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Asia Minute: Japan’s Grass Canoe Voyage

National Museum of Nature and Science
National Museum of Nature and Science

The H?k?le‘a is continuing its voyage along the coast of northern New England today. Earlier this week, a very different kind of canoe was launched on an experimental voyage on the other side of the world. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Two ocean-going grass canoes were launched from an island in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture….bound for another island about 50 miles away.  Each carried a crew of seven—part of a longer-term project studying possible migration patterns of early settlers to Japan.

The theory is that some 30,000 years ago, humans made their way along a route from Taiwan---which was then attached to the main land mass of Asia…across the water to the southern part of the Japanese islands.  Now this goes back to the Stone Age…so the tools and materials used in this re-creation were very simple.

This week’s paddling was designed as a sort of a shake-down trip--the first part of a longer voyage.  But the canoes ran into rough seas---and high swells that forced them to be towed for a short time by their escort ship.  Eventually the canoes reached their destination—more than 24 hours after starting out.

The Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo is backing the travels—becoming the first in Japan to try crowd-funding…starting with a goal of roughly $190,000 US dollars for this project.  The museum smashed through that target---raising nearly a quarter of a million dollars….some of which will be used in the next attempt.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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