Photo: SoraNews24
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Man claiming to be Russian who swam to Japan seeking asylum appears in Hokkaido town

42 Comments
By SoraNews24

Shibetsu is a small fishing town on the east coast of Hokkaido with a population of only a few thousand people. It’s also one of the few corners of Japan not accessible by train and about an hour's drive from Sapporo, leaving it a rather quiet, peaceful community.

So it came as quite a shock when an unidentified man turned up at the Nakashibetsu Police Station on Aug 19 and told them that he had just swam in from Russia and was seeking asylum. The man — described as dressed all in sportswear with sneakers, a brimmed hat, and face mask — was found by a pedestrian and taken to a police box for help.

For those who are aware that the Russian controlled island of Kunashir is just off the coast of Shibetsu, it might not seem like such an impossible journey. But it’s still a good 20-kilometer swim in 15℃ water, which is said to cause people to black out in a matter of hours.

Kunashir is the nearest to Japan of the Kuril Islands archipelago, an island chain which is administered by Russia but under dispute by Japan. Russia seized control of the islands at the very end of World War II, but Japan feels that the ensuing treaties don’t give them the complete control they currently exercise. The matter is still under negotiation between the two countries.

As for the mysterious visitor to Shibetsu, little is known about why he chose to flee the rather remote island with only a slightly larger population than the town he arrived in. The man also had told police that he wants asylum in a “third country” that isn’t Japan or Russia. Hokkaido Prefectural Police and the Sapporo Regional Immigration Bureau are currently investigating his claim and trying to confirm his identity.

Online there’s a fair bit of incredulity over whether someone can actually make the swim from Kunashir to Hokkaido.

“Is that distance swimmable?”

“It’s 20 kilometers, but if the ocean current is against him its suicide.”

“This isn’t the Cold War Era, so why didn’t he just take a boat?”

“He could have even just taken a canoe part way and abandoned it to cut down on swimming.”

“Why do I have a feeling this is how WWIII starts?”

“If he got really lucky, I think the sea temperature went up to 18℃ for a bit today, but it’s still tough.”

“What would make him resort to that to escape Russia?”

“That island belongs to Japan, so isn’t he just escaping to the same country?”

“He’s a spy. Cut him loose.”

“I can swim about 40 kilometers in the pool, but I doubt I could do it in the ocean.”

Details are still very scant in reports, so it is possible that he didn’t exactly swim the entire way, just as it’s also possible he didn’t even come from Russia in the first place.

Source: STV, NHK, Yomiuri Shimbun

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
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Did he swim with the hat and mask on?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I would not make it.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I wonder if the man is really a Russian, maybe a North Korean?

1 ( +8 / -7 )

”It’s also one of the few corners of Japan not accessible by train and about an hour's drive from Sapporo, leaving it a rather quiet, peaceful community.”

Looks like the writer screwed up. Shibetsu (標津) which is close to Kunashiri Island is 5 and a half hours drive from Sapporo on the Eastern end.

Writer confused it with Shibetsu(士別)which is about an hour north of Sapporo inland and landlocked.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Just give him the right to stay. Japan is big enough and well in need of young blood.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

The probability of that he’s a normal refugee and also can swim 20 km and can stand physically the low temperature sea water is very near to zero. lol Maybe he was already hear illegally overstaying or staff on a fishery boat and such. So he swam a bit forth and then back and now tells a heartbreaking story. And no, he’s probably not a spy, because no regime would invest in forming a mentally and physically skilled spy and then send him on such an obviously suicidal sea adventure before any possible first return of gained information or other value.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Welcome to Japan!

Great Job!

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Just give him the right to stay. Japan is big enough and well in need of young blood.

Read the article again. He doesn't want to stay in Japan - he's not that naive. And he's not Burmese.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Hopefully this man won't fall to the immigration system and ultimately be death sentenced. He doesn't even want to stay in Japan, so he needs to be processed and sent on his way to where be wishes to go.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Any man who can swim 20k in that water deserves at least a visa.

(All I had to do was get a 3rd rate uni degree).

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Japan’s ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ ?? : “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” -

“The New Colossus" is a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus who wrote the poem in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Japan displays many replicas of the Statue of Liberty. It’s time to use them for more than just advertising pachinko parlors, “Love”(?) Hotels and car insurance companies.- Let these people in !!

(…if they’re not fleeing felons).

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I will reserve judgment till more information is available.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I would have been fish food. Then again I would have taken a plane.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The swim for this guy is the easy part. This country doesn't grant too many asylum visas.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Larr Flint

Just give him the right to stay. Japan is big enough and well in need of young blood.

