Tsugaru Channel Crossings - Channel Aspirant Information

Tsugaru Channel Crossings – Channel Aspirant Information

Photos of Adrian Sarchet of Guernsey crossing the Tsugaru Channel, courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi, Tokyo, Japan.

Ocean Navi of Tokyo, Japan and the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association work with the Japanese Coast Guard and the local fishermen’s unions in Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido to offer a safe, enjoyable experience in solo and relay crossings of the Tsugaru Channel.


The Tsugaru Channel or Tsugaru Strait (津軽海峡 in Japanese) is a channel between the Honshu, the main island of Japan, and Hokkaido in northern Japan connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean.

Oceans Seven

A crossing of the Tsugaru Channel is one of the swims in the Oceans Seven.

Most swimmers attempt to swim the 19.5 km body of water between Kodomori Cape or Tappi Misaki on the Tsugaru Peninsula in Aomori, Honshū and Shirakami Misaki on the Matsumae Peninsula in Hokkaidō.

The Tsugaru Current passes from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean, and winds, turbulence and waves can be very high in this area along with marine life including a variety of sharks including Great White Sharks.

Japan’s territorial waters extend to three nautical miles (5.6 km) into the channel instead of the usual twelve, reportedly to allow nuclear-armed United States Navy warships and submarines to transit the strait without violating Japan’s prohibition against nuclear weapons in its territory.

Swim Preparation

Ocean Navi and the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association understand channel aspirants may have questions about the crossing and how best to prepared before entering the water, during the crossing and afterwards.

Day before the Crossing

1. There are no shops near the Tappi Misaki fishing port. Swimmers and their crew will need to buy food and drinks well outside of the Tappi area on the route between Aomori City and Tappi Misaki. The closest supermarket is about 41 km or a 45-minute drive by car from Tappi, and is called the Maeda store Kanita.

2. Next door to the supermarket, there is a homeware store called Nicot where swimmers can buy a wide variety of miscellaneous items including cushions, mats, large plastic crates, boxes, wet weather gear, hardware and other equipment. However, please keep in mind this is a very rural area and so the store will not have everything you might need or want to have for your challenge.

3. There are also two Circle K convenience stores on the road to Tappi Misaki which are closer than the supermarket. These are typical Japanese convenience stores which have basic prepared food, snacks and drinks (including beer), mostly Japanese style, but also a limited selection of sandwiches. The closest convenience store is about 12 km or a 15-minute drive from Tappi Misaki.

4. The other Circle K convenience store is about 17 km from Tappi Misaki, a further 10-minute drive away at the Imabetsu intersection where there are 2 petrol/gas stations. There is also another Nicot homeware store located next door.

5. If swimmers would like to train in the sea to acclimatize to the conditions and water temperature, they are free to swim in most locations along the Japanese coast. The first location is on the east side of Tappi Misaki on the route from Aomori City to Tokyo. It is near the closer (to Tappi) Circle K convenience store. The second location is on the Kodomari side of Tappi, not far from the swim start.

6. Swimmers will meet with the escort boat Captain Mizushima* in front of the Dainana Koyomaru, his boat that will accompany the swimmers which will be moored at Tappi Misaki fishing port. Everyone will coordinate the start time, will discuss the swim, and ask/answer any questions. Ocean Navi will contact the swimmers to coordinate the time of the meeting, but Ocean Navi will also be in touch by email or telephone the previous day when we arrive in the Tappi area. Please confirm the meeting time and location in advance.

7. The final decision on whether or not the swim will be conducted will be made by the captain who coordinates with the Japanese Coast Guard and the fishermen’s unions. The swim will only take place on the designated day or the designated alternate date and will not be held on another date for any reason. This is the strict rule of the Association in coordination with the Japanese Coast Guard.

8. Photos or videos may be taken during the meeting with the captain.

9. The observer will check the lights to be used during night swimming. If the equipment is not appropriate, the swimmer must use the ones prepared by Ocean Navi.

Escort Boat

1. The escort boat will be docked at the Tappi Misaki fishing port.
2. This ship has a simple toilet where the outflow goes into the sea.
3. There is no bench or chairs to sit on in the boat. The swimmers and support crew will have to sit on the deck.

