Thursday, 10 May 2012

Ishikari, Hikawa Maru and Tokyo Bay

This is the final installment of photographs from my recent three-week trip to Japan - and the best was left to last. We begin with a trip from Tomakomai to Sendai on Japan's newset, biggest and most luxurious ferry - the utterly magnificent MS Ishikari of Taiheyo Ferry. As with her older fleetmate, the Kitakami (see previous post), this ship is of particularly robust and impressive design to withstand the worst that the Pacific Ocean can throw at her - so she is rather long with a large and solid-looking hull and a fairly low superstructure, set well back from the forepeak. Externally, she looks very smart and impressive - and the same is true of her inboard.

The Ishikari at Tomakomai - unusually, she is a bow-loader and appears to have no stern door.

Historically, many Japanese ferries have been sold second-hand to Greek owners and, perhaps with just such a future career in mind, the ishikari's interiors are Greek-themed. Unfortunately, the Greeks no longer have money to buy ferries, so she is unlikely to be heading for the Mediterranean any time soon.

The entrance hallway with grand staircase:

The arcade lounge:

The Mykonos Lounge:

My capsule cabin:

A selection of luxury cabins:

Time for dinner:

Mr Tsuyoshi Ishiyama, THE great authority on Japanese ferries, who joined us for the trip on the Ishikari. It was marvellous to make a new friend in Japan who is of the same mind regarding ferries:

Steaks being cooked to order, one of the special features of dining on a Taiheyo Ferry ship:

Showtime in the Mykonos Lounge:

A very able veteran jazz trumpeter - he really was very, very good indeed and absolutely looked the part:

Unfortunately, these two young men who appeared by their dress to prefer hip-hop didn't quite get it and looked rather bored before leaving early:

The shopping arcade:

The particularly grand Scenic Grand Bath:

The Pacific Ocean can be very rough - hence the need for extra-large vomitoria in all the public toilets:

A brief visit to the dormitory accommodation - which is the way to travel cheaply:

Me with the grand staircase:

Captain's uniform one final time:

Out on deck the next morning with lovely big expanses of white and blue shinyness:

With Tsuyoshi:


Arriving at Sendai:

The Ishikari at her berth - what a fine ship:

(Unfathomably, there are some who really prefer those top-heavy-looking cruise ships with their endless rows of clip-on balconies to something solid, purposeful and smart like the Ishikari - it's quite remarkable what turns certain people on, though!)

Sendai, apparently recovering surprisingly well from the tsunami which struck a year ago:

Many buildings had signs to show how high the water had come in spring 2011:

A fairly scenic morning sail on a local ferry to Matsushimakaigan:

The deck height was precisely six feet, so I was wedged in. (Ids and Boonzaiers should therefore avoid these ships):

Luncheon in a restaurant that served only tongue - it was a bit like the Monty Python Spam sketch:

The local museum, with a rather wonderful and unexpectedly quaint map in what appeared to have once been a swimming pool, featuring buttons to light things up:

A temply-thing featuring that bleached and distressed look so beloved of Terence Conran:

At least some of the bleached and distressed 'wood' was actually moulded concrete, very carefully finished to look like old wood - and in places repaired with more (untreated) concrete:

Battery-operated souvenirs:

A park, containing a wonderful grotto:

Moulded plastic fast food stall:

The train back to Sendai:

Shinkansen to Ueno station in Tokyo:

Overnight accommodation - the Andon Ryokan:

The width of the room was exactly six feet - so another place in which I only just fitted and which those taller would best avoid:

Evening metro trip:

Had the world begun to shrink suddenly, or was I getting bigger?:

Metro passengers, all texting on their mobile phones:

The Ueno district of Tokyo by night:


Late night crowds:

Next morning:

Crowded morning train to Yokohama:

There are ladies' carriages for those females who don't want to risk coming in contact with wandering male hands:

A non-gender segregated carriage. Actually, it was quite OK being packed in as my head and shoulders were above the crowd and in air conditioned open space:

'Inappropriate poking in the women only carriage is forbidden, unless you're a yellow bear' (I think that's what the sign says):


A highlight of the entire trip - the magnificent preserved 1930s Nippon Yusen Kaisha ocean liner Hikawa Maru:

At the ocean terminal nearby, another delightful veteran - the excursion ship Royal Wing, originally Kansai Kisen Kaisha's Inland Sea mini-liner Kurenai Maru of 1960:

The Ocean Terminal, designed by the British practice Foreign Office Architects and incorporating a marvellous deconstructivist public park. This is civic architecture at its very best - something alas too rarely seen in Britain these days. I felt uplifted the moment I began walking along the undulating upper deck - and that feeling of levity then persisted for the remainder of the day:

The Royal Wing's windows being cleaned prior to her luncheon cruise departure:

A lovely looking little ship:

Hikawa Maru - another very lovely ship of an earlier era:

Time for a visit to the Hikawa Maru. She was the only passenger ship of Nippon Yusen Kaisha's once extensive fleet to survive the Second World War and, today, NYK continue to look after her as she is preserved in Yokohama as a national monument. Rather than being horribly 'heritagised' and messed around with, like so many supposedly preserved historic ships, she actually looks and feels as if she is just about to embark passengers for a trans-Pacific voyage. She is immaculately ship-shape and obviously cared for by people who actually understand how a working liner should appear:

First class hallway:

Do not touch our valuable knobs:

Cabin corridor with, every so often, side passages to portholes in the shell plating:

The First Class children's playroom - with furniture and lighting rather in the manner of the Chicago School:

The First Class dining saloon - an Art Deco wonder with all the trimmings one could hope for:

The First Class library:

The First Class saloon:

The First Class smoking saloon - one of the best spaces I've seen on any ship:

A range of First Class cabins. Note - the art of cabin stewards ornately folding towels is long-established and not merely a feature of today's mass-market cruise ships:

Luxury cabin for Mrs and Mrs Plutocrat, rather in the Germanic idiom of Ballin-era Hamburg-Amerika, I thought. Clearly the conservative wealthy wanted refuges from the relentless modernity of the public rooms:

A lower grade cabin:

The enclosed promenade deck:

The wheelhouse:

The captain's cabin:

The engine room:

Two superb four-stroke Burmeister and Wain diesels - a dream to see in situ:

The Royal Wing sets sail:

Yokohama waterfront park:

An allegedly Danish restaurant:

The Nippon Yusen Kaisha museum:

It is wonderful:

Downtown Yokohama:

A local train to where the Gulf of Tokyo ferries depart:

On the Gulf of Tokyo ferries:

Busy shipping activity in the channel:

Ferry snacks - probably assessable using the Bristol Scale:

Local supermarket:

Dramatic evening sky for the return ferry crossing:

The final morning - and the Narita Express back to the airport:

Farewell Japan - I hope to be back soon!

1 comment: