, and whole families out spreading the kelp out to dry.
  • Ocean-use rules: During the konbu harvesting season (July-October), the harvesting happens between 5am (sharp) and as late as 12 noon. It’s a community-level industry, with area-wide loud-speakers announcing whether or not harvesting will happen on any given day. Konbu harvesters therefore have the right of way during these times. As recreational paddlers, we were directly asked by a Fishing Coop official not to paddle between the hours of 5am and noon. Retired kayak guide Yanagida-san advised that most harvesting is finished by 9:30am, however, so we’d recommend that recreational paddlers can aim to be on the water around 9:30am or later, but should be prepared to wait a little longer if requested to do so. “Sharing (the ocean) is caring” here as a recreational paddler means allowing the konbu harvesters their space, and paddling after most of the day’s harvesting has finished.
  • Access: Take a look on Google Satellite (here), and you’ll see some beautiful boat ramps and clear gravel sections along the coast that look perfect for launching a kayak from. These are all private ramps for konbu harvesters. The colossal gravel sections are for drying kelp, so should never be parked on. “Paddlers have parked on them in the past,” said Yanagida-san. “They got quite a shock when they got back and found their car totally surrounded by konbu, unable to exit,” he laughed. The only feasible put-in/take-outs for independent paddlers at Cape Erimo are the beach next to Toyo fishing port (location) and the surf beach at Hyakunin-hama (location). If paddlers stay at the historic Cliff House Yanagida Ryokan クリフハウス柳田旅館 (location | website), retired sea kayak guide Yanagida-san (owner of the ryokan) may be able to negotiate a more convenient put-in at relatives’ konbu harvesting boat ramps.
  • Fauna: Cape Erimo is home to Japan’s largest colony of harbor seals (ゼニガタアザラシ zenigata-azarashi), with 150 to 800 seals present at any given time. Keeping a respectful distance, paddlers can see these cute, curious creatures up close. Breeding season is May to June.
  • Technicality: Given the demanding weather, access, and konbu harvesting factors at Cape Erimo, most local paddlers consider Cape Erimo to be suited to advanced sea kayakers. Unlike Japan Sea paddling locations, Cape Erimo enjoys large Pacific Ocean swells, which require confidence and experience on the part of the paddler.
  • History: The hills around Cape Erimo were devastated in the early 1900’s by logging and livestock farming, leading to deforestation and desertification. A massive reforestation effort was launched in the 1950’s. 70 years later, the area is a testament to how nature can be brought back from the brink (more info).
  • Where to stay: The massive parking area at Cape Erimo is a great place to sleep in one’s car. There are clean public toilets and even rubbish bins. If you’d prefer to camp, Hyakunin-hama Campground (location) is a 7km drive from the put in at Toyo fishing port. Retired sea kayak guide Yanagida-san owns and operates pet-friendly Cliff House Yanagida Ryokan (location | website), an inn with over 100 years of history. Plans start from 8,000yen per person, with two massive meals.
Route description

From the beach just east of Toyo fishing port, head out from the shallow reef, keeping a keen eye out for konbu harvesting boats; they have right of way. Head southeast from the reef at the port, and enjoy weaving in and out of the rocky shoals as you make your way along the 4km of coast to the cape proper. The coast here is mostly uninhabited, with beautiful sasa-grass hillsides and low rocky cliffs. You’ll likely see native deer here and there on the hills. It’s relatively rare that the heaving Pacific Ocean swell will allow paddlers to paddle close to the shore, so keep watch for submerged rocks that can explode with wash without warning.

Once at the cape proper, paddlers will be more exposed to swell and reflective waves. If the swell on the eastern side of the cape is manageable, there are three channels where paddlers can cut through the rocks to the other side (see our map here). Naturally, it’s also possible to paddle the full distance around the very tip of the rocks but watch for partially submerged rocks at the tip of the cape which can produce very large breaking waves.

If you’re confident of a surf take-out at Hyakunin-hama, you can continue paddling around the eastern side of the cape, along the kelp-drying fields for another 6km or so. Otherwise, return the way you came.

Route Timing
Trip time: 0hrs 4min

The distance is short on this paddle, but it’s an area that can happily fill a full day of paddling – there’s lots to see, and some rock-hopping to be had for the more adventurous.


Public transport:

Bus: Cape Erimo is accessible by public bus. Google Maps has up-to-date timetabling information. The closest bus stop to the put-in at Toyo fishing port is Aburakoma bus stop 油駒バス停 (location). It’s a 10-minute (700m) walk from the put-in. From Obihiro JR train station 帯広駅 (location), it’s a 4hr bus journey to Aburakoma bus stop, with one transfer in Hiroo Town 広尾町 along the way (see the directions on Google Maps here). There are three buses per day from Obihiro – see Google Maps for options. There’s also a bus stop at Cape Erimo itself – Erimo-misaki bus stop 襟裳岬バス停 (location).

