You have to stay in one place long enough to become friends.

We returned to Starr on 1 September, and have had guests from Hawaii (Kat & James Petron) in September, and from San Francisco (Shari Walker and Steve Leonard) in October. For each of these visits we have taken Starr cruising in the Seto Nakai (to Shodoshima, Takamatsu and Onomichi) for the major part of their visit. During the remainder of our time we have stayed on Starr in our Homeport of Bellport Ashiya Marina, and we have made many new friends.

I would like to introduce them to you:

First of all, our best friends in Ashiya, Paul Faust and Emiko Fukui:

We met Paul and Emiko through our GSSR friends before we left to go cruising in May. Our meeting was very brief and there was no time to develop the relationship. When we returned to Ashiya at the end of June we invited Paul and Emiko to Starr for dinner and introduced them to Dave Schmidt, who took care of Starr when we were home in Seattle during July and August. We had ongoing conversations by email with Paul because he was helping us out by making the shuttle reservations from Kansai Airport to Ashiya (for Tad and Joyce’s return home in April, for our return to Seattle and back in July/August, and for Dave’s trip from Hawaii and back in July/August). He was also a great resource for all we didn’t know about Japan: how to get around, or find something, or get something fixed. Once we returned to Ashiya on 1 September, we had the time to get to know one another.

Everyone was really busy in September: Paul and Emiko both teach at Osaka University of Economics, and with our schedule of visiting guests it took us awhile to get together. Our friendship grew beginning with a dinner out at a local restaurant in early September, and then with a dinner at their home in late September, with their friends Akemi Ackermann and Aki and Mitzie Kojima.

Emiko is a great cook and she served Hamo-chiri:

Hamo has a very delicate, pleasant taste. The flesh of fresh hamo is beautifully and immaculately white, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. The root meaning of the Chinese character for hamo is “rich fish”, probably because it is so versatile.

However, the problem with cooking hamo is the process of honekiri (bone cutting). This is all but impossible for amateurs. Hamo contain many fine bones, some of which are very close to the skin, making them impossible to remove completely. The fine bones therefore have to be cut into tiny pieces.

Master chefs are said to make up to 25 cuts in a width of only 3 cm. Of course this is an exaggeration, but the more cuts there are, the better the taste. Try asking your fishmonger to do it for you.

Hamo-chiri, pieces of hamo placed briefly in boiling water and served with mustard-miso sauce or mashed pickled ume plums.

Akemi Ackermann:

Alyssa, Akemi & Emiko

Akemi is a tiny little powerhouse of a lady who travels on a cruise ship each year from January to May, and skydives for fun. Akemi told us at dinner that she “loves the sea” and loves cruising on boats. We enjoyed the company at dinner so much that we invited everyone out for a Harbor Cruise on Starr. We also invited friends of Paul’s who we had had us to their house for a BBQ the previous April, Mariza and Alyssa Nakai (husband/father, Haruya, wasn’t able to join us). Aki and Mitzie’s daughter, Kiku, rounded out the party.

Don, Paul, & Aki

Mariza & Alyssa

The Harbor cruise was a success. We were really fortunate to have warm and sunny weather (it rained the next day), everyone brought food and/or wine to contribute to the party, and we all enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and the good company. The Harbor Cruise was on Saturday and on Sunday we were invited to Akemi’s home for dinner with Paul and Emiko and two other “American” couples, Polly and John Sharps and Keiko and Bill Foran. Akemi’s much beloved husband who had passed away two years previously, was Swiss; we had Swiss cheese fondue for dinner and a good time was had by all.

Aki and Mitzie Kojima:


Mitzie, Kiku, Emiko, Mariza, Akime, & Sharry

At the dinner at Paul and Emiko’s, Aiki and Mitzie invited us to join them for a trip to their condo at Miyazu on the North side of Honshu. We weren’t able to arrange a time to do this with the schedule of our guests arriving in October and a trip planned to Kyoto, but they also invited us to their home for dinner with Paul and Emiko. We had a delicious nabe dinner and good company and conversation. Aki worked for the Duskin Company of Osaka, Japan and spent ten years in the US. (Duskin in Japan has a diversified business base, which includes dust control, residential and commercial cleaning contracts, food service, and support services for senior citizens.) We look forward to seeing more of Aki and Mitzie when we return to Ashiya in January and February.

