1 Year After Sinking, Shiretoko Tour Boats in Hokkaido Start Cruises

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A sightseeing boat leaving Utoro fishing port in Shari, Hokkaido, on Sunday afternoon.

SHARI, Hokkaido — Sightseeing boat operators have begun this year’s cruises off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, setting off from Utoro fishing port in Shari on Sunday, a year after the Kazu I sightseeing boat that departed from the same port sank off the peninsula.

The accident left 20 passengers and crew members dead and six others missing. The decision to sail despite a forecast of bad weather, among other factors, was considered problematic.

In response to the accident, a council consisting of sightseeing boat operators drew up voluntary rules that require multiple operators to make decisions on sailing and to have another boat on standby in case of an emergency. The boats will run until Oct. 25 this season, with route restrictions that prohibit passing the site of the sinking until the end of May.

Two of the four boat operators launched one tour each on Sunday, two days later than scheduled due to bad weather. About 70 tourists from Japan and abroad enjoyed the two-hour round trip.

“I went on the cruise because I wanted to support them, but I enjoyed it and even saw a brown bear,” said a 25-year-old passenger from Soka, Saitama Prefecture.