Taxis: Closest taxi service to Cape Erimo is Nikko Hire 日交ハイヤー (location | TEL: 0146-62-2165) in Erimo Town, a 15 minute drive northwest from Cape Erimo.

By car: 

Parking at the Toyo fishing port put-in, as well as the Hyakunin-hama surf beach put-in, is relatively limited. Paddlers putting in at the small beach next to Toyo fishing port should park 500m away next to the small park and public toilets in the fishing port parking area, here. Don’t park on the side of the road next to the concrete stairs, as this can get in the way of local harvesters. At the Hyakunin-hama surf beach, there’s space for about two or three cars at the end of the road here. It’s also possible to drive down the very rough and steep dirt road to the beach, but note that a) the sand is relatively soft and 2) two-wheel-drive vehicles may struggle to get back up the road from the beach in wet conditions.

Physical maps

Japanese-language ENCs are available on the Japanese-language new pec smart smartphone app (Android | iPhone). 960yen per month for a subscription.


The S-Guide for Tomakomai/Erimo 苫小牧・えりも (DH810W-04), is available as PDF download (buy online here). It includes the Cape Erimo area in 1:35,000 scale. The JHA/Japan Coast Guard 1:250,000 nautical chart for this area is Tsugaru-kaikyo Higashi-guchi to Erimo-misaki 津軽海峡東口至襟裳岬 (W1030 – buy online).

Official Topo Map: Erimomisaki (襟裳岬) – map no. NK-54-4-13-1

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

Cape Erimo is arguably Hokkaido’s most exposed paddling location. Approaches to the cape from the put-ins (particularly the western side) are relatively sheltered from the relentless Pacific Ocean swells and wind, but the cape itself is quite merciless. Paddling here should be done with very careful consultation with the weather forecast. Very thick fog, often not in the forecast, is also a hazard at the cape. Konbu harvests go ahead regardless of fog, so kayakers would be advised not to paddle in thick fog, regardless of timing. Konbu harvest boats can be active at any time of day, not just the main 5am-noon harvest time. If paddling in a group, keep together in a pod as much is practical, and pause if a konbu boat is readying to exit from their harvesting location. Overall, sea kayakers are relatively uncommon at the cape, so it’s best to assume konbu harvesting vessels neither expect to see you nor have seen you.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Cape Erimo

Tide information for Erimo-misaki


Hyakuninhama Auto Camping Ground (百人浜オートキャンプ場)
Location: 41.99446 N / 143.24387 E | 310 yen per person | Open: Apr-Oct | Staff hours: 7:00am till 7:00pm.
Closest Onsen: Tomabetsu Ikoi-no-yu Chippu (とまべつ憩いの湯ちゃっぷ) | 400yen | 0.5km from campground
Onsen nearby

The only nearby place for a post-paddle soak is the community sento public baths near the Hyakunin-hama Campground – the Tomabetsu Ikoi-no-yu Chippu public baths とまべつ憩いの湯ちっぷ (location, 400yen). It’s open from 11am till 7pm (8pm in July, August, September). It’s a very simple one-bath sento with cold plunge pool. They supply bars of soap, but there’s no shampoo.

Extra Resources

Yamakei Sea Kayaking Map (Yama to Keikoku, 2005), p. 34-35

Guide Options

Unfortunately, the long-time veteran sea kayak guide at Cape Erimo, Yanagida-san from Cliff House Kayaks, is now retired. When we spoke to him, he was not aware of any other sea kayak guides offering trips in the Erimo area. Yanagida-san is, however, happy to advise kayakers (in Japanese), so feel free to reach out to him or drop into his ryokan, Cliff House Yanagida Ryokan クリフハウス柳田旅館 (location | website).

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Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Every Thursday since spring, I’d been checking the weather forecast for Cape Erimo. And every Thursday, the forecast was nothing but green, orange, or red. Nothing less than 20km/h constant wind every weekend for about four months.

And then, a miracle happened. Three days of extraordinarily settled weather, with next to no wind. And better yet, on a weekend.

Weekend plans were now set in stone. We’d be going to Cape Erimo for the first time ever.

Friday 21st July, 2023

Haidee and I drove down from Sapporo on Friday night, getting away from Sapporo after work at 6:30pm. It was a solid 3.5hr drive from Sapporo, so we didn’t make it to the Erimo-misaki parking lot until 10pm.

Timbah and Martin were each driving down that night too, but arrived after us. We didn’t wait for their arrival – we set up the van as soon as we arrived and bedded down for the night.

