Toyohira River Canoeing in Jozankei

豊平川 | Sat-poro-pet

Posted on Aug 8, 2019
33 0

Posted on Aug 8, 2019

33 0


0.5 day(s)


0.5 mpk



Water clarity

Class I



Best season

This short section of the Toyohira River (豊平川) in the Jozankei Onsen area has everything a complete beginner canoeist could ask for. Easy access to the river, beautiful rocky gorge on either side of the river, and hardly any flow to speak of. The ultra-clear Shiroi River (白井川) adds another dimension, with its natural air-conditioning effect in the summer. This route is best enjoyed from the beginning to mid-October during the peak of the autumn colors.

We visited this route on Jul 25, 2019

Some extra photos in this post were contributed by Wa Lone.

Last updated Mar 23, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Grade: I
Remoteness: 2/5

River Details

This route is on Toyohira River (豊平川), or Sat-poro-pet in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class A (一級河川) river, 75km in total length. This section of the river is between 20m and 120m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 0.5 mpk (2.64 FPM).

Weather: weather forecast for Toyohira River


This route is on the Toyohira River at the southern edge of the Jozankei Onsen village, about 20km west of Sapporo City central. The put-in location is a large raised gravel area due east of the Jozankei View Hotel, here. During the week it’s possible to park up on the gravel area, but it can be busy on the weekends. Best practice is to drive down to the river, drop the canoes off and then drive up to the large gravel parking area about 100m up the road, here. There’s almost no flow to speak of on this short section of the Toyohira River, so you’ll be putting in and taking out in the same spot.

General notes

This has to be one of the most popular paddling spots in the Sapporo area for families, tourists, and the more experienced wanting to relax in a nice gorge on a crisp autumn day. That said, given the very short distance of the route, experienced paddlers might question the effort involved in getting a boat on the water for what could very easily be a 20 minute paddle. Best to accept it as it is, and take one’s time to enjoy the scenery.

  • Footwear: As you’ll see in the route description below, it is likely you’ll have to walk in the shallow spots of the river sometimes on this route. Best to wear footwear you don’t mind getting wet.
Route description

Put in from the gravel landing area and paddle downstream for about 150m, where you’ll likely encounter the river flowing very shallow over a gravel bank. When we were there we were able to stay in the canoe, keeping to the far left, and managed to get down, adding a few scratches to the boat on the way. If you’re precious about your boat, or you’re in a delicate inflatable, you’ll probably have to line down here, or make a 10m portage across the gravel. From this little speed-hump in the route, you’ll be floating blissfully through a beautiful gorge, with the striking red Nishikibashi bridge overhead. The official Jozankei website calls this the Maizuru-no-Toro pool (link). Carrying on, the sky will open out to a wider valley, with the somewhat scary Ichi-no-sawa dam to the right. Keeping left will take you to the Shiroi River – a super cold, pristine clear river, with a strong flow. To get very far up this river you’ll need to have a pole and good poling skills, or pull your canoe upstream. Return the way you came to get back to the put-in location.

Route Timing
Trip time: 1hrs 30min

For experiences paddlers, this route will feel like it’s over before you’ve started. So the idea is to take it slow and just potter around, looking for birds and taking photos. An hour is just about right, including a couple of stops and paddling practice.


Public transport:

This route is not directly accessible by public transport, but there are a number of free shuttles going from both Sapporo Station and Makomanai Subway Station that will get you to Jozankei. From anywhere in the Jozankei village, it would be a 20 minute walk to the put in location. Check the transport options on the official Jozankei Onsen website here:

By car: 

During the week when it’s not too busy, cars can be parked on the gravel riverbed, here. Otherwise, cars should be parked in the large gravel parking area just up the road, here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Jozankei (定山渓) – map no. NK-54-14-15-1

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

The benign nature of the majority of this route belies the real and objective danger of the Ichi-no-sawa Dam (一の沢ダム) at the far end of the route. This 23m high weir-like dam, built in 1926, is truly terrifying, as there’s no rope or fence preceding it. Canoeists will know about it, due to the noise of water running over it, but canoeists should, of course, keep well away from it. A large sigh (in Japanese) warns people to keep away from it.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Toyohira River


Onsen nearby

The Jozankei Onsen area is one massive onsen resort, with multiple options available. If you’re up for a 15 minute drive, the Hoheikyo Onsen (豊平峡温泉, 1000yen, location) with its huge outdoor baths is a great option for those who haven’t been there before. If you’re headed back to Sapporo, our pick is the cheap and cheerful Matsu-no-yu Onsen (松の湯温泉, 650yen, location) next to the Toyohira River – the very river you spent time paddling on.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

Do a web search for ‘Jozankei canoeing‘ and you’ll find a number of guiding outfits offering tours on this well-known section of river. We don’t have any particular recommended guides – they’ll all be great. The Welcome Sapporo website showcases Amuse Sports, so they might be a good place to start.

