About Windsurf Japan expedition

Facts and Stats

The Expedition

  • Start Date: May 2024
  • Objective: a coastal windsurf "round" the 4 islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.
  • Start point: Onjuku (on the Chiba Peninsula, eastward of Tokyo), heading north.
  • Finish: If I arrive back to Onjuku coming from the south, that would make the journey a circumnavigation.
  • Mode of travel: Windsurfer
  • Estimated Distance: 6000km (crow flies, so a big underestimate!)
  • Estimated duration: 6 months if sailing a high proportion of days, but up to a year if weather and sea conditions are more challenging

About me


I will start sailing from the Chiba Peninsula which is on the Pacific Ocean side of the island of Honshu, at a similar latitude to Tokyo. I will start in late spring / early summer and head north, so that I am heading towards Hokkaido with summer on the way. Winter conditions in Hokkaido would be too harsh to sail.

My objective is to windsurf round the four main islands of Japan: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. The crossing points between islands will be determined by weather conditions and local knowledge about what is most advisable. I hope that if I am polite, patient - and good fortune is on my side - it will be possible to eventually make a complete circumnavigation of this island group.

[Map image modified under creative commons license.]

Japan journey proposed route Japan journey proposed route

Why Another Journey?

By accident and good fortune I have the means to travel long distances by windsurfer. Since 2015 this has been my ticket to see the world with my own eyes. It seems that the ticket is still valid and there is certainly still lots of world to see.

Why Japan?

The idea came from a reader of my book, a British man living in Japan, who got in touch and was full of enthusiasm for the country and its people. This came at a good time because I was "between projects". Over the following weeks I studied Google Earth and talked with many people who had worked in Japan, sailed there, or had some other connection. I heard that the people are kind and hospitable; and the coastline is often beautiful and always changing. I foresaw an explosion of experience and learning; and felt the pull of seas unknown. Serendipity played its part, so that the start location chose itself, which made the beginning of the project become less daunting.

Life offers what it does and we can do no more than go along for the ride! I am thrilled to be heading to Japan and deeply curious about the experiences that lie ahead.

Environmental Impact

The flight to Japan is an extravagance from a carbon footprint perspective. This troubles me. I have no defence to offer that cannot easy be exposed as self-serving, self-delusional, or green-washing.

My least weak argument is that the windsurf journey will be a long one, which dilutes the impact of the logistics over a longer period of time. I certainly am mindful of the impact and try to reduce my carbon footprint through other lifestyle choices.


To the best of my knowledge there have been no previous attempts to windsurf round Japan. However, some pioneers have made a similar journey by kayak. These include Paul Caffyn in 1985 and Hadas Feldman and Jeff Allen (together) in 2004. Back then, before the days of reliable weather forecasts, GPS, Google Earth and mobile phones (etcetera!) the challenge would have been much greater than it is today. Chapeau, lady and gentleman.

Update 7/5/2024: Katsuaki Suzuki also made the voyage round Japan by sea kayak. When I find some more details I will add them. 


As with my previous journeys, it will be just me (no support craft or land based support). I will carry my own minimalist camping gear, and top-up food supplies from local stores along the route. When on land, the sail will double as a shelter. My default plan is always to be "independent" and not reliant upon the help of supporters. However, I would welcome and be very grateful for any support offered along the way. Practical assistance is helpful, and human connection does wonders for morale. If you would like to help, please see the Local Contacts Network page.


My initial costs are sailing equipment, expedition gear, and logistics. Unifiber and Loftsails are generously supplying much of the kit. The most significant cost is getting the board to Japan.

Once underway, the main outgoing is food. I have a small stove for very basic cooking. Maybe there will be a pizzeria from time to time. Sushi sounds appetising, but maybe I will be eating rice for every meal. I really have no idea! More certain is that the coming months will be financially frugal existence.

As usual, as it is for many of us, from a financial perspective it will be a case of muddling through. My laptop sails with me, and this means that I can occasionally do some paid work to keep a modest income flowing. My book income provides for a coffee from time to time and may even pay for a few meals.


Japan is big and varied country. It presents very significant challenges. Every section of coastline would be unsafe to sail on the wrong day. But, equally, there is no section of coast that is unsailable every day. Timing is everything.

Japan has very harsh weather. In winter, the wind comes from Siberia, picks up moisture as it crosses the sea of Japan, and then dumps snow over the islands. In summer there can be extreme heat. Typhoons arrive in late summer and causes violent weather to impact with the Pacific coastline.

Challenges of the expedition include:

  • Cold
  • Heat
  • Fog
  • Swell
  • Currents
  • Lack of wind
  • Excess of wind
  • Difficult landing
  • Maintaining adequate and sufficient nutrition
  • Distance between settlements (especially in Hokkaido)
  • Carrying the gear and supplies required
  • Sourcing resupply
  • Breakages
  • Shipping
  • Fishing vessels and aquaculture
  • Exclusions zones (military and nuclear sites)
  • Weather conditions
  • Health / Injury / Illness
  • Exhaustion
  • Administration (time limit in Japan)
  • Bears (Asiatic black bears and Ussuri brown "grizzly" bears are sufficient in number that these are a genuine consideration)