Video shows canoe crew successfully complete voyage from Taiwan to Japan

Research team proves hypothesis that ancient Taiwanese could have traveled to Japan via dugout canoe

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(Photo from @acrosskuroshio Facebook page)

(Photo from @acrosskuroshio Facebook page)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A team of Taiwanese and Japanese researchers who set out on a voyage by dugout canoe on Sunday (July 7) to test a theory that ancient Taiwanese people migrated to southern Japanese islands by boat successfully arrived on Japan's Yonaguni Island at 11 a.m. this morning (July 9).

After paddling for two days at sea, the five-person crew at 11 a.m. this morning finally reached Yonaguni, a part of the Yaeyama Islands, the southernmost part of Japan. Upon arrival, the team was warmly greeted by reporters and local residents.

In order to record the experimental voyage, the team installed cameras around the canoe, including a 360-degree camera at the stern of the boat to record the whole course of the voyage at sea. In addition, there was a boat that followed the canoe that also took photos and a drone shot footage from above to provide viewers with an immersive experience.


Crew setting out on Sunday (July 7). (CNA photo

The voyage, a collaboration between Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science and Taiwan's National Museum of Prehistory, which is meant test the hypothesis that ancient peoples migrated from Taiwan to Japan's Ryukyu Islands via the Kuroshio Current 30,000 years ago, had been delayed twice due to bad weather. At 1:40 p.m. on Sunday, a team of five paddlers set out on a dugout canoe from Cape Wushibi (烏石鼻) in Taitung bound for the coast of Yonaguni, part of the Yaeyama Islands, reported Liberty Times.

The crude vessel relied entirely on human power to reach its destination 205 kilometers away. The canoe was originally scheduled to set sail at noon on June 30 and then rescheduled to July 1, but as the weather failed to clear up, the journey was canceled.

Since 2017, Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory and Japan’s National Museum of Science have been cooperating on an experimental project to navigate boats between Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands, Japan based on technology and materials from 30,000 years ago.


Crew making landfall in Japan today (July 9). (National Museum of Prehistory photo)

Over that period, Amis boat builder Laway has been making bamboo rafts using traditional techniques. In 2017, an attempt was made to row the Ira I from Taitung's Dawu Township to Green Island, but it failed to cross the powerful Kuroshio Current.

In 2018, an improved version, dubbed the Ira II featured a shorter hull and lighter weight. The sailors of the raft set out from Taitung's Changbin Township on a course for Okinawa, Japan, but the raft was unable to withstand big ocean waves and the bamboo was vulnerable to damage and seepage.

This time, the team decided to use a dugout canoe for the voyage instead. The construction of the boat is based on traditional Amis canoe-building techniques, but due to difficulty harvesting wood along the coast of Taiwan, Japanese cedar was selected.

The boat was constructed in Japan using reconstructions of Paleolithic tools. The hull is 7.6 meters long, 0.7 meters wide, and 0.6 meters high, and weighs about 350 kilograms.

National Museum of Prehistory's assistant researcher Agilasay Pakawyan (林志興) said that the vessel held a crew of five, including one female. The crew is comprised of Taiwanese citizen Sung Yuan-kai (宋元愷) and four Japanese nationals, including Koji Hara (原康司), Katsuaki Suzuki (鈴木克章), Minoru Muramatsu (村松稔), and Michiko Tanaka​ ​(​田中道子) (female), reported Liberty Times.

Modern technology such as compasses, clocks, and smartphones were not used to aid the navigation of the canoe. Instead, sailors used natural elements such as the stars and wind direction to navigate the canoe.

Introduction to the background of the crew members:

Video showing the crew completing their successful voyage: