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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100. Yokohama, Japan

And I finally fell asleep.  

Whatever sounds I faintly heard lulled me off into slumber. This time it wasn’t to the gentle, rocking feel of a boat afloat. However, in the early hours of the morning I involuntarily tuned into the reverberation of muffled drilling and various sounds of the many repairs our ship would undergo.  What?!  7:30 already?

There’s approximately a dozen officers entering the saloon at once. Chatter is all about the room; remaining ever-attentive to the crew’s needs, all the while I’m captivated by their tales, presented in a medley of perspectives.  

I have to admit, the earlier part of the previous 55 hours was well, so full of adrenaline the likes of which before, I had never known.  Perhaps only the shaking tree, the dark & rainy field at midnight, the near drowning and the Marines’ guns aimed at me would come close.

It was now my turn to enjoy breakfast.  By now all of you know how I ordered.  Once again, what a one man feast!  These days I can get full just thinking about how I would eat in my youth.  

Next the dining saloon was refreshed for lunchtime and that meant it was time for me to think about this evening… anticipation of what Japan might have in store for me.  

I was informed that so far, we had this 1st evening off and overnight in town was approved if we wanted it.  I wanted it!

Back home, I had heard that it was ideal to tell a taxicab driver what I wanted.  They would take us to the very best and so for whatever that was worth, I was going to give it a shot!

The cab driver took myself and a fellow crew friend whom I’ll name as ‘Bill’, to a fairly nice looking hotel. We were received warmly *(not for a single moment discounting Omotenashi) by the front desk staff.  Undeniably Americans have American dollars.  

💵 I mention this because during my months spent throughout the Pacific, American dollars were very much desired and it was a language most everybody spoke.  

Heck! I can remember how excited I was as a young lad back in Fiji when the American G.I.s would place silver dollar coins on to the palm of my hand.  In return they received my lunch; delectable rolled up rotis filled with veg curries which my sister-in-law had lovingly prepared, fresh every day.  Okay end flashback.

It was only in a moment when two lovely young Japanese ladies in bright-colored Kimonos approached the front desk clerk.  He gave them our room keys.  They briefly spoke something to one another in Japanese.  

They gently took our overnight bags and turned to face us with beautiful smiles, motioning that we follow them.  We were escorted up a flight of stairs to the 2nd floor.  They let us into our room.  We noticed quickly this was a room that was divided into 2 areas with paper walls.

At this point we both thought they’d bow their way out of our room.  Instead they went into the bathroom area and began drawing two baths.  Bill and I curiously peered in behind them to see what they were up to. They each added bath salts and scents into the bath waters.  Use your imagination for a bit here.  

I will admit to a bashful bit of part surprise and part expectation.  We glanced at one another.  One of the two girls came out and said in as few English words as possible, to undress.  She pointed over towards the bathroom and said, “Bath.”

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* Omotenashi defines Japanese hospitality; anticipation of their guests’ needs with an undeniable attention to details