The Night Ship to Ohshima


Last night in Yokohama Harbor, at 10 PM, Mayumi and I boarded an overnight ship bound for Ohshima, a small volcanic island close enough to Tokyo to be included in its city limits, but far enough away to be another world, like Martha’s Vineyard is to Boston, or Catalina is to Los Angeles. We will visit our mutual friend Mana, who introduced us.


What you get with an economy ticket is a tatami sized piece of the carpeted area onwhich to sleep and keep your things. Mayumi and I are amused.


For 100 yen, you can rent a blanket. The black foam filled headrests are free. Pretty soon everyone is tucked in, and at 11 PM, the ship’s crew turns the overhead lights off. You can still see your way around easily with the hall lights, which remain on.


I see recycling containers everywhere I go in Japan, and the ship has six different ones at each staircase.


Toilets are traditional Japanese style; you squat, which I think is much healthier than sitting on your thighs western style, since you can actually use your abdominal muscles in a squat, and avoid straining your rectum.


The hour until the lights go out seems like as good a time as any to practice guitar. My Traveler Guitar is practically silent, and it comes with a stethiscope (the diaphragm is built into the guitar body and the tubes to the earphones detach) so that you can hear yourself play without using an amplifier.


It’s a pretty good sounding guitar; I’ve been using it professionally for a couple of years now. It’s got two pickups with separate volume controls, one that sounds more electric and one that sounds more acoustic, and you can blend them for a third sound. It has a full sized fretboard, but the tuning pegs are in the center of the guitar (where the sound hole would be on an acoustic guitar), and the lap-rest on the bottom of the guitar detaches and then reattaches so that the guitar is ultra-compact for traveling. No one has ever hassled me about bringing it on an airplane. It’s the size of a soprano ukulele and easily fits in any overhead compartment. And it’s not an expensive guitar. I got mine from Musician’s Friend Catalogue. I think Traveler Guitar makes a twelve string and a bass guitar, too.