October 11, 12 | Shuhei Miyashita
Chitose City is the home of New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido's fast track to the world. Located about an hour from Sapporo City, Chitose is also home to the second largest body of water in Hokkaido, "Shikotsu Lake." With a depth of 363 meters and a circumference of 40 kilometers, it's a huge body of water!
Wrapped in the embrace of the 1,000 meter peaks of Mt. Tarumae, Mt. Fukazeshi, and Mt. Eniwa, the beautifully clear waters of Lake Shikotsu have received certification as being "the highest quality water in Japan." Taking advantage of this beauty is the company "Shikotsu Guide House Kanao” which leads guided canoe tours across the lake in Canadian canoes.
"Shikotsu Lake" encircled by mountains.
Mr. Matsuzawa, the representative of Kanao, had his first canoeing experience 10 years ago at the Hokkaido Animal Eco-Nature School. We asked him about Kanao's founding. "The view of the clear lake water provided by the canoe is second to none and leaves a twinkle in the eye of every person who has a chance to paddle out. We wanted to allow as many people as we could the chance to try it, which is why we started the shop.”
The representative from Kanoa, Mr. Matsuzawa Naoki.
We also had the chance to talk with the rest of the staff, and it seemed that they had canoeing on their minds 24/7! They let us know that, "For those of us at Kanao, canoeing isn't our job, it's our life!” “That's the best part about working at Kanao!"
But running a canoe guide service isn't all fun and games. "As a canoe guide it's important to achieve a good balance between instructing and providing a tour service. If you focus too heavily on the guiding part, the only thing the customers will learn is how to sit in a canoe and enjoy the trip. But, on the flip side, if you focus only on instruction, only those people who really enjoy the mechanics of canoeing will have fun. We're constantly refining our program to provide the best experience for all of our customers."
Kanoa also tries hard to promote the Canadian canoes they use. To achieve this they use them in all their tour materials and in their tour advertisements as well. One of their most popular tours is the "Soto Cafe Canoe Tour." ("soto," in this case, means "outdoor.") This tour takes visitors around Shikotsu Lake both by canoe and by foot. During one of the hiking portions the tour takes a break to enjoy sweets and drinks by the lakeside, relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of nature. (I've taken this tour and boy was it relaxing and beautiful!)
A peek at the Soto Cafe
One of the larger responsibilities that guides have to keep in mind is the changing seasons in the area and the lake’s water levels. Often waterways will disappear or change their layout, forcing a change in the tours provided. "Sometimes guests that have a preexisting knowledge of the technical side of canoeing will request that our next trip take them into unknown territory. We're really happy when that happens!" says Mr. Matsuzawa.
Shikotsu Lake in Spring.
Shikotsu Lake in Summer.
Shitkotsu Lake in Autumn.
Shikotsu Lake in Winter.
There aren't very many people with Canadian canoes in Hokkaido, but to be sure, the number is growing. "There aren't enough places where those without canoeing experience can give it a try. Which is why we want to let them know how great it is! So we try to provide as many "Canoe Lifestyle" tours, classes, lectures, and events as possible." says Mr. Matsuzawa. So for anyone out there who hasn't tried canoeing before, why not stop by for the experience? Who knows, you may just end up getting a Canadian canoe of your own!
支笏ガイドハウスかのあ (Shikotsu Guide House Kanoa)
Bangaichi 305, Shikotsuko Onsen, Chitose, Hokkaido
TEL : 0123-25-2430
WEB : http://gh-canoa.com/
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Miyashita)