Ryuji Nishikawa has a vision. A vision in which the six rivers that run through the city of Hiroshima become, once again, central to the lives of its people. Important in the development of the castle town, these waterways were also a playground. Kids used to swim in Hiroshima’s rivers and pleasure boats once plied the waters in front of the Industrial Trade Hall before the 1945 nuclear attack transformed into the ruin now known as the A-bomb Dome.
Nishikawa talks of black and white photos of smiling kids leaping into the water from high, rickety wooden platforms. Although Hiroshima has recovered, he says, in some respects there hasn’t been a complete restoration. A return to the rivers would be one indicator, he thinks, of such a restoration. Nishikawa has been running surf safaris from his little shop ‘Magic Island’ since 1992. Also a fan of snowboarding, as well as, wind and kite surfing it was inevitable that he would try his hand at Stand-Up-Paddle (SUP) after it started to appear in surf mags.
Hiroshima is perfectly suited to SUP. We not only have the rivers, but 300 or so remaining stone gangi steps provide easy river entry and exit access. Nishikawa sees Hiroshima’s “SUP City” potential as something unique in Japan. It’s also relatively easy to pick up, and makes for great exercise. Having to balance on the board means you have to engage just about every muscle in your body, and it can burn around the same amount of calories as running, but without the impact.
Nishikawa was so taken with the sport’s potential that he recently relocated his Magic Island base to Kusunoki-cho for ease of river access. Magic Island’s City SUP tours start with a brief explanation and warm-up, then head downstream to the A-bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park. On returning to Magic Island, participants can get a shower and change clothes. For more experienced SUP-ers, Hiroshima’s network of waterways offer kilometers of urban paddling. Some also make the round-trip journey from the city center to Miyajima. It’s a good distance, but if you catch the tide right, it’s a lot easier a paddle than you might think. Nishikawa prefers that prospective SUP-ers take a couple of his shorter city tours (during which he can explain local river traffic etiquette, for safety as well as to avoid getting shouted at) before sending them off on solo adventures.
Next year, Nishikawa plans to hold an international SUP race here in Hiroshima. The idea conjures up images of a Monte Carlo style circuit, with supporters lining the riversides and cheering from windows of the apartment buildings that overlooking them, all without the kind of traffic headaches that come with a run or cycle event.
SUP offers visitors a unique vantage point from which to view the city. To residents it’s a way to get the most out of its particular geography and reconnect with its historic lifelines. Most of all, it’s great fun.
So, why not get SUPing?
This article originally appearing in the Autumn 1215 edition of the GetHiroshima Mag.