Cape Raiden Sea Kayaking (Iwanai)

Posted on Aug 17, 2022
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Posted on Aug 17, 2022

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12km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

3/5

Remoteness

4/5

Water clarity

6/10

Difficulty

Jun-Oct

Best season

The coastline near Raiden-misaki 雷電岬 cape is an enigmatic mix of stunning untouched beauty and the decaying remains of human encroachment, slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature. Surprisingly remote in places, this short section of exposed coast includes tall waterfalls, deep caves, and narrow passageways. For much of the route, paddlers will enjoy distinctly Jurassic Park vibes, replete with private beaches with waterfall showers along the way. It's a short shuttle between the put-in and take-out, so cycle-shuttling is certainly feasible.

We visited this route on Jul 17, 2022

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Raiden-misaki cape sits at the very western terminus of the Niseko Range in southwestern Hokkaido, about a 40-minute drive from the bustling winter ski resort of Niseko. It’s a few minutes’ drive from central Iwanai. Here, we outline a route from a convenient put in near Iwanai Town, to the surf beach at Rankoshi Town. Naturally, paddlers can do this route in either direction, in consultation with the weather and well forecast, as well as on-location scouting on the day.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

The northeastern-most feasible put in for this stretch of coast is at the northern end of Narukami Tunnel 鳴神トンネル in the tiny settlement of Shikishimanai 敷島内 south of central Iwanai on Route 229, next to the small fishing port. The beach is rocky, and the trail down to it is rough, but it’s doable so long as the sea state is manageable. Pleasure-boaters (including kayaks and SUPs) are not allowed to use the fishing port (as per Hokkaido bylaw). It’s also possible to put in at the derelict Raiden Onsen area, here, but doing so will mean paddlers will miss out on a nice (albeit minor) waterfall inlet at the northern end of the route, at Binno-misaki ビンノ岬 cape. If weather and skills permit it, we recommend paddling the full route.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

The southerly takeout for the route is the lovely Rankoshi Beach, just north of the Shiribetsu-gawa river mouth. If there’s a strong northwesterly swell running (rare in summer), this beach will have considerable surf, so do take note of the swell forecast and scout if it looks like there might be surf. There’s a massive gravel parking area next to the beach. Also note that this beach is very popular among anglers, particularly in autumn.

General notes

This is a somewhat forgotten coastline, once dominated by National Highway 229 running along the Japan Sea coast. The highway now avoids the coast completely for the majority of the route, as it now runs through multiple tunnels. The old decaying remains still remain, but don’t detract from the route too much. If anything, they add to the enigmatic charm of the place.

  • Raiden-misaki cave: Naturally, Furaku-no-dokoutsu 不落の洞窟 cave is a big drawcard on this route. It’s a wide, deep cave that offers great adventure vibes if the sea state is calm. It is, however, also home to a large colony of native Hokkaido bats. Therefore, if heading deep into the cave, it’s important to keep very quiet, and keep light use to a minimum – human encroachment into bat habitats is one of the biggest causes of habitat loss for bats, and diminishing bat numbers (see this article for a primer). Particularly in the summer months, maternity colonies are most prevalent in the cave, so paddlers should avoid going into the cave further than natural light will allow during the months of June, July and August (mother bats are prone to dropping their pups if disturbed).
Route description

Put in at either end of the route; here we describe paddling from north to south. The put in at Shikishimanai is a bit awkward, as the beach consists of large, round rocks. Once on the water, however, it’s a short paddle to Binno-misaki, a small point with some picturesque waterfalls. Further on are a couple more waterfalls, much higher this time – the Kuruma Falls 車滝 and Hashigo Falls 梯子滝. The remaining 4km to Kasupeno-misaki カスペノ岬 is along a rocky shoreline, and the view in the distance of the impressive buttress of Raiden-misaki 雷電岬 and the gnarled shape of Benkei-no-katanakake Rock 弁慶の刀掛岩 (literally Strongman’s Sword Rack Rock) will draw you southwards.

You might get excited at the prospect of a hotspring soak at Raiden Onsen 雷電温泉, as marked on the map. Unfortunately, however, the old hot spring facilities, once popular since their opening in 1963, are now derelict (the last one closed in 2019). There’s a parking area, public toilets, and concrete stairs down to the coast, however, so it’s a good spot for a break if needed.

