Neko Chan Jumps Ship in Azuchi-o-Shima

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 28 Mar 2014 12:52
Position: 33 28.47 N 129 33.43 E
Alongside Azuchi-o-Shima
Wind: South sou' east F3 gentle breeze
Weather: sunny, mild
Day's run. 7 nm

With only a short sail for the day, the shortest I have made for a long
time, there was little need to hurry. The ebb tide was running until about
one thirty in the afternoon so I used the forenoon for some studies and a
burst on the internet in the expectation of being offline for a few days
until we get to Fukuoka. The sun was shining, a light southerly breeze was
blowing, it looked a perfect day for a sail. Antonio turned up just as I
was putting the kettle on for a cup of coffee before throwing off the dock
lines and getting underway, so that delayed my departure almost an hour. It
is a pity we were not able to spend some time together while I was in
Hirado. It certainly seems that between us we can talk the leg off a table.
Oh well, such is the nature of the cruising lifestyle, and who knows what
lies ahead.

We eventually got away at a little after twelve, and I was surprised to find
that once outside the harbour that we were pushing a slight flood current.
We were easily able to make headway against it, but it was undoubtedly a
good thing that we had not left any later, for undoubtedly the stream must
increase rapidly an hour or two into the tide. We were soon clear of the
channel and running wing on wing before the nice fresh breeze making good
about five and a half knots. With only seven miles to sail, we were
alongside the small harbour on the island of Azuchi-o-Shima at two thirty. I
only intend to stay here for a day, so after a bit of a tidy up, I put on my
walking shoes, and went for an explore around the village.

I have no information on Azuchi-o-Shima, apart from a few cruising notes,
but just from my walking around it looks like the village has been here for
a long time. The streets are very narrow and presumable pre-date the advent
of the motor car, and the houses mostly look very traditional, made of
vertical timber slats, with light weight sliding doors and window boards,
and ornately styled black roofing tiles. Most of the houses appeared to be
in good order but a significant number of them looked uninhabited, and a few
were derelict. From the derelict ones I could see the traditional Japanese
building technique that I had seen on display in a museum in Nagasaki. The
walls consist of a lattice work of vertical and horizontal timbers, perhaps
about an inch in diameter, closely spaced and all lashed together with rope.
This is held in place within a larger relatively heavy timber frame and the
latticework is buried in what appears to be combination of mud and straw of
some description. Then the whole lot is sheathed in vertical timber
planking, generally stained a dark brown, but often weathered to a grey or
black colour. I would think such a construction technique would be very
flexible and quite earthquake resistant, though in no way tsunami proof. I
have seen the relatively recent aftermath of a tsunami while cruising Chili,
and there is not much that can stand up to the power of a large tsunami. As
I write this it occurs to me that this village does not have a tsunami wall
protecting it, which is very unusual. Presumably it has not experienced a
tsunami for a long time, for most of these house would simply wash away if
one were to hit the village. And I did see a tsunami escape route sign, so
it is not as if a tsunami is not considered a possibility here.

After my walk around town, I headed up to the hills. My cruising notes said
that if one climbed a steep path that crossed over the road winding up the
hillside then after twenty minutes you would come out at a hotel with an
onsen. A soak in a nice hot tub after a brisk walk up a steep hillside
sounded appealing, so off I went. It turned out to be quite a hike, but a
very pleasant one. I had no idea whether I was on the right path or not, as
there were several paths that I could have taken, but, with the clue that
the path I wanted crossed over a road that zig-zagged up the hill, the path
I took seemed the most likely route to the hotel. It wasn't long before I
was out of the village and, as seems to be the case with all Japanese towns
and villages, found myself in an extensive cemetery.

in fact many graves, with their usual small marble obelisks surrounded by a
low stone fence, dotted the hillside. There were also a lot of what looked
to be very old graves, made of rough stone rather than the expensive shiny
marble, but most of them were well tended. Few were overgrown and the large
majority of them had fresh flowers beside their obelisk. I encountered
several more small cemeteries on my way up the hill, in amongst houses, and
barns and farm yards. One small farm yard had a bull, a couple of cows, and
a calf suckling at it mother's teat, all of them bedraggled with mud. But it
was the terraced fields, presumably rice paddies, that dominated the
hillside, most of them a shallow lake of water and mud, each draining into
the next one lower down. And as I got to the top of the hill I found of
course yet another cemetery in a near prime position overlooking the valley,
the village, and its harbour. At this stage I thought I had taken a wrong
turn. I could see a microwave tower standing on top of the peak of the hill,
and the graves sat just below the ridge line. I could not imagine a hotel
being on the other side of all these old graves, but, as I climbed over the
ridge, there on the other side was the hotel, with a curving facade which I
am beginning to recognise as an architectural feature that seems to be
typical of hotels with onsens in them. But then I suspect perhaps all hotels
have an onsen of some description, and the curved facade might just be
coincidentally a preferred hotel style. This is perhaps not a hypothesis I
am going to do to much field research on, but I shall keep it in mind.

The onsen in this hotel was the smallest I have been to so far, with only
four shower stations and a tub that could not have held four men at once.
In fact I think I would have found it to have been a little too intimate
with even one other person in the tub. I am sure that many American
households would sport jacuzzis bigger than this tub. Fortunately however, I
had it all to myself which made it very relaxing, especially after the brisk
climb up the steep hill. The descent was of course a lot easier and I was
back on board clean and refreshed just on sunset.

While writing up my blog and waiting for thevegetable curry to cook, I
noticed that RC was not down below with me. I assumed he was on deck but it
was now dark and it was unlike him to be on deck when it starts to get cold,
so I went looking for him. While on my walk I had left RC down below with
the wash boards in. When I returned on board the tide had come in so
Sylph's deck was level with the wharf but the breeze was blowing her off, so
there was a gap of about a meter from Sylph to the water, too big a gap for
RC to jump. So I had left the boards out so that RC could have a wander
around on deck. It would seem that this might have been a mistake. I
looked all through the boat but no RC. I came to the conclusion that Sylph
must have blown against the wharf momentarily at which point RC must have
jumped ashore. Sylph presumably then blew back out and RC was unable to get
back on board. I checked the boat once more than grabbed the spot light and
went in search of him. I first checked the water near the boat in case he
had tried to jump back on board and slipped into the water. Then I checked
all the places he might have swum to if he had fallen in the water.
Fortunately no sign of him in any of these grim places, but now I was
worried. He has never taken himself off exploring before, largely because I
do not let him. I started searching around the boat. There is quite a bit of
junk piled up just near the wharf and beyond that is dense, near
impenetrable bushland. I shone the light all over and called out “Cat, Cat”
(that is all I call RC, as he is the only cat around here).

This was starting to get serious. Then I heard some rustling noise in the
bushes. RC is no stealth machine, so I stopped and listened, and called
“Cat, cat” a few more times. I heard some more rustling. I shone the spot
light in the direction of the noise and there he was, crawling out of a
large concrete pipe that lay amongst all the debris. He looked at me full of
guilt. I stood silently, until he approached and then started to walk back
to the boat. He raced ahead, but Sylph was still hanging out in the breeze.
He looked back at me, then back at the gap between him and home. He seemed
nervous and anxious as he stood waiting, wanting to get back on board. At
this stage I found myself wondering a little about RC's psychology. He was
after all a stray cat picked up by the Animal Welfare League back in Port
Adelaide. I pulled Sylph back in alongside, at which point RC clambered back
on board and hurried below. He went straight for his food bowl and is now
sleeping on the settee. Silly damned cat.

All is well.