Westward through the Seto Naikai
Since our chosen route would take us along the west coast of Japan, we needed to backtrack 250 miles to exit the Seto Naikai (Inland Sea) at the Kanmon Kaikyo, where we had first entered in September of 2016.
We sailed 55 miles to Shodo Shima the first day and anchored off the east end. There were no cruising guides for Japan at the time and few people anchored; most choosing to go into marinas or fishing ports. We often were able to discover places to anchor by looking at satellite images and that’s what we did here. The next day we continued another 43 miles to Shiraishi Jima, the island where we’d met Amy Chavez and had such a great time in 2016.
It was great to see Amy again, and this time we got to meet her husband Paul. There was also another sailboat at Shiraishi: s/y Dot with Australians Cathy and Larry aboard. This was the first foreign boat we’d seen this year and only the sixth since we’d arrived in Japan. Not a lot of cruising boats visit Japan.
The sakura were still in bloom on Shiraishi and we were able to spend time reveling in the quintessential Japanese experience of relaxing under the cherry trees.
We’d rushed to Shiraishi from Kobe because Amy had told us the Spring Kobo Daishi Festival was to be held on April 17th. Her email described it as a very special event and we didn’t want to miss it.
The night after our arrival, Amy and Paul invited the crews of Dot and Migration for a pizza party. It was great to spend time with our friends, and especially nice to see Amy’s neighbor Kazu-chan again.
Part of the Kobo Daishi festival involves small wooden sticks upon which one writes a prayer or wish. Amy had purchased sticks for us and Kazu-chan patiently wrote our prayers on them in Japanese.
We’d invited our new friend Lauralee (from Kobe) to visit us. We were excited that she accepted right away and arrived by ferry just a couple of days later. Of course she boarded Migration with a ridiculous number of gifts, including super yum cookies. She arrived at lunchtime and even brought bento boxes for lunch, which we ate under the sakura trees before going hiking.
Though it was a spring festival, the day of the Kobo Daishi festival was grey and rainy. But never mind… this was a fascinating opportunity. We, and the few other gaijin (foreigners) on the island, were treated as honored guests, with Amy and Kazu-chan as our guides and translators.
We spent the remainder of our time on Shiraishi taking care of Migration and socializing with our friends. We hosted a Thai dinner aboard Migration one night. Another evening everyone was invited over to Dot for a dinner party that included a fair bit of drinking as well as a heated discussion over the relative merits of Marmite and Vegemite — as often happens when Australians are around.
During our stay we were asked to move Migration as we were anchored in the area where the local seaweed farm was going to be installed. Once we moved, the spindly structures were towed into place and anchored for the season.
We finally tore ourselves away from the lovely island and lively friends, and set sail with Lauralee aboard. We were bound for the island of yummy yummy oranges where Kuchan was waiting for us.
Osakikamijima: The Island of Yummy Yummy Oranges
We’d received an email from our friend Yuki saying that she’d met a Frenchman, Van, and was planning on getting married. They’d moved to Osakikamijima — the island of “yummy yummy oranges” as Yuki put it. We needed to make sure Van was the right man for our adored Yuki. We had a fine 37-mile sail weaving through the islands near Onomichi, the town where we’d originally met Yuki and her rabbit Kuchan.
When we saw them together, it was clear that Yuki and Van were very much in love — a good thing as they were choosing an unusual lifestyle; building a “natural house” made of earth, and living like homesteaders in a ramshackle old house until the new one was complete. Van seemed extremely handy, and Yuki is remarkably industrious, inventive, and brave. They invited us for a pizza party, which was so generous — they don’t have running water or electricity, but they had built a pizza oven!
Van gave us a tour of the island, including taking us up to a wonderful viewpoint.
Afterwards we met Yuki in town where she’d arranged for a tour of a very old family-run shoyu (soy sauce) factory. We balanced on plank walkways above ancient wooden vats of fermenting soy mash and were even allowed to give the brew a stir with a long wooden paddle. We left with several bottles of 2- and 3-year aged soy sauce that is the best we’ve ever tasted.
Lauralee had to return to Kobe, so we said farewell as she boarded the ferry– complete with cute anime characters painted on its side — to the mainland. Of course, after she was gone we found more treats she’d left for us.
As long as we were on a dock, it gave Alene an opportunity to go fix something at the top of the mast.
We had one final breakfast aboard Migration (waffles!) with Yuki, Van, and Kuchan before we, too, had to leave.
We knew it would be a long, long time before we saw Yuki again and we were sad to say goodbye.
And what about the yummy yummy oranges?
Matsuyama: Castles, Ancient Onsen, Tomodachi, and Bratwurst
When we met Aibara-san & Kumiko-san on the dock in Onomichi in October 2016, they said we should be sure to visit them in Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku. Though we’d taken a road trip to Shikoku from Kobe, we had not driven as far west as Matsuyama. Now, we were only 24 miles away by water, so we headed south.
