Friday, September 17, 2010

Kon'nichiwa Asuka II Part Seven - Exotic, Delicious, Stimulating

At the moment the Asuka II is sailing into the port of Tomakomai, a port I know nothing about, in the northern part of Japan. Funny thing is that I've been here before, or so I've been told. Turns out we were here one morning a couple of days ago to embark some new pax, but since we were tied to land for a total of three hours, there was no time to get off the ship. Unfortunately, this has been the case for a good chunk of September, and part of August for that matter.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that this is all due to the Asuka II's charter season, where companies and organizations buy out the ship for their own groups. Much like a psychiatrist’s office, the Asuka II decides to keep vessel/passenger confidentiality, so during these charter cruises one organization gets off, and the next day another gets on... and never the two shall meet. Although this has given us more than the occasional ballast night (a repositioning cruise with no passengers on board), the other strange byproduct is more sea days than originally expected.

Take September for example: By looking at all the days that have a city's name by them on our itinerary, it would seem like we have 27 port days out of the 30 day month. In reality, if you take out all the ports where crew have no chance of getting off the ship, those 27 port days shrink to 16... or, to put it another way, an additional 11 sea days. Adding that to the existing 3 sea days, and the month starts to look a little less impressive.

With that said, I can admit that it's been difficult to find anything to write about. That's not to say the past two weeks have gone by in a sea day haze, but for a blog that is supposed to be about interesting things happening in faraway lands... well... I've found that in order to write this, I have to really dig deep... and fair warning: the deeper I go, the worse this blog'll get (or better, depending on your sense of humor). Anyway, to keep things interesting, I'll try and go in chronological order...

Hamada, Japan. Big parking lot. Lots of wood. Looks like going chronological doesn't make things interesting at all.

Next up we revisited Sakaiminato... aside from a jog in near pass-out heat, this port further proves the parking lot and wood equation. Need further proof? Revisit the video below:

Then came Fushiki and Akita, both pretend port days due to lack of time. Thankfully, after that we took a vacation from Japan.

Ah, Vladivostok... First of all, our comrades at Vladivostok didn't seem to mind that the crew only had two internationally identifiable forms of identification, so we were let off the ship with zero hassle... the score is now Crew 2, Russia 1... your move, Russia... your move. So, with pockets bursting full of rubles, and an overnight with which to burn them all, the crew took off. The production cast, led by Kosta (our Russian born adage male), went out for a nice Russian meal, followed by a dance club that we helped to shut down at four in the morning. Pictures were taken, but if I didn't tell you we were in Russia, they would look like any old restaurant and club. But, I did set out on my own to find some onions...

Found em'.

I suppose the only interesting thing worth mentioning is that immediately after I set foot on Russian soil, this is the first thing I see:

I think some of the passengers at the time actually did this for the Russians, but I prefer to think that instead it was some Russians with a little vodka and a lot of time to practice. Anyway, we came, we saw, we drank copious amounts of potato squeezings, and we left.

Then came a couple more make believe port days, followed by stupid Sakiminato, after which we landed in Nagasaki.

The drums have become pretty standard for Japanese ports, a constant no matter how much wood, or lack thereof. So, Nagasaki... I know what you're thinking. Nagasaki is definitely known for something. Yep, it is...

Sponge Cake! Lots and lots and lots of sponge cake! No kidding, everywhere I went I was tempted to try sponge cake. Each time I feigned interest and surprise, like when I greedily go to a grocery store to try samples. Sponge cake? What's that? Oh that's delicious! I'll have to think about getting some of that. Then on to the next... I've never had sponge cake before! A minute later... I didn't know such a thing existed! And so on. But hey, you may think I'm joking, but there is sponge cake, and sponge cake related paraphernalia, littering the streets and stores on either side of the curb! But don't take my word for it:

Sponge cake dolls of every shape and size!

Hello Kitty likes sponge cake!

Elmo likes sponge cake!

Mickey likes sponge cake!

This... this thing likes sponge cake too!

But hey, all that sponge cake has got to go somewhere, right?

Yep, Nagasaki joins the ranks as producer of white trash pooping toys such as the pooping pig, and the American classic, the candy dispensing pooping moose, which can be seen by visiting any tourist store in Alaska.

Okay, all right... I hear you. I am in Nagasaki, and there is much more important stuff to talk about than sponge cake and crapping key chains.

Next time I'll go to the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park, promise.

Then two more make believe ports came and went, followed by another damn visit to Sakaiminato! What the hell is happening here? The funny thing is, while the port looks mountainous and rugged, the reason we stop here is so the passengers can walk down a street that is famous because a certain cartoon was invented there. This isn't some huge attraction like Disney Land, just a street where some dude drew something. But hey, since I haven't seen it with my own eyes, it could be just as exotic and romantic as Nagasaki...

Anyway, after another thrilling Sakaiminato, we have two more (sigh...) make believe ports, followed by another ballast night, during which the Asuka II ran a test of her alarm system... holy cow, all I can say is it works... no, seriously, it works. Really. Guys? Hello? It works! It works! IT WORKS! IT F'ING WORKS!!! SHUT UP! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! THE BELLS! THE BELLS!!! But don't take my word for it...

After the bells quit ringing (in my stupid aching head) we made it to Otaru. This port ain't so bad, actually. You'll recall the last time I was here I witnessed a parade where a bunch of dudes marched down the street, lifting large scale wooden representations of local shrines (Asuka II Part Four). Since I had pretty much found everything worth seeing on the map the last time, I spent the better part of the day catching up on Email. With a couple hours left, I followed my nose, and discovered what could best be described as Otaru's Historic Main Street. Before I continue, I want you to take a breath and recall where this blog has been so far... got it? Good, now lower your expectations even further...

Found this little guy at a souvenir shop. You try dressing like that and winking at people... you'll get arrested. But hey, think this is some one off creation? Oh no...

I swear to you, just a moment before I took this picture, a happy family posed their infant baby in the fish's cut out hole. Plus, if you look above our happy green guy, you might find the reason for his condition. Finally, since a picture doesn't offer much in the way of dimension, I offer you exhibit C.

Perhaps Otaru, not Nagasaki, should be considered exotic and romantic... I think I'll write their local board of tourism. Still, there must be a singular reason why I have only encountered the little green guy with a stiffy in Otaru, and the reason was just a couple blocks down. The reason is because:

I've officially hit rock bottom.

Keep on Livin' The Dream,

Michael Lamendola

(Trying some delicious sponge cake in Nagasaki... sponge cake? What's sponge cake?)


  1. Sounds like the last couple of weeks have been boring for you....Do you like Japan? and are you still thinking of extending your contract?

  2. I hardly ever comment, but man, I still love your blog. I'm so glad you're writing again. I really enjoy your sense of humor...

    and farting.

  3. Leslie Coates9/17/2010 9:57 PM

    Sponge cake? This is awesome.