Kazuko Nakamura, my other “best friend”

After our first dinner out with Paul and Emiko we picked up their friend, Kazuko, and went to a restaurant high on the hills about Ashiya for coffee and desert. It was “love” at first sight. Kazuko is very cosmopolitan; she owned a flat in London for many years, where she would live during the summers in order to escape the summer heat of Japan. I wish I had a photo of her the first time we met: she was wearing a beautiful long blouse which she had made out of her mother’s favorite summer kimono and absolutely wildly colored “tights” from London. Kazuko had spent the last several years taking care of her aging mother who passed away two years ago. My first impression of Kazuko hasn’t changed a bit. She is a strong and independent woman and I am very happy for her to be my friend. That night at coffee, I mentioned that I would love to go shopping with Emiko and a discussion followed as to what I wanted to shop for. I answered that it wasn’t “for” anything in particular, but I wanted to go shopping with some ladies (without men) and that I was particularly interested in Japanese ceramics and pottery, kimono and other traditional Japanese items. In early October Emiko organized a “shopping” to Kobe Street Market for the three of us: Emiko, Kazuko and I. This was just the beginning of our fun. When my best friend, Shari Walker, came to visit the week following, the four of us went on a whirlwind “shopping” in Osaka for a day. Don and I have been to Kazuko’s home for dinner, and the Paul and Emiko’s family, including Chris and Elisa (adult children at home at the same time from Tokyo and Los Angeles) and Kazuko (described as Chris and Elisa’s second mom) have all been to Starr for dinner. Now, when Don’s sister and brother and their spouses come to Japan next week, Emiko and Kazuko are going to give us a “cooking class” and teach us how to make nabe. We are having so much fun.

Kazuko, Emiko and me at Kazuko’s house

Kazuko & Emiko on the train returning from Osaka

Kazuko & Don on Starr

Elisa, Paul, Chris, Kazuko & Emiko on Starr

Paul, me, Kazuko, Don & Emiko on Starr

Note: Don and Paul have been having fun together, as well. Running around searching for “boat things”, taking computers to repair places and doing all kinds of other fun things. Paul, Don and I all rode bicycles to Rokko Island the weekend before Halloween (Yes, the Japanese celebrate Halloween. They love sweets and the kids love to dress up in costumes).

Children dressed for Halloween

Japanese children are so cute

Yoshiko Furuki:

Yoshiko Furuki

We met Yoshiko Furuki in late April, when she was on the walkway adjacent to our dock at Bellport Ashiya. Don was outside on the deck and they struck up a conversation. Yoshiko is a retired professor from Tsuda College in Tokyo; she retired to Ashiya in order to take care of her aging mother. She told Don that she loved boats and she would have loved to go to sea when she was younger. We invited her onboard, had a brief conversation and arranged a date for her to come back for a longer visit.

After our visit she sent us an email saying:

“I hope you don’t mind my addressing you by first names, because I’m obviously older than you and because you are American. I had noticed your boat before, when I went down ” just to watch the boats” there, but I never thought of talking to the owners. It’s too forward by Japanese standard. But I’m glad I did. I’ll come to see you before you sail. I’ll bring a book I wrote (in English) if I can find a copy. Do let me know if there’s any time which is inconvenient to you.”

As it turned out we were not able to get together again before we left to go cruising with the GSSR; her mother died on the day we had arranged for her to come down to Starr.

Yoshiko emailed to us after we had returned to Ashiya in the fall:

“I’ve been wondering if you have come back to Ashiya. I’d like to bring you

the book I promised to give you.

The Japanese say that autumn is a season for reading, and there’ll rainy


I hope you will find time to read the book, not because I wrote it, but

because the subject is historically interesting.

Please let me know when it’ll be convenient for me to deliver it.”

We arranged for her to come to lunch on Starr in late October and had a quiet visit; however, when we talked about my interest in Japanese ceramics and pottery she mentioned that her sister had an antiques business and that perhaps I would like to go to her “shop” in her house here in Ashiya, to look at antique china.

“My sister’s homepage URL is:

Take a look and if you are interested, I’ll take you to the “shop”. She’s in

the middle of sorting things out for the next show at a department store,

but she’ll be glad to show you her stock, I believe.

Could you take out, say, two hours sometime this week? I’ll pick you up and

take you home.”

We went to her sister’s and had a very enjoyable time looking through boxes and (for me) learning about Japanese antique china. I bought some old Imari plates and very beautiful old Imari teapot. Her sister’s home was “Sugoi” (amazing), a very contemporary concrete house; I wished that Don had come with us, as he would have loved to see the beautiful and simple architecture of the house. I had a most enjoyable afternoon.

On the way back to Starr I asked Yoshiko if I might be able to participate in a literary reading group she has organized, made up of women who were her former students. They meet here in Ashiya and are currently discussing “The Dead” from James Joyce’s Dubliners. She will ask them about inviting me as a guest member when I come back in January and February. I had asked if it would be uncomfortable for the women participating to do the discussions in English, and she answered, “Do not worry. Not many graduates of Tsuda would feel uncomfortable to speak in English. “

I am looking forward to spending more time with Yoshiko.

Yumi Tanaka:

Don met Yumi, her husband Yoichi, and children Riki and Sora, on the walkway adjacent to our dock. Yoichi works at the American Consulate in Osaka and Yumi went to college in Idaho. They live in a house about two blocks from Starr.