Saturday 22nd July, 2023

The morning on Saturday broke beautifully calm and clear. No fog, no wind, beautifully mild in temperature. Perfect for a parking lot breakfast.

We’d read in an old (1995) Japanese sea kayaking guidebook where we could put in, but there wasn’t any information about timing for paddling in the area. “Just make sure to say a friendly hello to the kelp harvesters at the put-in,” the guidebook said.

Given the weather forecast, we weren’t concerned with timing today. So we finally got on the road to the put-in at around 7am, arriving at the put-in at 7:30am.

Along the way, we got glimpses of the kelp drying fields, with locals busily spreading it out to dry.

At the put-in, I wandered over to two men sitting on front-end loaders, clearly waiting for another boat-load of kelp to arrive.

“Is it OK to launch our kayaks from over there at the concrete steps?” I asked.

“No problem,” one of them replied. “Just don’t get in the way while you’re paddling.”

We parked our cars off the road next to the put-in (a faux pas, it would transpire later), and got on our way. It was now 8:30am (again a faux pas, we’d later find out).

As we paddled along the sheltered western side of the cape, we would pass about five small kelp harvesting boats. All of them were hauling in large amounts of kelp. They all gave us smiles as we passed by, greeting them with a friendly ohayou-gozaimasu.

It occurred to me that this was our first time paddling an exposed coast on the Pacific Ocean in Hokkaido. Accordingly, the ocean had a very different feel compared to other locations we’d paddled so far. Thick, hefty swells surged up and down the rocks. It was very different to the mostly benign summer Japan Sea closer to Sapporo City.

It wasn’t long before we left the shelter of the mainland, and started our way along the rocky islets of Cape Erimo proper. Paddling his new-to-him yellow Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 Pro, this was Martin’s second-ever sea kayaking trip, so it was clear he was feeling somewhat at the edge of his comfort zone.

“These swells are really quite huge,” he mused as we paddled further out towards the tip of the cape.

On this western side of the rocky shoals, there were no waves breaking, but on the eastern side, the southeast swells rose up unimpeded, crashing with some force against the rocks.

The rest of us were feeling more at ease, enjoying a dynamism in the sea that we don’t get to enjoy as much in other calmer locations.

“Let’s paddle around to the eastern side,” I suggested.

Martin looked pensive, but with a little coaching, he managed the paddle around the far end of the cape, despite looking visibly nervous.

“I’m sure I’ll get used to it,” he said afterward, “but for now, that was pretty scary.”

Indeed, closer to the rocks the wash was forceful. Further out, however, we were simply carried up and down the large swell.

Haidee looked to be in her element.

Timbah scouted one of the outer passageways through the shoals and called us through after confirming it was safe enough to paddle through.

“Just make sure to keep either left or right of the submerged rock right in the middle,” he radioed.

After all the excitement, we paddled to the small beach at the tip of the cape on the mainland and had a relaxing half hour eating a snack.

It was now 10:30am, so with plenty of time left in the day, we set out again along the western side of the shoals to see if we could get a better look at the seal colonies.

This time we were keeping our eyes out better for them, and saw a number of groups lounging on the rocks.

It was about 12:30pm when we started back to Toyo fishing port to take out.

Along the way, we pulled up at a beach. Still with plenty of time in the day, we spent an hour or so working on kayak skills. Timbah worked on getting his roll dialled. “It’s been a long time since I worked on making sure I have a bomber roll,” he confided.

It wasn’t until 2:30pm that we finally arrived back at the beach at the fishing port. The rush and bustle of the morning kelp harvest had subsided. One boat was out, clearly trouble-shooting their outboard motor.

After the paddle, Martin opted to head back to Sapporo that day. “I’d love to stay, but family and work beckon,” he explained.

Haidee, Timbah, and I discussed our options.

I was keen to paddle the cape-proper portion of the area at sunrise the next morning. It would be a very early 3am wake-up, but if we had clear weather like we had this morning, it promised to be an amazing experience. The weather forecast was for sunshine all day, including at dawn, with no wind.

So it transpired that Timbah and I towed Haidee’s kayak back to the small beach at the tip of the mainland cape, while Haidee drove the van back to the cape parking lot. We left the kayaks there overnight for a crack-of-dawn paddle.

Back at the parking lot, Haidee had an interesting encounter with an official-looking chap.

“Are you guys paddling again tomorrow?” he quizzed her.

“Yes, we were planning to,” she replied.

“Please don’t paddle between 5am and noon,” he requested. “There are too many boats around, so it’s too dangerous.”

We were planning on a quick dawn paddle, so we’d be off the water by 5am anyway, so we didn’t think too much about it, other than feeling a bit sheepish that we might have ruffled some feathers being on the water at 8:30am today.