If you’d rather avoid civilization altogether, carry on just a few hundred meters further south to arguably one of Hokkaido’s most picturesque coastal inlets (location). Unmarked on maps, this gorgeous inlet has a fine gravel beach, overhanging cliffs that will keep you out of the rain, and two beautiful waterfalls. One waterfall is a wide cascade, the other is a tall shower dropping from an overhang 20m above the ground.

Just a few hundred meters on, there’s Raiden-misaki proper with Benkei-no-katanakake Rock and Furaku-no-dokoutsu cave. As noted above, the cave is a Hokkaido native bat habitat. Late June till late August is when maternity colonies are most active, so avoid paddling further than natural light will allow during this period (mother bats are prone to dropping their pups if disturbed). Regardless of the season, keep as quiet as possible if you paddle deep into the cave to its terminus (it’s about 75m long).

From Raiden-misaki to Rankoshi Beach, it’s a 3km paddle south along the decaying remains of the old National Highway 229. The beautiful high cliffs are slowly reclaiming the road. On a calm day, it’s a fantastic fast paddle. Rankoshi Beach is a popular surf spot when there’s a swell running from the west, but in summer, this is rare. It’s a beautiful spot to take out.

Route Timing
Trip time: 4hrs 30min

Transport

Public transport:

In summer, the Niseko Bus company runs a bus from Iwanai to Suttsu – the Raiden Line 雷電線. If doing the full route outlined on this page, you’ll want to take note of the Shikishimanai Bus Stop 敷島内バス停 (around here) at the northern end of the route, and the Seishin-bashi bus stop 精進橋バス停 (around here) at Rankoshi Beach at the southern end of the route. From the Iwanai Bus Terminal 岩内バスターミナル heading south to the put in at Shikishimanai, there’s six buses per day as of 2022 (choose the ‘Raden’ timetable here for details) – 9:52, 11:10, 14:10, 16:50, 18:10, 19:22. From the take out at Rankoshi beach north back to Iwanai, there’s also six buses – 6:53, 8:48, 9:38, 12:23, 15:03, 18:13. If you just want to potter about the Raiden-misaki area from Raiden Onsen, then get off the bus from Iwanai bus terminal at Raiden-onsenkyo 雷電温泉郷 (around here). Iwanai Bus Terminal is easily accessible by bus from Kutchan.

By car: 

Parking is somewhat limited at the northern put in at Shikishimanai, just at the entrance to Narukami Tunnel (here). There’s a small gravel parking area large enough for about five cars to park (if parked efficiently). At the southern end of the route at Rankoshi Beach, parking is essentially unlimited in the massive gravel area here. At Raiden Onsen, there’s a small paved parking area next to the public toilets here.

Physical maps

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

PRINTED CHARTS

The S-Guide for Shakotan-Esashi (DH811W-07), is available as PDF download (buy online here). The scale is spotty though, with only the main fishing ports included in small scale. The JHA/Japan Coast Guard 1:250,000 nautical chart for this area is Shakotan-misaki to Matsumae-ko (W11 – buy online). A printed 1:50,000 scale bathymetric chart (Suttsu; 6325-1) is available here.

Official Topo Map: Raiden-misaki (雷電岬) – map no. NK-54-20-11-1
Official Topo Map 2: Raiden-yama (雷電山) – map no. NK-54-20-11-2

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

On a calm day with a clear forecast, this route is a walk in the park. Paddlers should take caution, however, as this is a very exposed section of coast with a very large fetch. It is also very remote in places, with little option for escape should paddlers be stranded on the coast due to heavy weather or high winds – think very high cliffs and capes un-navigable on foot. Paddlers should only attempt this route after a very careful consultation with the weather.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Raiden-misaki

Tide
Tide information for Iwanai

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

There’s no onsen close to the put in or take out for this route, but previously we’ve enjoyed the onsen at the Okaerinasai Ryokan いわない温泉 おかえりなさい (location, 800yen) near Iwanai Resort. They’ve got indoor and semi-outdoor baths. Note that on Saturdays and public holidays the onsen is only open to day visitors until 3pm (other days it’s open till 9pm).

Extra Resources

See a SUP video of the Raiden-misaki area by Ken Sasaki here.

