Lake Furen’s Shunkunitai Sandbar Canoeing

風蓮湖春国岱

Posted on Aug 31, 2020
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Posted on Aug 31, 2020

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Reading time: 3 min
6km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

2/5

Remoteness

3/5

Water clarity

3/10

Difficulty

May-November

Best season

CAUTION: Check the tides for this route carefully before setting out. Putting in about two hours ahead of high tide will reduce the likelihood of getting stranded.

Shunkunitai (春国岱) is a large sandbar separating Lake Furen (風蓮湖) from the Okhotsk Sea in far eastern Hokkaido. The area is registered as a Ramsar Convention conservation site, with access on foot or canoe only. The area teems with native Hokkaido wildlife; human-sized red-crested tancho cranes, ezo deer, and plenty of other birdlife. At high tide, paddlers can make a nice half-day trip into the heart of the sandbar to get up close to the wildlife.

We visited this route on Jul 20, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Lake Details

This route is on Shunkunitai (Lake Furen) (風蓮湖春国岱).The lake is a natural lake, about 6km wide and 20km long. It has a shoreline of 96km and a maximum depth of 11m (1m average). The lake is at 0m above sea level and water visibility is 4m.

Location

Shunkunitai is at the far eastern end of Lake Furen, a vast tidal lake in eastern Hokkaido next to Nemuro City.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

There’s a basic put-in on the Daiichi-tobai River (第一トウバイ川) next to Route 44, here. If you’re staying at the lovely Lake Sunset cabins (レイクサンセット, location), then you can put in directly at the rear of their property. Regardless of were you put in, you’ll only be able to do so a couple of hours either side of high tide, as the water disappears almost completely at low tide.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

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

General notes

While Shunkunitai is a lovely place for a walk – there are lovely boardwalks at the eastern end – a canoe can get paddlers a little closer to the wildlife. The whole area is a Ramsar Convention site, so paddlers should not disembark anywhere along the route.

Route description

Starting from Daiichi-tobai River, paddle east towards the Lake Furen outlet. Just before the outlet, take a left and head under the wooden footbridge into the Shunkunitai interior. Return the same way. There’s a fairly clear channel running along the main Lake Furen section of the route, marked by poles.

Route Timing
Trip time: 2hrs 0min

This is a relatively quick out-and-back route, and will likely take most paddlers about 2 hours.

Transport

Public transport:

This route is not directly accessible by public transport, however it appears the Tobai Bus stop (東梅(とうばい・根室交通バス停留所), location) has a few buses per day stopping there, such as the Kushiro-Nemuro bus (details in Japanese here).

By car: 

There is a small grassy parking area, enough for a couple of cars, at the putin on the Daiichi-tobai River, here. Make sure you close the deer gates behind you.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Tobai (東梅) – map no. NK-55-26-9-1

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

It’s best to consider this route a high-tide only route. Only attempt it if you’re putting in about two or three hours ahead of high tide – you don’t want to get caught out in the sandbar area in low tide. We were there about two hours after high tide, and were already running out of water. It’d be easy to get stranded. Only attempt heading out of the lake outlet if you’re in a sea-worthy vessel and have the experience to do so.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Shunkunitai (Lake Furen)

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

If you’re headed back to Nemuro, then there’s the Minato-yu sento (public bath) in Nemuro (みなと湯location, 450yen).

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 explore this route with an experienced local guide, contact Masao Ashida from Ashiyan Canoe (https://www.ashiyan-canoe.com). Follow him on Instagram here.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

We’d been watching the tides carefully for the last couple of days to get a feel for just how much the water would disappear around this far eastern end of Lake Furen. We were keen to go for a sunset paddle into the wild Shunkunitai sandbar area. On this Monday evening, the tides lined up with the end of the remote-work day, so at the crack of 5pm, we headed out the door of our rented cabin and head off towards the sea.

We were about one hour after high tide for the day, so we knew we didn’t have a huge amount of time before the lake started to drain. We made good time to the wooden over-bridge, amazed at the clarity of the briny lake water. 

As we approached the wooden foot-bridge, two huge red-crested cranes flew overhead and landed about 50m away.

Further on, groups of curious deer gazed at us as we floated by, clearly not quite sure what to make of us. We had to pick our way carefully along the narrow channel. Either side was almost too shallow for the canoe.

Aware of the receding tide, we didn’t spend much time paddling deeper into the area. We turned around and made a beeline back to our lakeside cabin. Just as we were arriving back, paddling against a strengthening tidal current, the sun was setting over the horizon. Quite the magical end to the day way out east in Hokkaido.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Shunkunitai (Lake Furen), or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Lake Furen’s Shunkunitai Sandbar Canoeing 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.