In early November I once again joined my Dad in Japan for a few weeks of work in the shipyard. We rendezvoused in L.A. and soaked up some Hollyweird before an early flight through Hawaii and into Osaka. There we met up with Larry Bee, a colleague from Proflow, a company based in Connecticut that helps design and manufacture our equipment. Still groggy from travelling we pulled into Sanoyas and got to work wrapping up our loose ends from the trip before.
Our friend Nishi had vowed to give us a tour of Shikoku, one of the four major islands of Japan and only a long bridge away from us. The Seto Ohashi bridge is a mammoth water crossing, impressive by any standard, it stretches from Honshu to Shikoku over the course of 13 kilometers. We visited the Kompira-San shrine, dedicated to the protection of seafarers and their ships, which features over a thousand ancient stone steps.
Shikoku is also famous for its Udon noodles so we lunched on handmade noodles covered with fresh ginger and ground sesame seeds. Udon is also served at the shipyard mess hall where most of the workers gather for lunch. They also offer a mystery bento box and a daily entree, my favorite was Curry Wednesday.
A few days later more of Team America showed up, Richard and Pete, also from Proflow. After months of bugging Team Japan for bicycles they granted us a stable of cruiser bikes. Some of them worked better than others but most days we managed to get most of the team on wheels. This was a great improvement as the ship seemed to get further away every trip. At this point it was looking almost complete, there was still a lot of painting and detail work but it was floating in the water and didn’t seem to be sinking.
We fiddled with the equipment, Richard and Larry on the computer while my Dad and I tightened bolts and installed tubing, until everything seemed to be in order. Our chemical safety guru, Marcie, arrived and completed the team. We made arrangements with the crane crew and spent most of a day bringing the chemicals on board.
Another day of testing the system and we were ready for our final exam, showing the process to inspectors from the shipyard and ABS. Larry and Mike flipped switches and monitored screens while Isa and Nishi explained the process and reassured the inspector. Marcie and I climbed into the cargo hold to test the ballast water and came away with satisfactory results. While it was hard to read the reactions in Japanese it seems that we made the grade.
Japan has never been at the top of my list of places to visit, it always seemed interesting but so far away and reputedly expensive. Plus, I’ll admit, there’s not a lot of climbing. In some ways this was a good perspective, I didn’t go there with a lot of expectations or plans.
When asked I’ve had a hard time coming up with any conclusions about the country, for all it’s cultural differences it feels a lot like any other developed country. I’m reminded of John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction explaining Europe to Samuel L. Jackson.
“It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just…it’s just there it’s a little different.”
Japan is no Europe, in a lot of ways it’s very different but people are still living their lives in a pretty ordinary fashion. I think westerners have a romantic vision of Japan full of samurai and ninjas (maybe that was just me), I didn’t see any sword wielding assassins anywhere.
I hope this series of blogs has been informative and maybe even interesting, like writing in a journal the practice seems like a good way to look at events in a new light. Japan seems pretty far away from El Paso, TX where I’m currently hiding from a suddenly brutal winter in the Northwest. Here’s the rest of the photos I put together for the blog, thanks for reading.