Kazuaki Hiratsuka:
Bringing wonder to each visitor's journey

Nature Guide

Profile  

Kazuaki Hiratsuka was born in Teshikaga Town in 1959. A thirst for big city life led him to Tokyo as a young man, but while there, he encountered a travel piece about canoeing on the Kushiro River. Reading about his childhood home made Mr. Hiratsuka look at his hometown in a new light, and made him realize what a wonderful place he had grown up in. On returning home, Mr. Hiratsuka took the \250,000 he had saved in a cupboard and bought a canoe. He and some friends began voluntarily greeting tourists in the area, and after noticing tourists lugging heavy kayaks that they had brought with them, he started a company in 1991 to make it easier for visitors to enjoy canoeing in the area. He now has 31 years of experience in canoeing.

Story

Entering a storybook world

When I ask Mr. Hiratsuka about his most amazing moment, his immediate reply is "I am amazed every day." And as he tells me about the things he has seen, I realize that he is absolutely right. After leaving Lake Kussharo, Mr. Hiratsuka and his group paddle beyond the Choko Bridge and then they're off down the Kushiro River. From June to August, you might see big-scaled redfins laying eggs in the clear water. On the other side of the bridge, the atmosphere is completely different, with otherworldly scenery as far as the eye can see. With the weather, time and lighting differing each day, the scenery never looks quite the same. On clear days, the sunsets are spectacular. Set off at around 4:00pm and the sun will set behind you, bathing the river in a golden glow. If you're lucky, you might see Yezo deer or birds such as white-tailed eagles, common kingfisher and crested kingfishers from your canoe.

Bringing wonder to each visitor’s journey

Delivering heartfelt hospitality in a way that is completely natural

Bringing wonder to each visitor’s journey

Mr. Hiratsuka's motto is that there's no hurrying on a canoe trip. On the way down the river, he makes coffee from spring water and shares it with the tourists along with homemade sweets from his wife. It's a leisurely row, covering around a 7km stretch of the river in three hours. Unlike the rivers on Honshu, the mainland of Japan, the Kushiro River has no dry riverbed, meandering through a variety of scenery from trees to shrubs. Along the way, you'll reach Kagami no Ma ("the Mirror Room"), a natural area resembling a traditionally designed Japanese garden. You'll be amazed by the calming effect that Kagami no Ma has: the water is so clear that there seem to be no limits to how far you can see, the trees are reflected just like a mirror, and the surrounding forest and negative ions will leave you a feeling of tranquility. Mr. Hiratsuka never does more than two canoe tours per day. "It's important to me that I feel my customers' wonder and the motion of the water as keenly as they do", he explains. "If I do more tours than this, I'll lose that wonder and I want to make sure that that never rubs off on my customers." It is clear that the wonder of one's first canoe trip is important to Mr. Hiratsuka, and he is the kind of guide who delivers heartfelt hospitality in a way that is completely natural.

Using nature's gifts

The Wakoto Peninsula juts into Lake Kussharo. Known as Wakkochi ("the place where the fishtail curves") in Ainu, this peninsula is the largest lake island in Japan. This peninsula is a lava dome expelled from the Kussharo caldera during an eruption, and volcanic activity occurs in the Oyakotsu "hell" area at the end to this day. The gravel on the peninsula is toasty warm from the heat of the ground. Mr. Hiratsuka uses that same heat to steam oysters from Akkeshi and carefully chosen eggs and corn, and the results are so delicious that they've apparently even been a hit with kids who usually don't like eggs. Mr. Hiratsuka's use of nature's gifts is a language that needs no words, and his hospitality has drawn many overseas visitors.

Bringing wonder to each visitor’s journey

Photo

Address

〒088-3211
Kouei 1-5-4, Teshikaga, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
info@north-east.jp
Tel. 090-8279-9712
Fax. 015-482-2445
http://north-east.jp/

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