Lake Kussharo Steam Vents Canoeing

屈斜路湖和琴半島 | Oya-kot

Posted on Nov 12, 2019
Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter
Share on google
55 0

Posted on Nov 12, 2019

Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter
Share on google
55 0
Reading time: 3 min
3.3km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

2/5

Remoteness

4/5

Water clarity

3/10

Difficulty

May-Nov

Best season

Wakoto Peninsula (和琴半島) at the southern end of Lake Kussharo (屈斜路湖) has a very active geothermal area at the very end of it - the Oyakotsu Jigoku Steamvents (オヤコツ地獄). Hikers can look at the steamvents from high up on the top of the bluff, but canoeists can land on the beach right next to the vents. Up close, they're an impressive sight to see. Along the way there's a couple of wild, free onsen hotsprings, including one simple one right on the lake shore - bring a shovel to clear it out.

We visited this route on Oct 17, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Lake Details

This route is on Lake Kussharo Wakoto Peninsula (屈斜路湖和琴半島), or Oya-kot in the Ainu indigenous language. The lake is a natural lake, about 5km wide and 14km long. It has a shoreline of 47km and a maximum depth of 117m (28m average). The lake is at 120m above sea level and water visibility is 2.8m.

Location

Lake Kussharo is in the far eastern reaches of Hokkaido, about 4.5 hours by car from Sapporo City. Wakoto Peninsula is at the southern end of the lake. This route guide has paddlers start on one side of the peninsula at the Wakoto Kohan Campground, and end on the other side at the road-side beach. There’s easy vehicle access to the take-out location though. Park your car in the large car parking area in front of the souvenir shops.

General notes

Wakoto Peninsula on Lake Kussharo is home to two campgrounds, three free, mixed-gender hotsprings, tourist shops, an information center, a nature trail, public toilets, and a min-min-zemi cicada (ミンミンゼミ) colony. Most of this is packed into a small area just south of the narrow neck of the peninsula. Once you’re out past the narrow neck, it’s unlikely you’ll see anyone apart from some hikers every now and then on the hiking trail.

  • Canoe guides: There are a number of canoe guiding operations on Lake Kussharo that offer morning or afternoon canoe trips around Wakoto Peninsula – try contacting any of the Teshikaga operators on this list. We don’t know of any operators offering canoe rental.
Route description

Starting at either the west or east side of the peninsula, just follow your nose around the peninsula. The steam vents are on the very end of the peninsula, about 1.5km of paddling. Calm days can be few and far between on Lake Kussharo, but Wakoto Peninsula forms a convenient wind-break – if it is choppy and rough on one side, you can guarantee it’ll be mirror-smooth on the other.

Route Timing
Trip time: 1hrs 30min

This quick paddle around Wakoto Peninsula on Lake Kussharo would take strong paddlers under an hour to complete, but it’s best to allow at least 1.5 hours. This will allow a leisurely stop at the steam vents – take some eggs to poach – and a stop at the rock hotspring pool as well.

Transport

Public transport:

As of November 2019, Akan Bus ran two buses per day bound for the Wakoto Peninsula bus stop, leaving from the Mashu Bus Center in Teshikaga Town (timetable here). The trip takes 35 minutes and costs 920yen one way.

By car: 

There is ample parking at the main car parking area on Wakoto Peninsula here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Kussharo-ko (屈斜路湖) – map no. NK-55-31-11-3
Official Topo Map 2: Wakoto (和琴) – map no. NK-55-31-11-4

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

Lake Kussharo is a vast caldera lake with a large fetch area – wind can whip across the lake, creating dangerous white-cap waves very quickly. Regardless of the weather forecast, stay close to shore. Mercifully, Wakoto Peninsula acts somewhat like a wind-break, so we recommend scouting both sides of the peninsula before setting off – choose the calmer side, and don’t risk paddling all the way to the steamvents at the tip of the peninsula if wind conditions are not favourable. As always, always wear a PFD, carry a change of clothes in a waterproof drybag, and carry some form of communication device.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Lake Kussharo Wakoto Peninsula

CampSites

Wakoto Campground (和琴野営場)
Wakoto Campground (和琴野営場) is a gorgeous new campground facility on the eastern side of the Wakoto Peninsula (和琴半島) at the southern end of Lake Kussharo in eastern Hokkaido. It doesn’t offer the sandy lake-shore camping that the Wakoto Peninsula Campground (和琴半島キャンプ場) offers just across the road, but it is much more fully featured, with a new center house, showers, laundry, and just as easy access to the lake via the dedicated canoe port. Location: 43.57669 N / 144.31108 E | 1000 yen per person | Open: Jun-Sep | Staff hours: 9:00am till 4:00pm.
Closest Onsen: Kohinso (湖心荘) | 450yen | 0.3km from campground
Onsen nearby

There are a number of free or paid onsen hotsprings available on Wakoto Peninsula. Most people know about the huge, free, open-air, mixed gender hot spring on the neck of the peninsula (location). Less known is the free concrete-tub hot spring shack along the hiking trail (here). Even less known is the basic hot spring pool even further along the hiking trail, on the lake shore (location). When we were there in October 2019, it looked as if it hadn’t been used all season – bring a shovel to deepen it and clear out the leaves. Apart from these wild onsen, there’s a couple of paid options for the less daring – Koshinso (和琴温泉 湖心荘, location, 400yen) is the closest to the parking area.

Extra Resources

Hokkaido Canoe Touring Book by Tamata (1993), p. 68-71

Guide Options

There are a number of canoe guiding operations on Lake Kussharo that offer morning or afternoon canoe trips around Wakoto Peninsula – try contacting any of the Teshikaga operators on this list. We don’t know of any operators offering canoe rental.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

“OK, turning now!” I called out to Rick in the front of the canoe. The strong on-shore wind was howling, and we had to make this tack into the shore between waves. They weren’t quite white-caps, but they were certainly getting there. Had it been any other canoe trip, we probably would have turned back once we got out of the sheltered lee of the wind on the eastern side of Wakoto Peninsula. But we decided it was worth a shot – we’d both only ever seen the steaming geothermal area at this far end of the peninsula from above, on the hiking trail. We were keen to see it up close from the shore.

Our shoreward tack was a success, and we scooted downwind to the beach. On the beach, we were greeted with flurries of steam and sulfur smells. No wonder people bring eggs here to cook on the lake-front – the whole shoreline was a geothermal playground.

Whereas this exposed northern shoreline was windy and noisy with all the waves and steam, the approach on the eastern side of the peninsula had been about as serene as a lake could get. We’d attempted to do the full loop, starting on the western side of the peninsula and paddling around, but soon gave up on that idea – the stiff northwesterly wind was whipping up too much swell for out liking. On the western side we took stock, and decided to portage across the neck of the peninsula to the sheltered eastern side.

The short bash through long, scrappy grass spat us out to idyllic, calm conditions. Worlds away from the chop of the lake just 75m away on the other side.

The autumn colors were putting on a show.

We paddled past the hot spring shack, and on to the more secluded wild onsen a few hundred meters up the shore. This makeshift pool is nothing more than a bunch of rocks plied up on the lake-front, well secluded from both watercraft and the hiking trail just 10m up the bank. If we’d had shovels, we would have cleaned it out a bit for a soak. The temperature of the water felt just right. As we were gazing out at the lake through the trees, a group of about 20 hikers walked past above us, all chattering loudly to each other. Not one of them noticed us below.

From this idyllic spot, we pushed on in the canoe around the head of the peninsula, to face the wind and waves, and the steaming geothermal area.

We returned the same way on this calmer eastern side.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Lake Kussharo Wakoto Peninsula, or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

See More Like this