William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson
nova_one

97. (1.) Tokushima to the Pacific

Written on Saturday, August 2nd aboard the Ocean East, clipping along the Pacific at the breakneck speed of 36.1 km/h.

Last night we were all abuzz – not only was D.’s successor arriving, but we were going to see a fireworks display on the river.

S. and I set off for Circle K to get supplies (mostly beer), and we saw Ms. M. dropping off F. They’d just had a chat about the yoga lessons she had volunteered to give during the intersession (M2 has a similar thing going in photography). F., as she was volunteering to give these lessons, was going to give them for free. But S.G. wants there to be a charge for them, and she found that to be a bit of a shock.

It’s a nominal charge (maybe ¥500), and in a sense charging is a good idea as people tend to take things they pay for more seriously (and even more so, the more they pay). But the philosophy behind all this isn’t goodwill or community outreach – it’s business. (“STEP RIGHT UP AND WATCH THE WHITE MONKEY TEACH YOGA! $5 for a peek; $10 if you want to touch her.”) S.G. is in worse straits than even I think, though, if they’re going to be carefully counting the yen from these micro-ventures (but of course they will).

After the beer run, we hung around the dorms a bit and waited for the new teacher to arrive. We all got to meet her – for the purposes of this journal, let’s call her Ch. Ch. Was very tired and couldn’t accept our invitation to see the fireworks. But that would be okay – there would be more the next night. Nice to meet yous and goodnights and see yous done, she deservedly retired for the evening.

Feeling social (or, more to the point, rested and energetic), we walked to the festival grounds and saw the fireworks from the levee. It’s a bit of a haul – crossing the bridge alone takes about fifteen minutes. But being in good company, the time passed quickly.

We reached the grounds on the south bank, and the party revealed itself to be the Yoshinari (River) Festival. Post-fireworks, it was all Awa Odori (at least on this night) – same music, same dance… heh.

We met up with F.’s friends S-go and Em., and we enjoyed the short time remaining (the party ended just after 10) making plans and talking about funny things. I must admit I was rather taken with Em. She was hilarious. She thought I was crazy hilarious. I don’t even remember how it came up, but as far as my name went she suggested I could use a combination of kanji that makes the sounds ma-se-so-n. Of course, I could end up with characters that mean “bat excrement,” but this still merits further research. If the kanji are cool and/or mean something awesome, I will probably use this method. (Or, I could just grow up.)

Everyone was shocked to hear that I would be taking the ferry to Tokyo. I jokingly suggested that it’s better value – you get 18 hours for your money instead of just 11 or 12. I’m now experiencing that it’s better value in another sense – the boat is an attraction in itself.

Anyway, so we stayed at the river until they kicked everyone out, and then we stopped at an outdoor toilet. I laid my things on the grass when I went in, and when I came back I grabbed my backpack.

Em. and the girls then went off to Ingrid’s – we boys headed back to Ojin-cho. Back on the north side, M. spotted an udon shop, and he and A. went in…

Hey, where’s my camera?

<Gulp!>

I left them to their meal and walked briskly (it was way too far to run, and my pack was heavy) back to the river, back over the bridge again, and back by the outdoor toilets, and there was my black camera pouch, lying in the shadows. The camera was safely inside. Whew!

So after an interminably long, lonely walk back home, I ate a sandwich, did a last-minute load of laundry, and went to sleep. By now it was almost 2, and I needed to be up at 6.

This morning, the three tall malt beers had come back to visit me, so much so that I was tempted to just leave the trip until Sunday. But I knew this would be a mistake, not only because it would have been wussing out (“Will, weren’t you going to Tokyo today?”), but also because Saturday night would have been another party night with F. and Em. and the crew, and that would be great, but I’d have this very problem again the following morning.

I fought through the process of getting myself and my things ready, and I left with barely ten minutes to catch the train at Yoshinari station. Running even a few steps with a full backpack and 30-pound duffel bag is painful, but I did make it to the 8:34 train.

Downtown, I needed to catch a particular city bus. I went to wait by the bus terminal. You’d of course think catching a local bus would be simple. You don’t know me.

First, a bus came by that said “ferry” (though not specifically my ferry). Could this still be it? Nope. Then another bus came, and stopped at the appointed “platform.” Oh, is this it? No, no!

Finally, a bus came by that said “Ocean Ferry.” OK, this must be it, right? OK! So I stand in front of the front doors…

Oh, you’re supposed to get on at the midship doors. I’m the only young person getting on. I notice that none of the older folks put money in anything. Maybe they all have passes? But I don’t have a pass! I go up to the front. Ah! There’s a coin slot! Great! I put in my 200 yen.

I get… change?!