Mr Flint , i was once talking with a japanese Student about this young blood topic…

He answerd me „ we build robots for it we don’t need foreigners „

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I'm sure the truth will out in a day or so.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Doubtful he has any ‘special set of skills’ to be Taken seriously as a potential threat to Japan’s ‘national security’. - Seems SoraNews24 has ‘their own brand’ of unedited & uncensored ‘speculation & stupidity’ that are ALWAYS allowed to become ‘part of the story’:

- “Why do I have a feeling this is how WWIII starts?” -

So, it only seems fair that ANY speculation and comments resulting from it be given equal consideration?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

My face mask gets soggy with the humidity, but his must have been heavy. I really don’t think he needed the mask while swimming. The police could have given him a new one.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

SuperheroToday  06:24 pm JST

Larr Flint

Just give him the right to stay. Japan is big enough and well in need of young blood.

Mr Flint , i was once talking with a japanese Student about this young blood topic…

He answerd me „ we build robots for it we don’t need foreigners „

Well. I suppose we can appreciate some japanese for their brutally honest racism?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Ezo island is still a mystery

one of the few corners of Japan not accessible by train and about an hour's drive from Sapporo? Is it?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If he really did swim that route, which I doubt very much, he should be in the next Olympics..

4 ( +5 / -1 )

if there is any person who can swim in those cold waters and make the journey, it's the russians. Mad respect. But for him to want to flee to a third world country and ask Japan to take care of it for him is a big ask. Did he think we are a in the smuggling trade or something? if he had done something illegal in Russia and the authority are after him, japan as it's neighbor has no right to interfere and help out a criminal. In fact the authority might even send him back because if something similar happen with Japan and those who committed a crime flee to Russia, the japanese authority also would require Russia help in sending them back. So is all depend on what exactly this guy is fleeing from.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What a lad!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Good chance he is a Russian spy.

Sorry. Refugee Visa denied.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

On behalf of the British Olympic Swimming Team, might I suggest the authorities crate him up and put him on a plane to London.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I don't believe a translator was present for the Russian when he made his statement. 30 years ago , I fell asleep on a bench outside a Lawsons . I was woken by two police . I had no language ability at that time. I had bought and paid for a beer and an apple at the store . All I said to the two guys "I was just taking an nap" I was arrested and brought to the local police station. I was asked to sign a statement which was in Japanese which had the words high lighted in English " I had taken an apple" My wife (ex-wife now) at that time was able to rescue me after 3 hours lockup . An Nap was translated to be An Apple.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Did they give him a PCR test? One of the lucky ones. If they did I bet they charged him ¥30,000

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"...It’s also one of the few corners of Japan not accessible by train and about an hour's drive from Sapporo..."

No, it is about 6 hours drive from Sapporo (and about an hour's flight).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If he has tattoos, a dead give away. Mafia on the run from the Russian police.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Mmm…, so is it possible that this story did NOT actually happen at all?

so it is possible that he didn’t exactly swim the entire way,

just as it’s also possible he didn’t even come from…

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Should check him carefully.

Don't get into troubles with Putin.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

If he has tattoos, a dead give away. Mafia on the run from the Russian police.

Interesting that you know the Japanese law so well. Few people know this facet of the Japanese law, where by it is accepted as a proof that Russians with tattoos are mafia, without the need for any other supporting evidence whatsoever.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Interesting that you know the Japanese law so well. Few people know this facet of the Japanese law, where by it is accepted as a proof that Russians with tattoos are mafia, without the need for any other supporting evidence whatsoever.

Good one Columbo. I'm not trying to convict him a court of law and didn't mean it to be taken literally.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If he actually swam here even half of it, just send him to Bach, he will take him to IOC country, wherever it is, to be part of refugee team. He swam in at the right timing.

And no need to portrait him as a criminal, for now nothing point it that direction, he could as easily be a politics opponent, deserter, gay, ...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Russia is a modern country, it's citizens have as many rights as any other, and it's leaders no more corrupt than any other, despite what your local propaganda tells you.

Most likely he is an escaped criminal or on the run from an undiscovered crime.

He came in a boat, not by swimming, either someone dropped him off or he hid a small craft after arriving.

Have the Russian authorities interview him before deciding if asylum is right for him.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In addition to the hat and mask, there is another article on this that says he was dry when found and he was also wearing glasses. It is very unlikely he actually swam from the disputed island.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Make him a lifeguard in the summer when Japanese without fail….drown.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"...little is known about why he chose to flee the rather remote island with only a slightly larger population than the town he arrived in.

Because he doesn't want to settle there? That being the case, the size of the arrival location would irrelevant and proximity would be everything.

And I imagine he would take off from a remote location because there are few police and other authorities around.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is very doubtful he is telling the truth.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What a swimmer! That must be some kind of a record.

"That island belongs to Japan, so isn't he just escaping to the same country?"

Yeah, that's right. And if he's of Japanese descent, then he should be accepted without question, shouldn't he?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Afghanistan are open to Russian assymum seekers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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