Swimming the Tsugaru Channel: Nakajima's Impact and Inspirations into Open Water Swimming

Swimming the Tsugaru Channel: Nakajima’s Impact and Inspirations into Open Water Swimming

泳道一如” (Swim Path Ichiyo): To master the path of swimming, one must communicate with the water and understand the heart of water.” In that state where a harmonious unity of person and water is achieved, could it be that “Swim Path Ichiyo” (Swim Path One Mind) is born?Nakajima

Though most likely a stage swim (1), Nakajima’s experience in the Tsugaru Channel may be helpful to future swimmers. Also, it is of interest that in 1980, Nakajima established the “Japan Long-Distance Swimming Federation.” Haruyuki Ishii was influenced by Nakajima’s ideology and philosophy as well. It is not only an informative narrative for swimmers attempting the Tsugaru Strait but also a very inspiring story of the deeper spirit of open water swimming. A worthy read.

Kokushikan University Historical Research Bulletin 2017, by Kaede Uta

Masakazu Nakajima

Title: “Swimway” Chapter 117: Tsugaru Strait

The Tsugaru Strait has been known as a treacherous maritime area that, once angered, engulfs everything and is referred to as a demonic current region that hinders people’s movements since ancient times. On the Tsugaru Peninsula, the sight of spray rising to the sky was named “Ryūhisaki” and feared. On the Hokkaido side, people found gods in the turbulent waves, and it was called “Shirakami Cape” with awe.

Now, two numbers related to the Tsugaru Strait are presented side by side: “10 minutes” and “10 hours,” and the common keyword for these seemingly different numbers is the required time for strait crossing.

“10 minutes” refers to the time it takes for the latest Shinkansen to pass through the Tsugaru Strait section of the Seikan Tunnel, covering a distance of 23.3 kilometers. However, since the entire tunnel section of 53.85 kilometers is shared with conventional railway lines, the speed of trains passing through it is restricted to about 140 kilometers per hour. Therefore, the required time to cross the strait is approximately 10 minutes.

On the other hand, “10 hours” refers to the record when marine adventurer Masakazu Nakajima swam across the Tsugaru Strait from Cape Shirakami in Hokkaido to Ryūhisaki in Aomori Prefecture on August 27, 1967 (Showa 42) when he was a third-year student at Kokushikan University. Confronting the treacherous strait head-on, he achieved the world’s first long-distance swimming crossing, leaving an indelible mark of glory. And there, the epic drama of Nakajima, who had dreamed of crossing the strait since childhood, was engraved.

As a child, the sea was Nakajima’s only playmate. The sea in Fukshima Town, Matsumae District, Hokkaido, always gently embraced the boy. Looking far out to sea, he could see the land shape of Ryūhisaki in Aomori Prefecture across the strait, gently and quietly beckoning Nakajima like a reclining mother dragon.

From that town (Fukushima Town – the reference), the mountains of Aomori can be seen across the Tsugaru Strait. Just before the wind changes to “Yamase,” the rows of houses in Ryūhisaki on the opposite shore become clearly visible. For the boy from Hokkaido, that place was an admired “mainland.”

Thus, Nakajima had dreamed of swimming across this strait since his childhood, but the sea, seemingly calm in Fukshima Town, had fierce currents hidden beneath its surface, as local fishermen had warned him. They said, “The sea surface may seem calm, but beneath it, the currents are raging. So, you shouldn’t swim out to the striped area you see offshore. Especially in the black-striped area, a fearsome dragon lurks.”

Indeed, the nearby Cape Shirakami, located just a few tens of kilometers away, displayed a completely different character from the familiar sea. The sea surface, stirred by fierce northwest winds blowing from the Japan Sea, bared its white fangs, intimidating the surroundings. Particularly, the people of Matsumae Domain during the Edo period were well aware of the fearsomeness of this sea.

On March 26, 2016, the “Torchlighting Festival” was held in Fukushima Town, Hokkaido, and Gonohe Town, Aomori Prefecture, to commemorate the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. This event originated from the Edo period when a torch was used as a signal when the lord of Matsumae Domain crossed the Tsugaru Strait during his official journey. After the ship carrying the lord safely crossed the strait, a torch was lit to inform Matsumae, and both sides celebrated the safe passage of their sovereign.

For the people of that time, crossing the Tsugaru Strait by sailing ship was a dangerous and arduous task. This was because there were only a few days in a year when crossing was possible, due to the fierce easterly winds blowing in from the Japan Sea, which served as favorable tailwinds. Even when attempting the crossing, the sailing ships were at the mercy of the literal winds, with no set destination. Due to the complex currents, some ships attempting to cross to the mainland would fail and end up returning to places like Ezo (Hokkaido) or the Kameda Peninsula. Similarly, on the Tsugaru Peninsula side, if a ship could drift to somewhere in Hokkaido, they were considered lucky, but others who failed in their crossing attempts might end up back in the Tohoku region, or, if unlucky, even drifting to the Pacific side. Consequently, the northernmost port of Minae (Makumaya) on the peninsula was bustling with travelers waiting for favorable winds.

In the end, even on smooth and uneventful journeys, the time required for the daimyo’s official journey (sankin kotai) between Matsumae and Edo was nearly 30 days. During stormy weather or periods of heavy spring rainfall, the journey could take over 40 days. Some records show that sailors had to wait for two weeks for favorable winds to finally set sail across the Tsugaru Strait. Over the years, this passage became a place where numerous struggles between “human” and “nature” were witnessed.

  1. Boyhood Dreams

Nakajima was born and raised in Fukshima Town, Matsumae District, Hokkaido. If you are familiar with sumo, you may recognize this name as it is the hometown of some famous sumo wrestlers, including the 41st Yokozuna Chiyonoyama Masanobu and the 58th Yokozuna Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, both prominent figures during the Showa era.

As Nakajima recalls, “When I was in elementary school, Chiyonoyama was at the height of his career, and for a boy growing up in a rural town in Hokkaido with few amusements and entertainments, Chiyonoyama was a great and admirable figure.”

During his middle and high school years, Nakajima was part of the sumo club and seriously considered becoming a sumo wrestler. However, due to his small physique, he had to give up the path of professional sumo. He could only watch as his classmate Okabe Shigeo (Chiyonoumi) joined the Dewanoumi stable.

On the other hand, Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, who had exceptional athletic ability from his middle school days, excelled in track and field events such as high jump and triple jump. He was so impressive that people said he could have become an Olympic athlete. Nakajima reflects on those times as follows:

During the summer vacation after entering the university, Nakajima visited his junior high school’s sumo club pretending to be a senior, and there he met the present-day Chiyonofuji, named Akimoto. The difference in physical strength and techniques between a junior high school student and a university student was too vast, and Nakajima was literally thrown down. However, Chiyonofuji was a bit different; he didn’t fall easily, and his legs and hips were flexible and resilient.

In contrast to Nakajima, who had to give up being a sumo wrestler due to his physical limitations, Chiyonofuji, who had both the talent and the physique, disliked sumo. Ironically, he ended up joining the Dewanoumi stable, the same stable as the local Yokozuna Chiyonoyama.

The two met again after a few years when Nakajima visited the Dewanoumi stable in Asakusa to see his classmates. Seeing Chiyonofuji training there surprised Nakajima.

“Did you come here?”


This was the only exchange of words between the two at that time.

Looking at it again in this way, it is quite extraordinary that the same town gave rise to two generations of unprecedented Yokozuna, and also produced a rare sea adventurer like Nakajima. Fukshima Town, with a population of 4,227 people as of August 2017, had a distinctiveness that could be felt. It seemed that this town possessed a unique spirit and character.

In the commemorative book “Definite Footprints” of Fukshima Junior High School, Nakajima contributed a passage that hinted at the spirit and tradition of the “Fukuchu soul”:

“It is not enough to advance in things simply by ‘perseverance’; the spirit of unyielding challenges that goes beyond and surpasses that is what enables us to achieve great things—the tradition of the ‘Fukuchu soul’ that we have acquired.”

