Hawaiian canoe completes voyage across Pacific

The Hawaiian canoe Hokulea sailed into the Japanese port of Yokohama on Saturday, completing a five-month journey of more than 13,600 kilometers (8,500 miles) across the Pacific.

The vessel, flying orange and burgundy sails, was met by the sounding of conch shells, hula dancers and a crowd of several hundred at the port, south of Tokyo.

Bruce Blankenfield, captain of the 10-member crew, said the 62-foot (19-meter) canoe, patterned after the crafts that ancient Hawaiian islanders used, made stops in the Marshall Islands and Truk, Yap and Palau in the Pacific before docking in Okinawa and working its way up the Japanese coastline.

"This is the culmination of our journey," he said, deeply tanned after the trip. "We are going home after this."

Blankenfield said he expected the canoe, which departed from Hawaii in January, would arrive home in July.

He said one of the reasons for coming to Japan was to commemorate the contributions that Japanese immigrants made to the building of Hawaii, and to say thanks to the country. The craft made stops in Uwajima and Hiroshima before coming north to Yokohama.

"It is like a reconnection," he said. "We also hope to build awareness of culture and our history."

On hand for the arrival was one of Hawaii's most famous sons in Japan, former sumo wrestling grand champion Akebono.

"I am very familiar with the legacy of the Hokulea," he said. "I never dreamed in a million years that in Japan I would be able to see it."

The Hokulea first sailed, to Tahiti, in 1976. This is its 10th major voyage.

Blankenfield said he was not sure where it might venture next.

"We are talking about possibly going to New Zealand again," he said. "But for now we are on our way home."