Ocean Navi recommends the swimmers and their crew bring a rug, cushion, mat or something soft to sit on. Chairs are not recommended as they are not stable in turbulent waters and may damage the deck or fall into the sea.
4. There is no main electricity or plug, so it is not possible to charge anything or boil water during the crossing. Please bring warm drinks in thermos bottles or other appropriate containers.
5. There is no roof or sunshade on the boat.
6. Be prepared to wear a life vest. All crew and passengers must wear the life vests which are available on the boat according to Japanese Coast Guard regulations.
7. There will be a ladder fixed to the side of the boat to make the swimmer’s climb in and out of the water easier.
8. There will be a colored swim streamer about 5 metres long, 40 cm wide and 3 meters deep suspended from a boom on the escort boat. The swimmer can swim alongside the boat, following the swim streamer as desired.
9. Do not put or hang anything on the swimmer’s side of the boat or in a location that will obstruct the captain’s view of the swimmer or the course.
10. Crew members should not obstruct the captain’s view when supporting or instructing the swimmer in the water.
11. Kayakers or pace swimmers are not allowed due to Japanese Coast Guard regulations.

Equipment Provided (free to use)

○ Swim streamer (with marks that guides the swimmer)
○ ladder(for the swimmer to board boat from sea)
○ toilet
○ life vests enough for all staff
○ large warning banner in Japanese in order to notify other marine vessels that a swimmer is in the water and a crossing is in progress
○ two Shark Shields
○ two (total operation time: twelve hours) small wall clocks
○ rescue tube
○ megaphone
○ cooler
○ one large and one small hot water pot
○ 10 liters of fresh water
whiteboard (50 cm × 40 cm) and markers
○ blanket
○ one whistle

* Swimmers will be charged for damage to the boats or any of the above equipment

Day of the Crossing

1. Meeting point is located in front of Dainana Koyo Maru ship, moored at Tappi fishing port.

2. Start time will be decided at the meeting with Captain Mizushima.

3. Meet at the boat dock 30 minutes before the boat departs. Upon the captain’s instruction, carry all the support equipment and personal effects to the escort boat. The captain will indicate where to store everything, usually in the hold.

4. The captain will indicate where to park the swimmer’s car at the port.

5. Crew are advised to take a motion sickness medicine to avoid becoming sea sick before boarding the boat.

6. Prior to departure, the observer will conduct an alcohol test. If the equipment returns a positive indication, the swim will be cancelled.

7. Prior to departure, the swimmer’s blood pressure will be checked. If it is significantly outside the ideal range between 70 and 140, the swimmer’s health condition will be considered insufficient and the swim will be cancelled.

8. While on board, all crew members and passengers must wear life vests at all times.

9. It will take up to 90 minutes, often in the dark, to motor around to the swim starting point from Tappi Misaki. It is recommended to dress warmly.

10. Be careful that none of the swimmer’s equipment or personal effects are blown away en route to the starting point.

11. The observer may take photos or video for documentation purposes.

The Start

1. The starting point of the swim is the shore of Cape Gongenzaki, Kodomari, Nakadomari-machi, Aomori Prefecture.

2. The captain and crew will prepare the boat after arriving at the starting point in Kodomari Bay. While this is happening, the swimmer and support crew should prepare for the swim.

3. Once the captain or observer gives you the signal that the boat is ready to begin the swim, the swimmer should enter the water quickly and swim to the shore of Gongensaki slowly – about 50 meters away. The swimmer will always need to wear a night light on their person/swim cap.

4. When the observer confirms that the swimmer touches the rock and waves to the boat, the observer will signal the start of the swim with an airhorn. If the sea is rough and it is not safe to touch the rock, the signal will be made near the rock without touching it. The boat will stay in the bay, so after starting, the swimmer should swim back directly to the boat. Once the swimmer is near the boat, the journey to Hokkaido will begin.

5. Please swim above the swim streamer alongside the boat to the extent possible without swimming into the boat. It is very dangerous to veer away from the swim streamer because that means you are outside the effective zone of the Shark Shield. Be aware that sometimes the water currents push the streamer under the boat, so if/when this occurs, swim alongside the boat.

6. The escort boat will take the best route possible for the swim. At times, the escort boat will turn in directions that is not aimed at the target point, sometimes in another direction than the goal. This means the captain is reading the wind and current, and is choosing the best course for the swimmer, so please do not be concerned.

7. For relays, the timing of changing swimmers is up to the team. However, if the sea conditions are difficult, the captain may give instructions concerning the swimmer changes.

During the Crossing

1. The Tsugaru Channel is located in international waters. It is not possible to prevent or divert a large ship’s route. Due to oncoming ships or the positioning of fishing nets, the boat (and the swimmer) may occasionally be required to pause or circle around the escort boat at the direction of the captain. Swimmers must follow the instructions of the captain.

2. Swimmers and their crew should collect and remove any garbage from the boat. Do not throw any cups or items in the sea.

3. The swimmer must swim above the swim streamer. If you ignore it and swim far away from the streamer or the boat, it will be regarded as a dangerous act and the observer will issue a warning. If the swimmer repeatedly disobeys, the captain has the authority to stop the swim.