Through such words, Nakajima indirectly conveyed the spirituality connected to the region and the character of the people of Fukshima.

With these dreams since his childhood, Nakajima went to Tokyo and enrolled at Kokushikan University. Initially, he didn’t join the swimming club, but instead became a member of the wrestling club. He might have been influenced by Great Oshika, a professional wrestler three years older than him who also hailed from Hokkaido and had once trained under Chiyonoyama. However, because of his childhood dream, Nakajima soon changed his course and pursued swimming.

I made up my mind to challenge this strait during my first year at Kokushikan University. Looking back now, it is undeniable that the founding spirit of Kokushikan University and the weekly speeches by the university president deeply resonated in the depths of my heart.

From that moment, I began investigating the Tsugaru Strait. I obtained survey data on the Seikan Tunnel construction from my mentor and found that the strongest tidal current reaches a speed of eight to nine knots. Though the data I gathered over three years was far from sufficient, I finally decided to carry out the challenge in August of my third year at university.

For Nakajima, it was the moment his dream turned into a goal.

Three – The Challenge

On August 27, 1967 (Showa 42), I finally embarked on the crossing of the Tsugaru Strait. It all began at 7 a.m. from the rocky coastline about one kilometer west of the Cape Shirakami Lighthouse in Fukaura, Matsumae District, Hokkaido. The conditions were fairly good, with a southeast wind blowing at two meters per second, air temperature at 24 degrees Celsius, and water temperature at 21 degrees Celsius.

Swimming towards the middle of the strait, I faced head-on the challenging journey across one of the most treacherous stretches of water in Japan.

I had been progressing steadily with my strokes, but after about five hours, the sea had prepared a rougher welcome than I had imagined. I found myself obstructed by the strong Kuroshio Current flowing at a speed of 10 kilometers per hour, which the local fishermen called “Daishio.” I had heard about it, but it was like a raging torrent.

When I entered the striped currents, I was swiftly swept towards the central part of the bay. It was a sea I had spent twenty years playing in, like a close relative, but at this moment, it pushed me away with stern determination, like a strict father. It should be noted that the term “Chishima Current” mentioned in Nakajima’s writing is a mistake; it should be “Tsugaru Current.”

The Tsushima Current, coming from the Japan Sea, splits its flow into two directions near the western mouth of the Tsugaru Strait. One part continues northward, while the majority becomes the Tsugaru Current, changing direction to flow eastward into the Tsugaru Strait. This strong flow collides at the entrance of the strait, causing the sea level on the Japan Sea side to be slightly higher than that on the Pacific Ocean side. This leads to water flowing towards the Pacific side due to the inclination, known as the slope current. The normal flow speed is one to three knots, with the flow being relatively stronger in summer than in winter (one knot is approximately 1.8 kilometers per hour). However, this current can significantly vary depending on the time due to tidal fluctuations.

The tides of the Pacific Ocean, with large tidal differences, and the tides of the Japan Sea, with smaller tidal differences, greatly influence the Tsugaru Current. Particularly, the complex flow of tides is further compounded by the strait being surrounded by four peninsulas. On the east side, there is the Oshika Peninsula on the Honshu side and the Kamikada Peninsula on the Hokkaido side, while on the west side of the Japan Sea, the Tsugaru Peninsula faces the Matsumae Peninsula. This enclosed bay-like topography causes the ocean currents to reverse westward due to tidal changes and meteorological conditions. This is the phenomenon that prevented me from making further progress in the middle of the strait.

When the Tsugaru Current clashed fiercely with the Tsushima Current, the tide began to form large whirlpools. Such complex movements have long hindered ship navigation, leading to difficult voyages and shipwrecks.

