Over in the Far East, the popular Japan International Open Water Swimming Association series ended another year of growth and spirited competition for athletes of all abilities and ages.
Since Hiromi Okazawa placed third in the 2009 Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championship 10K among the best swimmers from Australia, Canada and the USA, Japan has been on our radar.
When we met former Olympic champion and long-time FINA executive Hiroshi Furuhashi at the FINA open water swimming meetings in Rome, then we figured that Japan's interest in open water swimming would soon become evident.
And, sure enough, the grass-roots interest in open water swimming in Japan has emerged under the leadership of Yutaka Shinozaki, Across Nippon Swims Committee President and Secretary General of Japan International Open Water Swimming Association (JIOWSA).
JIOWSA sanctions 12 multi-race events in the warm ocean waters throughout Japan including the following races:
1. Okinawa Uruma Hamahiga Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 0.8K, 1.6K and 3.2K ocean swims in Hamahiga Island in tropical Okinawa in May
2. Nichinan-Kaigan Nangoh Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1K and 2K ocean swims in semi-tropical Miyazaki on Kyushu Island in June
3. Trans of Guns Tanegashima Open Water Swim, a series of 0.8K, 1.6K, 3.2K and 1.6K relay races in Kagoshima on Kyushu Island (in view of an active volcano) in June
4. Atami Open Water Swim Race Japan Grand Prix, a series of 0.4K, 0.8K and 3.2K swims and a 2K relay race in Atami, Shizuoka within view of towering Mount Fuji, about 90 minutes south of Tokyo, in July
5. Aichi Minamichita Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1K and 3K swims in Aichi on Honshu Island in July
6. Minamiboso Kyonan Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1.6K and 3.2K swims and a 1.6K relay in Chiba (close to Tokyo) in August
7. Shiga Biwako Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1K, 3K swims and a 1.6K relay in Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan just north of Kyoto in August
8. Nihonsandaikei Okumatsushima Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1 mile and 2 mile swims and a 1.6K relay in Miyagi on the northeast coast of Japan in August
Nihonsankei Mihono Matsubara Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1K and 2K swims and a 1.6K relay in the warm ocean waters of Shizuoka on the island of Honshu within view of Mount Fuji in August
10. Genkainada Kokuteikouen Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1K and 3K swims and a 0.8 and 2K relay races in Fukuoka on Kyushu Island in August
11. Izu Oshima Open Water Swim, a series of 1K and 2K swims and a 1.6K relay in the warm semi-tropical waters on the island of Oshima, hundreds of kilometers off the shores of Tokyo, in September
12. Okinawa Tokashiku Beach Open Water Swim, a series of 0.4K, 1K and 5K swims and a 1.6K relay in tropical Okinawa in October
Shinozaki-san has truly delivered a remarkable offering to interested open water swimmers in Japan where he provides travel packages and an abundant number of services to encourage the continued growth of the sport in Japan. The JIOWSA three-pronged mission is to offer a safe event that enables its participants to maintain and seek personal fitness in a harmonious partnership with nature.
After the season is over, JIOWSA conducts open water swim clinics for its growing membership. The next JIOWSA Open Water Swimming Conference is scheduled for December 5th in Shizuoka, a 60-minute bullet train ride south of Tokyo.
Warm-water competition and open water swimming camaraderie in harmony with nature. Sounds great.