Posted on Oct 17, 2023

Posted on Oct 17, 2023

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1 day(s)





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Daikoku-jima 大黒島 is a 2km by 0.6km uninhabited island off the coast of Akkeshi, in eastern Hokkaido. About 2km off the Pacific Ocean coast, this island gets buffeted by large Pacific swells, but is a worthy challenge in the right conditions. It's accessed via the small intermediary Ko-jima 小島, situated about halfway between the mainland and Daikoku-jima. While visitors require a permit to land on the island, it nonetheless offers an extraordinarily rugged coast that can be enjoyed from the water. Expect plenty of seals, the odd sea otter, and lots of sea birds.

We visited this route on Sep 04, 2023



Route Map

Need to know details


Daikoku-jima lies 2km off the Pacific Ocean coast near Akkeshi in eastern Hokkaido.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

Access to the coast around Akkeshi is somewhat limited – the coast is lined with konbu kelp drying fields and private beaches used by small-scale fishing operations. The closest put-in for Daikoku-jima, arguably, is this small beach here, about 2km southeast of Cape Aikappu. The narrow road down to the beach is essentially private, however, so it’s really important that paddlers seek to speak to locals in the area to let them know your intentions. When we visited, there was a friendly kelp harvester in his shed halfway down the road – we knocked on his door and asked if it was OK to park down the road, and he was more concerned that his truck might be in the way. That said, be very aware of where you’re parking, and park so you’re not blocking access to the road or beach. If at all possible, avoid paddling before 9am, as kelp harvesters and fishers are usually active the most in early morning – the road down to the beach will be most busy during these times.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

This is an out-and-back route, so the take-out is the same as the put-in.

General notes

Daikoku-jima covers an area of 1.08km2, and it’s highest point is 105m. Almost 47 people used to live on the island (in the 1960’s), and there was even an elementary school there, but since 1970, the island has been uninhabited. The island is an important sea bird haven, and as such has been a specially protected area since 1972 – a permit is required to land on the island. It’s home to birds such as the Slaty-backed gull, short-tailed albatross, rhinoceros auklet, and is home to millions of Leach’s storm-petrels. In very rare cases, tufted puffins and spectacles Guillemots have also been observed on the island. Along the coast can be seen harbor seals and spotted seals, as well as otters in rare instances. At the northwestern end of the island are also relics from WWII – there are berthing bays carved into the cliffs for Japan navy special attack boats (berthing bays are now disused).

  • Landing on the island: Daikou-jima is designated as a specially protected natural habitat and therefore is off-limits to the general public – landing on the island requires a permit.
Route description

Start from the small beach and paddle southwards around Aininkappu-misaki アイニンカップ岬. You should be able to Daikoku-jima to the south-southeast as soon as you round Aininkappu-misaki. For the first 3km or so, paddle along the shoreline past Yukafuchi fishing port 床淵漁港 until you’re more or less directly due north of Ko-jima 小島. This will ensure the shortest distance across open water to the smaller island. It’s just a shade over 1km from the mainland to Ko-jima island. Ko-jima Island is home to several fishing huts, and it’s easy to land on the island’s western side.

From Ko-jima, it’s another 1km or so to Daikok-jima. This crossing is relatively protected from the Pacific Ocean swells coming from the southeast, as the sea-bed between Ko-jima and Daikoku-jima is quite shallow – it doesn’t get much deeper than 5m. That said, unless you’re specifically seeking out some reef-break surfing opportunities, it’s best to keep to the western side of the crossing, as the eastern side often has breaking waves.

A full circumnavigation of Daikoku-jima is about 6km. The island’s eastern side will invariably be lively, with heavy Pacific swells hitting the steep cliffs with force. Reflective chop can be quite significant, so it’s a rare day indeed that paddlers can enjoy a close-to-shore inspection of the eastern shoreline. Once around the island’s southern tip, paddlers will be protected from swell. There are seals on both sides of the island, so if the eastern side is looking too lively (or too foggy), a simple out-and-back along the western side is still very well worth the paddle.

Return the way you came, back to the mainland.

Route Timing
Trip time: 5hrs 15min

Allow plenty of time for this paddle, just in case you have to wait out misty weather. Also, if you’re lucky enough to have calm conditions on the eastern coast of Daikoku-jima, you’ll want plenty of time to explore the various inlets and rocks.


Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car: 

From central Akkeshi, you’ll head south across the mouth of Lake Akkeshi, on Route 123 towards Hamanaka. The put-in (here) is at a small beach near Aininkappu Cape, accessed via a narrow one-lane, steep private road. There’s only room for perhaps two vehicles to park at the end of the road, without blocking access to the beach for kelp-harvesters – they launch their skiffs from the beach. Kelp harvesters are most active before 9am, so we recommend avoiding accessing the beach earlier in the day than that. Regardless, do make sure to find someone in the area to ask if it’s OK for you to park down the road.

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 Akkeshi 厚岸 S-Guide (DH810W-06) is available as PDF download (buy online here). The JHA/Japan Coast Guard 1:40,000 nautical chart for this area is Akkeshi-wan 厚岸湾 (W25 – buy online).

Official Topo Map: Akkeshi (厚岸) – map no. NK-55-32-2-4
Official Topo Map 2: Shirihamisaki (尻羽岬) – map no. NK-55-32-3-3

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

This location is arguably one of Hokkaido’s most exposed paddling locations. Paddlers will have to manage heavy Pacific swells, reflective chop, reef-breaks, remote shorelines far from the mainland, and to top it all off, the very real risk of dense, impenetrable fog. It is the latter that arguably contributes most to the difficulty rating on this paddle. Very localized fog in this area is often not forecast on the likes of, and it can come and go very quickly at any time of the day. Even with a clear forecast, we strongly recommend paddlers make use of GPS navigation apps, have them handy, and have them on tracking mode so they can safely navigate back the way they came if necessary.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Daikoku-jima

Tide information for Akkeshi


Onsen nearby

Akkeshi has a real lack of onsen in the immediate area. The only public bath in the town is Kiraku-yu 喜楽湯 (location, 490yen). While you might be tempted to shun the place because it is not a natural hot spring, we would still highly recommend visiting at least once. It’s one of the few very traditional sento 銭湯 public baths in Hokkaido, so it’s very worthwhile to visit. If you’re heading further east anyway though, we would recommend Kiritappu Hotspring Yuyu 霧多布温泉ゆうゆ (location, 500yen). This large facility has a restaurant, a large relaxation area, indoor/outdoor pools, and sauna (cold plunge pool included). Kiritappu is about 40 mins drive east of Daikoku Island.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to paddle Daikoku Island, consider contacting Ashida-san from Land’s Edge in Hamanaka. It’s a long shot, as he doesn’t have any set tour packages that include Daikoku Island, but depending on his schedule, he might be able to sort something out. At the very least, you’ll likely need to demonstrate that you have considerable sea kayaking experience

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Route Trip Notes

We’d just returned from two weeks in the UK, a highlight of which had been five days of sea kayaking instruction with Sea Kayak Oban. We were now back in Hokkaido, and keen to get out paddling again here.

Daikoku-jima had always been on my list of must-paddle locations since I saw someone on Yamap post about it. Given a good weather forecast, it looked like a great, challenging paddle.

So it happened that there was a good forecast for a couple of days on the 4th and 5th of September. Haidee and I made a beeline for the east of Hokkaido to take a look.

Our main concern for this paddle was the Pacific swell on the island’s eastern side. From where we were, about 3km west of the island at the put-in, we couldn’t ascertain the conditions. We figured we just had to go and have a look.

I’d spied a possible put-in on Google Satellite view on Google Maps, and when we arrived at the top of the small private road, we paused for a bit, wondering if we’d be allowed down it. We couldn’t see anyone around to ask, so we just drove down and parked up out of the way.

I walked back up the road to double-check if there was anyone we could ask about parking down near the beach. I noticed a local kelp-harvester cleaning kelp in his shed half way up the road, so I knocked on the door.

“Hi there, is it OK if we park our van down below for a few hours,” I enquired. 

“No problem at all,” he beamed. “I hope my truck isn’t in the way.”

We finally got onto the water at 10:30am. Where we were in Akkeshi Bay, the water was flat and calm. All quite idyllic.

Once we were out around Aininkappu Cape, the swell heightened somewhat, and we felt strangely uneasy in our kayaks. The last five days we spent kayaking was in Scotland, with a local instructor. Out here, we were how on our own, in a location we’d never paddled before.

In the distance, we could see our destination for the day – Daikoku-jima. In between Daikoku-jima and the mainland was the diminutive Ko-jima.

It seemed all rather far.

It didn’t take long to smash out the 1km or so from Aininkappu Cape to the broad headland closest to Ko-jima Island. From there, it was a 1km paddle to the small intermediary island. For now, both islands were plainly visible.

