Kenichi Horie Sets Sail to Japan

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Welcome Reception

On March 18 a small group gathered at San Francisco’s Pier One for a welcome reception for Kenichi Horie. Sixty years ago Mr. Horie sailed from Osaka to San Francisco by himself, and became one of the first people to make a solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean. Now at 83 years old he will make the journey again, this time starting in San Francisco and ending in Osaka. The reception gathered almost 50 people to welcome Mr. Horie back to the Bay Area and wish him a safe journey back to Japan.

The reception featured a program which was emceed by Misako Sack of the SF-Osaka Sister City Association. Opening remarks were given by Rod Iwashita of the Port of San Francisco, followed by greetings from the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura. The highlight of the program was a speech by Mr. Horie in which he recounted his first trans-Pacific solo sailing journey.

On August 12, 1962, a 23-year-old Mr. Horie arrived in the San Francisco Bay on his 19-foot sailboat named the Mermaid. He had traveled 94 days at sea and got by on a diet of rice, canned food, fish, drinking water, sake, and 60 bottles of beer. When he arrived in the city he lacked three very important things: he had no passport, no money, and no English. This landed in him a bit of trouble initially, but then-mayor George Christopher granted him permission to stay and warmly welcomed him as a resident of Osaka, San Francisco’s then-Sister City. Mayor Christopher later presented Mr. Horie with a key to the city of San Francisco as a gesture of international goodwill.

He recounted one of his first days in San Francisco: he was invited to an important meeting and wanted to get a haircut beforehand, since his hair had grown quite long over the course of his three month journey. He found that, much like in Japan, many barber shops were closed on Mondays. Thankfully a staff member from the Japanese Consulate General’s Office helped him find a barber who would open just for him. Mr. Horie went and got his haircut but ran into a problem — he had no money to pay the barber! The hairdresser already knew this fact since a local newspaper had run a story about the arrival of the passport-less, penniless Japanese sailor, and said “it’s on the house.”

The haircut was just one instance of kindness that Mr. Horie experienced during his month-long stay, which was supported by the Japanese Consul General. During his stay several airline companies reached out with offers to buy him a plane ticket back home to Japan. He decided to go with the offer from Japan Airlines (JAL).

After Mr. Horie’s charming speech, two representatives from the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) presented him with some gifts from the sponsor groups. The gifts were all from local companies: a waterproof bag from Tikbuk2, a can of clam chowder from Boudin, and a pack of canned beers from Anchor Steam.

The reception was sponsored and attended by six groups: Port of San Francisco, Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, Japan Society of Northern California, and SF-Osaka Sister City Association. We thank Mr. Horie for sharing his stories and adventures, and wish him a safe and pleasant sail back home!

*Mr. Horie’s website (Japanese only): https://www.suntorymermaid.com/sm3/

**Mr. Horie set sail on March 26. You can track his progress here (Japanese only): https://www.furuno.com/special/jp/horie-challenge/

City Hall Visit

On March 23 Mr. Horie went to City Hall and met with San Francisco acting mayor Catherine Stefani. The City proclaimed March 23 as Horie Kenichi Day and gave Mr. Horie a copy of the proclamation. Ms. Stefani, who is a former JET (participant of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program), welcomed Horie-san with very good Japanese. Mr. Horie briefed her on the upcoming trip. She asked some questions like what he would be eating on the trip? “Corn flakes,” he said, “because you don’t have to cook it.” He said this time would be easier than 1962 because he would be tracked every hour and instead of a kerosine lantern, he had solar panels to power his lights.

On the way out of City Hall, Horie-san spied the bust of Mayor Christopher and posed for a photo with it, seen below.

Mr. Horie poses with a bust of former San Francisco mayor George Christopher, who treated him with kindness when he arrived in San Francisco 60 years ago.

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