Wednesday, June 18, 2008 Japan Japan

Dead end

Our second ferry docking at Tokunoshima [Enlarge]

As we boarded the A-Line ferry bound for Naha, capital city of Okinawa, we still hadn't decided whether to make another stopover en route. Our ticket allowed us to get off at Yoronto Island if we wanted to. A few hours later, as Yoronto became visible. we were still trying to make up our minds. Our hearts said stop, our heads said keep going to Naha. We had a semi-deadline in Okinawa because we wanted to catch another ferry out of Naha to Taiwan, and these only run once a week. If we stopped in Yoronto we'd only be able to spend one day there, and then we'd be scrambling to get out of Naha in time, or we'd be committed to a spending a whole week in Naha waiting for the next ferry.

As we slowly steered into port we decided to stay on the ship and go straight to Naha. We played a game of cards on the Tatami room floor to celebrate our decisiveness.

Later on we met a French-Portuguese chef who was working his way from one country to the next. He had spent some time in England (York) and was now trying to find a way from Okinawa back to Hong Kong, where he wanted to base himself for a while. Like us, he was trying not to fly if possible.

Eventually, just before sunset, we docked in Naha. We shouldered our bags and stepped out into the steamy evening air. There is no tourist information office at the ferry port in Naha, but we found a city map posted outside the building and took a photo of it so that we could use it to find the nearest monorail station. We had no reservation but we wanted to stay in the Toyoko Inn in the Miebashi district, because we liked the Toyoko Inn we used in Kagoshima.

One wrong move and you get a real surprise. [IMG_4393]
Japanese toilet control panel [Enlarge]

In the hotel room, we finally remembered to take a photo of our toilet control panel, which we've been meaning to do since we first came to Japan. The Japanese are the world masters of high-tech toiletry. Almost everywhere we have stayed in Japan, the toilets have had heated seats, temperature-variable spray-jets in all sorts of places, noise emitters (for modesty), posture-dependent extractor fans, and buttons and dials for everything. The only snag is, we haven't a clue what to press because everything's in Japanese. The first time you use one of these toilets you feel compelled to press buttons at random, well Glenn did, anyway. Our advice if you find yourself in this situation is simple: just don't do it. Glenn ended up washing the bathroom ceiling with a jet of water shooting vertically out of the toilet (no, really). If he had been sitting on it at the time, let's just say he'd have been very very clean. And walking strangely.

This morning we went online to find out where we needed to go to buy our ferry tickets to Taiwan. Isla went to The Man in Seat 61's site and discovered a slight problem. The only ferry company between Japan and Taiwan has gone into liquidation citing high fuel prices. The ferry stopped running on 7th June, eleven days ago.

So we've spent three days travelling six hundred kilometres by boat, almost to the end of the Ryukyu Island chain—and now we're a bit marooned. When we researched the Taiwan ferry from Tokyo, news of the demise of the company hadn't reached the internet yet. It couldn't have happened at a worse time for us.

So sadly we now have no choice but to fly out of here: we can choose to fly first to Tokyo or Osaka, and from there to anywhere we like; or we can fly straight out of Naha to Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai or Seoul. Either way it's not going to be cheap.

Map of Day 571

Day 571
Kametsu (Tokunoshima) to Naha

This map shows the route we took in this post. Click it to see larger maps of our whole route at flickr.

Maps are taken from the CIA World Factbook.