Furthermore, another factor obstructing Nakajima’s crossing of the Tsugaru Strait was the presence of the cold Liman Current, which flows southward through the Japan Sea. This is the temperature difference between the warm Tsushima Current flowing northward into the Japan Sea and the cold Liman Current flowing southward along the Eurasian continent. Normally, water reaches its maximum density at four degrees Celsius. Therefore, when a warm current collides with a cold current, the colder water tends to sink downwards. However, in the case of the Tsugaru Strait, the remnants of when the land was connected in the past played an unexpected prank on adventurers. When looking at the seabed map of the Tsugaru Strait, the area between the Tsugaru Peninsula and the Matsumae Peninsula forms a small, high ridge resembling a horse’s back. This area was once land during the Ice Age, and one can also observe underwater “pot holes” where water rapidly flowed over the ridge in the central part of the strait. In other words, the two contrasting currents collided with this ridge, creating turbulence as they poured into the strait.

Modern-day people have connected this small, elevated ridge by the Seikan Tunnel. The Seikan Tunnel has reconnected the Tsugaru Peninsula and the Matsumae Peninsula after approximately 13,000 years of separation.

In the Tsugaru Strait, several tidal boundaries can be observed, but most of them are submerged due to the Seikan Tunnel’s connection. The Tsugaru Current and the Liman Current no longer clash with their full force, but the challenges and intricacies of this strait remain as part of the ocean’s eternal journey.”

The tidal boundary between the warm and cold currents is formed due to their different velocities. The cold current creates a striped pattern on the sea surface and attacks the swimmer. In addition to contending with the swift current, this tidal boundary mercilessly robs Nakajima of his body heat. According to Nakajima, he said, ‘Even though it was summer, the northern sea was cold, and the water temperature was low. After about two hours, my body started to chill. After swimming for about three hours, fatigue struck.’ Furthermore, Nakajima stated the following:

‘I kept swimming, but instead of moving forward, I was being carried away. I absolutely had to swim across this current. However, the intended destination was getting farther and farther away. At last, the support team on the accompanying boat became concerned and decided to pull me back to the spot where I was swept away.’

He was carried away three times and had to be pulled back to his intended course by fishing boats. Regarding these incidents, Nakajima shared the following thoughts:

‘There was insufficient research on how to cope with the rapid current, and I made mistakes. There were various aspects that made me reflect deeply, such as the occurrence of turbulence and my inadequate study of the relationship between endurance swimming time and energy.’

The battle with water temperature was also fierce. Extreme weakness due to the decrease in body temperature and fatigue almost led to several failures along the way, but Nakajima never made a sound. He endured it with the true spirit of Fukushima, which he had cultivated since childhood. The word that became his spiritual pillar was “泳道” (Swim Path). Nakajima referred to himself as a “泳士” (Swimmer). He loved the phrase “武士道に通じる” (comparable to the Bushido spirit).

“泳道” (Swim Path): Just as there is Ikebana (flower arranging) for flowers and Sadō (tea ceremony) for tea, I believe there should be a “Swim Path” for swimming. A path is formed by continuing. Through the process of overcoming the difficulties and hardships of persistence, we learn many things. That is the “path” of swimming.

“泳道一如” (Swim Path Ichiyo): To master the path of swimming, one must communicate with the water and understand the heart of water.”

In that state where a harmonious unity of person and water is achieved, could it be that “Swim Path Ichiyo” (Swim Path One Mind) is born?

Now, the path Nakajima aims for is right before him, in the current Tsugaru Strait. Returning to the original starting point, he faced the battle against the strong current once more. He didn’t know how many hours had passed. Suddenly, he felt his body becoming lighter. He had successfully swum through the strong current. Sorrow turned into hope. Summoning his last strength, Nakajima reached the goal at the Sanmaibashi Port in Ryūbi Cape as the evening approached.

In the end, despite resetting the course with the help of the accompanying boat three times, Nakajima arrived at Ryūbi Cape in Outaka-gahama, Higashitsugaru District, Aomori Prefecture, at 5:20 PM on the same day, 10 hours and 20 minutes after he started swimming. He had achieved Japan’s first historic feat. Note that in Table 1 (refer to page 127), Nakajima records the required time for the Tsugaru Strait crossing as seven hours, but this likely doesn’t include the time spent on course resets. Additionally, while he recalls “Sanmaibashi Port,” it is more precisely “Ryūbi Fishing Port.” Nakajima continues to reflect on his accomplishment:

‘The harmony between person and water creates “Swim Path Ichiyo.” I wonder if such a state exists.’

