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11-03-02, 02:38 PM
#138 Richard Keech ...Return To Japan, Part-5
by Dick G
Dick G (Login Dick Gaines)
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Date: Sun, 3 Nov 2002 11:04:37 EST
Subject: #138 Richard Keech

NOVEMBER 3, 2002
ęCopyright 2002
by Richard Keech

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I look out over the ocean. There are white caps on the wave tops. From my sailing days I guess the wind is running at about 16 to 20 knots. Just a good sailing breeze really, but that wind is coming from the wrong direction, out of the north. It's a cold wind. Well, we came up on deck to check the ship out. We had better keep moving. We do just that.

In the near distance we see an island. It's covered with a bamboo forest. There is another island, just a speck on the horizon, beyond this one. I point them out to Kay. I vaguely remember that Okinawa is a part of a chain of smaller islands pointing towards Japan. Perhaps some of these are honeymoon destinations? (One good thing about not speaking the language is that you can use your imagination freely to fill in the knowledge gaps.

No one will disabuse you.) We walk the length of the walkway on the "port" side of the ship. We are not entirely alone. There are one or two other couples out enjoying the sun and fresh air. But, considering the population of the campground below, walking on the outer decks in a cold wind is not a popular pastime.

We watch the nearby island drop off behind us. Our ship won't make port there, we can see. Kay says, "Have you seen enough? I'm cold. Lets go back in and get warm again. Let's see if we can find our sweaters." I quickly agree. I'm cold too. The thing is, it isn't really that cold. It's just a nice sailing day out on the ocean. We have spent too much time in the tropics is all..

We return thru the original set of storm doors. Our honeymoon couple is just where we left them. For what it's worth the young lady is getting the benefit of the fresh cool air that comes in with every opening of the outer storm door while she stays out of the direct wind. Kay says sympathetic words as we pass them. They both smile at us. We work our way back to our tatami mat stateroom space (all six square meters), pull out our cozy comforters and lean back against our soft luggage. I notice our luggage has been moved away from the bulkhead it was resting on.

I wonder why? I look around for some sort of explanation and see several of our neighbors smiling and trying to communicate the answer. It seams the porthole above our space was leaking water. They saw this happening and moved our stuff before it got wet. We thank them all. "Thank you" in Japanese is the most used of all words.

"Arigato." Kay and I decide to skip lunch. We'll share a Japanese box lunch that our neighbors bought for us when we went topside. They didn't want us to miss a meal. Kay rolled up in her comforter and says, "I'm tired. Wake me when it's supper time." I am tempted to do the same, but I have unfinished work that takes priority.

Our three day voyage ends tomorrow. Sometime in the morning our ship will dock in Kagoshima, Japan. Somehow I have to get us from the landing area in the harbor to a Youth Hostel in the city. I have a simple map showing its location in my International Youth Hostel book. What I don't have is the foggiest notion of how to get from the ship's dock to that spot on the map. The solution is clear of course, I have to learn how to ask the right questions in Japanese.

That's what my phrase book is for. I spend the rest of the day working on this. Please don't ask me why I don't just call a hotel and have them come and pick us up. Or, better yet, do ask me, so I can tell you. The truth is we can't afford to travel as Americans in Japan. We don't have the $500 a day it would cost to do it that way. We have a better way.

We are members of the International Youth Hostel organization. We shall stay in Youth Hostels as we travel thru Japan. This lets us travel for less than a $70 a day and its a lot more fun. We learned about this in Sweden. Youth Hostels are found in all major cities in both Europe and Japan. We love them. All Youth Hostels in a country cost the same.

In Japan it is about $15 a day. Meals in them will cost less than $4 a day, each. This we can afford. However money, oddly enough, is not the reason we travel this way. If we were rich we still would go Youth Hostel. The thing is Youth Hostels are run dormitory style and they feed family style.

You are not isolated and alone in a Youth Hostel as you always are in a hotel. You have young intelligent friends who are full of life, to share your meals and your evenings with. You come to a new city and want to know what's worth seeing and how best to get there? You have friends dining with you who've already "been there and done that."

They will be happy to tell you. And they won't spout travel "hype." They'll tell it like it is. But enough of that. Tomorrow the ship docks. We'll leave it and try to find our way to the Youth Hostel in Kagoshima. Judging from our language experience so far, I can't expect to find my way across town by asking for directions in English.

Hence the importance of learning how to ask the right questions in Japanese.


Richard Keech
semper fi

Posted on Nov 3, 2002, 2:04 PM
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