*Many thanks again to Shigeo Kobayashi for taking photos of us on the river!
Haidee and I only took up canoeing just over a year ago, so we launched ourselves into this section of the Shisorachi River with somewhat of a large dose of ignorance. The videos made it look easy, so we were confident that with enough water in the river, we’d handle things OK.
Soon after Kobayashi-san had seen us off at the put-in, however, we promptly capsized on the boney rapid right at the put-in. It was my fault…perhaps it was the early morning start, but in my head I was telling Haidee to go left (as we’d thoroughly discussed before getting on the water), but out of my mouth came ‘go right’!
This cost us a few precious meters, and by the time we’d hit the center of the rapid, we were going under.
It was an easy self-rescue though, and we patted ourselves on our backs for making sure we had plenty of easily-accessible rope attached to both ends of the canoe for this very purpose. We don’t capsize very often, but I figured if we were to go for a swim, this would be a river for it, so we came prepared.
And yes, that’s bear-spray attached to the deck. “None of the rafting companies are operating so far this year, so there are lots of bears around,” said Kobayashi-san.
With the canoe cleared of water, we were on our way again, and were immediately taken aback at the full-on nature of this river. We were surrounded by beautiful forest, but hardly noticed it for the first half a kilometre, as we tried our best to dodge as many of the rocks as possible. Just a touch more water in the river would have made things easier for novices such as ourselves.
It didn’t take long to get to the first much-anticipated drop of the route – the Goryu-no-se Rapid (also known as Bucho-no-se). As we approached, Kobayashi-san, who had driven ahead, waved frantically to us to pull up on the right. I still agonize over whether we could have in fact run the drop (on the left, as advised), but given this was our first time down the river, we opted to line down the right.
It wasn’t long before we came up on the second named rapid on the route – Kuranku-no-se Rapid. We weren’t confident of the entry (it looked shallow), and the exit didn’t look like it had enough padding on the submerged rocks on the side….or maybe we were just looking for excuses not to risk capsizing again.
In any case, this trip was quickly becoming a relatively relaxed full-river scouting trip. We lined this one too, on the river left. We noted that if the water was higher, this would be a very challenging one to line, with tall bluffs on both sides of the river (but then it’d be easier to run anyway).
Below Kuranku-no-se was a blissful few hundred meters of calm before another storm. We could hear raindrops splashing on the surface of the river, birds chirping, eddies gurgling as we wafted on by. The water was gorgeously clear, revealing the riverbed beneath.
No sooner had we collected our breaths than the descending began again in earnest, culminating in the final rapid of the Shisorapuchi River – the Trauma-no-se Rapid – before the grand finale of the Kokutai Course on the Sorachi. Kobayashi-san waved at us to pull over to the right again.
“I’ve been waiting here for you for the last 1.5 hours,” he gushed.
He later confided to us that he was getting worried that we’d capsized again and given up.
We opted to be content with lining Trauma-no-se Rapid too, on the right. Looking at the photos now, I wonder if we couldn’t have run it as others do, to the right of the middle of the left flow. But once again, we weren’t confident of how much watery buffer we’d have between the boat the rocks on the approach.
“Next time,” went the well-worn, broken record in my head.
Beyond the Trauma-no-se Rapids, we were free as a bird. We opted to take out above the Kokutai Course, as we’d had enough rapid-analyzing for the day.
“Next time, next time, next time…” my broken record played in my head.
KOKUTAI COURSE RAPIDS/DROPS
Keep to the center of the right, watch for the flow coming in from the left at the exit.
With enough water, paddlers can chicken out and take the straight, hard right. Otherwise, be a hero and slalom around the pinball-boulders.
Togetsu Bridge Drop (渡月橋の瀬)
Take the hard left for a relatively easy entry, otherwise, be a hero and hit the right side.