21 August 2019 | Sidney, Vancouver Island
06 August 2019 | Powell River
26 July 2019 | Campbell River
17 July 2019 | Port McNeil, Vancouver Island
05 July 2019 | Ketchikan
28 June 2019 | Petersburg, Alaska
17 June 2019 | Seward
04 June 2019 | Seward, Alaska
13 August 2018 | Kodiak town
16 July 2018 | Alaska
17 June 2018 | North Pacific
01 June 2018 | Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan
06 May 2018 | Mihonoseki
22 April 2018 | Marin Pia Marina, Kunasaki
30 March 2018 | Marin Pia Marina, Musashi, Oita
25 February 2015 | Puerta Galera, Mindoro island
07 February 2015 | Pinoy Boatyard Port Carmen

The Top end of Japan

01 June 2018 | Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan
Jo
Our progress north has continued relentlessly, with some good sailing winds, and miraculously no head winds, the north going current that flows up the Sea of Japan has helped us along nicely, so that in spite of at times awful weather, heavy rain, leaden skies, and cold, we have just kept on trucking.
Our main bug bear has been the continual tracking we have endured by the Customs and sometimes the Coastguard, they have flown over us in helicopters and light aircraft on several occasions. Several times they have sent eight people on sea journeys of an hour and half or more, that’s in each direction, just so that we fill in the same crazy forms.
Japan’s system of ‘Closed Ports’ originated in the days when the country was closed to the world, and no foreign trade was permitted. However in the mid 19th Century, certain ports were opened for trade, while others remained off limits, ie remained ‘closed ports’. We had got to grips with and obtained permission for endless ‘closed ports’ along our route, which should mean no interference from Customs, but we seem to be an easy target for the very over manned Japanese Customs, who seem to run a job creation scheme!
It is one of the curiosities of rural Japan as we see it. In contrast to the workaholic people of Tokyo, and no doubt endless other places, there is also a large system of job creation going on, when basically there are no jobs to do. I have no idea if this extends into other areas of public service, but the tax payer must have footed a bill of thousands of pounds for us coming up the Sea of Japan!
Never once did they suggest we went to a different port, which might have been more convenient for them, and if we changed our plans, which inevitably happens it threw them into spasms of excitement. They always remained courteous, but painstakingly bureaucratic, which took hours of our life, reducing us at times to screaming pitch, as yet another afternoon ebbed away while we filled in yet more forms!!
There is almost no chance of anchoring in Japan either, the shore line is a testament to the power of concrete and the enormous number of small fishing ports along the way all with sea walls and outer harbours. The Sea of Japan can be fearsome and very rough especially in the winter months. Amongst it all we have stopped at some interesting places, probably the best was Kanazawa, the so called arts capital of Japan. Sailing along the coast we saw our first snow-capped mountains, which lie behind the city, the northern edge of the Japanese Alps. Kanazawa’s main tourist attraction is Kenrokuen, Japan’s most celebrated and top rated garden
It lived up to its name, and we were lucky to see it in wonderful bright sunlight, but hard to say if we liked it more or less than the many other gardens that we have visited in Japan. We loved it, and were perplexed by how cleverly the water flows around it, as it sits high above the city, the levels must have been so carefully planned.
We had a lovely day in Sado island, north and eastwards from Kanazawa, we woke for our normal 0500 start to be greeted by thick fog, and in spite of a visit from two young customs officials at 0500, who had got up early to catch us, we decided to stay put for the day on this very attractive large island. We hired power assisted bicycles, which were brilliant, and enabled us to go up and down the hilly coast road and smaller offshoots with great ease.
One of the small bays we dropped down to had a shrine and a walkway over the water to reach it, however when getting to the overgrown path beyond to complete our circuit, a large fat snake hurriedly moved out of our way.
I chickened out and retraced my steps!
Beyond this little excitement is the old fishing village of Shukenegi, a snapshot of delightful old Japan, with houses crammed into a tight valley in a higgledy piggeldy way, and one of them open to the public. Apart from an open hearth, and no chimney, much as our medieval houses, we have never seen any signs of heating in old Japanese houses. They were built of thin wood, and must have been bitterly cold to live in.
Next day took us to the less exciting island of Awa Shima, where after the normal Customs visit by boat from a town on the mainland, we then discovered an ‘onsen’, where we wallowed, gender segregated, in hot natural water.
The next day en route to a third yet smaller island, we were suddenly enveloped in a white-out of fog, sometimes we thought we could see a boat’s length but never more. We didn’t fancy going to the next tiny island we had set out for, so we continued to the much larger, and we reckoned safer entry at Akita on the mainland.
It was a spooky experience getting into harbour. The harbour walls had been extended, so did not match up with our charts, and Giles whose glasses had completely misted up with the damp almost liquid atmosphere could see almost nothing. We were just crossing over to the protection of a second inner harbour wall that would separate us from the main shipping when out of the murk a huge ship appeared, it AIS only showing at the last minute.
Unbeknownst to us, we thought that we were sending out a signal, we were invisible to him, as our VHF aerial was disconnected, and he would not have picked us up! Technology is only as good as the user!
Finally we slowly crept into the marina, and thankfully tied up against a pontoon, so relieved to have safely got in, and trying not to think that this is a foretaste of what is to come in the Aleutians!
Next morning the wind was howling, and torrential rain lashed down, but Shin Ito, one of the delightful marina staff was there peering out from under his oilskins, to greet us! We moved to the visitors berth, and were then invaded by customs and coastguard for the next couple of hours of form filling!
There were two things that we hoped to achieve in Akita, one was fix the generator, which has bugged us for the whole of this year, in spite of checking all normal things, fuel pumps etc, we simply cannot get it to start. It has confounded us, and equally confounded a delightful mechanic who came on board two days later, by which time the sun was shining.
Refilling our propane gas, has been the other ongoing challenge, but Akita was no easier than elsewhere, Japan is so bound by rules and regs for propane, and foreign tanks are perceived as an unknown hazard. Luckily we had been given an out of date Japanese tank, which we have been using for cooking on, so we could get by.
Snow topped mountains have become common place as we move northwards, and the accompanying wind is bitterly cold. We had two more stops on Honshu Island, before crossing over to Hokkaido, Japan’s big island at the north of the chain. As with so much of our sailing in the Sea of Japan, we were accompanied by the very playful Pacific White-sided Dolphins, we have frequently watched them being mobbed by sea birds, who swoop down to benefit from the fish that the dolphins presumably drive up to the surface. It is a fun spectacle to watch.
More time consuming is the careful watch that we need to keep for fishing buoys, the last stretch of Honshu was littered in the things, many of them only just break the surface, and are almost invisible. Other fixed nets sometimes extend up to three miles offshore, and you have to go round them.
As we crossed to Hokkaido, and moved eastwards along the Tsugaru Kaikyo, the strait that separates Honshu from Hokkaido, we left the Sea of Japan behind us, while ahead lies the Pacific. For now we have turned a little northwards and tucked ourselves into the old port of Hakadate, a historic gem, where are last we can feast our eyes on some attractive buildings, a legacy from the western influence of 1864 when Japan finally opened itself up properly for trade with the west.
The old British Consulate is now a tea room and museum, there are several churches , one Russian Orthodox, complete with onion domes, and we even went to a packed church on Sunday, the church of Japan. We are tied up along the very touristy quay next to three old brick warehouses, which now serve as tax free shopping outlets for tourists. It is lovely to see mellow red brick again, brick building was never part of the Japanese heritage, they moved from wooden buildings to concrete. Fine architecture and planning regs are very invisible!
In Hakodate there is a small enthusiastic yachting community, and the delightfully helpful Mizuno san has been a godsend in looking after us, negotiating our path through even more complicated customs and paper work, and today finding us someone who finally got the generator started. The joy was short lived unfortunately, as oil started to spurt everywhere, and we await news from him if there is any more that can be done, or if that is the end of the road at least for now as far as the generator goes.
Our fridge stopped working literally the day before we arrived in Hakodate, but a delightful yachtie friend of Mizuno san got both fridges going, only to discover that it has developed a gas leak probably on the keel coolers. It is working for now, but it seems likely that we will have no fridge for the onward leg.
We are at a very different temperature than the tropics so we are not as worried as we might have been, meat doesn’t really feature on our diet, but it was our best way of keeping vegetables cool, as well as milk, which is unobtainable as long-life. Never mind we’ll have to catch some fish!
Before long we will move east for 200 miles to Kushiro, and await a weather window to set sail.