“In the port, many local people warmly welcomed Nakajima, praising him as the brave person who swam all the way from Cape Shiragami in Hokkaido. They celebrated him enthusiastically. Nakajima said, ‘The locals called me a great guy for swimming from Hokkaido’s Cape Shiragami and gave me a warm welcome, almost mobbing me.’ (1).

IV. Ocean Adventurer Afterward, Nakajima, who became Japan’s first ocean adventurer, took the first step towards popularizing and organizing ocean swimming as a form of physical education in society. On May 6, 1971, he established the “Youenaris Sports Club” and held the first swimming class at the Bunkyo Ward General Gymnasium Indoor Pool. The first session had only five women and a journalist, Mr. Tetsu Kato, from the Daily Sports newspaper. However, after being featured in the Daily Sports newspaper on May 11, the club’s membership quickly surpassed 100. Elementary school students also started joining, and the club began to thrive. By the way, the club’s name “Youenaris” is derived from the Roman poet Juvenal’s “Satires,” which means “a sound mind in a sound body.” Juvenal advocated harmonious human development through sports, and Nakajima arranged the name in a Japanese style for the sports club (1).

Thus, Youenaris started with the slogan “Learn to swim and venture into the magnificent sea.” Of course, Nakajima himself continued to explore his own possibilities and attempted solo long-distance swims one after another. After completing swims across the world’s straits, Nakajima said:

“Strait crossing. It may seem like merely swimming across the sea, a simple repetition of movements. However, it requires a wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills. I believe that the more experiences a person has in life, the happier they will be. I feel fortunate not only for experiencing the strait crossings but also for the encounters with many people through swimming. Although language and customs may differ, the joy of helping and encouraging each other toward a common goal, sharing emotions, is irreplaceable. As long as that joy exists, I believe that my energy for new challenges will never run out.” (1).

Thus, on July 11, 1976, Nakajima’s next idea formed the basis for a new challenge.” (1).

“Kokushikan Journal of Historical Research 2017 128

In 1980, Nakajima established the “Japan Long-Distance Swimming Federation.” Recognizing the sea as an essential element of human life that plays a significant role, he also acknowledged the tragic maritime accidents that claim thousands of precious lives each year. With the primary goal of preserving valuable lives, Nakajima envisioned a federation that would promote the correct knowledge of nature and proper swimming in live waters, aiming to create an organization that “everyone can participate in and everyone will love.” After a preparatory period of about ten years, the “Japan Long-Distance Swimming Federation” was officially launched.

The federation’s leadership included Senator Mitsu Noriaki Ueki as President, Fumitada Akasaka, the Chairman of the Foundation Shu Kodan, as Vice President, and Nakajima himself as Chairman. As part of the federation’s commitment to the practical implementation of “correct knowledge of nature” and “proper swimming in live waters,” Nakajima devised plans for long-distance swimming relays involving elementary and junior high school students and women. Through the guidance and escort of these “escort relays,” he also dedicated himself to the nurturing of younger generations.

As Nakajima’s reputation as a maritime adventurer continued to rise, his activities gained widespread support, even from children and women. However, within Nakajima himself, there was a gradual change in how he viewed swimming. The turning point was his attempt to cross the Magellan Strait by diving in January 1980. Nakajima explains that his interest in exploring the underwater world grew, and he chose to attempt the crossing with a scuba tank on his back, not because he was tired of surface swimming, but because he couldn’t shake off his curiosity about the underwater realm.

After a grueling struggle lasting one hour and thirty-five minutes, Nakajima successfully completed the crossing. Despite subsequent attempts, such as the 23-hour 20-minute Pacific Marathon Swim, it became evident that age and physical limitations played a role, leading to a decline in his long-distance swimming endeavors.

Nakajima reflects, “Long-distance swimming is indeed a challenging sport. It teaches us that the world is harsh and sometimes unforgiving, and in return, it bestows upon us the gift of profound experiences and discoveries.” Despite the decrease in his long-distance swimming pursuits, Nakajima’s love for the ocean and the passion to explore its depths remained undiminished.”