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Route Trip Notes

The last time I’d heard from Antoni, a friend of a friend, was in a Facebook post where he announced that finally, his colleagues had been released from the Myanmar prison they’d been incarcerated in for 18 months. This was a huge relief for all involved, as they’d originally been sentenced to seven years. Then, just last week, Antoni got in contact with me asking if I had any advice for Wa Lone, one of those Burmese reporter colleagues of his, who was going to be visiting Hokkaido on vacation for a couple of days.

So I moved a few things about and cleared up a Thursday afternoon, and suggested we go for a paddle on the Toyohira River in Jozankei. “Sounds great!” was Wa Lone’s reply. 

The weather forecast for the Thursday afternoon was not great.  It was a swelteringly hot afternoon, with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for the early evening. I put the canoe on the car anyway, and went to meet Wa Lone at Makomanai Subway Station. We’d play it by ear. If the weather was too rough for canoeing, we’d just go sit in an onsen for a soak.

After meeting Wa Lone, I asked if he’d paddled a canoe before. “I did just yesterday,” he replied. “At Lake Shikotsu, with a guide from Canoa.”

Small world. Canoa Guide House provided the two canoe’s Hokkaido Wilds is using for our canoe route documentation project.

After a bit of driving around in circles, I finally found the put in location for our short paddle down the gorge on the Toyohira River in Jozankei. I’d paddled this section of the river a few years back with a bunch of friends on a guided tour. At that point I never imagined I’d be doing it on my own with someone I’d only just met (least of all a man who’d just been released from prison – being there due to trumped-up charges – two months ago), in my own canoe.

As soon as we were on the water, I remembered that this section of river is over before it has even started. It really is a quick blat. So we took our time. We braved the very shallow gravel bar, staying in the canoe, no doubt adding some more scratches along the way. And then we were just cruising along through that beautiful gorge.

As expected, despite relatively taking our time, we were at the large ‘clearing’ at the end of the gorge in the blink of any eye. So I suggested we go for a bit of an adventure, and see if we could get a ways up the Shoroi River, which flows into the Toyohira River at this point. A fine mist was clinging to the river’s surface, as it brought super-cooled air down with it. As soon as we paddles out onto the flow of the Shiroi River, it was like walking into an air-conditioned room. Soon enough the flow was too strong to paddle, so we got out of the canoe and started lining it up the river. “This is the coldest water I’ve ever experienced,” exclaimed Wa Lone. 

He wasn’t exaggerating. My feet were getting numb. 

Compared with the Toyohira River, this river was pristine, ultra clear.

We didn’t get too far up the river before jumping back in the canoe for a short but thrilling ride down the swifts. With a bit more ferry gliding and towing the boat, it would be possible to get a bit further up the river – I’ll leave that for another sweltering hot day.

Once we were back in the lake-ish area of the Ichi-no-Sawa Dam, we weren’t quite ready to jut paddle back to the car and call it a day. So I gave Wa Lone some basic paddling instruction – the forward stroke and the draw. He got the hang of it quickly.

After this, Wa Lone took the canoe out for some solo paddling. “It’s much trickier to keep the boat straight on my own!” he exclaimed upon his return.

We made a slow final return to the car, taking in the scenery of the deep gorge as we went. I couldn’t help feeling the poignancy of this moment – I’m paddling with a man who was a political prisoner, still in a prison in Myanmar, only two months prior. At that point, he still had the prospect of another five years in prison, while his daughter – born while he was behind bars – grew up during the most formative years of her life. 

And here he is now. Free and paddling in Jozankei in beautiful Hokkaido.

Canoeing on Toyohira River (Jozankei, Hokkaido, Japan)
Image by Wa Lone

Just before the gravel bar where we’d parked the car, we had to get out of the canoe and pull it up and over a small shallow section of the river. We’d clattered and slid down this on the way down, adding some more scratches to the boat as we went. How we were doing the same in the opposite direction.

It was now about 6pm, so we stopped in at an izakaya restaurant nearby for dinner (here). We both had the hokke-hiraki teishoku – a set consisting of rice, miso soup, and grilled Okhotsk Atka mackerel. On the way back to Sapporo, we had a soak at Matsu-no-yu in the Kogane Onsen area.

It was great to get out for a break from the desk with some weekday paddling. See you in Hokkaido again some time, Wa Lone!

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Toyohira River Canoeing in Jozankei Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



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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.