Sakaiminato, Ine, and Mikuni

Sakaiminato, Ine, and Mikuni

On Saturday the 29th Captain Sam departed for his vacation in Tokyo meeting his wife Anna there.  The same day, Don and Sharry’s “hanai” granddaughter, Azusa Maruyama, joined us on Starr in Sakai-Minato. The friendship with Azusa‘s family started many years ago and included Sharry and her friend Shari Walker helping Azusa move into the dorm for her study abroad semester at the University of Portland. Azusa is now a successful business strategy consultant, working in Tokyo.  She recently built a home there, which is unusual for young Japanese women to have both land and a home of their own. Azusa brought along a new special friend for Sharry, an animated robotic cat that responds and acts just like a real cat but without the fuss or smell. This new addition was very welcome and fun for Sharry.  It was wonderful to see Sharry and Azusa enjoy some bonding time.

Azusa has had some limited sailing experience so now that Sam was off the boat, it was important that she refresh her memory on line handling and knot tying as she would now become our fourth crewmember for the next two stops. She proved a quick study!  Early the next morning, we left Sakai-Minato on a fairly long day cruise to the port of Ine.  This was my first time being the one to jump off the boat to catch and secure lines to the bollards and rings so my practice at knot tying paid off too.  Azusa and I made a great team!

Ine is a beautiful fishing village in northern Kyoto Prefecture.  A traditional fishing village, it’s known for boat houses or Funaya that are built over or right at the water’s edge. 

We learned that these homes with their boat “garages” were for fishermen to pull their wooden boats in and up to the garage to dry them off and offload their catch.  The second floor was where they processed and dried the fish.  The families actually live in a home in front of the boathouse or live elsewhere. A friendly tour boat guide told us there were over 350 of these boat homes in Ine. We poked our head into one garage and saw what could be a museum piece.  A beautiful and rustic wooden boat with beautifully carved kanji that appeared to be frozen in time with all its oars at the ready.  Just an overnight stay here in Ine then off to our next stop. 

We had planned a stopover in Hyogo and then afterward a stop in Mikuni (Fukui Prefecture).  This is where Azusa would depart.  However, the plans changed and we decided to push through to Mikuni to have a few more days in an area with more conveniences nearby.  On the second cruising day I stood watch so Azusa, Don and Sharry could have an opportunity to catch up.  Azusa was a delight and so helpful in the galley and around the boat.  She was patient with all of our questions about her life, and we learned about the challenges and nuances of life in Japan for the younger generation.

When we arrived in Mikuni, we were met immediately by the Japan Coast Guard just as we were getting the first lines set. What has now become an expected visit at each port, this time the line of questioning and the requirements were more detailed with specific tasks for us to complete. Seeing Azusa aboard was also a point of interest for them and, while it was wonderful having her Japanese language skills, it did not deter them from seeking all of our documentation and hers as well. 

We were docked on a wall of the Kuzuryu River (Fukui’s largest river) which is busy with squid, crab and shrimp boat traffic.  There were many restaurants and grocery options with a beautiful sunset beach, a short walk away.  In many ports we notice the local people driving and walking by; however, folks here had no hesitation to walk up or knock on the hull to say hello. One gentleman, Daishiro-san, made a point to visit us several times each day and brought gifts (every time) and sometimes brought his friends.

Daishiro-san and Don

Just across the road from the boat is a well-stocked marine supply store which has been in business for 200 years of the same family ownership. Hiro-san and his son operate the store seven days a week, only taking one week off a year. We were able to purchase new shackles, a fender step and other supplies, including a proper net knife. According to our wind apps, there was to be up to 42 mile an hour gusts coming our way so extra lines and fenders were placed making it somewhat more challenging to disembark but we all were careful to step on and off the boat slowly and assist each other.  Fortunately, only one day was gusty and not as much as predicted.

On May 5, Azusa’s parents, Kei and Teiko, drove three hours from their home in Lake Biwa and arrived bearing gifts. 

Azusa, Teiko, and Kei Maruyama

Teiko showed Sharry a preview of a beautiful hand stitched quilt (near completion).  This beautiful quilt echoed the design of her previous quilts and pillow cases adorning Starr’s salon. 

Later on, we went to the fish market where Kei and Teiko chose various fish and seaweed and had them turned into a beautiful sashimi platter. Teiko offered to cook the rest of the lunch for us – such a treat! 

One of our generous visitors had brought fresh shrimp literally just off the boat!  Their underside was covered in teal blue roe which was delicious. 

After a sumptuous lunch and more visiting time Kei, Teiko and Azusa left for their 3 Hour drive back home with Azusa going back to Tokyo afterward.  We would later receive the completed quilt via post to our friend Jun-san in Hakodate, Hokkaido.

The next day, while enjoying a sunny walkabout I greeted a lady watering her plants and she replied then asked in English if I were from Hawaii. This took me by surprise but I figured we do stick out a bit and, given all the visitors we’ve had, word had probably gotten out about Starr and her crew from Honolulu. Her daughter, Miyuki, came outside and we enjoyed a very nice conversation in English. Miyuki, like Azusa, had spent time on the mainland (at Boston University) for her study abroad semester. She offered for the entire crew to join her family for lunch the next day at her grandmother’s beach house. 

That evening we were expecting our friends Rob and Kathleen Hurlow (PNW CCA members, like Don and Sharry) to arrive on their sailboat, Capaz, so I asked if they could join as well. Of course, she graciously said “yes” and we made our lunch plans. Rob and Kathleen arrived around 1630 that evening and Hiro-san was there to help determine the best place to dock. We enjoyed a delicious meal and returned to Starr to catch up on their trip.

