I took a ferry to Japan

For my birthday, I took a ferry to Japan. Yes, that is as romantic as it sounds. I’m sure that to people in Japan and Korea that sounds average, so-so, ordinary. But to a girl who grew up on a different coast, very far away, I assure you it is neither so-so nor ordinary.

For only $200 round trip, one can take a high speed train from Seoul to the southern coast of Korea, where one boards a high speed ferry from Korea to the southern peninsula of Japan. This is the second time in a year that I’ve crossed international borders by boat, and allow me to say that it’s neat. It is one thing to descend from the clouds into another world, but it’s quite another to float up to its shore on the water.

Japan appeals to my interest in hospital corners, straight lines and OCD. Orderly and well-pressed, Japan takes presentation and aesthetics to a new level. I like that in a place. Even road construction is inviting, clean and tidy. Pretty, even.

Bicycles are everywhere, and I am still mystified by the skill and precision of Japanese women weaving through pedestrians and traffic, cruising effortlessly in high heels and skirts with cell phone in one hand and cigarette in the other.

Meals are too beautiful to eat. Packaging and retail displays are works of art, leading to the inevitable purchase of ten thousand mystery souvenirs. “But it’s pretty!”

People are painfully polite. Smiles are easy, and the staccato “hai, hai, hai!” is infectious. Walking one afternoon, I saw a business man chase another man down the street simply so he could properly say goodbye. The two began bowing to one another like windshield wipers, back and forth, back and forth, with thank you’s and goodbye’s.

My gracious local hosts took me to the most popular sushi restaurant in town, where I had the most exquisite fish I have ever eaten and yet still managed to cross “Eat something that’s still moving” off my list of Things I Have No Interest in Doing. We walked along the canals and tiny, quiet side streets to a shinto shrine, where we picked New Year’s fortunes and tied them to strings for good luck. We drank coffees in a tiny wooden coffeeshop with art on the walls and reggae on the turntable. We talked about Iceland and Seoul and Kyushu mountains and photography and travel.

On my last day, I was walking through the park snapping photos of doves bathing in the fountain. An older man approached me and asked where I was from. US, live in Korea, I explained. He asked if I liked Japan. Very much, I said. He held out his pinky and linked it to mine. Pinky swear. He smiled, said it was a pleasure to meet me and walked away.

Japan, I am completely smitten with you. I pinky swear it.
See all the photos here.

11 Responses to “I took a ferry to Japan”

  1. Josiah Pugh says:

    Awww… now you know the deep love I have for Japan as well! It’s like Korea but somehow, classier.

  2. claire says:

    oh lady, i pinky swear you’re awesome.

    when i was travelling through japan we came to this tiny town and decided to stay the night. we set off in the direction of the ryokan but soon got lost. this little man on a bike came up to us, looked at our directions, hopped off his bike and delivered us to the front door 10 minutes later, bowed, smiled… thank you good bye thank you good bye, and set off on his bike the way we had just come.

    i would like to live there. in the world of tiny :)

  3. Rach says:

    Beautiful page
    Beautiful words
    Beautiful images….

    Sounds like a delightful birthday trip =)
    A hearty welcome back!

  4. Astrid says:

    Such beautiful photos and lovely story. You really make me want to go to Japan. Happy belated birthday!

  5. BF says:

    those japan photos kill me. KILL me. great stuff, stephanie.

  6. charlotte says:

    it all sounds so wonderful. whilst there last year, i took a photo of three public telephones on one of the platforms at tokyo station. when i got to the main concourse a man tapped me on the arm, said he’d watched me photograph them and asked if he could tell me about them. he then proceeded to give a detailed description of what each was for, shook my hand and wished me a good stay. he was the absolute opposite of the average londoner.

  7. hanne says:

    i love your postcards.
    one day i’d like to write one from japan myself.

  8. lisa says:

    breathtaking photos. thanks so for sharing.

  9. debbie says:

    you describe japan perfectly, it makes me want to hop on a plane and go back to tokyo.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Thanks so much for all your sweet comments and stories. I hope everyone gets the chance to go to/go back to Japan someday. I love houseguests…

  11. Rika says:

    I went there also, and I like it….. wanna go back there

Leave a Reply to Stephanie