Friday, February 09, 2018

Knowing Tranquility: Interludes

When the Shinanami Kaidō was built, you'd have assumed that it would have spelled the end of the ferry service connecting the islands that the bridges now reach.  But a few services do remain, including one that hops along the more remote ports of the cluster of islands now collectively known as the Ochi District.  These nine islands are surprisingly part of Shikoku, despite being much closer to Honshu.  After a bit of research I'd found that two ferries can carry me back from Imabari and over to Mihara, making a dozen or so stops along the way. 

The wind has come out of nowhere and it is surprisingly cold.  I had been worried that the wind might cause the boats to be cancelled, but they went ahead according to schedule.  I'll bet that for these seasoned pilots, it would take more than this mini-gale to stop their crossing. 

But I very nearly stop my own.  I was carrying a second bag with me today, something I wasn't used to.  I set it down near the entrance to a bakery when I bought bread, and sure enough I left it behind.  I remember at the moment I am about to buy my ferry ticket, and what follows is a sprint to the taxi queue.  I have literally 13 minutes to get to the station and back.  Luckily my driver is young and willing to race up the back streets and away from the traffic signals.  I am happy with his youth, as most drivers these days are of post-retirement age, a reflection of the current state of the economic times. And they prefer to potter along. (I've noticed that there is a discrepancy in fares between Kyoto Station and my house, and the cautious-natured older drivers usually cost me an additional two or three hundred yen.)  But this guy is keen, and though we both assume that I'll never make it back on time, somehow I do with a single minute to spare, as I race along the quay yelling at the men on the docks to hold the boat.

The other passengers are far saner than me, sitting out of the wind inside.  But I always want to be beside the water, so I take a seat in the sun out on deck.  The speed and forward motion somehow negates the force of the gale somehow, but as we slow upon approach to a harbor, the wind washes over me.  

Near the port of Iwagi a large helicopter lowers a winch in order to hoist construction equipment that is to be carried over to Akahonejima adjacent. It hovers awhile over our boat, and I worry that a sudden gust of wind will tilt it toward the water.  But it hangs steady, and when the winch is attached to the top of a small digger, it takes flight, the digger spinning beneath it like the world's most exciting carnival ride.    

This first ferry makes its final stop in the town of Habu (whose kanji pronunciation is not what I would have expected, causing me a little difficulty earlier when I was buying tickets.)  I have an hour to kill, and the town is completely devoid of charm so I take a hint from the fact that I am now in Hiroshima Prefecture and go in search of fried oysters and a beer.  I find a small shop and it is good to get out of the wind awhile.  

I am the only passenger on the next boat when it pulls out.  I wonder at how this line can make money and how long it will exist.  But at our final stop, a dozen people board, including a priest who braves the cold to have a chat  He is an interesting man, but he has chosen the wrong time to distract me, since this final leg is the one that most intrigues me, taking me close to the abandoned island of Sukenejima, where Shindō  Kaneto shot "Naked Island." I interrupt the priest to point this out, and he tells me that his senior priest actually appeared in the film.  But that man is long gone, as is the background scenery, and instead we approach the chugging factories that have since formed the character of the unattractive coast of the Sanyō Region.   

On the turntable:  Eddy Grant, "Killer on the Rampage"

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