4. Conditions in the sea are always changing, including the weather, tidal currents, waves, winds, water temperature, etc. The captain and observer judge the overall conditions, and if it is too difficult or dangerous to continue making forward progress towards Hokkaido, you must follow the directions of the captain.

5. Even after the swim has started, if the Japanese Meteorological Agency issues a weather warning, the swim will be halted.

6. If sharks or other dangerous marine life appear, the swimmer will be directed to board the boat at once. When safe conditions have been confirmed, the captain will direct you to start again from the same place that will be marked by GPS and noted in the observer notes.

7. The swimmer is generally allowed 14 hours to make the crossing which the captain may extend at his discretion. However, if other problematic circumstances arise before the 14-hours general time period, such as dangerous marine life (e.g., sharks), a swimmer lacking the power to continue, rough sea conditions, etc., the captain and observer will consult with each other and the escort crew and may decide to stop the swim. At or after 14 hours of swimming, the captain and observer may decide whether to continue or not after this consultation.

8. Dangerous and/or annoying behaviour by the escort crew is prohibited on the boat.

9. If the crew messes up the boat, please clean up before getting off at the Tappi Misaki fishing port.

10. Everyone on the boat must wear a life vest.

11. When the swimmers change for the relay, do not jump vertically feet first. This is extremely dangerous since there is a possibility of being drawn under the boat.

12. Do not place any luggage or equipment on the swimmer’s side.

13. Do not interrupt the captain’s view while on the boat.

14. If you experience any physical or mental difficulties during the swim and you think that is affecting your performance, the swimmer should be sensible and withdraw voluntarily.

The Goal

1. The finish is in the area of Fukushima-cho, Hokkaido.

2. The observer may take photos or video for documentation purposes.

3. The finish point will be determined by the captain or observer. When you are close to Hokkaido (the goal), and are several hundred metres from land, the boat will remain offshore while you complete the swim into the coast. The captain will indicate when to begin your swim to the shore.

4. The swimmer should proceed to the shore with care and keep an eye out for any dangerous objects, such as fishing nets. In the situation where it is night time when you reach the goal and/or there are big waves, and the captain cannot see you to confirm your landing on the shore, the final point to complete the swim will be a buoy or fishing net rope next to the shore.

5. When the swimmer lands onshore or touches the rocks, please indicate so by raising your hand and immediately return to the boat. If the swimmer takes any photos of the finish, they should do so as soon as possible and return to the boat. Supporters, crew members and observers can join the swimmer as long as they do not assist or touch the swimmer during the crossing. In the case of relay, all members can finish together.

6. When a swimmer returns to the escort boat, finish preparing the swimmer and their luggage and equipment to return, the boat will head back to Tappi fishing port. It can take up to 2 or so hours to return to Honshu from Hokkaido.

7. Again, please be careful and prevent any equipment or other belongings from falling into the sea or being blown away. The sea can be rough.

8. In the case of a two-way crossing, the swimmer can immediately turn around after finishing the first leg or they can rest for up to 10 minutes onshore as they wish. The two-way swimmer can be accompanied by their escort crew or observer or other supporters onshore as they wish in order to provide food, hydration, skin ointment, towels, new goggles or swim cap or swimwear, or a brief massage and encouragement. The time onshore shall be recorded and the time on the second leg will begin when the swimmer re-enters the water.

Returning to Tappi Misaki Fishing Port

1. Once the boat arrives back at Tappi Misaki fishing port, the swimmer and escort crew should remove all their equipment and belongings as soon as possible.

2. All waste must be taken off the escort boat.

3. Please check that nothing is forgotten on the escort boat.

4. If the escort boat is dirtied, the crew may be requested to clean the boat.

5. The challenge is finished and day is complete once the swimmer and support crew are all back on land at the port.

6. An official certificate from the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and Ocean Navi and marine chart [see chart on left] will be provided to the swimmer.

Captain’s Authority

Captain Mizushima* [or your selected escort pilot] makes all final judgements and decisions about the swim in all circumstances.

For more information, contact Shimasaki Yusuke at H.I.S. Co, Ltd. via email at shimasaki.yusuke@his-world.com or 〒163-6014 東京都新宿区西新宿6-8-1 住友不動産新宿オークタワー14階, TEL: +81-3-6692-9337. Alternatively, contact Masayuki Moriya at Ocean Navi, 株式会社オーシャンナビ 守谷雅之 at www.ocean-navi.com/ or via email at masayukimoriya@ocean-navi.com or 〒252-0303, 相模原市南区相模大野6-20-3-205, TEL: 090-3088-3434, FAX: 042-765-5606 or Steven Munatones at headcoach@openwatersource.com or +1-714-305-7374.