It is difficult to find another sport with such challenging conditions. Compared to marathon running on land, it requires much longer time, and the surroundings hardly change, with no audience other than the staff on the boat. In this sport, one must repeat the same movements relentlessly. It is truly a battle with oneself.

Amidst this change in mindset, Nakajima encountered windsurfing, also known as wind-surfing. With his exceptional athleticism, he quickly grasped the techniques and swiftly raced the board with sails filled by the wind.

Thus, Nakajima began not only to venture into long-distance swimming but also embraced cycling and windsurfing challenges. However, these new endeavors would bring about unexpected outcomes, literally making his thoughts “go with the wind.”

Legacy for Future Generations

On February 19, 1991, an unexpected news report reached our ears. An article in the society section of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on the same date informed that on February 18, at around 1:10 pm, the “Mentosu-go,” a windsurfing boat Nakajima and Yohida Kanya planned to sail approximately 700 kilometers from Okinawa to Taiwan in ten days without accompanying support vessels, was found at the beach of Hiyadetei, Nakari Village, northeastern coast of Kumejima Island, Okinawa. However, the two were not found nearby.

Subsequently, there has been no positive news related to Nakajima to this day. However, Nakajima’s spirit, believed to have gone with the wind, was firmly caught by his successors and continues to this day.

Ten years after Nakajima’s challenge in the Dover Strait, on July 31, 1982, Ms. Eiko Onuki attempted to swim across the same strait. She departed from Folkestone, UK, and arrived at Cape Gris-Nez in southwestern Calais, France, setting a certified record of nine hours and thirty-two minutes, the first Japanese to do so.

On August 6, 1994, Chieko Osako achieved the first successful swim by a woman across the Tsugaru Strait. She was originally a piano teacher and a latecomer to swimming, starting her swimming lessons at the age of 27. Nonetheless, she made remarkable progress, becoming a certified second-class swimming instructor of the Japan Swimming Federation at 30, first-class instructor at 34, B-class swimming instructor of the Japan Sports Association at 40, and A-class instructor at 49.

Furthermore, Haruyuki Ishii is a person who cannot be overlooked as someone who carries on Nakajima’s spirit. He himself was influenced by Nakajima’s ideology and philosophy and, in August 1991, challenged the swim across the Dover Strait. Subsequently, he established the “Toraizon Swimming Club” and the “Channel Crossing Swimming Execution Committee,” taking on the role of chairman to pave the way for future generations.

The swimming of fish, in itself, does not carry significant meaning and is quite natural. However, human swimming must bring about positive impacts in various aspects. This is where I believe the difference lies between human and fish swimming. [Omitted]

Swimming, as a means of preserving life, and swimming as a way to cultivate one’s physical and mental faculties are both important aspects of this sport. Nakajima, through his long and challenging journey as an ocean adventurer, showed us that swimming transcends mere competition, serving as a powerful means to enrich our lives. This philosophy and legacy continue to inspire and resonate with individuals who dare to embrace the vastness of the sea and challenge their limits.

Swimming, as a means of fostering harmonious and healthy human development, continues to embody the philosophy of Yuvenalis S.C., and we firmly believe in the value of the presence of instructors.

Nakajima’s dream, which began by swimming across the straits of his hometown, eventually led him to travel the world in search of a comprehensive philosophy that embraces the sea. Now, in the hearts of many, his legacy has become a deep cobalt blue hue. Nakajima was a great pioneer who taught us about the gentleness of the sea, the power of dreams, and the boundless possibilities.

As a local fellow who has closely witnessed Nakajima as a great hero of the homeland, Satoru Yato, former executive of the Fukushima Town Council, proudly asserted, “Masakazu Nakajima is still our hero.”