Comments
Vessel Name: Brother Wind
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 45
Hailing Port: Blakeney, Norfolk UK
Crew: Jo and Giles Winter
About: Rolling selection of friends and family
Extra: Check my Instagram for pictures jogi_winter
Brother Wind's Photos - Jo and Giles round the world on Brother Wind (Main)
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IMG_0754: Brother Wind in Sydney Harbour
 
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From Taisha we moved northwards to Hakodate in Hokkaido, where we left the sea of Japan behind
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Created 1 June 2018
12 Photos
Created 1 June 2018
Land travels in Japan
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Created 22 April 2018
Sailing again
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Created 25 February 2015
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Created 5 March 2014
A trip up the Kinabatangan River in Brother Wind, with brother Jamie, wife Mel, and daughter Izzy
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Created 23 August 2012
Jamie,Mel and Issy Cooper joined us in K-K, Sabah, for a dramatic trip north and then stunning islands followed by a trip up the Kinabatangan river
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Created 12 August 2012
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Created 22 July 2012
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Created 21 June 2012
our trip back to Langkawi from the Andamans, with Mike and Laurian Cooper on board
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Created 28 March 2011
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Created 7 April 2009
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Created 28 February 2008
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Created 25 July 2007
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Passage Brisbane north to Whitsundays
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