Toshibetsu-gawa (Oyochi to Aiwa-bashi)

利別川 | Tus-pet

Posted on Jun 28, 2023

Posted on Jun 28, 2023

0 0


1 day(s)


6.7 mpk



Water clarity

Class II



Best season





Toshibetsu-gawa 利別川 is a remarkably untouched, winding river deep in southern central Hokkaido. It's close to Rikubetsu Town, known as one of Japan's coldest towns with winter temperatures recorded down to -38.4°C. In spring, just after the winter thaw, the Toshibetsu River can be a great place to get some early season paddling in, as well as seeing colossal ice-floes stranded on the riversides. Even in summertime, however, there is plenty to see - towering clay cliffs, deep green forest, and a gentle flow in the river that will suit paddlers of most skill levels.

We visited this route on Mar 30, 2023

Paddlers: Haidee, Greg and Mari


Route Map

Need to know details

Grade: II
Engagement: E1
Remoteness: 2/5

River Details

This route is on Toshibetsu-gawa (利別川), or Tus-pet in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class A (一級河川) river, 150km in total length. This section of the river is between 10m and 40m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 6.7 mpk (35.38 FPM).

Weather: weather forecast for Toshibetsu-gawa

Ideal water level: 156.75m
Water level paddled 156.75m
Water level notes: Ideal water levels are generally found in early spring on the Toshibetsu River. Summer is also usually doable, but with less water, there may be some sections of lining required in shallow spots.

The Toshibetsu River flows from north to south from the northeast side of the Daisetsuzan Range in eastern Hokkaido. It flows through the small towns of Rikubetsu (Japan’s coldest town) and Ashoro, as it makes its way to the mighty Tokachi River and onwards to the Pacific Ocean.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

For the full 28km run, put in on river right at Homare-bashi 誉橋 in the small settlement of Oyochi 大誉地, about half way between Ashoro and Rikubetsu on National Highway 242. There’s a flight of stairs from the top of the stopbank to about half way down to the river. From there, you’ll need to lower boats down the bank.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

The take-out for the full 28km run is just downstream of Aiwa-bashi 愛和橋 on river right. There isn’t much of an eddy to speak of, and it’s a bit of a clamber through thin undergrowth to a gravel road.

General notes

The towering clay cliffs at almost every bend in this river is what sets the Toshibetsu River apart from other rivers in Hokkaido. Two in particular are especially spectacular – colossal, dazzling white cliffs. There’s hardly any rapids to speak of, so this is a river that even relative beginners can paddle at lower water levels. Another highlight of this river is the wildlife. We saw at least two pairs of red-crested cranes – a real rarity!

Route description

Put in at Oyochi and enjoy the paddle down river. There’s not much else to say about this section of river! Do note, however, that the first 1km or so from Oyochi has seen some human intervention – a widening of the river overall, which has made it quite shallow in spots. Particularly in summer, it may be quite shallow, requiring some river walking in places. However, once past this 1km or so, the river starts its wending and winding.

Route Timing
Trip time: 6hrs 0min

At almost 30km long, this section might appear to be a very long day on the water. The reality is, however, that the river does move at a quick pace. Expect around 5-6hrs on the water, with timing closer to the lower end of 5hrs in spring when the water is up.


Public transport:

Oyochi bus stop 大誉地バス停 (here), accessible from Ashoro Town, is only a five-minute walk from the put-in at Homare-bashi bridge (direction here). Google Maps has bus timetabling information (here). Ashoro Town is, in turn, accessible by bus from Obihiro City 帯広市, a large city located in the center of the Tokachi plains in southern central Hokkaido. There’s no bus stops near the take out though – the nearest (Ashoro dobokugengyosyo mae Bus Stop 足寄土木現業所前) is 2.5km walk south along Route 242. Instead of taking a bus, it might make more sense just to walk to central Ashoro Town from the take out – 4km. Alternatively, consider continuing to paddle downstream to Ashoro-bashi bridge 足寄橋 (here) and taking out there on river right under or near the bridge. From there it’s a 1km walk to central Ashoro Town.

TAXIS: There’s one taxi company in Ashoro Town – Ashoro Taxis 足寄タクシー (TEL: 0156-25-2666). Note that they’re unlikely to understand English, let alone the names of bridges along the river.

By car: 

There is limited parking (about two to three cars) at the put in and take out.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Oyochi (大誉地) – map no. NK-54-1-8-2
Official Topo Map 2: Kamitoshibetsu (上利別) – map no. NK-54-1-8-4
Official Topo Map 3: Aikappu (愛冠) – map no. NK-54-2-5-3

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

The main concern on this section of the Toshibetsu River is access off the river. Generally, access to the river is limited, and if you did want to get off the river near bridges, there would be some bush-bashing and clambering involved. Overall, however, this river is relatively free from strainers and the flow is fairly gentle.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Toshibetsu-gawa


Onsen nearby

The closest place for a post-paddle soak is the small and pokey Ginga-no-yu Ashoro 銀河の湯あしょろ (location, 400yen), about 5km south of the take-out near Aiwa-bashi, in Ashoro Town. Nearby is the Satomigaokakoen Camping Ground 足寄町里見が丘キャンプ場 (location, 400yen per tent).

Extra Resources

See Takahashi-san’s write-up (in Japanese) here.

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Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes description of the route (translated)

The Toshibetsu River flows between the four Tokachi towns of Rikubetsu, Ashoro, Honbetsu, and Ikeda, and finally flows into the Tokachi River. The river is not widely known as a canoeing river, but between Rikubetsu and Ashoro you can enjoy varied scenery and the current is gentle, making it an attractive river to descend by Canadian canoe. During the dry summer season, the river water is usually quite low, but it has a gravel river bed making it less difficult to pull a canoe down the river.

Greg had tipped us off about some very hard-to-find Royalex whitewater canoes being sold by a contact of his out east in Hokkaido. So it transpired that Haidee and I would purchase a 20-year-old Royalex Old Town Cascade canoe for 180,000yen (about US$1,500). Such is the canoe market here in Hokkaido!

Suffice it to say that we were now in eastern Hokkaido with a new canoe that needed to be christened by us, its proud new owners. Mari and Greg jumped at the opportunity to drive out east and paddle a river that had been on our radar for a while – the Toshibetsu (not to be confused with the Shiribeshi-toshibetsu River in southern Hokkaido).

With two vehicles, the shuttling was very straight forward.

It was cold though. Full drysuit sort of weather, with woolly hats in full force too. There was still snow here and there in the north-facing shadows.

Not soon after setting off, we had our first chance encounter with a wildlife highlight of eastern Hokkaido – the rare red-crested tancho crane. Two boisterous individuals who allowed us quite close before they flew off.

This encounter happily took our minds off the stiff, fridged cold wind we were paddling against during the first one kilometer or so after putting in. We were looking forward to getting into the shelter of the bends of the river fast. 

The bends came soon enough, and indeed sheltered us from the cold southerly wind.

And then the cliffs came.

Great, magnificent, awe-inspiring walls of clay, hanging over the river, contrasted against the colorless vegetation waiting for warmer temperatures to burst into green.

It was clear that we’d arrived at the Toshibetsu not long after the ice-out. Great large ice-floes sat washed up on the riversides, slowly melting.

We stopped to investigate one. The needle-like structure of the ice was fasctinating.

We had a few breaks along the way, but overall, it was a very straight-forward paddle. The almost-30km went quickly. First canoeing of the season done!

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Toshibetsu-gawa (Oyochi to Aiwa-bashi) Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending













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.