  1. Masakazu Nakajima, “Temptation to Long Distance” (Atsuo Kojima, ed., “Ocean – Living, Learning, Exploring,” Otsuki Shoten, 1987, p. 171).
  2. Editorial Office of the History of Matsumae Town, “Comprehensive History of Matsumae Town, Vol. 1, Part 2” (Matsumae Town, 1988, pp. 420-452).
  3. Masakazu Nakajima, “Betting on the Infinite Potential of Children – Reflecting on 15 Years Since the Club’s Founding” (“Sea Marathon: Yuvenalis S.C. 15th Anniversary Memorial,” Yuvenalis S.C., 1986, p. 1).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Masakazu Nakajima, “Spirit of Fukuchu” (“Definite Footprints: Celebration of the Completion of the Fukuchu Junior High School Building,” Fukuchu Junior High School Building Completion Celebration Sponsorship Committee, 1986, p. 12).
  6. “Meiji Festival Commemoration” – “Japan’s Greatest Senior” Gives a Lecture (“Kokushikan University Newspaper,” Issue 113, Kokushikan University Publishing Department, November 1971, p. 3).
  7. Masakazu Nakajima, “My Super Adventure Life” (“Chishiki,” Issue 44, Art Production Noah, Chishiki Publishing Department, August 1985, p. 197).
  8. Ibid., p. 197.
  9. Ibid., p. 197.
  10. “Swimming the Perilous Tsugaru Strait: Our University’s Physical Education Department Nakajima Takes the Challenge” (“Kokushikan University Newspaper,” Issue 67, Kokushikan University Publishing Department, September 1967, p. 3).
  11. “Ten Years of Progress at Yuvenalis Sports Club” (“Masakazu Nakajima and Yuvenalis S.C.’s Ten Years,” Yuvenalis Sports Club, 1982, p. 50).


“Swimming Path of Unity” (as cited in “Masakazu Nakajima and Yuvenalis S.C.’s Ten Years,” p. 2).
Ibid., p. 197.
Masakazu Nakajima, “Reflecting on the Club’s 10th Anniversary” (as cited in “Masakazu Nakajima and Yuvenalis S.C.’s Ten Years,” p. 19).
Ibid., pp. 179-180.
“Swimming the Perilous Tsugaru Strait: Our University’s Physical Education Department Nakajima Takes the Challenge” (as cited in “Kokushikan University Newspaper,” Issue 67, p. 58).
Masakazu Nakajima, “Temptation to Long Distance” (as cited in “Ocean – Living, Learning, Exploring,” p. 176).
Ibid., p. 177.
“Nakajima’s Unmanned Board Drifts: Adventure Voyage of Sailing from Okinawa to Taiwan Likely to End in Distress” (“Yomiuri Shimbun,” Tokyo Morning Edition, February 19, 1991, p. 31).
Masakazu Nakajima, “Betting on the Infinite Potential of Children – Reflecting on 15 Years Since the Club’s Founding” (as cited in “Sea Marathon: Yuvenalis S.C. 15th Anniversary Memorial,” p. 1).

Table 1: Nakajima’s Solo Long-Distance Swim Challenges History

YearDateChallengeLocationDistance (km)DurationRecord
19678/27Crossing of Tsugaru StraitHokkaido, Fukushima Town, Cape Shiragami ~ Aomori Prefecture, Mihama Village207 hoursFirst in Japan
19698/17Izu-Ōshima CrossingIzu, Shimoda ~ Ōshima428 hours 10 minutes
19708/8English Channel CrossingFrance, Calais, Cap Gris-Nez ~ England, Folkstone, Shakespeare Beach3410 hours 40 minutesFirst for a Japanese person
19713/31Palk Strait CrossingSri Lanka, Thalaimannar ~ India, Dhanushkodi3511 hours 35 minutesWorld record
19727/31Korea Strait CrossingNagasaki Prefecture, Kamitsu Town, Tsushima ~ South Korea, Nam-son Island5817 hours 20 minutes
19738/23Naruto Strait CrossingTokushima Prefecture, Naruto City, Ōge Island ~ Hyogo Prefecture, Awaji Island1.3728 minutesJapanese record
11/6Hatsushima to Atami Diving CrossingHatsushima (Shizuoka Prefecture) ~ Atami126 hours 3 minutesFirst in Japan
19746/7Malacca Strait CrossingIndonesia, Rupat Island ~ Malaysia, Port Dickson4821 hours 50 minutesWorld’s first
7/5Gibraltar Strait Diving CrossingSpain, Tarifa ~ Spain, Ceuta (North Africa)2711 hours 19 minutesFirst for a Japanese person
19776/7Messina Strait CrossingItaly, Reggio Calabria ~ Sicily, Messina4.559 minutes 30 secondsFirst for a Japanese person
197912/14Hatsushima to Atami Diving CrossingHatsushima (Shizuoka Prefecture) ~ Atami125 hours 36 minutes
19801/1Magellan Strait Diving CrossingChile, Punta Arenas ~ Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego4.51 hour 35 minutesWorld’s first
19819/17Pacific Marathon SwimmingShizuoka Prefecture, Susaki, Minami Izu ~ Chiba Prefecture, Tateyama, Kitahama Beach10023 hours 20 minutes

