How does paddling on a huge pristine lake surrounded by mountains and a vibrant display of autumn colours sound? 

SUP or Stand Up Paddle-boarding on Lake Chuzenji  had been on my to do list for quite a while, recently I finally got the chance to experience it.  

Was it good? Would I recommend it? Will I do it again? Yes, Yes, and Yes. I should have gone sooner, and I can’t wait to get out there again. Not only was the scenery breathtaking but it was an incredible sensation to glide over the water and realise the potential to explore remote parts of Chuzenji Lake that most will never see. 

For only essential info skip to the bottom. 

For the full story please read on.

Not only was the scenery breathtaking but it was an incredible sensation to glide over the water

Autumn leaves in Chuzenji 

I always imagined doing SUP in the hot summer months, unfortunately summer was over before I had planned a trip, and thoughts of water sports had faded with the arrival of the cool autumn weather. Luckily for me however some friends from Nikko Tourism Association invited me to join them for a SUP tour on Chuzenji Lake to view the autumn leaves that Nikko is so famous for.

It was the end of October and right on the peak of the colourful autumn display, after arriving at the lake we stopped for a quick and tasty lunch at Yukon, a restaurant conveniently located right across from the Chuzenji Lakeside Boathouse which is where the SUP! SUP!  tours start from. 




thoughts of water sports had faded with the arrival of the cool autumn weather.

The Tour

Our SUP tour was to start at 13:00, on arrival we were warmly greeted by our guides Daisuke and Tetchan of SUP! SUP! We all changed into the provided wetsuits, booties, and threw on a windbreaker and life jacket. I decided to go barefoot mainly because I love the feeling of water on my feet, but also to see how cold the water was. We gathered on the scoria beach for our induction, 10 minutes later we understood the safety rules, and the basics of how to use our paddles and boards. 

Then from the shallows we mounted our boards and practiced the techniques we had just learned with our guide. Once everyone was familiarised and in control, we paddled a couple of hundred metres along the shoreline viewing the incredible autumn foliage up close. 


Now, I should mention this was my first time to SUP, we were all first timers, but nobody found it strenuous while paddling around, the boards are super wide and stable.

Until this point we had only been kneeling on the boards, it’s impossible to fall off from this position. But now came the next step, it’s not stand up paddle boarding if you don’t stand up, definitely more challenging than kneeling but following our guide’s instruction everyone was up in no time. I left the ladies to have fun on their own, while Daisuke and I tore off across the lake about 1km (1094yd) offshore and boy the view from out there in the middle is spectacular, the air temp was a fresh 10°C (50°F) and water was slightly warmer at 13°C (56°F) if you are worried about feeling cold, don’t, the active nature of paddle boarding and the insulating wetsuits keep you nice and toasty.  While taking in the view we floated around for a bit chatting and then raced each other back, Daisuke won, and I was very happy to take a losers swim, it was actually warmer in the water than out and a great way to finish my first SUP experience. 2 hours had passed and we took some final fun group photos, dried off and were ready to head home.


Final Reflections 

I knew I would enjoy SUP, but being a bit of an adrenaline junkie, I was genuinely surprised just how much I enjoyed it. Even after living in Nikko all these years I got to experience a serene and incredible new perspective of Lake Chuzenji and Mt. Nantai.  I may be getting a little imaginative but there was something very pure and beautiful about paddling out over the 163m (535 ft) deep blue water, I felt like I had stepped into the realm of our ancestors, I was reminded of bark canoes like the ones of old, back in Australia which resemble paddling boards more than canoes. 

I definitely recommend taking a SUP tour with SUP! SUP! to any visitor to Nikko. There are many plans, I took this beginner tour you will get to have fun introduction to SUP together with other people so you can enjoy SUP to the fullest. 


SUP! SUP! Nikko also rents out boards and equipment for beginner intermediate and advanced users, but this service is only offered to those who have participated in a SUP! SUP! tour at least once, this is so people can become familiarised with the lake and conditions, journeys need to be planned also taking wind into consideration, as a strong wind and a weak paddler will leave you stranded out on a pretty huge expanse of water. That said, rental is a fantastic option for those who are staying in Nikko a couple of days and want to explore Chuzenji lake with its impressive 25km shoreline, and all its beauty and secluded beaches.


Daisuke the owner is a great bloke, not only does he have excellent English, he is also fluent in Mandarin, and has French and English speaking staff. 

Even after living in Nikko all these years I got to experience a serene and incredible new perspective of Lake Chuzenji and Mt. Nantai.

Need To Know

Who can do it?

Anyone, from kids to seniors, the only requirement is to be able to stand and balance or to kneel.

When is the best time to SUP?

SUP! SUP! offers tours throughout the year, each season offers its own unique beauty. 

Spring – May

Shinryoku season, when Nikko becomes an incredible patchwork of different shades of fresh green leaves, or if you are just before Shinryoku you may catch the Yamazakura, mountain cherry blossoms.

Summer June, July, August, and early September

Enjoy the summer heat and play in the cool refreshing water, July and August are the hottest. 


Catch the incredible red leaves that Nikko is so famous for.

Winter – December, January, February

For the brave, get out with double wetsuit head to toe, and explore an incredible winter landscape with snow capped mountains and ice formations around the lake.

Price and how to book?

The tour I did cost ¥7000 for about 2 hours of guided SUP all equipment included. Keep in mind SUP! SUP! is by booking only, you can see all the tours available and book here

How to get there?

If you are not driving then you will need to take the bus. 

Tobu bus runs services throughout Nikko, you will need to get off at bus stop 34 for the boathouse, you can find the timetables here

Or in Google maps just search Chuzenji Lakeside Boathouse.

Here is the Google map directions from Nikko Station 

What do I need to bring?

Bring some swimmers, for under your wetsuit, spare underpants, a towel, some snacks and water. 

If you plan to take your phone on the lake for photos be careful! The lake is deep and you will not be getting it back if you drop it. SUP! SUP! provides water proof cases you can hang on your neck, but it won’t help you when you take it out. I strongly recommend buying a float or some kind of lanyard. Also if you use a go pro, you will need a hands free mount, don’t use a chest mount like I did, your paddle will be in the way all the time and it’s hard to capture your surroundings, next time I will use a head mount for sure. 

Where to eat? 

The only option close by is Yukon across the road from the boathouse, it’s tasty and in a convenient location. Otherwise bring some bites, or eat back in the Chuzenji township where you will find a lot of restaurants. 

Useful Links

SUP! SUP! Home page

Tobu Bus 

Bus Timetable 

Chuzenji Lakeside Boat House

Yukon Restaurant