Tsugaru Channel

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Stephen Redmond exiting in the Tsugaru Strait on his quest for the Oceans Seven, captured in the film Defeating Oceans Seven by Red Bull Media House
Pat Gallant-Charette swimming across the Tsugaru Channel starting at Tappi Misaki
Tsugaru Channel between Honshu and Hokkaido
Tsugaru Channel flows
Tsugaru Channel, looking at Hokkaido from Tappi Misaki
Darren Miller course across the Tsugaru Channel starting in Kodomari on Honshu and finishing near Shirakami Misaki on Hokkaido
noun - The Tsugaru Channel or Tsugaru Strait (津軽海峡 or Tsugaru Kaikyō in English) 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 and one of the swims in the Oceans Seven.

It was named after the western part of Aomori Prefecture. The Seikan Tunnel passes under it at its narrowest point (19.5 km) between 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.

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.

The Tsugaru Channel has eastern and western necks, both approximately 20 km across with maximum depths of 200 and 140 m respectively. In the past, the most common way for passengers and freight to cross the strait was on ferries, approximately a four-hour journey. Now the Seikan Tunnel provides a convenient but more expensive alternative and approximately halves the travel time in comparison to ferrying. When Shinkansen trains can traverse the tunnel to Hakodate (scheduled for 2015), the journey time will be cut to 50 minutes.

The swim is ranked among the Top 50 Open Water Swims In Asia. It is also part of the Oceans Seven challenge. Channel swims across the Tsugaru Channel are administered by the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association.

It is also known as the English Channel of the Far East.


Governing Bodies

Solo swims and relays are across the Tsugaru Channel are supported and governed by either the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association or the Tsugaru Strait Swimming Association.

The Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association takes swimmers and relays from the Kodomari Benten Cape or Tappi Misaki on Honshu to Shirakami Misaki on Hokkaido. The Tsugaru Strait Swimming Association takes swimmers from the eastern peninsula of Honshu to Hokkaido.

Blakiston Line

Thomas Blakiston, an English explorer and naturalist, noticed that animals in Hokkaido were related to northern Asian species, whereas those on Honshu to the south were related to those from southern Asia. The Tsugaru Strait was therefore established as a major zoogeographical boundary, and became known as the "Blakiston Line".

Successful Tsugaru Channel Swimmers

1. David Yudovin (USA) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 13:10 (1990)
2. Steven Munatones (USA) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 6:11 (1990)
3. Steven Munatones(USA) solo single crossing (Hokkaido-to-Honshu) in 6:39 (1990)
4. Steven Munatones (USA) solo double crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido-to-Honshu) in 12:50 (1990)
5. Miyuki Fujita (Japan) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 11:36 (2005)
6. Miyuki Fujita (Japan) solo triple crossing in 37:24 (2006)
7. Masayuki Moriya (Japan) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 11:55 (2011) in wetsuit
8. Penny Palfrey (Australia) solo single crossing (Hokkaido-to-Honshu) in 14:30 (2011)
9. Darren Miller (USA) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 15:55 (2012)
10. Stephen Redmond (Ireland) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 12:45 (2012)
11. Michelle Macy (USA) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 8:55 (2012)
12. Forrest Nelson (USA) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 9:26 (2012)
13. Craig Lenning (USA) solo single crossing (Hokkaido-to-Honshu) in 10:44 (2012)
14. Pat Gallant-Charette (USA) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 19:36 (2012)
15. Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 19:11 (2012)
16. Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand) solo single crossing (Honshu-to-Hokkaido) in 9:38 (2014)

Tsugaru Channel Records

First Honshu-Hokkaido Crossing: David Yudovin (USA), July 7, 1990: 13:10
First Hokkaido-Honshu Crossing: Steven Munatones (USA), July 30, 1990: 6:39
First Female Honshu-Hokkaido Crossing: Miyuki Fujita (Japan), 2005: 11:36
First Female Hokkaido-Honshu Crossing: Miyuki Fujita (Japan), 2005
Fastest Honshu-Hokkaido Crossing: Steven Munatones (USA), 1990: 6:11
Fastest Hokkaido-Honshu Crossing: Steven Munatones (USA), 1990, 6:39
Fastest Double Crossing (Honshu-Hokkaido-Honshu): Steven Munatones (USA), 1990: 12:50
First Triple Crossing (Honshu-Hokkaido-Honshu-Hokkaido): Miyuki Fujita (Japan), 1990: 37:24

Oceans Seven

The Tsugaru Channel is part of the Oceans Seven, a global 7-channel challenge that consists of the following waterways around the world. It was first proposed by Steven Munatones in June 2008 and first achieved by Stephen Redmond in July 2012:

1. North Channel between Ireland and Scotland
2. Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand
3. Molokai Channel between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii
4. English Channel between England and France
5. Catalina Channel between Santa Catalina Island and then Southern California mainland
6. Tsugaru Channel between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan
7. Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa


Video of Chris Kraus, Rick Gaenzle and Brian Ross relay crossing of the Tsugaru Channel courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi and the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association
Videos of swimmers crossing the Tsugaru Channel in Japan, courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi and the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

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