MIKISATO BEACH KAYAKING AND SHRINE PILGRIMAGE - Follow the Ancient Path of Edo Period Pilgrims by Kayak to Beautiful Asuka Shrine

MIKISATO BEACH KAYAKING AND SHRINE PILGRIMAGE - Follow the Ancient Path of Edo Period Pilgrims by Kayak to Beautiful Asuka Shrine

Mikisato beach is a stretch of beautiful white sand that slopes into the clear blue waters of Kata Bay in Mie Prefecture. The protected waters of the bay are perfect for open water kayaking and, with the help of a guide, can be navigated by beginners and experts alike. This area is well-known for having an abundance of fish and other seafood. Asuka Shrine is nestled deep into the natural beauty of the seaside and is home to a 1,000 year old camphor tree.

Visitors who join the Mikisato Beach Kayaking and Shrine Pilgrimage tour will follow a route similar to the one used by Edo Period pilgrims 200-300 years ago as they crossed the bay to visit Asuka Shrine. The full-day tour starts at 8:00 AM on Mikisato Beach and takes about seven hours to complete. This package costs ¥18,000 per person and includes an English speaking guide, basic kayaking training, all of your gear, a fresh seafood lunch and bathhouse access.

Written by Vern Begg
About the Author:
I grew up in western Canada near the Rocky Mountains and have always loved being in the outdoors. When I moved to Japan in 2015, I was excited to go hiking, cycling and exploring around this stunning country. I have not been disappointed and every part of Japan that I have visited has presented opportunities to experience new outdoor adventures.

The weather on the day I booked to go on a kayaking pilgrimage could not have been better. The sky was overcast and the temperature was comfortably warm. There was almost no wind and Kata Bay was looking serene. I don’t visit many beaches in Japan, so I was very excited to see Mikisato Beach after my short walk from Mikisato Station to the meeting point near the water.

Caption: Mikisato Beach is a little slice of paradise.

My guides were ready and waiting for me when I got there and I could tell right away that it was going to be a great day on the water. My lead guide was Izumi Hirayama and the other guide was Hirohisa Hirayama, her husband. I was surprised to find out that Izumi spoke almost perfect English and that she had studied and traveled in Canada and America. Hiro didn’t have the same language skills, but we didn’t have any major problems understanding each other.

Caption: I had to fill out the requisite waiver forms before I could get in the water.

Both Izumi and Hiro had that special kind of positive energy that only true outdoor enthusiasts have. I immediately felt confident that I could focus on enjoying the day and trust their guidance to make our kayaking adventure safe and fun. 

Caption: Izumi had all of our gear ready to go before I arrived.

Back in Canada, I had done a fair bit of canoeing, but I had never tried open water kayaking before. Izumi’s clear instructions and training made it easy for me to understand the basics that I would need to know for a smooth trip. The most challenging part of the training session was finding the most comfortable way to rest my legs inside the kayak. After some quick suggestions from my guide, I was able to find a position that wouldn’t cause me any discomfort during the 6 km paddle.

Caption: Izumi showed me how to attach the splashguard around the kayak opening.

The kayak set-up and lesson took less than 30 minutes and Izumi’s instructions were easy to follow. I felt ready to get paddling and try my skills in the waters of Kata Bay. All we had to do now was get the kayaks down to the beach and push off on our adventure.

Caption: Izumi’s paddling lesson was clear and simple.

Caption: The lesson was finished and we were ready to go.

We picked up the kayaks and carried them down to the edge of the water. The white sand of Mikisato beach looked great and the low hanging clouds were settled in nicely on the mountaintops surrounding the bay. I was glad to see that the waters were very calm and that I should be able to get the hang of navigating quickly.

Caption: The fibre glass kayaks were light and easy to carry down to the water.

Caption: On the beach getting some last minute information.

Before we left the beach, Izumi showed me the route we would be taking to our final destination, Asuka Shrine. We would be eating some fresh seafood for lunch and I was already looking forward it. With the final instructions delivered, it was time to climb into my kayak. Our journey would be a total of 6 km and Izumi told me it would take about 2 hours of paddling. 

Caption: My last photo on dry land for the next 2 hours or so.

Once I was sitting comfortably in my kayak, Izumi and Hiro pushed me off the beach and I was out into Kata Bay. The water was perfectly calm and the views of the mountains were spectacular. I put Izumi’s instructions to use and started paddling out into the wide expanse of the bay.

Caption: The view from my kayak at the start of our journey.

We paddled together as a group and Izumi reminded me of the proper paddling technique. The biggest challenge was to just relax and paddle smoothly. I wasn’t nervous, but I did have a tendency to over paddle at the beginning. Kayaking is actually quite effortless and relaxing once you get a rhythm going and use the paddle blades efficiently. 

Caption: Izumi was a happy and helpful guide throughout the journey.

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