Shopping for a canoe in Hokkaido can be somewhat of a painful experience, particularly if you’re accustomed to North American or European prices. Even second hand, a 20 year old Royalex Canadian canoe can sell for over $4000 – order of magnitude more than it was originally bought for (welcome to the Japan Royalex effect). Here’s some bullet-point tidbits that we’ve discovered during our 6-month long hunt for a reasonable second hand Canadian canoe, in early 2019.
- If buying new, accept that it costs good money to ship a canoe to Japan.
If you intend to buy a new canoe in Japan, particularly the large Canadian canoes, you’ll just have to accept that it can cost anywhere between $400 to over $1000 to get a foreign-made canoe over to Japan. Add to that dealer fees and scarcity markups, and you might find that Esquif Huron 16 or Nova Craft Prospector 16 you can buy in the US brand new for around US$2,000, will cost US$3,300 equivalent in Japan (source).
- How much to expect to pay second hand.
Largely, prices will be higher in April till September, and cheaper outside of this high demand period. For a Royalex Old Town Camper 16-foot Canadian Canoe, you could pay anywhere between 40,000yen to 500,000yen, for a very similar-condition boat. For an Ally 15-foot DR folding canoe, expect to pay between 70,000yen and 100,000yen for an old 15 year old boat.
- Get involved in the paddling community.
Sitting at a computer searching Yahoo Auctions and Jimoty is easy (see below), but you’ll be limiting your search to people who have the ability to advertise on the Internet. E.g., second hand shops with their exorbitant markups. The single-most effective way to find a good value boat in Hokkaido is to get involved in the paddling community. They’ll be able to introduce you to passionate paddlers who might be keen to pass on their seldom-used boat to another passionate paddler who can put it to good use. For us, this meant paying for a few tours (and getting to know guides in the process), getting Hokkaido-specific paddling lessons, and getting involved in online groups (e.g., the Kayak Group on Facebook). If you’ll be in Hokkaido for a while, consider joining a club like the Hokkaido Wilderness Canoe Club.
- Wait for end of season prices.
Regardless of whether you buy new or second hand, prices for canoes are always higher heading into the paddling season. Look out for great value boats from owners wanting to pass on an old canoe to the next generation.
- Scour the Internet, regularly.
There are a number of sites where great deals can be found on second hand canoes. Note however that it is extremely expensive to ship a full-sized canoe to Hokkaido from anywhere else in Japan, so you’ll want to limit your search to within Hokkaido. Keep in mind, however, that a return ticket on a ferry from Hokkaido to Honshu (either near Tokyo or Osaka) with a car costs around 45,000yen. So, if you can find a cheap enough canoe near Tokyo or Osaka, it may be worth making a two to three day mission out of it. Once again, looking for a canoe at the start or mid-season will end in tears – you’ll be searching at the height of the demand curve, so prices will reflect that.
- Yahoo Auctions: This is a natural start for searching for second hand boats. Here’s a search for canoes in Hokkaido: Original Japanese | Google Translated English
- Jimoty: This is a flea-market style site and there can be some screaming deals on here late in the season. Here’s a search for canoes in Hokkaido: Original Japanese | Google Translated English
- Mercari: This is another flea-market style site where good deals can be found late in the seasons. Here’s a search for canoes: Original Japanese
- Second hand kayak Facebook group: This is mostly white-water oriented boats, but it is worth joining and posting (in Japanese) that you’re wanting a canoe – https://www.facebook.com/groups/403907856415989/
- Post on the Shugakuso buy-and-sell board.
At the Shugakuso Outdoor Store (秀岳荘) in Shiroishi-ku (location), there’s a cork board in the paddling section where sellers and buyers can post notes indicating they’re willing to sell or buy. When I was there in June 2019, there was a hand-written note from a guy in Setana Town (on the Japan Sea Coast), who was trying to get rid of a number of old kayaks for 5,000yen a boat. There was, mind you, also a 20-year old Mad River Explorer 16 with completely rotted-out gunwales, advertised for 120,000yen too (but it was Royalex, sigh).
- Take part in events and hand out flyers.
One of the largest canoeing gatherings in Japan is the Down the Teshi event in July each year, in northern Hokkaido. 100 boats take part in this two-day river running ‘rally’. Consider getting yourself up to Nayoro for this event with flyers in hand (preferably in Japanese), and hand them out, announcing you’re wanting a boat. We’d planned on doing this ourselves (we obtained boats before that event).