The extraordinary experience that is Tokyo

Thu 1 Jul 2004 05:29
1st July 2004. From mid way up the coast of Honshu.

Dear All

After leaving Shikoku we had a brisk passage to Shimoda on the Izu Hanto
peninsular, where we spent a couple of days regrouping and looking at the
options for exploring Tokyo. A typhoon was en route and so the initial plan
of leaving Kokiri there and visiting Tokyo for a couple of days by train was
dismissed. We loitered in the local chandlery where the friendly staff
helped us translate information on Tokyos' marinas and then had protracted
telephone conversations with marina staff who spoke no English at all.
Finally, mainly on account of the fact that so many of our Japanese charts
covered Tokyo Bay and that it is one of the busiest ports in the world, we
decided to stick our heads into the lion's mouth and see how expensive it
really was. The result exceeded our wildest expectations.

We had a great sail across Sagami Wan dodging the prodigious numbers of
ships that converge on Tokyo Wan and were both utterly startled by a
submarine that emerged less than a mile off our starboard side. We made our
way up the forty mile long bay passed Yokohama and Kawasaki and dropped
anchor in heavy rain off the Port of Tokyo breakwaters in the early dawn to
wait for the tide to rise and go up the river to the Yumenoshima Marina. The
minute we stepped ashore we were greeted by a man who immediately took us
under his wing. Mr Sasaki (Sasaki-san) helped us negotiate a 50% discount on
the usual marina price of £30 per day for our 38ft length and also kindly
introduced us to many of the prominent members of the Tokyo Yacht Club, who
had been out racing that day. We were delighted, but the good folk of the
TYC were clearly outraged by our treatment by the marina. Sakata-san (a
highly esteemed past commodore of the club) was consulted and the marina
manager resolved to give us our berth for free for the duration of our stay.
From that moment on we were treated like royalty and given the very best
possible service. An apologetic minion of Ono-san, the marina manager, came
to us in the bar and refunded the charges to my credit card. And thus we
were free to meet many of the-great-and-the-good of Tokyo and explore the
city at our leisure. If only all marinas treated their foreign guest like

Tokyo is the most illuminated city imaginable and to wander around at night
is breathtaking. There is colourful neon everywhere you look; from the busy
business districts, to the busy red light districts, from the large busy
shrines, to the busy narrow alleyways teaming with hundreds of minute bars,
and from one busy shopping district to another busy shopping district. We
were intrigued and we loved it. Although similar in size and style to
London, the neon and the tremendous energy of its inhabitants make it unlike
anywhere else I have ever been to. Late nights are definitely the norm. We
joined in where we could, and were happy to retreat to Kokiri when necessary
to recover. Perhaps the months of dawn to dusk tropical peace and quite have
slowed us down somewhat?

There were many highlights to our stay, some of which I'll briefly try to
record here: Dinner with university friend Andrea and her fiancée Shaun and
our first night spent off the boat for almost one year; a bath with an
electronic keypad; a roam around one of Tokyo's beautiful parks; the bird's
eye view across the city on a clear day from the top of the new Roppongi
Hills tower; a stroll around the camera shops of Shinjuku; the arrival of
our new heater from Canada; dinner on board with Sasaki-san; a private tour
of the National Diet Building (Japan's house of parliament) with Sasaki-san
and his wife who works there as secretary to Kazuo Inoue (Democratic Party
of Japan member of the House of Representatives for one of the Tokyo
boroughs) which included watching the ratification of five laws in the main
chamber, sushi lunch in the MP's restaurant, touring the building and the
Emperor's rooms, great halls and grand staircases, viewing the speaker's
private chamber which was specially unlocked for us to have our photos taken
sitting in the speaker's chair, tea with Kazuo Inoue and generally
meandering through the corridors of Japanese power; late night sashimi in
Shinjuku; the chance to catch up with school friend Nick Shindo and watch
England win a game of football with a pint of Guinness in hand; battling
the Japanese system to get our un-certified gas bottles refilled (with the
excellent help of the marina staff and Sakata-san); dinner at a fantastic
Tempura restaurant in Ginza with Sakata-san, followed by drinks in the VVIP
part of the top floor VIP lounge of the Imperial Hotel and a midnight stop
in central Ginza's neon fantasy for photos; a lunch party in our honour
given at the marina by the Tokyo Yacht Club with much ado and exchanging of
club flags and gifts, including an immense bottle of sake from Ono-san and
traditional Japanese coasters from the Japanese Blind Sailing Association;
the chance to entertain the more inquisitive TYC members on board for the
afternoon; the extension of our stay at the marina as a typhoon passed
through; dinner on board with Andrea and Shaun; the installation of the new
heater and a six hundred hour service on the engine; a most fantastic dinner
of some of the tastiest food I've eaten in a year in Shibuya with Nick; an
unrivalled round of receiving of gifts from many of the TYC including,
kimonos and scarves for each of us from the commodore Wada-san, a wonderful
blanket and thermal clothes from Sasaki-san, bagfuls of food and drink, 30
litres of kerosene from the marina, two expensive spare belts for the fridge
compressor from the local Yanmar agent, and that names only the biggest
items; and finally, on Sunday morning, an escort out of the marina and down
the river by the marina boat and TYC members.

What can I say, other than that it was an utterly momentous, monumental and
memorable visit to a wonderful city. Please, please, never pass a Japanese
tourist by without offering them the shirt off your back. They would
certainly do the same for you!

So, at last after the hectic farewells, we beat slowly down Tokyo Wan
avoiding the enormous ships that slid by alarmingly close to. Dropping
anchor for the night amongst the warships around the US Navy base we were
interested to hear mysterious acoustic sonar sounds beaming through our
hull. We checked over the rig in a very thorough manner and I swam in the
murky waters to scrub the hull and propeller the following day and we spent
one last night in port with Kokiri finally fully shipshape and ready for the
long passage to the Aleutian Islands.

So far we have covered 360 miles of this passage, the temperature has
dropped considerably and we've encountered copious amounts of fog, but are
now holed up in the port of Ofunato, waiting for the imminent arrival of
typhoon Ting Ting. It seems better to put into the safety of a convenient
port for a short while than risk riding out a large typhoon at sea. But we
are looking forward to being back underway soon.

We hope all is well with the world and with you all. Please have fun and
take it easy.

Lots of Love,

Peter and Katharine