The Tanaka Family

I missed out on Don’s first conversation with them, but Yumi came back and we chatted again (from the boat deck to the walkway). Then Yumi came by early one morning in mid October, told us that she was going to Costco, and asked if we might want to come with her? We did, and had a chance to get to know her during the drive there and back. Yumi came back a week later and we invited her on board. She invited us to join their family at a neighborhood gathering in the park nearby on Halloween to see all of the children in costume, and then to go to their house with them and pass out candy to the little kids. We planned to do this, but it rained so hard on Halloween that the event was cancelled.

Yumi & Sora on Starr

A week later she took me with her to shop at Uniglo (like a cross between Gap and REI) for Heat Tech turtle neck tops; the weather is chilling down here in Ashiya and I had told her that I only had “summer” cotton t-shirts. On the way to Uniglo we stopped for lunch at a “cool” sushi shop at a local fish market not far from Ashiya Bellport.

Yumi & Sora at the “cool” sushi shop

I’m enjoying Yumi’s company; it’s fun to have a friend younger than my children. Yumi is very curious and asks many questions about our life on Starr. At first she wanted to know if it was hard to sleep with the boat moving all f the time, and did we want to come and sleep in a “real bed” sometime? She told me that many of her neighbors knew about Starr and when they saw our bicycles out on the dock thought that we rented a house in Ashiya and used the bicycles to commute to the boat. Yumi asks questions that give me insight as to what Japanese think about us. I became more aware of the fact that most Japanese have never been on a boat like Starr, and have absolutely no idea as to what to expect. And that Japanese do not sleep on their boats; in fact, the boats here in the marina hardly ever leave the dock.

Sushi Shigematsu – Masaharu & Tomoko:

We first went to Sushi Shigematsu just before we left Ashiya with our GSSR friends. The sushi master Masaharu Shigematsu, didn’t know what to make of us; we didn’t speak any Japanese and he didn’t speak any English. We managed to communicate enough to let him feed six hungry Gaijin (foreigners) and it became clear to him that we loved everything that he fed us. When we left, the sushi master and his wife “bowed” us out the door and to our awaiting taxi.

GSSR at Sushi Shigematsu

Tomoko doesn’t want her picture taken

The sushi master, Masaharu

Masaharu and Tomoko

We took Dave Schmidt out to sushi before he returned to Hawaii, and then went back a third time with Shari and Steve (and Paul and Emiko) before they flew home to San Francisco. By the third time Masaharu knew that we love sushi and sashimi, and that we have “Japanese stomachs” (we eat everything). He was comfortable with us and knew that we wanted “Omakase” (I leave it to you.) The Monday after Shari and Steve left for home; we saw Masaharu and Tomoko with two little black poodles on the walkway near Starr. We said “Ohio gonzaimasu” (good morning) and invited them down to Starr. We were delighted to see them and learned that Tomoko understands much more English than we knew. We hope that they will come and see us again; we certainly will vist them at Sushi Shigematsu.

Masaharu and Tomoko on Starr

More friends in Ashiya:

Kokoro Yamaguchi, the field manager at Bellport Ashiya. Kokoro is a really great person and a huge help to us here at the marina.

Kokoro & me

Yasushi & Teiko run the Okonomiyaki shop here in Ashiya. We first ate there with Steven and Carol Argosy and have continued the “habit”. Yasushi is a huge Hanshin Tigers fan and we brought him an Ichiro hat when we returned to Starr in September.

Yasushi & Teiko cooking okonomiyaki

Steven Argosy eating Okonomiyaki

Some people on the walkway we “meet” but don’t really know; they just feel like friends. Like Mom (we don’t know her name) and “Chun”. We have said “hello”, smiled and waved and taken photos.

Mom & Shun

Mom & Shun

Sometimes all we have is a picture, but we still feel like they are our friends.

Dad & son

Bellport Ashiya is a great place to live in Japan.
1 Comment
  • Johnny
    Posted at 15:12h, 09 November Reply

    Hello Starr,

    My name is Johnny Lim, owner of a Bertram 60 sportfisher. I had purchased the boat from Florida and had it shipped to Yokohama in Sept 2010.

    A week before and after typhoon Chaba, I had sail from Bayside Marina in Yokohama to Nishinomiya in Osaka with several stops in between. I had been mindful of the typhoon season and therefore kept a very close watch on the weather forecast before each journey. I would check several weather web sites namely; Japan Meteorological, Passage weather, wunderground etc.. carefully the night before and the morning itself making sure it is good before I set sail. However, on 2 occassions, the weather forecast was either not accurate or had changed dramatically for the worst in a matter of a few hours.

    I wonder if you do experience the same problem or does this weather pattern happens only in certain months or are there other weather stations that could be more accurate? I would thought that the marine weather forecast should be quite accurate for the next 24 hours but I’m not sure if this can be said for Japan.

    I have plans to sail to Hong Kong from here, stopping at various ports along the way thru the inland sea, Kagoshima, Okinawa then to Taipei and Kaoshiong.

    With warmest Regards.

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