Skip to comments.Japanese kayaker hopes to show Kennewick Man could have traveled by boat
Posted on 04/23/2012 9:44:02 PM PDT by Theoria
By week's end, Ryota Yamada hopes to slip his sea kayak gently into the Columbia River at Clover Island, embarking on the first leg of a 10,000-mile adventure to Japan.
The retired scientist who did nanotechnological research intends to paddle downriver to the ocean, then via the Inland Passage north to Alaska, and eventually across the Bering Strait to the Asian continent.
It will take him four summers, but if he succeeds in reaching his homeland, Yamada said, he will have shown that Kennewick Man could have made his way by boat 9,300 years ago from Japan to North America.
"That is my main purpose," he said Monday from his temporary camp on Clover Island in downtown Kennewick.
The 42-year-old Japanese native who lives near Tokyo said the story of Kennewick Man, whose skeletal remains were found on the shores of the Columbia River near Kennewick in July 1996, inspired him to attempt the adventure of a lifetime.
"This represents my entire life's work," he said, adding that he has been willing to invest all that he has to complete the journey.
Yamada will carry everything he needs to survive in the kayak, and he will travel alone, without a companion boat to assist in rough seas.
Kennewick Man's bones, which are being held for research at the University of Washington's Burke Museum in Seattle, are controversial.
While the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Nation believe Kennewick Man is one of their ancestors, researchers believe the ancient bones are not Native American in origin, but may be genetically linked to the Ainu people, who have lived in Japan for thousands of years and appear to have a genetic link to Northern Europe.
A professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, C. Loring Brace, told the Herald in a 2006 interview that Kennewick Man's heritage likely connected with the Ainu of Japan, or the Jomon people, who were ancestors of the Ainu.
Unlike Native American peoples, the Ainu and Jomon are believed to have had light skin, wavy hair and body hair, Brace said.
"I believe the Ainu and Jomon came like the Kennewick Man," said Yamada, who during the past week has visited the Columbia River near where the bones were found and the Kennewick Man exhibit at the East Benton County Historical Museum.
Mid-Columbia tribes unsuccessfully argued in a court case that the bones of Kennewick Man, whom they call the Ancient One, should be turned over to the tribes for ceremonial burial, according to terms of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.
The Asatru Folk Assembly, which follows early European pre-Christian theology, also claims Kennewick Man as an ancestor.
Yamada said he has been collecting the necessary equipment for his trip since arriving in Washington. He used a rental car to go to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he purchased a new sea kayak that is about 20 feet long and weighs barely 20 pounds.
It will take Yamada about four summers to complete the journey, paddling about 2,500 miles on each leg. He expects to get as far as Whitehorse in British Columbia this summer, including a side trip of about 50 miles up the Yukon River.
The Yukon Territory is familiar to the kayaker, who paddled about 200 miles down the Yukon River five years ago.
Yamada will hug the coastlines, coming ashore nightly to camp in his tent.
He will fish along the way, too. "It is important for me as a food supply," said Yamada, who has been planning the journey for two years.
"My hat is off to the guy," said Mike Meila, a Port of Kennewick employee who loaned a bicycle to Yamada for the week. Meila said Yamada has a huge challenge ahead, and he wished him well.
Kennewick Mayor Steve Young met Yamada on Monday afternoon, promising to provide him a personal message the kayaker will deliver in Japan.
"He's a very interesting individual. He was thrilled when I showed up," Young said.
Yamada said he wants to be "a bridge" between the Tri-Cities and his homeland, noting that the two share a nuclear legacy.
Japanese adventurer Ryota Yamada, 42, is starting a four-year kayak trip in Kennewick that will take him back to his home near Tokyo, Japan. Yamada's main reason for departing from Kennewick is because of the discovery of the Kennewick Man skeleton and his belief he could be of Japanese descent. Yamada's trek in his sea kayak will loosely retrace the path some believe existed as the Bering land bridge.
Cool dude, ainu, kennewick, good stuff.
live long and prosper
Shouldn’t he go from Japan to Kennewick to prove his theory?
The kid who found Kennewick Man took the skull home on the back of his motorcycle. Brought it back later and notified the police. Clinton destroyed the site by burying it under 150 tons of rock saying he was “preserving” it for future study. Indians wanted him to do it so their claim of being here first couldn’t be disputed.
Awesome, I have a view of the McNary dam on the Columbia from my window. Keep up the research! Let us us know what you find.
Sure. I think it comes down to simple logistics, ie his kayak is from canada and most of his gear from the washington area.
Someone tell the Japanese guy he can order all his gear on E-Bay, have it shipped to Japan and then do his journey in the correct direction.
He may not have traveled by canoe, at least that far.
Back then the sea levels were a lot lower, leaving more land. It’s not inconceivable that his trip was no more than a couple hundred kilometres. It’s possible that the more eastern point of Asia was within sight of the most western point of Alaska.
If Sarah Palin lived back then, she really would have seen Russia from her back door. :)
He will be fighting the Japanese Current which brings cold water to the West Coast.
Subtle humor in the story: The nuclear legacy shared by the Tri-Cities and Japan is the plutonium for “Fat Man” (Nagasaki bomb) was made here.
I would be surprised if he makes it through the first winter. Except, where he’s going, winter is always at the door.
Do you think he will use the fish ladder or go for it and go over the top with all the water they are spilling to flush little salmon downstream?
For those out of the area, the 13 dams on the Columbia dump about 1/3 of the annual flow over the spillways each year instead of making electricity with it on the theory that it helps little salmon get to the ocean. It does kill adult fish in the river by increasing the dissolved nitrogen in the water and the fish get bubbles under their skin that rupture and infection sets in.
State law says hydropower in not renewable so our hills are littered with turbines to meet the mandate of 20% renewable power sometime in the future.
I don’t understand why he isn’t going from west to east with the Japan/Humboldt current. And why isn’t he making a right at the Kamchatka Peninsula and just following the Aleutian archipelago?
All they need to due is a DNA test which has been done . The Russian tribes don’t want to give up the power and perks.
The reason that there was only one Kennewick Man is that he forgot to bring Kennewick Woman with him.
Kennewick could have walked/sledded the entire trip on the sea ice.
Peter Freuchen, the Danish explorer, walked across the ice from Greenland to Canada eating seals along the way.
It was hazardous, but Stone Age people could have made the journey.
Why would they go? The Shaman got loaded on mushrooms and told them they had to.
Note, the ocean levels were lower but not that much lower ~ as the last Glacial peak period began ending about 14,000 years ago you had a rather rapid increase in world ocean levels. That slowed during the Younger Dryas, then it took off again reaching roughly the current level about 8500 years ago.
There are variations over time.
A much better bet than kayak for getting from Japan to America is to get a ride on a mass of debris created in a major (once every thousand years) tsunami. Should be able to survive the trip provided there aren't too many folks coming along. Such a tsunami should create plenty of opportunities to hop off along the PAC NW or Central American coastlines.
Ydebris flow from japan tsunami ~ do that look up on Google and you’ll get just all sorts of animations.
My father was a Port Pilot there for a time. And that place is a killer of even big ships.