For additional information, visit Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association.


Instructions about Tsugaru Channel Swimming

• The swim begins from the shore of Gongenzaki in the Kodomari area of Nakadomari-machi, Aomori and covers a straight-line distance of around 30 km. The target is the town of Fukushima-cho on Hokkaido.

• Swims are held between late June and the end of September according to a schedule published each year by Ocean Navi and Captain Mizushima.

• Completed swims will be registered as an official result with the international association Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association. Solo and relay swimmers may swim with wetsuits, but only swims that are swum without wetsuits and neoprene caps and are not interrupted by boarding of the escort boat (e.g., due to avoidance of sharks) will be officially ratified as successful unassisted solo crossings that adhere to the spirit of marathon/channel swimming.

• Two boats will provide support on each crossing, one lead boat providing navigation and one main boat providing direct support to the swimmer.

How to Apply

• Registration fee is 600,000 Japanese yen(tax included)per crossing(regardless of number of people) as of the 2017 season [prices may fluctuate depending on the season and pilot].

• Entry fees must be transferred to the specified bank account at least three months prior to the swim date (six months prior beginning in 2017) in order to secure a slot. Please note that the swim will be cancelled if receipt of payment cannot be confirmed by this date.

• All bank transfer-related fees are to be paid by the swimmer.

• There is no discount of entry fees even for returning swimmers who have previously attempted a Tsugaru Channel crossing.

• If the swim is cancelled by organizers or if the swimmer cancels after having arrived in Japan, refunds will be returned in Japanese yen. Entry fees will not be refunded in any of the following circumstances:

• If the swimmer decides to cancel on the day of the swim due to insufficient physical fitness or physical condition.
• If the captain determines after the start of the swim that conditions are too dangerous to allow the swim to continue.
• If the swim is cancelled due to the detection of alcohol in the swimmer during a test performed on the day of the swim by an observer using alcohol-measuring equipment.
• If the swim is cancelled because a blood pressure measurement performed on the swimmer by an observer on race day determines that the swimmer’s values fall significantly outside a range of 70 for the lower value and 140 for the upper value.

Included in Entry Fees

• Pre-swim contact and progress reports to relevant government agencies and related parties.

• All arrangements for providing two support boats: one lead escort boat for navigation and one main escort boat for athlete support.

* Local regulations require the use of two boats to ensure safety. Because the Tsugaru Channel is an international route, there is frequent traffic from large marine vessels. Additionally, long line fishing is performed in the area and fixed nets are in place in various locations on the Hokkaido side. As a result, both a lead navigation boat and main support boat are necessary to safely support the swimmer.

• One observer who will always be present on board.

* The observer’s role is not to perform tasks such as providing nutrition to the swimmer from the ship. It is the swimmer’s responsibility to arrange for support staff to handle tasks such as nutrition and photography.

Cancellation Refund Policy Beginning in 2017

The following refund policy will take effect beginning in 2017:
• within six months prior to swim date: 75% refund (450,000 Japanese yen)
• within three months prior to swim date: 40% refund (240,000 Japanese yen)
• within one month prior to swim date: 25% refund (150,000 Japanese yen)
• within one week prior to swim date: 10% refund (60,000 Japanese yen)
• departure is cancelled due to the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s issuing of warnings for typhoons or other natural disasters: 50% refund (300,000 Japanese yen)
* All bank transfer-related fees are to be paid by the swimmer.

Relay Entries

Due to limitations of boat size, the number of swimmers should not exceed six people for relay entries. It is the swimmers’ responsibility to determine the order and timing of relay exchanges.

Documents to Submit When Entering

1. Complete the application form and agreement document without omission and submit them as attachments to email by no later than three months prior to the swim date (or six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017). Applications will not be accepted after three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017).

2. Applicants must purchase their own accident and injury insurance and submit a copy of their insurance policy documents as an attachment to an email by no later than three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017). Failure to submit these copies by three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017) will result in cancellation of the swimmer’s entry.

3. Health certificates are to be sent by regular mail. Health certificates must be dated within three months prior to the date of application. Failure to submit a health certificate by three months prior to the swim date (six months prior to the swim date beginning in 2017) will result in cancellation of the swimmer’s entry.

Applications will be considered complete when receipt of entry fees and the items listed in the above three points have been confirmed.

4. The Health Waiver can be obtained from Shimasaki Yusuke, Ocean Navi or Steven Munatones.

* Swimmers are allowed to contract with other escort pilots as they wish.

Copyright © 1988 – 2019 by Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

Steven Munatones