It was an easy paddle from the mainland to Ko-jima Island, but we took a break anyway, as it was unlikely we’d get any more breaks until we were all the way around Daikoku-jima – the island is off-limits to landing without a permit.

Ko-jima was home to a large gravel kelp-drying field, and a number of kelp-harvester and fisher huts. There was no one around, and the island felt all rather deserted.

We gobbled down some rice balls and snacks – it was lunchtime after all – and returned to the water. As we paddled the 1km from Ko-jima to Daikoku-jima, we could feel the effect of a heavy swell from the southeast. Each swell rose up and broke hard on the shallow reefs to the east of us, and we both made mental notes not to veer too far to the east.

We decided to paddle clockwise around the island, as this would get the more spicy conditions out of the way earlier in the paddle. We figured we’d enjoy the latter half of the circumnavigation in the lee of the southeast swells.

As we started around the northeast tip of Daikoku Island, we were now paddling in unencumbered Pacific swell. In shallower parts nearer the island, it would curl up and break forcefully onto the rocky shore. We kept our distance from the island, and enjoyed relatively long-period swells of about 1 to 1.5m in height. Through my camera’s viewfinder, I had to time my shots well, as Haidee would completely disappear from view as she paddled over the crest of the swells.

We made it about half way along Daikoku-jima’s eastern shoreline when the fog started rolling in.

It seemed to appear out of nowhere, from the east perhaps. It was wafting up and over the island from east to west.

It started high up on the island’s cliffs at first, but soon started dropping down lower to the sea’s surface, obscuring our view of the tops of the cliffs.

Haidee and I discussed our options. Currently, the fog was not too dense – we had about 100m visibility or so. If it got any more dense, however, it would make rounding the island’s southern cape rather hairy.

That said, we were confident that conditions on the island’s western side would be much more relaxed in the island’s lee. The fog appeared to be bunching up on this eastern side of the island too, so it felt reasonable to expect the western side to be clear.

The fog had descended behind us too, so even if we decided to turn around, if the fog got thicker we knew we’d have to paddle a tricky channel of favourable water between breaking waves to the east (on Ko-jima’s eastern reefs) and breaking waves to the west (on Daikou-jima’s shoreline).

We decided to press on around the island, and mercifully, the fog didn’t worsen.

Near the southern cape, there was a large seal colony. We could only just make out the seals from our vantage point 100m off the island.

Here and there, Haidee would disappear from view as she dropped into the troughs of the swells.

Eventually, we made it to the southern cape of Daikoku-jima. As expected, the western side looked fine, clear, and the sea looked flat.

It was exhilarating to now have the large southeasterly swell at our sterns, and our pace quickened as they pushed us on around the cape.

The western side of the island was a completely different world to what we’d paddled thus far. It was like a lake. Curious seals popped their heads up to watch us as we paddled by.

Towards the northern end of the island were curious caves carved into the cliffside. We would later find out these were once berths for Japan Navy special attack boats during the Second World War. 

With fog slowly closing in behind us, we didn’t dawdle as we made our way along Daikok-jima’s western shoreline. Once at the northern spit, we made a quick dash to Ko-jima Island.

We landed on Ko-jima island again for a quick stretch of the legs, and looked behind us towards Daikoki-jima. We were surprised to see it was now completely enveloped in fog.

Lest Ko-jima island also be swallowed into the fog, we quickly got back onto the water and made our way back to the mainland.

By the time we returned to Aininkappu Cape, Daikoku-jima had reappeared from the fog.

The bay we’d pushed off from five hours ago was still idyllic and calm. 

Over all, this was a very varied and engaging paddle – an offshore island, some short crossings, big swells and breaking waves, and seals keeping us company.

For our post-paddle soak, we checked out the very rustic and traditional Kiraku-yu 喜楽湯 sento (public bath) in Akkeshi township. This sento was the most authentically Showa era (1930-1980’s) public bath we’d ever been to. From the genkan entrance to the place, women and men entered separately, but one staff member was manning the cash register just inside the changing area, with full view of both the men’s and women’s changing areas. Haidee and I exchanged pleasantries to each other as we paid our entrance fee, and then went on our separate ways into the men’s and women’s changing areas. 

The female staff member was chatting nonchalantly with a local guy who had just finished in the bathing area, and was toweling off, naked in the changing area. It was all rather novel, and certainly worth a visit if you’ve never experienced such a traditional public bath before.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Daikoku-jima 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.