When we arrived, Aibara-san & Kumiko-san met us at the marina in Horie which is one of the closest marinas to Matsuyama. We had drinks on Migration before they treated us to a delicious sushi dinner while enjoying the sunset over the Seto Naikai.
Just a month earlier, when we’d flown to Fukuoka for Bruce and April’s speaking engagement at the International School, we’d met Mitsugi-san when our friends Tatsuo and Kyoko invited us to dinner. Their friend Mitsugi-san is a doctor and a sailor and spoke excellent English; we enjoyed getting to know him over dinner. He invited us to visit him when we arrived in Matsuyama, so we took him up on his offer.
Our time with Mitsugi-san and his girlfriend, Junko-san, began with… surprise!… being treated to a delicious meal.
Hiroshima: A Wild Welcome
We planned to sail to Hiroshima the day after our Uchiko outing so we asked Mitsugi-san if he wanted to join us. He was excited about the opportunity so we set off together the next morning for the 33-mile sail to the northwest. It was a fast sail, and we enjoyed Mitusgi-san’s company. He hadn’t sailed for many years and was thrilled to be back on the water.
We arrived at Kanon Marina around 1600. Within an hour, we were immersed in a adventure that had our heads spinning when we finally crawled into bed long after midnight.
Miyajima: Nozomi, Torii Cartwheels and Deer that go “bheee”
The weather was rainy so we put off touring Hiroshima and did boat projects for two days… including finally fixing our Webasto heater, which we were to rely upon heavily in the North Pacific.
Our bouncy and fun friend Nozomi, the librarian from Onomichi we met in 2016, was now living near Hiroshima. We invited her to join us on the short sail to Miyajima, an island 6 miles away that has one of the most famous sites in all of Japan.
We spent the next two days exploring the island and saying bheee whenever we saw a deer.
The architecture was stunning.
Miyajima is a popular spot for weddings.
Winter had ended but the statues still wore the hand-knitted caps and scarves that people make to honor them and keep them warm during the coldest months.
We hiked to the top of the island through the beautiful forests, visiting shrines along the way.
At the top is a “lover’s shrine” with the “Fire of Oarth (sic)”. Check out the instructions in the photos above. Don’t dillydally!
We left to return to Hiroshima on May Day (May 1st) and paused long enough so BB could dance a Morris jig with the famous torii in the background.
A meditative interlude: Beautiful reflection on Migration’s bulkhead.
More Hiroshima and More Friends
Back on the dock in Hiroshima — flying our koinoburi — we finished some projects, and had a chance to do some sightseeing.
We had a great sail back and quickly got Migration settled as we had a dinner date that night with a very interesting man we’d met the day we left for Miyajima.
Touring Hiroshima by bike was really fun. It’s a big city but we rode our bides everywhere, including to thebeautiful Shukkei-en gardens.
Two nights in a row, coming home very late from our explorations, we ate at “Circus Sushi”. This was a carousel sushi restaurant that included a second level over the normal carousel. On this track a miniature bullet train delivered special orders to your table. We cracked up every time it went zooming past.
Of course, we were not going to leave Hiroshima without visiting the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Museum and Memorial Park.
Our time here was just as moving and powerful as our visit to the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki. Many in the United States refuse to acknowledge the inhumanity of intentionally bombing civilians — especially with such a horrific weapon of mass destruction. I was proud to see the plaque commemorating President Obama’s visit to the Peace Memorial in 2016… the only sitting president with enough courage to do so.
It is a sobering experience to visit this city and its memorials; something every US citizen should do if they have the means.
We were to depart immediately for the West coast but Toshi-san had told us about the big Flower Festival parade in only two days. We couldn’t miss that!
The parade was good fun and there were also dozens of stages with lots going on.
Check out these photos. A festival and parade that draws thousands of people and look how little trash is on the street! The boy in red shorts is picking up trash. Volunteers and festival attendees are sorting recycling. People take a great deal of care about their trash in the cities (although not in the ocean, unfortunately).
It was already early May and we only had one month until our planned departure across the Pacific for the Aleutians. It was hard to move on, but we finished our projects and cast off the dock lines.
We wanted to avoid sailing at night whenever possible due to high ship traffic and the many fish nets and aquaculture farms. We left early for our first 64-mile run to Otsushima where we tied up to a floating dock for the night. The next morning we headed toward the Kanmon Kaikyo–the western exit of the Seto Naikai.
If you’ve ever seen Hayao Miyazaki’a anime film Howl’s Moving Castle, you might think some of the inspiration came from the strange equipment lining the Kanmon Kaikyo.
We motored under the Kanmon Bridge — which we had passed going in the opposite direction 8 months before. After transiting the strait we entered the Sea of Japan and turned northward.