The year was passing so fast and there was so much still to see. We waved goodbye to our friends in Onomichi and, after a one-day sail, anchored at Shiraishi Jima where we were looking forward to meeting our next tomodachi, Amy!
ART IN THE INLAND SEA: The Setouchi Triennale
Who knew that there’s a famous art festival spread over the islands of the eastern Seto Naikai that only takes place every three years and 2016 was one of those years? We didn’t! But we were excited when we found out. After leaving Shiraishi Jima, we spent the next 12 days visiting several of the islands and the art installations — some ridiculous, some fascinating, and some serenely beautiful and touching.
It wasn’t all staring at art displays. There were festivals, interesting restaurants, and we got our exercise exploring by bicycle and lots of walking. We also did some excellent hikes to the top of various islands. And, of course, there was the art of the natural world.
Nobuhiko-San: “We have come to party with you!”
We will say right off that meeting Nobuhiku-san was one of the most unusual experiences we had in Japan.
After dropping Yuki, Maya, and Kuchan off to catch the train back to Onomichi, we returned to Migration anchored just off of Himeji harbor. Bruce felt he might be catching a cold, so we thought we would make it an early evening. It was not to be.
Just as we were thinking of going to bed, we saw a light go past our starboard port; it was so close it startled us. We both hurried on deck to find a small sailboat approaching. Two men were busy putting fenders out; they clearly were planning to tie up to us. With very little time for discussion, we threw some fenders over the side to protect Migration. Within moments they were alongside. Few words had been exchanged thus far, but suddenly one of the men said, in English, “Welcome to Japan! We have come to party with you!” He then held up a magnum-sized bottle of sake and several bags of snacks. We were a bit stunned. Did we have a choice?
Only Nobuhiko-san spoke English; his friend just smiled and filled our sake glasses. Nobuhiko-san is a machinist and a sailor with a shop right in the marina. He asked about our travels to and within Japan. We asked about his life and why he and his friend were out sailing. “We like to go sailing and drink after work,” he said with a big smile. “When we saw you were a foreign boat, we had to come over to drink with you.” Nobuhiko-san invited us to come to his shop the next morning as he wanted to take us to Himeji Jo, one of the most famous castles in Japan. He also wanted to write our names in Kanji. He had a lot of plans for us.
The following morning Bruce had fallen ill — the drinking party had sent him over the edge –- and there was no way he was going ashore. So Alene went alone to find Nobuhiko-san and tell him that though we appreciated his offer of a tour, we couldn’t accept. He was on his boat and insisted on Alene spending some time so he could translate our names into Kanji, giving Alene the various choices and asking her which kanji best fit our personalities. He offered to move his two boats so we could be on his dock for free. And then he presented Alene with a folder that she was to open with Bruce once back aboard Migration. The folder contained copies of about 30 of his sketches and a pad of temple prayer papers. Such a thoughtful and interesting man… and certainly a sake party we will always remember.
Kobe, Nishinomiya, & Ichimonji Yacht Club
We were intent on visiting Yoshi in Kobe and were getting closer as we traveled eastward. This part of Japan was very populated and we sailed past huge fish and seaweed farms which required careful navigation.
Yoshi had done some research and determined that the Shin Nishinomiya Marina was the best option for a berth. He’d spoken to the staff to ensure we had all the necessary information beforehand. He even sent us photos. The only problem was that, though they gave us a ‘foreign boat discount’, the price was still pretty high. How lucky then that as we returned to the boat from checking in at the marina office, we found Juha, a Finnish man living in Japan, and Koyama-san, the commodore of the Ichimonji Yacht Club (IYC), standing at our boat. They immediately invited us to stay at IYC.
Koyama-san’s boat was in the boatyard and would be launched the following day. They decided they would escort us to IYC once the boat was in the water. It wasn’t far and as soon as we arrived we were introduced to Mas-san, the IYC Vice Commodore and accountant. Mas-san is a university professor and speaks very good English, and in the spirit of IYC, offered to help us in any way we needed.
Ichimonji means ‘one dock’, and the IYC is, in fact, one very long dock with many fingers. It’s kinda funky and reminded us of some of the interesting backwater locales in the Sacramento Delta. The docks were built by the members, as was the clubhouse. They are very proud of their club – rightly so — and everyone pitches in on maintenance, repairs and improvements to both the docks and the clubhouse.
We didn’t meet many of the members during this first visit to IYC because Bruce still had his cold from Himeji and didn’t want to pass it on. Also, we were there during the week — it is on the weekend when the club really comes alive. But Mas-san made it clear that we were welcome to return to IYC anytime, so in 2017 we certainly found out how lively IYC can be. But that’s in the next Migrations.
Just as we’d been in touch with Yoshi, we had also been corresponding with Nobsan, Kei-chan, Kiyoshi-san and Mieko-san hoping to arrange a visit. We’d come up with a plan, so we left IYC for our rendezvous on Awajishima.
Awajishima is the largest island of the Seto Naikai and marks its eastern border dividing the inland sea from Osaka Bay. We sailed to Suntopia Marina and awaited our friends who were driving all the way from Yokohama.
Tannowa Marina: Brrrrr… Winter! And another Tomodachi…
You may have noticed in some of the last photos that we are bundled up. It was getting cold! In October the weather turned from summer to winter in a matter of days. We’d decided to leave Migration in a marina and travel back to the USA for the holidays; we were having problems with Migration’s diesel heater, we wanted to see family, and… it was just too cold!
We’d heard of Kakihara-san from other cruisers who had been at Tannowa Marina. They said he was a friendly sailor living on his boat, and that he spoke English.
After we arrived and had Migration tied up to the dock, Alene went by bike to find Kakihara-san to meet him and ask where to do laundry. Kakihara-san got on his own bicycle, and together they climbed the hill into town, where he showed Alene the coin-op and the grocery.
That night, he invited us to dinner aboard his boat. He served us fresh fish he’d just caught. We had a lovely evening together exchanging stories. His tales of repairing huge ship propellors were fascinating, as were the stories of his sailing adventures around Japan. Kakihara-san also sat down with us and went over our marine charts to help us find the best places to visit when we sailed up the west coast the following year. However, the coolest thing about Kakihara-san was that he went sailing all the time. It would be blowing 25 knots and he would take his litttle boat out single-handing. When he returned he would be all smiles. Truly a man of the sea.
We spent four days getting Migration ready to be left alone in the cold. On the last day, we moved her to a new spot with her bow lines tied to the breakwater and her stern lines tied to moorings. We said goodbye and headed to the train station.
Fukuoka America’s Cup World Series
One of the AC World Series precursor races to the America’s Cup was to be held in Fukuoka. It was the first time an America’s Cup event had come to Japan. Because Japan had a team competing, everyone was excited. We just had to go, and we met a lot of our friends there.
We flew back to the US deeply grateful for our time in Japan and still slightly reeling from the intense experiences this land had offered us. Never had we been so affected by a country and her people. And so it would continue when we returned the following February. But that’s in the next Migrations. If you’ve read this far, thanks for taking the time to let us share our tomodachi with you. They are truly sugoi!
Be good. Be safe. Have fun.
BB & ADR
優しさは決して浪費されません Kindness will never be wasted in any way -Japanese Proverb
1,732 nautical miles traveled this period.
44,990 nautical miles aboard Migration since leaving Long Beach in June 2005