Guide Options

Iwanai Resort runs kayak tours of Cape Raiden during the summer months – see the details here.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Raiden paddling (diary) – by Haidee Thomson

July 17, 2022, 8:30am meet at put-in

Members: Alex, Simon, Ben, Rob & Haidee (stayed at Chris’ cabin 2 nights Sat 16-Mon 18 – Mon was ocean day public holiday)

The day started out hot and sunny, late July is definitely summertime in Hokkaido. After meeting Alex, Simon & Ben at the put-in and off-loading the kayaks and gear, the guys shuttled the vehicles. Meanwhile, Alex and I hung out with the kayaks at the put-in, looking for shade among the boulders and occasionally stepping into the clear water to cool off and check out the smooth rocks below. Rob & I had checked out this put-in the previous day and at that time the wind had been blowing a particularly horrid stench all over the area, so we were relieved that the wind direction had changed for today and all unpleasant aromas were gone.

The water was impressively translucent. We launched one by one off the rocks and into the calm clear water. The previous weekend the same crew had paddled together around Kamui-misaki. This was Simon & Alex’ second weekend in the kayaks, and Ben’s second weekend in Timba’s sit on kayak, so everyone was feeling more confident and ready to explore. It wasn’t long before we came across a cascading waterfall with a small cave and surrounding greenery and rocks that felt very Lord of Rings (ish) – a theme for the scenery today, with the blue sky, it almost looked tropical! These falls are called Binno-misaki.

Our route along the coast followed an old road that is no longer accessible by land. It is remarkable how so much infrastructure can be created and then left to remain with no further function. The old tunnel entrances are all filled in, and the remaining structures have warning signs to stay away lest the concrete give way around you. We landed for break in a spot where we could climb up onto the old road and enjoy lounging on the flat concrete with an elevated view of the ocean.

Paddling on, we discovered a gap between rocks just large enough for a kayak to pass through, a challenge for kayak control and manoeuvring. We all took turns to glide through the gap trying not to scrape our paddles or sides on the rock. Eventually, the feature that really peeked my imagination came into view, it looked like a dragon with its head in the water, the scales on the neck visible above the water, just waiting to rise up if we should try to pass. The rock had a reddish tinge which added to the dragon-like nature of this point. This point is known as Benkei-no-katanakake Rock 弁慶の刀掛岩.

We started to feel the need for sustenance in the form of lunch – peanut butter and jam on home-made rye bread for Rob & I (these have become a staple for our paddling adventures). Rob suggested a spot by the road, but I wondered if we could stop elsewhere and avoid the noise of passing cars. I pulled out my phone to check google maps satellite and saw something that looked too good to be true just around the point. A waterfall passing under the old road with a nice-looking beach – we decided to check it out and as we passed the corner, Simon let out a joyful whoop as he sighted the waterfall and beach – yay for google maps satellite! The rain had started to fall and fortuitously there were overhanging cliffs that provided dry spots to sit and enjoy lunch. It was a beautiful spot to land, eat and relax while keeping dry from the rain. 

After lunch, we donned our rain jackets/paddling jackets and carried on around the coast towards Rankoshi. Along the way, we passed a massive cave which we cautiously ventured into. Some bats were spotted and we quietly retreated. We’ve come to expect swallows at the entrance of sea caves and if they are deep enough, bats at the back. 

Along the coast we encountered plenty of Japanese cormorants/shags (ウミウ) and seagulls (maybe Slaty-backed Gull (オオセグロカモメ). We saw some juvenile birds on the rocks, in the case of shags, their colors seem lighter than the adults and they are hesitant to fly away. Seagull chicks still had brown fluffy down feathers. The adult seagulls would warn us if we got too close with distinct calls and if that was not heeded, they would resort to fly by diving – this is definitely a sign to move out of their territory. As we rounded the final point, the giant wind turbines of Rankoshi coast came into view, like towers in the mist. The sandy beach welcomed us back to shore and we hauled out and tried to de-sand and de-salt everything on arrival at the cars. A large puddle had accumulated in the carpark which worked well for rinsing off the kayaks. We’d started out in the hot sun and ended in colder rain, it was a day full of discovery shared with friends. Raiden-misaki is definitely a beautiful kayak destination in the right weather.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Raiden-misaki, or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Cape Raiden Sea Kayaking (Iwanai) Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

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.