105. Catch and Release of a Different Kind

I only noticed what developed next by being conveniently located when the MPs boarded our ship.  This certainly wasn’t an action to be announced especially if they were trying to be secretive or something.  

I did speculate to myself if they were to sail with us and if so, why?

Not much later I learned why the MPs had two of my fellow crew members in handcuffs and were escorted off of the ship.  It seems these two apparently couldn’t resist some of the ‘goodies’ which they’d come across from their land excursions and so, brought these illegal items on board.  

Clearly the authorities found out and suffice to say, the matter was taken under immediate control.  These two young men sadly would miss the boat.  And that was that.

The remainder of the evening and that night seemed rather quiet.

Our Captain had already left the saloon; the Officer’s promptly finished their morning meal and made way to their posts.  Breakfast -mine included- was complete.  I quickly cleared the dishes and postponed setting up for lunch. 

And I put off my normal routine of cabin tidying in lieu of making an appearance on the outside decks.  I had heard Skip and his Officers speaking of the release from drydocks and it fascinated me.  I really wanted to see this.

It was time for the braces to let loose the Trans Western and set her free into the Pacific Ocean by way of first slipping her into Tokyo Bay.  The Harbor Master was already up on the Bridge with our Skipper and his crew.

We were sliding backwards, very carefully until our ship was completely in the water.  I really couldn’t feel anything.  I don’t know but I expected a different sensation in my legs maybe?  I was told this was due to not having a load of cargo on board.  

And again, me without a camera!  Well, I definitely committed this (and so many other once-in-my-lifetime events) to memory.  Undoubtedly I’d never get to witness something like this, any of this, ever again.

I looked around for a moment at all who assembled -those who could be- on decks and we watched our own departure.  I know I was grabbing at the last eyesights of Japan that I possibly could.  

We shared our farewell with the dockyard crew … they waved us a goodbye and I’m certain I heard them cheering – perhaps for a job well done?  I certainly hoped so. 

The Trans Western was attached to two powerful tugboats by very strong, thick tow-lines on both the port and starboard.  All this time since we hit the water, our engines were idling as the ship was being pulled through the harbor waters within the bay.

I took notice of dozens if not hundreds of fishing boats lined up on either side of us and ready to go out for profitable ¥ fishing trips, I have no doubt.  Tokyo Bay being abundant in fish, I believe sea bass particularly, these boats wouldn’t have to venture too far out to fill their live-wells and purses too!  

Cormorants, some diving at the surface of the water for breakfast and a multitude of Gulls were loitering in the near distance and looking out for their fair share to be sure. 

Very slowly still, we were approaching the part of Tokyo Bay which became the Uraga Channel and that linked the bay to the mighty Pacific Ocean itself.  

It is here that I watched the Harbor Master climb down the rope ladder to board his own little boat (by comparison) for his return to Yokohama.  I intended to stay out here until the shorelines of Japan became fuzzy to my eye.

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104. Goodbye Most Enjoyable Japanese Hospitality

I didn’t return to Tokyo.  I was happy enough to visit Yokohama here and there and then, only for day & evening excursions.  The decision to spend however many remaining nights we had in Japan on board the ship, I knew would be the right call.  

Reiterating here, I wasn’t going to miss the boat.  Under normal conditions, we’d always begin our next leg of the trip in the early morning hours and so, this way there would be no unpleasant surprises for me! 

While I was waking up in my cabin every morning, Skipper and most of the officers and crew were still spending their nights somewhere out there.

Myself and a few of the other crew members (foolish enough to be aboard when we should’ve been out painting the town!) under Phil’s directive authority had been assigned to put away the last of the freshly received food and some other supplies.  

This entailed going below decks.  Needless to say, I’d done this before but never would I be one to state taking a fancy to it.  This is where I label myself as claustrophobic.  

Deep freeze and the main storehouse were of course, down there, in the underbelly of the ship as far as I was concerned and so to go there, I must.  I will clearly state, 40 minutes was way too long!

Notice of the next departure schedule is always posted 24 hours in advance via the bulletin boards around the ship.  This of course offers the chance to collect absent crew members and make final preparations, among many other important & obvious reasons.


In this instance it was in the form of direct notification from the ship repair company. 

The Trans Western’s endorsement was posted to its immediate left.

注目する すべての修理は、今後24時間以内に完了します

TAKE NOTICE: ALL REPAIRS WILL BE COMPLETE WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS

The late afternoon, early evening hours would bring in the remaining crew.  I thought to myself, someone had to have gone out and sent word across the land about the Trans Western’s anticipated departure.  

I had a last moment’s thought to go out and off the ship for the final time before leaving our Japanese dry dock.  I wanted to experience the staggering scope of this ship I’d been traveling the Pacific on, for one last time.

Down the gangplank I walked.  Once again I moved several yards away from the ship herself and then turned around to look upon the magnitude of this, soon to be floating again, steel vessel.  

Awestruck at its massiveness to be sure!  I thought to myself this must be at least as high as a 5 or 6 storied building.  If only I’d taken some pictures.  

The last of the crew was returning to the ship.

Back aboard the ship, I saw the Skip at dinner in the saloon.  With a grin upon his face he asked me, “Well Fiji, did you have a good time here in Japan?”  Just as a smile was escaping my lips and before I could give reply, he answered for me, “Awe, I know you did!”

Shortly after enjoying my own dinner and clearing the saloon, I saw the bulletin which announced, all repairs had been completed.  We were heading home by way of San Francisco. 

The Trans Western would depart first thing in the morning.   

I almost completely forgot about the postcards which I picked up in Tokyo!  I really wanted them to be mailed from Japan and so, I hurried off to write them out.  There was a bittersweet feeling as I wrote them.

I guess Phil just knew it would be like this; he told us there’d be a final mail pick-up this evening.  Turns out, this wasn’t the only thing going on this evening.  

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102. ⛩ Tokyo, Nihon ~ August, 1966 The Land of the Rising Sun 日本

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.

👘

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