Messing About in Boats: Lake Naramatako

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
– Kenneth Grahame.

Last Respect for the Aged Day, Keiroo no Hi, here in Japan. My wife — let’s call her R. — and I decided to road-trip it to Minakami, a hot spring resort which has become a center for four-season adventure sports.

This would give R. a chance to use her newly-minted driver’s license.

As well, it would provide both of us practice in the paddling skills we’d honed over the summer holidays in a canoe on Lake of Two Rivers in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park.

Unfortunately, it being a long weekend and all, what in Japan are called “Canadian canoes” were already reserved.

Instead, we signed on for an all-day tandem canoe — what in Canada we would call kayak — trip on Lake Naramatako with a guide from Lakewalk.

Japan, however, is not Canada, and Lake Naramatako is not Lake of Two Rivers.


We pushed off a sandy beach into the jade green water in red folding tandem kayaks with open cockpits, past a lakeshore cleared and and sculpted into the sprayed concrete step pyramids of some drown civilization.

Flotsam and jetsam from heavy floods back in the spring, mostly half-waterlogged tree branches, bumped harmlessly off the rubberized hull of the kayak as we paddled over one-hundred meter depths.

A couple of hours’ paddle with a following breeze brought us to the driftwood-choked confluence of the lake and the river that was dammed to create Lake Naramatako. We ate lunch on a sandbar and walked through the cold, clear water on riverbed rocks as smooth and round and pleasant as any shiatsu foot massager.

On the trip back, we darted from shade to shade in the hot afternoon sun, past a group of screaming youngsters practicing canoe-over-canoe rescues in the cold, deep water.

Japan may not have “wilderness” the way Canada does, but being out and about in nature here, there, or anywhere does have an essential sameness to it which reminds me that everything is connected; that, in a sense, a paddle dipped in a lake here in Japan sends ripples ’round the world.

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