Exploring Hiroshima

Vol.18 Sea kayaking in Hirao Town
Take to the Sea with Daiduk Ocean, Kayaks & Adventure

In the pristine waters south of Iwakuni City, marine and nature specialist Koji Hara offers some of the finest sea kayaking tours around.

Learning from the Best

“Daiduk is my eskimo name,” says Koji Hara, 46, who runs Daiduk Ocean, Kayaks & Adventure. “I travelled around Alaska hunting and fishing with the eskimos when I was in my 20s and 30s.”

Koji Hara, runs Daiduk Ocean, Kayaks & Adventure.

Koji Hara, runs Daiduk Ocean, Kayaks & Adventure.

The sea kayak base in a peaceful coastal village.

The sea kayak base in a peaceful coastal village.

The word ‘kayak’ originates from the Inuit word ‘qayaq’ for their lightweight hunting canoes. After living with the eskimos and travelling around the world, Koji settled back in Yamaguchi Prefecture and started his kayak tours 14 years ago. His sea kayak base is in Hirao - a rural peninsula jutting out into the Seto Inland Sea.

“I grew up in the industrial town of Tokuyama about an hour up the coast. I always thought the Seto Inland Sea was dead and polluted,” recalls Koji. “But my eskimo friends told me to go back and rediscover my hometown and view it with new eyes - so that’s what I did.”

Coming back with a fresh perspective, he began to unearth the beauty and nature still flourishing in the area. After kayaking from Tokuyama to Awajishima in the east, he saw clear waters, rich marine life and untouched coastlines. Koji quickly realized there was beauty in the Seto Inland Sea hidden in plain sight.

“This area has so much of its natural coastline intact,” says Koji. “Depending on the day, the water can be crystal clear and the bay is protected from strong currents, making it perfect for sea kayaking, especially for beginners.”

The outlying islands create an expanse of calm and clear water.

The outlying islands create an expanse of calm and clear water.

When he’s not conducting sea kayak tours, Koji is busy teaching children in a nature school he founded or researching traditional boat-making techniques from around the world. In his current project, he plans to reproduce an ancient boat and recreate a sea voyage that brought settlers to Japan from Southeast Asia 30,000 years ago.

You be hard-pressed to find another sea kayak guide in Japan with Koji’s wealth of experience and knowledge. I knew we were in good hands.

The Tour

We booked the half-day tour on a brilliantly sunny day at the end of July. Koji advised us to bring a liter of water, clothes to get wet in, a hat, sunglasses, and a fresh change of clothes. But even if you come with nothing, Daiduk can provide all that you need.

The location is perfect. Small outlying islands a kilometer from the coast create a naturally protected expanse of water. The sea was calm, clear and unaffected by the usual strong tides and currents that rip through the Seto Inland Sea.

After quick and concise instructions from Koji, we set off on our voyage of discovery. Koji is the perfect guide, always on hand to help and share his knowledge on the local marine life and seafaring history.

Koji explaining the fundamentals of sea kayaking.

Koji explaining the fundamentals of sea kayaking.

Setting off from the shallows.

Setting off from the shallows.

Even beginners can quickly get the hang of sea kayaking.

Even beginners can quickly get the hang of sea kayaking.

Kayaking across the tranquil sea.

Kayaking across the tranquil sea.

This stretch of sea is famous for its population of finless porpoise, known in Japan as sunameri. Unfortunately sightings in summer are rare, but in other seasons (especially in spring) you can easily catch a glimpse of these lovable creatures.

With the water so clear, you can see fish swimming underneath the kayak.<

With the water so clear, you can see fish swimming underneath the kayak.

Sagojima - our objective.

Sagojima - our objective.

We kayaked out of our protected inlet and circled Sagojima - one of the outer islands. Koji picked out a spot and we made landfall on a secluded beach only accessible from the sea. With a campfire coffee and some downtime to snorkel in the clear water, it was the perfect stop-off point before heading back.

Daiduk Ocean, Kayaks & Adventure was a great experience. It is ideal for anyone who wants an authentic experience of the Seto Inland Sea.

Landing on the beautiful, hidden beach on Sagojima

Landing on the beautiful, hidden beach on Sagojima

Koji cooked up some delicious campfire coffee.

Koji cooked up some delicious campfire coffee.

We took time to snorkel in the clear waters around Sagojima.

We took time to snorkel in the clear waters around Sagojima.

Looking out across the water.

Looking out across the water.

Relax and shower after the trip at the Daiduk sea kayak base.

Relax and shower after the trip at the Daiduk sea kayak base.

2-2056, Saga, Hirao Town, Kumage-gun, Yamaguchi-ken

TEL : +81-820-58-0339 or +81-90-6843-9854
Website (Japanese) : Daiduk Ocean, Kayaks & Adventure

Words and Photography by Tom Miyagawa Coulton. (Visited in August 2018.)

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