Slow Boat to China
My last week in Japan I filled in for a private school in Oita City and made some good cash before I set out. The year’s biggest festival, Tanabata, was raging and the weather was hot.
Tanabata consists of shutting down the main road by the train station and hosting a large parade, with horsebacked Samurai and crazy but beautiful floats, not to mention food stalls and stages for music acts. The floats are topped by one or two riders, who scream into a microphone to encourage the pushers and carriers of the float to shake it wildy before advancing the float.
The next time someone tells me to take a slow boat to China, I can say been there done that. The past two days were on the Utopia ferry from Shimonoseki to Suzou near Shanghai. 15,000 Yen one-way is not a bad deal.
The ferry was decent enough and I shared a mostly empty tatami room with a few others. A Japanese swaying sento, movie room with a huge screen, standing outside and looking at the sea, or the recently commenced Olympics on TV were all popular ways to pass the time. Little English was spoken on the boat and the workers didn’t know whether to struggle with English, or use Chinese or Japanese.
The four total foreigners found each other quickly enough and I had a bottle of Japanese Shochu to share. In my room was Cameron from OZ, living on Beijing, who was a good source of info. Taishi was fluent in English and Chinese in addition to his native Japanese and he was also a great ferry compatriot.
In all it was a relaxing trip, and I can add boating to the train travel as more preferred than plane.