It’s now the third full day of our unexpected holiday in Japan. Traveling with me into Tokyo this morning were 2 fellow crewmen, including Bill, the other, I’ll name Frank.
With the knowledge that our ship’s Officers were staying in hotel rooms in (any)town by now and with the hull and such under repair, we were on free time to play here in Japan.
There was no doubt of our shared excitement to be taking the Shinkansen or better known to us Westerners as the ‘bullet train’. This high-speed rail system began in Japan a mere two years before I would be a passenger on it. And at that time (when I was there), it was the fastest train service in the world!
I think it was the Tama-Plaza station where we caught our train. The Japanese National Railways’ New Tokaido Line would take us on a thrilling journey for approximately 29 kilometers from the station in Yokohama, to our destination of Tokyo.
🚢Not having to return to the Trans Western every morning made this feel like a real vacation, one that normally we’d have to pay for … instead we were the ones being paid! I liked how this was working out.
Beautiful scenery began with the majestic Mt. Fuji, a view to behold indeed and, perhaps it was magical because I knew it to be Mt. Fuji and that I was actually in Japan, viewing it with my own eyes.
Now I’m being reminded by my editor about the tragedy of flight 911. Not even 6 months prior to my seeing this world famous mountain, a BOAC airliner (and 3 others in this year, 1966) had crashed, killing all on board.
Flight 911 had departed in the early afternoon from Tokyo International Airport and was barely 15 minutes into flight when, after experiencing severe turbulence, the Boeing 707 jetliner literally began separating from itself in many pieces.
It had been witnessed, the aircraft was trailing white vapor. Then it was losing altitude and pieces of it began to breakaway. It was almost immediately rumored, the pilots wanted to fly a little closer to the mountain to show it off to the passengers. Talk about mixed emotions when looking upon what would remain a beautiful sight.
Arrived Shinjuku Station and the view out my window has set me up for immediate speechlessness. Looking at all there is to see and we’re not even out and about in the city yet! My mind is nearly blown! Observing my surroundings I see the sheer busyness, the hustle and the whirl of life in motion yet, I feel it’s presented in near perfect grace.
I see no one pushing their way through the crowd trying to make his train …there’s no shouting or vulgar language that I can hear; certainly would have, if this were Brooklyn or Bombay.
The native commuters seemed to move with light-footedness, the female passengers poised and all at once, moving efficiently. Can you picture this? Altogether their fluidity of movement had me feeling as though I may vanish into the floor if I didn’t move my butt as gracefully and decidedly swift as they.
We made our way to the outside of the station and on to Koshu-Kaido Avenue. From here the three of us ambled around. Walking just to absorb the sights, smells and sounds of this beguiling metropolis. Wandering aimlessly in a city we know totally nothing about save for our hopes of amazing food, great beers and well, I’m ready for a nap!
This is so cool, I’m absolutely drawn in by the pure foreignness of what I could see and process in my mind. Business men all suited up, mostly in western business attire, the ladies mostly in traditional dress, all the busy people. The hustle & bustle, we watched as the city expanded & contracted in heartbeat; it felt almost dreamlike.
We spotted a man who had fallen down and the three of us, thinking alike, rushed towards him in assist mode. People who saw us in deliberate attempt were quick to warn us, leave him be. One had said, “The police help the man, not us.” I know I felt extremely awkward just leaving him there on the sidewalk. I guessed he wouldn’t be trampled in their seemingly effortless steps … they’d just walk around him.
The three of us kept tight company, originally thinking safety in numbers. Although we were cruising around in a war zone not that long ago, this city had an entirely different vibe to it. It wasn’t frightful, just an altered state of humanity, it was … remarkable.
Our bellies told us it was time to eat some of those foods we were smelling along our aimless path. Yes indeed, a nice cold Japanese beer and a delicious meal was the immediate plan. We came across a large restaurant in only moments.
We were seated almost immediately. I examined the menu which was written in Japanese of course but then I saw beneath each entry was, in smaller letters, the dish description in English. Just then Frank burst out with, “Oh thank goodness!” I know I thought the same. Bill and I nodded to one another and to Frank. We confidently placed our orders, beers included.
First the ice cold Sapporo beers were at our table almost immediately. Next to arrive at the table was the place-settings; ours included silverware to go with the chopsticks. They must’ve known what would be next.
When our dishes arrived, we tried keenly to use the chopsticks but alas, our attempts were causing much laughter and not enough food going in! Bill actually managed for a few moments to look like he knew what he was doing but quickly gave in to the fork as Frank and I already had. Delicious! Worth every penny! Wonderful!
In complete agreement after our very filling meal, we hailed a taxi and asked him to take us to a decent hotel where we would get a good night’s sleep. He seemed to know exactly where to take us.
We would stay in Tokyo for the next two days & nights.