Mr. Ito journeyed across the water on his own VX Cruiser. He was accompanied by a mother ship captained by Mr. Takeda from Marine Club Navy PWC shop in Fukuoka, and the seven crew members on board gave him full support. The PWC solo restriction zone is only 3.7 km from shore, but the mother ship allowed him to navigate beyond that zone.
We spoke with Mr. Ito about his remarkable feat at the age of 70, and with his support team leader, Mr. Takeda, who has also made the Japan-Korea crossing.
YAMAHA: Congratulations on your amazing adventure, making the Japan-Korea crossing at the age of 70. What made you decide to take the challenge?
Mr. Ito: I wanted people to know that even a 70-year-old like me can pursue adventure. I work in a hospital and I wanted to give people who are ill and people who are older like me some encouragement with my challenge. Another reason was to use marine sports to promote exchange with people in Korea. I just wanted to have a casual grass-roots international exchange with our neighbor, Korea.
Mr. Takeda: I've done the Japan-Korea crossing so I know how difficult it is both technically and procedurally. I wouldn't have helped a person with a half-hearted attitude, but Mr. Ito's pure desire to make the challenge really moved me.
YAMAHA: Tell us about your first contact with PWC.
Mr. Ito: I first started riding PWC after I turned 60. I was standing on the shore watching PWC flashing through the water. It made me desperate to ride one. It's been 10 years since then.
YAMAHA: Why did you choose the VX Cruiser for this challenge?
Mr. Ito: It was fuel efficient. I consulted with Mr. Takeda and he recommended the VX Cruiser. The waves were pretty high but it still only used about 70 liters. The VX Cruiser is also easy for anyone to handle. It was perfect for me.
Mr. Takeda: More than anything else, PWC reliability was the most essential factor for this challenge. Everyone takes it for granted if you succeed in your adventure, but if you fail, it's called reckless. So we couldn't afford any mechanical problems. That's why I recommended the VX Cruiser, because it has the durability to stand up to a 9 hour trip.
YAMAHA: 9 hours is a long ride. What were you thinking while you were in the saddle?
Mr. Ito: The waves were steep and I was really busy concentrating on steering. I was thinking, "What do I do if a bigger wave hits?" That was ALL I was thinking about. But when the water was calm it got a little boring and I caught myself humming.
Mr. Takeda: I remember that he was practicing the speech he planned to give when he arrived in Korea.
Mr. Ito: That's right. I completely forgot my microphone for talking to the mother ship was on. That was embarrassing.
YAMAHA: What was the most difficult part of the trip?
Mr. Ito: It got really difficult from about 4 hours into the trip until I reached Korea when the waves got steep. The roll of the waves made my wrists hurt and I started losing my gripping strength. It stayed that way until we were very close to Korea. However, Mr. Lee (president of Korea Marine, which handles all Yamaha imports) came out to greet me and that made me very happy.
Mr. Takeda: Refueling was also difficult. We had practiced but it didn't go very smoothly because of the steep waves. It took five of us to hold down the rowdy PWC so we could finally refuel.
YAMAHA: Mr. Takeda, you were the team leader for the support team. What was the most difficult part from the support side's point of view?
Mr. Takeda: A challenge like this that crosses from country to country has difficulties in procedures other than just the distance issue. There are a lot of rules that have to be followed. We also needed to keep in mind that Mr. Ito is 70 so we had medical staff on board just in case.
Mr. Ito: I would never have been able to meet this challenge on my own. I would like to thank Mr. Takeda and all the team members. Without their teamwork I never would have succeeded. And of course I want to thank my family for giving me their understanding and emotional support.
YAMAHA: Do you have a new goal now that you've made the Japan-Korea crossing?
Mr. Ito: I would like to try for a Japan-Korea round-trip next year. I've already started training for that. I do 100kg bench-presses for muscle training two or three times a week and jog to keep in shape.
YAMAHA: Last question: do you have a message you would like to share with the world?
Mr. Ito: There are still so many ways to enjoy life even when you're older. But I think only PWC can give you full enjoyment of the sea by enabling you to become one with the machine. As long as my body can go on, I want to continue. PWC are only for young people?! No way! The older you get the safer you drive. On top of that you have more time to enjoy life. I believe that this challenge of mine proves that PWC are quite easy for anybody to ride as long as they keep safety in mind. Please don't limit PWC to young people only. PWC are for people of all ages.
Mr. Ito, thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure with us!