Hiro-san, the sixth generation owner of the local marine hardware store

Kathleen Hurlow  from SV Capaz and Sharry

Rob Hurlow from SV Capaz

The next day Miyuki drove Kathleen and I to go shopping.  We met at Nanae’s (Miyuki’s mother) home instead of the beach house as her grandmother was not able to join us as planned. Miyuki drove Don and Sharry there and Kathleen, Rob and I walked to stretch our legs.  Shaking off our rain-soaked gear we were warmly welcomed by Nanae and Miyuki’s eight month old son, Louis. Nanae, Kathleen, Sharry and I handmade gyoza for which Ren (Miyuki’s husband) griddled for us. The filets we purchased were being artfully sliced by her uncle, a sushi chef.  Another wonderful sashimi spread with local salads, special sushi rice and barley tea.

We learned that Nanae is not only a classically trained pianist, but also an opera singer. She currently works at a school as the music teacher.  Ren, who is Chinese from Shanghai, also plays the guitar so after the lunch we were treated to beautiful music and songs.  By this time Miyuki‘s older son Leo was awake and tried to join his dad in playing the guitar. Miyuki’s grandmother, Futae, arrived and the house was filled with conversation and full stomachs! We left our hosts, thanking them profusely for their generosity and delicious food.

Left to right: Ren, Miyuki with Louis, Sharry, Kathleen, Rob, Taka, Celeste, Don

Celeste and Louis

Grandma Nanae-san and Leo playing the piano

Ren with Leo

As a Type 2 diabetic, I had changed my medication to pill form in preparation for our trip because Japan restricts bringing in many types and forms of prescribed medications. Unfortunately, over the last few months my medication has not been working well for me and I had made a passing comment about that to Miyuki. Miyuki offered to call the local clinics and pharmacies for my specific medication. Of the two clinics in Mikuni she was able to reach a doctor who was familiar with the medication and who obtained it the same day (transported from almost an hour away). Miyuki made appointments and accompanied me to the clinic visit with little Louis in tow. With her translation assistance, I was able to quickly see the doctor and my medication had arrived at the pharmacy. Although the dose was less than I had before it was important that I was able to get the medication that worked best for me.  Again, I experienced the kindness and generosity of the Japanese people. The doctor even apologized for the Japan restrictions and hoped that with this new medication I would feel better and would continue to enjoy Japan. I thanked him, the clinic team as well as the pharmacist very deeply for their swift and efficient care as well as their thoughtfulness of how I was being impacted by the rules in Japan. In my 35 years as an RN I can say that the healthcare experience with both Sharry and now myself here has been outstanding. It is comforting to know you can get access to great care and medication while here.  I am forever grateful to Miyuki for her help. 

Miyuki and Celeste

We were rejoined by Sam that evening and made plans to depart the next day.

  • Luuk Oleson
    Posted at 03:24h, 21 May Reply

    Another great post. What a trip!

  • Chris Clothier
    Posted at 04:06h, 21 May Reply

    Celeste, what a great blog and what warm and wonderful experiences you are all experiencing. See a foreign country on the level you are experiencing it is a gift and we are all so lucky you are sharing it with us.
    Continued fair winds!

  • James Ellingford
    Posted at 05:43h, 21 May Reply

    Keep on cruising guys kudos to you both

  • Frank and Carlene
    Posted at 07:34h, 21 May Reply

    Thanks for your great story telling. Safe travels.

  • Andy Howard
    Posted at 07:52h, 21 May Reply

    Great post Celeste, i really enjoyed the entire article. Hope the trip continues to be enjoyable.

  • Milt & Judy Baker
    Posted at 11:59h, 21 May Reply

    A wonderful post that underscores the great experience and warm friendship all of Starr’s crew are enjoying as y0u continue cruising in Japan. Cruise on!

    Milt & Judy Baker, Pompano Beach, FL

  • Miyuki Tamaya
    Posted at 12:16h, 21 May Reply

    Thank you very much for coming our house! We had great time and enjoyed your stories of journey. Hope to see you in the future. If I can help with anything, please tell me:) Have a wounderful trip!

  • Joe Golberg
    Posted at 15:40h, 21 May Reply

    Great to see the wonderful friends and sharing such amazing meals. Nice to see the Hurlows too. An adventure of a life time of which you have had many. We really enjoy following your exploits vicariously.
    Joe and Elayne

  • Sheila Morrow
    Posted at 16:09h, 21 May Reply

    Thanks for the lovely blog, Celeste! So nice to see pix and hear about Azusa, Kei and Teiko again! Some years ago they also welcomed us to Japan when we were there painting a mural for our sister city!

  • Peter Kartak
    Posted at 20:30h, 21 May Reply

    I get great enjoyment reading of Starr and her crew’s adventures and am equally delighted my country has such wonderful and gracious emissaries to represent the American people.

  • graham pugh
    Posted at 20:37h, 21 May Reply

    The fish platters look absolutely scrumptious, great to have so many friends in Japan.

  • Joe Lopez
    Posted at 01:04h, 22 May Reply

    Wow, what a awesome post to get everyone caught up on the experience in Japan. Thank you to everyone helping my favorite person get her medicine she needed.

    Love you Celeste. Gambette!

  • Alice
    Posted at 02:33h, 22 May Reply

    Thank you for sharing. What an amazing experience.

  • Alice
    Posted at 02:44h, 22 May Reply

    Amazing trip how blessed to meet such wonderful people. Glad you got the much needed medication

  • Jan and Tom White
    Posted at 14:44h, 22 May Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing. Tom and Jan White

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