That evening, we drove up to the public bath and had a long soak before having dinner on the beach at the surf beach take-out at Hyakunin-hama. 

We were back at the Cape Erimo parking lot and in bed at 8pm for an early night in preparation for a very early wake-up the next morning.

Sunday 23rd July, 2023

My alarm went off at the gutwrenching hour of 2:30am. Such is the no-daylight-savings summer life of an outdoors-person in Hokkaido. I shook Haidee awake.

Timbah was already up and clambering out of his car.

It was dead calm, and the sky was clear. It was promising to be a beautiful sunrise.

We had to move quite quickly, but we also wanted to be out of the way of the kelp harvest that promised to start at 5am. Therefore, we decided to have a quick paddle around the cape, and then paddle to the Hyakunin-hama surf beach landing for the take out, northeast of the cape.

We quickly did a shuttle, forwent breakfast till after the paddle, and headed down to the boats at the cape.

By the time we arrived on foot at the cape and got the kayaks ready to go, however, a thick fog had rolled in. hadn’t forecast it. But it was there.

It was 3:42am. Just over an hour before the kelp harvest for the day would begin.

We weren’t only under time pressure in terms of kelp boats on the water, but also in terms of vehicles arriving from around the town down to the coast. We needed to be out of the cape area – either by kayak or by foot – by 4:30am at the latest to avoid getting in the way.

So, we decided to wait until 4am. If the fog hadn’t cleared by then, we’d pull the plug and make the hard decision to haul the kayaks up the dirt road from the cape to the paved road where we could pick them up in the van.

4am came and went, with no improvement in the fog.

“Even if we did manage to dodge kelp boats in this fog,” argued Timbah, “I don’t feel like landing at the surf beach in this fog would be safe.”

So it transpired that at 4:30am, we had hauled three kayaks up the steep dirt road to a grassy area next to a pull-out on the one-lane paved road heading down to the cape. A friendly local kelp harvester was at his gravel yard spreading out kelp he’d gathered the night before.

“Hi guys, too bad about the fog!” he said cheerfully. “It’ll probably burn off fairly quick.”

His friendly demeanor cheered us up and reminded us that despite the reprimand from the official the day before, these kelp harvester folk were a lovely bunch.

We were back at the pull-out by 4:50am to load the boats. The fog was still hugging the cape.

It was clear that the day’s paddling was over. We all had long drives back to Sapporo, so Timbah took his leave to get back to Sapporo early, while Haidee and I opted to head back to the Cape Erimo parking lot to get some more sleep before breakfast.

By the time we roused ourselves from our nap at 9am, the fog had dissipated, and the parking lot had filled up a little more.

With a bit of extra time up our sleeves now, we spent some time exploring the Museum in the Wind 風の館 – a nicely designed information center at the very top of the cape.

Using the various telescopes on offer, we were able to get a different view of the seals we’d seen the day before.

We also did a short walk around the outside on the cape. Great views of what we’d paddled the previous day.

After our walk around the top of the cape, I called Yanagida-san, the sea kayak guide that the old 1995 sea kayak guidebook suggested to get in contact with to ask about paddling in the area. Ideally, I would have done this prior to the weekend. I arranged a time for Haidee and I to meet him, and then drove over to his ryokan.

He was very happy to sit down with us to talk about sea kayaking in the area.

“I retired just last season,” he explained. “But it’s such an amazing area to sea kayak, so I’m happy to hear you came for a paddle.”

We explained that we’d been told by an official not to paddle between 5am and noon.

“Most of the harvest each day is finished by 10am,” he said. “If you talk to the fishing coop at around 9am, they’ll usually give you the green light to head out by 9:30am or 10am,” he explained.

“Oh and by the way, I saw your van parked up on the grass next to the put-in,” he said. “That’s not the ideal spot, as it still gets in the way of the harvesters when they’re transporting their kelp.”

“Every second counts for them,” he explained earnestly. “They have to make most of their annual income in the space of about three months, so not a second is wasted. They understandably don’t want recreationalists pottering around their workplace, getting in the way. Better to park out of the way in the fishing port parking area.”

So it was that we finally got the whole story about the depth of the human landscape at Cape Erimo. Prior to our chat with Yanagida-san, we were feeling a little put out that paddlers were being excluded from the water. Couldn’t we all just share the water?

The answer was obviously much more complex than we’d anticipated. After learning about the real livelihood concerns of the local kelp harvesters, we felt a new respect for their way of life and work.

We’ll certainly be back to Cape Erimo to paddle again in the future. Next time we’ll be much better informed in our actions in this fascinating place.

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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.