Posted on Apr 26, 2022
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Posted on Apr 26, 2022

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2.5km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

33 mpk

Gradient

5/5

Water clarity

Class IV

Difficulty

Apr-May

Best season

The Sakazuki River 盃川 is a steep and challenging creek that runs in the Shakotan Peninsula. The easy access, scoutable rapids, amazing scenery and the ending in the Sea of Japan makes it the perfect spring adventure. The run is composed of multiple slides, different size drops and a very photogenic 5m waterfall.

We visited this route on Apr 22, 2022

Cover shot paddler: Chihiro Ota from Niseko Ukka

Last updated May 4, 2022

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty
Grade: IV
Engagement: E1
Remoteness: 2/5

River Details

This route is on Sakazuki-gawa (盃川).The river is a Other river, 9km in total length. This section of the river is between 3m and 10m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 33 mpk (174.24 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Sakazuki-gawa

Water level notes: There’s no gauge on this small, minor creek. But the waterfall is visible from the gravel access road. You can judge the water level from there. If you feel there is too much or too little water on the fall, maybe head back as the rest of the river might not run for you.
Location

The Sakazuki-gawa is located on the southwestern coast of the Shakotan Peninsula, in the small village of Sakazuki in Tomari Town, north of Iwanai.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

Preferred put in is river right under the first bridge you’ll encounter on the access road. There is a parking space about 10 meters before the bridge.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

The takeout is one of the amazing things about this creek – the take out is in the Sea of Japan. There is a small parking space opposite the bus stop in the village. Please be considerate and try not to occupy too much space when parking, setting up and/or packing up.

General notes

This little river is one of the paddling gems of the Shiribeshi region. It runs only for a few weeks during the year but is well worth the trip. The rapids can be intimidating but there are always small pools for rescue. The 5m waterfall, Suehiro no taki 末広の滝, is definitely the highlight of the descent and well worth the drive in its own right. Beware though as the waterfall is not the hardest rapid you’ll encounter on this steep creek.

Route description

The put-in is best done river right under the bridge marked earlier. From there, you will have until the first turn to warm up (~50m) as it hides one of the most beautiful and long slides of the river (grade IV). Entry is preferred on the right side but use your own discretion. A few wave trains and grade III rapids later and you will find a 3m drop which is best tackled river left. There are a few eddies above for you to scout as a hydraulic can form at the reception depending on the water level. From there again you will be on for a succession of grade III-IV drops and slides all more fun than the previous.

You will soon reach a memorable, horseshoe-shaped drop (known locally as Dillip’s Hole). It might be the hardest rapid of the descent so take your time, scout properly and prepare a proper rescue plan as the hydraulic at the bottom is powerful. The rapid can be portaged on the river right. Following this are more grade III-IV rapids until you reach the Suehiro waterfall 末広の滝. There is short flat section before the waterfall and you can disembark on river right. The eddy prior to the waterfall is small and space to store multiple boats is sparse, but you will be able to scout the waterfall and prepare safety.

When jumping the fall, beware of the jaileddy on the river left. Also important to note that about 50m below is another IV+ rapid which would be painful to swim into. Prepare a strong rescue plan in case something goes wrong after the jump. After the fall you will encouter a few slides before the river becomes tamer, all the way to the Sea of Japan.

Route Timing
Trip time: 2hrs 30min

2.5hrs is a conservative time, but best to allow this in order to scout rapids and deal with any rescues.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public access to this route.

By car: 

The carpark at the take out can hold a few vehicles but it is better not to overcrowd it if possible. The put in access is better done with a 4 wheel drive car as there can still be snow lingering on the road in spring (best time to paddle the river) and a lot of mud. Bring a snow shovel, as there may be some snow to remove from the road in shaded aspects in order to drive all the way to the bridge.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Kamoenai (神恵内) – map no. NK-54-20-10-1

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

A mountain road (gravel) follows the river closely all throughout the descent so it is easy to escape from the river anytime. However, cellphone coverage can be a problem deep in the gorge.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Sakazuki-gawa

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen in the vicinity of this river is Sakazuki Onsen Chokasou 盃温泉 潮香荘 (location, 600yen, open 10:00-19:00, closed Wednesdays). They have an outdoor pool with nice views of the ocean. If you’re headed back to Niseko, there are a couple of good onsen in the Iwanai area. Try Iwanai Kogen Hotel いわない高原ホテル (location, 1000yen), open 3pm-9pm on weekdays (12pm-9pm Sundays, closed Saturdays) – it’s a really nice ryokan with outdoor and indoor bath. Another option in Iwanai is Okaerinasai いわない温泉 おかえりなさい (location, 800yen, Sunday-Friday 7am-9pm, Saturday 7am-3pm). It is a beautiful ryokan, all made out of wood. The onsen is quite interesting, located under the building.

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 this river with a guide, get in touch with Ukka Kayak in Niseko. They can guide kayakers on this river and all other rivers in and around the wider Niseko area.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

On a beautiful day of spring, we all met at the parking near the Sea of Japan to share the descent. Two people came from Shikoku while 3 of us were from Niseko. Kai, Ran, Chihiro, Yasu and myself.

The weather and water level seemed perfect and the waves in the Sea of Japan were quite big. The small group got ready, we all jumped into a car with the kayaks and the adventure began.

Driving a few hundred meters only we could see the gorge and scout the waterfall from the road, everyone got excited, talking about water levels, best line for a clean run, and the other rapids.

The road still had some snow on it so we had a nice warm-up with the shovel to create a path for the HiAce. A slide here would end up lower down in the canyon…

We finally reached the put in, got wet and it all started really quick. 50 meters after getting in the water and the first break arrived. A long and curvy slide to get into the rhythm. With the beautiful morning light, the sprays of water, it was just sensational. The rapid in itself was not so technical, just pretty steep and impressive. The last hole was a bit catchy and few of us ended up squirting the stern. It all started really good!

The first half of the river is really continuous, the rapids follow one another and there is no time to rest. We quickly reached the first rapid that needed scouting. A scenic 3m drop. Chihiro, having run that river a few dozen times, went first and ran a clean line in the center. We all followed one by one while others assumed safety with ropes ready from the bank. All of us cleared the drop and smiled hard.

Again, the rapids came in quick succession one after the other until we reached one particular rapid, still etched in my memory. It was an impressive drop shaped like a horseshoe. I suddenly became anxious. A few years before, I got caught in the hydraulic at the landing of this very rapid, and ended up swimming. It was the last time I ran a river until today. Not a pleasant memory.

We took the time to search for the perfect line and one by one we ran the rapid. I took a beautiful line, centre right with my bow angled to the right, avoided the big hydraulic and cleared the rapid! The pressure was off but the adrenaline rush was high!

After another dozen drops and slides, we finally reached the flat water above the waterfall, we all disembarked river right to scout and prepare safety.
Again, Chihiro ran a perfect line, with a great boof right the center and again the pressure started to build. It was my turn to grab the paddle and run the fall. I went for the line I had in mind, and jumped. Boof!

Sensational feeling to fall with the water! I landed and cleared the way, great line! Everyone ran the waterfall nicely.

After the waterfall, only a handful of rapids were left before we reached the Sea of Japan. I slid through the last rapid and hit the coastal waves that were taller than me sitting in my kayak. It was fun. For a second before I got trashed in the rocks… ahahah kayak surfing, without any control due to the speed built up in the river mouth is not so fun! A few of us stayed surfing for a few minutes before heading back to the carpark.

Otsukare!

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Sakazuki-gawa 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.