To put it briefly: yes, I've been hanging out in Japan... and no, I really haven't done much worth mentioning. It's a little frustrating, but the bottom line here is while the ports we are visiting must be known for something, often times the reason we're there is lost on the crew. One could blame it on the lack of information given to us about the port, the general disinterest in anything but internet cafes, electronic stores, and shopping malls by the crew at large, or the simple fact that the points of interest each city has to offer are only accessible by tour bus (which is something else that is not available to the crew) or an expensive taxi ride.
Still, when I am able to get off the ship (yep, our friend Russia won one... more on that later), I try and make the most of it. There really aren't any fantastic stories to tell here, just a collection of pictures that hopefully walk the line between culturally aware and blissfully ignorant. So, enough words, let's make with the colorful pixels.
That's a bucket of octopus. Gawk away.
After the hula dancers packed it away, we headed back to Yokohama to drop off and pick up. Yokohama is a large walking city with its own baseball team, China Town, and blistering heat. But even though we're sweating buckets, it's a welcome change from stacks of lumber and buckets of octopus. Here, I am happy to enjoy the normal things I would if I were in a similar sized city in America, like go out for lunch or find an internet cafe and surf the web.
And now, my fondest memory of Yokohama. They have these stores scattered about Japan called "Don Quixote" of all things. In them you'll find pretty much everything manufactured ever crammed inside its four walls. Below is something that I found in the store, and is something I find truly captivating...
You can add easily amused to easily gawked. Let's move on to Otaru.
Yep, most guys carrying the “floats” wore bathrobes and diapers. I couldn't tell you for sure what the floats represented, but my guess is that each one symbolized a neighborhood's local shrine. Speaking of which, I tracked down one of 'em.
Next, Rishiri, where inclement weather kept us from making land... After that Abashiri, where I only had a couple of hours off in between rehearsals. Went for a jog, and done. Then we come to Korsakov, Russia.
Incidentally, the picture above shows a pretty useful way of displaying information to the crew. On the other ships I've worked, nobody was really sure when the crew could get off the ship. We would just approach the gangway and either be allowed off or sent away. Here, we know exactly when we can leave, what time we are expected back, and when a stuck-up country thinks it's too damn good for my time and money.
Coming down the home stretch is Hakodate. Again, the parking lot was welcoming and expansive... which I've discovered pretty much means the opposite for the neighboring city. After a jog along the waterfront, I came back to the ship, rehearsed a little, then took a taxi into town. The cast ended up at a Japanese buffet, where, as I noted in an earlier blog, is different from a Chinese buffet due to the lack of a pizza and nacho bar. Anyway, we were served a ton of sushi and ate very well. Most surprising about the meal, however, was the mineral water I drank.
That pretty much brings us to the present. Since I started this blog I got one Captain's Cocktail down, and one to go. The performing side of things... you know, the reason I'm here... is going well. We are just one show away from being totally open (the sixth show will be performed for the first time in a couple of weeks), and everything is humming along. I did have one performance, however, that was greatly different from the rest.
One of the guest entertainers that joined us recently is Makoto Ozone, who studied at the Berklee school of music and is well respected in Japan as a jazz pianist. He was rehearsing with his trio after one of our shows, and invited Jessica (female singer) and I up to jam with him, after which he asked if we would like to perform with him during his sets the following night. Now, Makoto travels with his own piano tuner (who literally took apart our grand and tuned it that night into the next day... something like twelve hours straight) and sound engineer; that should give you a little insight as to how serious, and seriously good this guy is. So, Jess and I sang in his sets; she the first, and I the second. Oh, and Makoto arranged it so we closed his show! Wow... what an experience. I'll leave the rest to the video below.
And that's pretty much ship life for you... one night you're in the crew bar playing Uno, and the next you're singing with a world class musician.
Speaking of ship life, the officer's mess is calling my name; it's been almost twenty-four hours since I've eaten rice, and my body is going into fits of withdrawal.
Keep on Livin' The Dream,
(Hanging out with the Asuka II in Onahama)