Once again, chasing the mornings first light, I arise from my slumber and emerge into the quiet early morning harbor. Although I awake at 5:30 with the idea of getting in the water early, yet I still have the urge to find a convince store to satisfy my craving of some milk and a snickers bar. Not having the slightest idea where one of the ubiquitous convenience stores are located in this sleepy harbor town, I begin wondering around. I find myself walking up a gravel path leading to small road lined by a few homes and with no obvious sign as to where to go afterwards. I ask a man leaning over some large plastic buckets in his garage. “Sumemasen,” I say with a slight bow and he approaches, ready to intently listen to my question. I ask him where I can find a convince store or “Omiseo,” which are the more common small community stores, especially prevalent in these small harbor locations. He asks why and I tell him “Asa Gohan,” (breakfast) and he nods, thinks for a second, and says something in Japanese which I soon find out means, “I will take you, lets go”. After only a few seconds, Im planting myself in the passenger seat of his small car.
After I have my ceremonial milk and snickers bar, with the addition of some sweets and fruit curtsy of this friendly man whose name I later find out is Fujita San, I once again find myself next my kayak, beginning to disassemble what was my shelter for the night. Finishing my small morning meal, I feel a sense of regret come over me as I realize that I’ve missed an opportunity to get a picture with him. Not really overwhelmed by the desire to return and once again ask him for something, I continue with my morning preparations and just then I hear someone jogging down the path and see Fujita San with a small plastic bag in tow. He comes running over and tells me his wife made lunch for me. I look in the bag and see two large tinfoil wrapped rice-balls. I thank him profusely and use the opportunity to get a picture with him.
Within the first few hours, I thick fog begins to form, making the landmass in the distance fade away behind the gray cover. Confident of my direction, I continue to paddle North-East towards what I believe to be Tokyo Bay yet because of the thickening fog and relatively flat landscape, I am unable to make out any identifiable object and begin to lose my bearing. Not a stranger to being ‘relatively’ lost, I take a few minutes to orient myself with my surroundings and listen to the stillness of the surrounding ocean, taking in the occasional thump,thump,thump of the large diesel engines carried by cargo ships and occasional blast of the fog horns, reaching out into the dense gray to identify any obstacles that may be in their path. I decide that these ships could only be going in one direction and thats Tokyo Bay, so I start to paddle towards the slow cadence of the massive engines.
Paddling in the general direction of Tokyo Bay, I’m coming closer to the tip of what appears to be the entrance of the bustling harbor. Paddling closer to land and Kannonzaki Lighthouse, the fog clears with the coming of mid-afternoon sun and I soon notice that I have, in fact, passed into Tokyo Bay. At this time I would have suspected that maybe I would have felt some type of uncontrollable excitement, threw my arms in the air and gestured as though I was finishing my first marathon, yet I did none of this, not even the slightest hand gesture was able to make its way through the wall of concentration and encroaching back pain keeping any expression of excitement at bay.
Paddling towards Yokosuka, I notice what looks like small red blocks on the map, indicative of a restricted area. Not having even the slightest idea what these red boxes may represent, I’m very curious about the potential of what I may see and to pay careful attention to the coastline as I paddle past. The first thing that caught my eye was big bold english letters “Automobile” on the side of a building behind barb wire fence and as I scanned farther in front of me, it was becoming obvious that I was nearing some type of military installation. Paddling past, I see even more english signs and am even greeted by a black PT boat that literally appeared out of no-where yet quickly proceeded to wave me by.
Passing Yokosuka Port, glancing over by port bow, my eye caught the familiar light gray color of U.S. Nave ships I’ve seen so many times in my childhood during one of the many visits to the Navy yard in Philadelphia. Although the color was the same, the scale massively different, much larger than anything I have ever seen during the many times driving around the Navy Base with my dad. Although I could not identify the names on many of the ships, they all had very prominently displayed guns on their forward decks. As my attention moves further to the right, I see what I instantly recognize as a Air Craft Carrier. My mouth literally falls open as it grows larger and larger as I paddle past, seeming never to end. This ship is beyond enormous; probably one of the largest ships I have seen in my life. Passing this ship, my attention if stolen by what looks like people swimming between two inflatable military style PT boats. As I get closer, I can hear a whistle blow, sending these figures charging between two boats. Off to the right of these swimming charades, I see a scuba diver being pulled onto the deck on a inflatable dingy. Sure that these are not recreational divers, I think for a second that I may be witnessing Japans version of SEAL training. Of course I don’t snap a photo, although it takes every ounce of self-control I can muster to keep my camera securely zipped in my front PDF pocket.
The sun was once again retreating behind the clouds and with no sign of the rain letting up, I started in the direction of Umino park. Surprisingly, off to my right, I catch the familiar shadow of a military ship off in the distance which looks strikingly smilier to the ship I saw yesterday, but was too far to even get a picture. This time the ship is close enough to snap a photo, which of course I do, before I’m once again off towards Amino Park. Landing on the beach, I was very cautious to not seem as though I was intending to camp here, less anyone happen to spot me and report my intentions to the park patrol, yet I’m sure their plans would have been delayed by the literally downpour that was beginning. Looking down the beach, I walked over to a few very prominently displayed signs informing summer tourists to not feed the birds. I continue to walk along the beach towards what I believe to be a public bathroom and see a sight that literally stops me in my tracks. I see a young girl, not more then high school age, straddling a boy. As I pass, the boy covers his face and I act as though I don’t notice the extremely public “public display of affection,” but I must admit part of me is proud of them, especially in a society that is not fond of any type of physical displays of affection.
As night approaches and rain still pouring, I’ve come to accept that I will be sleeping under some type of shelter other then my tent; potentially in one of the bathroom stalls. After looking around for about 20 minutes and having one of my options literally shut its gates before I could make it in, I settle on the cold (but dry) pavement under a awning and wedged against the closed steel door of a building.