Table 2: Nakajima’s Escort Relay Swim Challenges History

YearDateChallengeLocationDistance (km)DurationRecord
19728/17Sado Strait Elementary School Escort RelayNiigata Prefecture, Sado District, Hatano Town, Matsugasaki ~ Niigata Prefecture, Nishi-Kanbara District, Echizen Beach3817 hours 58 minutes
19738/9Irako Strait Elementary School Escort RelayMie Prefecture, Toba City, Sugashima ~ Aichi Prefecture, Atsumi District, Irako Cape156 hours 18 minutesFirst in Japan
19758/15Okinawa Ocean Expo Commemorative Elementary and Junior High School Escort RelayTokashiki Island ~ Okinawa Main Island, Ocean Expo Venue (Motobu Town)10027 hours 15 minutesFirst in Japan
197611/2Hatsushima to Atami Mama-san Escort RelayHatsushima (Shizuoka Prefecture) ~ Atami124 hours 12 minutes
19783/31Malacca Strait Elementary and Junior High School Escort RelayIndonesia, Rupat Island ~ Malaysia, Port Dickson4817 hours 5 minutesWorld’s first
19798/15Toyohama Strait Elementary and Junior High School Escort RelayOita Prefecture, Saga District ~ Ehime Prefecture, Misaki Town3012 hours 30 minutesFirst in Japan
19809/2Tsugaru Strait Elementary and Junior High School Escort RelayAomori Prefecture, Oma Village ~ Hokkaido, Fukushima Town4013 hours 35 minutes
19828/27Dover Strait Escort RelayEngland, Folkstone, Shakespeare Beach ~ France, Calais, Cap Gris-Nez3410 hours 40 minutesFirst in Japan

3 Other Solo Endeavors of Nakajima

YearDateEndeavorLocationDistance (km)TimeRecord
19837/2Izu Shichijima to Yokosuka Board SailingIzu Shichijima to Yokosuka11012 hours 45 minutesJapanese first
19845/12Guam to Japan Board SailingGuam, Agana Bay to Kamakura, Yuigahama270041 daysWorld first
1985AprilKorea to Japan Board SailingBusan to Fukuoka20020 hours 40 minutesWorld first

Based on Table 201 from ‘My Super Adventure Life’ by Masakazu Nakajima (published by Art Production Noah ‘Knowledge,’ August 1985, page 201).


1 .’I kept swimming, but instead of moving forward, I was being carried away. I absolutely had to swim across this current. However, the intended destination was getting farther and farther away. At last, the support team on the accompanying boat became concerned and decided to pull me back to the spot where I was swept away.’ He was carried away three times and had to be pulled back to his intended course by fishing boats. Regarding these incidents, Nakajima shared the following thoughts: ‘There was insufficient research on how to cope with the rapid current, and I made mistakes. There were various aspects that made me reflect deeply, such as the occurrence of turbulence and my inadequate study of the relationship between endurance swimming time and energy.’

Note: A Japanese Wikipedia editor seemed to link an entire sentence (uncommon) to he was pulled up which links to an article on “fishing boats” so there may be some some error in the Japanese Wikipedia. This sentence is both in the Wikipedia page for Nakajima and the page for Tsugaru.


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