I look askance at the driver, who says “Two hundred yen.” OK, I get that part… I start to put money in what I see is the farebox, but he holds his hand over it.

OK, I must need a bus ticket. I get off and give my ¥200 in assorted change to the booth attendant. She counts it up carefully and gives me… two ¥100 coins.

EYAUH? She notices my confusion and leads me back onto the bus and indicates the farebox. I go to put my two 100 yen coins in it. She covers it up, but makes a gesture of leaving.

OH YOU PAY WHEN YOU GET OFF

I slink into my seat and attempt to enjoy the ride. The hangover and fatigue are setting in, and the excitement has faded. I should have packed the night before instead of partying, but socially-speaking that first choice would have been nowheresville.

I turned out to be the only person taking the bus all the way to the ferry. At the terminal, though, there were lots of… trucks. You can take your 13m tractor trailer from Tokushima to Tokyo for the low, low price of $1049. At least you’re not spending money on diesel and expressway fees! Cars up to 3m get on for the more reasonable price of $190.

I read all this from the signs inside the terminal – after a fashion, anyway, as you know how great my Japanese reading is. The booths hadn’t opened yet, which I didn’t think was a terribly great sign.

About a half-hour later, a booth did open up, and a lineup formed. As I neared the front of the line, I noticed that all the other people were holding little forms. AW GEEZ THAT’S WHAT THEY WERE DOING BEFORE THEY OPENED UP… I must have thought they were balancing their chequebooks or something.

The guy behind me noticed my predicament, and speaking a little bit of English, he helped me fill out the unilingual form in haste.

There were a few still-unanswered questions when I reached the booth, and the ticket cost more than what the website and the girl at TOPIA (though she too was only reading the website – she was my Japanese second opinion) said – it was $102, not $93 or whatever. And then the attendant started asking complex questions, and I had no sweet clue what she was saying. My mouth was agape, and I uttered “Uhhh…” I passed her K.’s electronic dictionary. The attendant’s expression showed no interest, and she passed it back, along with my ticket and directions to wait on the second floor (I’d already figured that out).

The upstairs waiting area had seen better days, but they kept a great selection of comic digests with provocative girlie photos. Outside, the cars and motorbikes were lined up and ready to drive on, and then they did. It was funny because I’m used to ferries loading (and unloading) passengers first, then vehicles. This was the other way around – it was only ten minutes before departure when a worker came and opened the rope blocking the steps up to the skybridge.

The man who took my ticket asked me right away if I spoke a little bit of Japanese. Very little, yes. =) On deck, a senior officer greeted me. He was missing some fingers. He also asked me if I spoke a little bit of Japanese. Well, yesss, but...

“Is English okay?” he asked.
“Oh, yes!” I happily exclaimed.

He led me on board and told me what I think the ticket counter attendant had been trying to say: We would be arriving at the port in Tokyo at 5:40am. This part I knew. But 5:40am is also before public transportation and taxis (in that area) start up, and the nearest train station is a 30-minute walk away.

So, the ferry company reserves a taxi – I can stay on the ship until 6:20, and get the shared taxi at 6:40. It would cost 200 yen. Was I interested?

You bet. I’ve got too much stuff to really enjoy a 30-minute walk (before finding a coin locker, that is – such will be the bread-and-butter of this little trip). So he helped me fill out another little form, and told me where my “room” was.

Hey, cool! There was a huge sleeping area (rated for 128, thankfully there were nowhere near that many), with blankets and racks and lots of sleeping truckers and a few young families.

The seas were calm, but the winds on deck as we were sailing out into the Pacific could blow you backward! I can also see why they were concerned if I could understand some Japanese. They can’t spend their time babysitting foreigners, and I’m the only one on board.

There was a lot to explore on this vessel, though it’s a story better told with photos, so I will leave it for now. Let’s just say this ship has everything – there’s even a mini-
sento! There are vending machines everywhere, which have everything imaginable, and at reasonable prices, too. There are even ones that microwave your meal for you – all you do is put your coins in, select your choice, and wait.

As we plod into darkness, it now becomes easier to imagine that our 36.1 km/h is really 36.1 times the speed of light as our space-warping ship plies the space lanes between two Japanese colonies. I’ll go out on deck and see if I can see any stars.

* * *

I lay down near the bow and looked up at the Summer Triangle. I saw many satellites and even a few meteors. The roll of the ship was indescribably soothing. This is the only way to travel.

Update: Both the yoga and photography lessons ended up being cancelled, as only one person called to enquire about the yoga, and none called for photography. Even (and perhaps especially) in light of my misgivings about the particulars, it was really sad to see the leftover yoga posters with F.'s face being used as scrap paper in the color printers.
Tags: ferries, japan, money, ocean, parties, school, travel, work
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