Yokohama was really a terrific place and we had mixed emotions about leaving there. Our last few days there were spent dithering about securing lines and fenders preparing for the impending Typhoon that was supposed to hit. The Marina had come and politely asked us to move to a more secure location within the marina complex. We quickly agreed and moved our boat to the other side of the marina.
The track that was projected was to hit anywhere from direct to 30 miles to the east of us. Not having been there long, it was difficult to gage how the marina would fare. If we were still in our home port of Mystic, we would have been better able to gage the impact as we had been there for 45 years (I was a kid when we started going there). We were not too nervous as it seemed to us that we were fairly well protected in the marina. Since the storm turned out to be kind of a dud, I won’t spend much time talking about it. 30 kts max and a bunch of rain. The picture above was in the “height” of the storm. Not too impressive, huh?
Before that, Carol and I traveled to Tokyo for a few days with Braun and Tina on Grey Pearl. When we first arrived here we had talked about renting a car but after being here, there was no question that the train was the best way to get around. The train system in Japan is TRULY AMAZING. First of all, they are spotless. Second, they are on time and when I say that, I mean like…almost to the second! They are quiet, comfortable and go just about any place you want within Japan. One thing I saw that really amazed me was the amount of small children that rode the trains by themselves. It is not uncommon to see 10 or 11 year old children in a small group riding by themselves. The reason for that is neither they nor their parents has any fear for their children’s safety. It almost seems that criminals of any sort do not exist in Japan. Actually, I am not THAT naïve. I am sure that they do exist somewhere, but it is neither common nor evident in the streets of the towns or cities. I am not sure why this is so, but I suspect it is because of the culture here. When you commit some wrongdoing, you bring shame upon the entire family, not just on yourself and to do that to your family is almost unforgiveable. Anyway, you do feel very safe here.
Another thing that I noticed was the absence of trash containers within Tokyo (and every town in Japan that we visited). At first I found it annoying until I noticed something else……the absence of the trash itself….. anywhere in the streets. In Japan, you are expected to take your trash home with you. Can you imagine what LA or New York City would look like after one day if they implemented that in the US?
The people we met in Japan, as a whole, on the streets and socially are humble, polite, warm and very helpful as well as interested in you. Just as we were getting used to it, we visited the Tokyo Fish Market………….and then…..
………All of those things I had come to appreciate disappeared in an instant. The market has to be seen to be believed. We arrived there at 5:30 am just as the mayhem commenced. Or maybe I should call it Organized Chaos. There are hundreds if not thousands of sellers and buyers scrambling around inside this HUGE building hauling, cutting, buying and selling every kind of fish that you can imagine. The prices were also amazing. I am told that a single Giant Tuna goes for as much as $35,000 or more. People were rushing around everywhere and if you were in their way, the screamed something at you in Japanese, which I could not understand but I am confident that it was not “excuse me sir, may I pass you by?” I am sure it was more like, “outa my way idiot!!” or the Japanese equivalent of that. Conspicuously missing from this huge area filled with fish guts and blood were bugs. I did not see a single fly in this multi acre area, which to me is amazing. No bugs and not much fish smell either. They also had these tiny little trucks (see below) that barreled around the narrow aisles and through the intersections. The only way I can describe it is to have you imagine New York City at rush hour with all of the traffic lights out and no one stopping. They weaved in and out of lanes and incredibly enough, there were no collisions. However, they do not stop for pedestrians – you just have to jump out of the way ……and quickly!
We also discovered while there that the beef is quite different than in the US. It is heavily marbled with very fine lines of fat throughout the meat. It is almost mushy. Ok –here is a test. Guess which is the correct answer as to WHY the beef is like this ( the correct answer is at the bottom of this blog entry).
A) The cattle are kept in tiny restrictive bins for their whole life
B) The Cattle are fed Beer
C) The cattle have a masseuse that massages them for their whole life
Ok, I will not make you wait until the end……the answer is: ALL OF THE ABOVE! It must be nice to be a cow here as long as you don’t know what the end will bring. I never asked if they got a TV to watch or an Ipod to listen to.
We had dinner with a few wonderful people from our past while here. Ashida San, who is a friend of Carol’s father from many years ago, picked us up at the hotel and brought us to a restaurant called Ginza Ten Ichi. It was a small tempura bar that even if you could find it, you would not get in as you have to know somebody. The food was just incredible and it was terrific to see Ike and his wife. Ike is 83 years old and still works every day in his business. His car? ……a 1994 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham (the big one) that he has driven since new. I did not see it but I can just picture it careening around Tokyo and the looks on the faces of the drivers of these little cars as it barrels toward them.
Doi San is a good friend that I met because he is a consultant to the manufacturing industry. He came to my business several years ago to teach us efficient manufacturing methods. It is one of the reasons that I was able to retire when I did. He has this incredible little Nissan sports(see below) car (Nissan Skyline GTR) which he picked us up in and was not shy about putting it through the paces on the narrow roads! Doi San and his wife Yoshi took us to a magnificent traditional Japanese restaurant in Yokohama that you would never, ever find on your own. It was great to see him again.
Toward the end of our stay in Yokohama, we were asked if we would be able to attend a reception in one of the rooms at the marina. I did not realize until we arrived that it was in our honor!! We met lots of local boat owners and members of the yacht club. I still have a hard time grasping the graciousness of the people here and how genuine it is.
On the same day (we did have a few scheduling issues) Carol and I were invited to a barbeque at the home of some friends of my sister Carla, who live in Yokohama. Shiho, the daughter of Carla’s friends, traveled by train to pick us and bring us back to the barbeque. It was a great night filled with wonderful food and music (live, I might add). Shiho and her father are both excellent musicians.
One of the people we met at the reception at the marina was Kohta, who is a local businessman here in Yokohama. He is an avid boater and just took delivery of a brand new 62 ft raised pilothouse cruiser. He is a big Nordhavn fan and we met because he had admired Ken’s boat from afar and someday wanted one for himself. Kohta is an owner of many businesses, including a restaurant in Yokohama called Tycoon. He invited the six of us to be his guests for dinner there and when we got there we were a bit taken back by the décor. It was a replica of a restaurant he had visited in Ft Lauderdale (an outdoor one), all inside a former warehouse with 40 foot ceilings. He even had the swinging tables that he duplicated from what he recalled while in Ft Lauderdale. The food was great but once again, the hospitality was the high point of the evening. We have not been able to reciprocate the generosity here. The standard response we receive when we offer is “no, not here, you have no chance…you are in my country and you are my guests”
Kohta was of great help after we left the marina for Ashiya. He made calls to friends who he knew who had docks and offered us free space or almost free all the way down the coast.
The group of us (Seabird, Grey Pearl and Sans Souci) decided that before we left it would be a nice thing to have an open house on our three boats to thank those who were so kind to us during our stay at the Marina. Everyone here is so appreciative of the littlest things you do for them that we thought they would be absolutely thrilled to be invited to our boats. We were not wrong. After many many “Argato Gazymus’s” and endless bows, we were satisfied that our new friends were just thrilled and thankful to have been invited.
Yokohama was supposed to be a short stopover for us, but I think I speak for all three boats when I say that we would not have been disappointed if we had made the decision to stay for the winter. Many thanks to the Yokohama Bayside Marina management and staff for making our stay so memorable. It was, however, time to go and we had a small window between Typhoons to move out and head towards our winter home, Ashiya, a small bedroom town located between Osaka and Kobe.
Next…..our trip to Ashiya, our home for the next 6 months and the final destination of the GSSR.