Category: Japan

The Night Boat to Kyushu

Ferry Fukuoka 2, April 2012

The Ferry Fukuoka 2 and the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, April 2012


As a teenager in the early-’90s, splashing out on a second-hand copy of Car Ferries of the World ’88 by Yoshiho Ikeda and Taiki Takeda seemed like a pretty big investment. I’d found the book mentioned in the listings of an antiquarian book seller and, intrigued, sent off a cheque for, I seem to recall, £20. Several days later the 186-page volume in both English and Japanese text arrived in the post.

Car Ferries of the World ’88

The authors’ task had been to provide technical details, a photograph and perfunctory commentary on every car ferry on the planet with a gross tonnage in excess of 5,000grt as at December 1987. It’s fair to say that the book isn’t entirely comprehensive and a few ships were missed here and there; but as with many of these ferry time capsules it provides a remarkable portrait of a moment in time.

Flicking through my purchase I was drawn originally to the familiar British and European ships and, I have to confess, found the 20% of the book containing black and white images of the ferry fleets of the authors’ home country easy to skip over. The colour pictures on the covers, however, were something else. In particular I lingered over the three on the back cover – sandwiching a fine view of Travemunde was one of a clutch of Tirrenia vessels of varying vintage lying at Genoa and another of a busy Japanese port with a large terminal building fronting a row of car ferries of different operators, all berthed with their bow visors open. A four-symbol Japanese caption identified the port.

Back cover

Car Ferries of the World ’88 – back cover. The picture of Osaka Nanko port features the New Orange (Shikoku Kaihatsu Ferry), Ferry Hakozaki (Meimon Taiyo Ferry), Hamayu (Nippon Car Ferry) and New Katsura (Osaka Kochi Tokkyu Ferry).

Twenty years later, I found myself on that very stretch of quayside, staring into the car deck of City Line’s Ferry Fukuoka 2 and struck by a tremendous sense of deja-vu. The port was, it turned out, Osaka’s Nanko ferry terminal and when I paid a visit there in 2012 to photograph the ships on their berths I was very quickly sure this was the same port I had admired all those years earlier. Later study of the original picture showed that, shoreside at least, remarkably little had changed – the Ferry Fukuoka 2 was berthed in the same place, at the very same ramp and in front of the same terminal building as the same company’s Ferry Hakozaki in the mid ’80s (the operator had yet to adopt the City Line name and were still known as Meimon Taiyo Ferry in those days). On the next berth I found the Orange 8, direct successor to the 1983-built New Orange seen on the same adjacent berth in the 1980s image and which operates between Osaka and Toyo.

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Orange 8 and Ferry Fukuoka 2

Orange 8 and Ferry Fukuoka 2

Alongside at Nanko ferry terminal, right to left - the Orange 8, Ferry Fukuoka 2 and her fleetmate, the Ferry Osaka.

Alongside at Nanko ferry terminal in 2012, right to left – the Orange 8, Ferry Fukuoka 2 and her fleetmate, the Ferry Osaka.

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Meimon Taiyo Ferry was the product of a 1980s merger between a pair of the ferry operators established in Japan’s 1970s ferry boom. Meimon Ferry and Taiyo Ferry both operated services across the Inland Sea but it is Meimon’s Osaka to Shin-Moji route, established in 1973, which has persisted in a market which is still fiercely competitive. Meimon’s first ship was lost in a collision with a tanker but the second, the Ferry Atsuta, would survive to become Minoan Line’ El Greco in 1979. Coincidentally Taiyo Ferry’s first ship would also end up with Minoan Lines – as their Daedalus.

The modern company operates two pairs of ships providing ‘early’ and ‘evening’ departures on its Shin-Moji route. The later departure is evidently the more prestigious, as successive generations of new ships are allocated to this with the elder vessels taking the earlier slots. The pattern of two pairs of vessels was established in the 1990s as the late ’80s sisters Ferry Kyoto and Ferry Fukuoka were paired with the Ferry Osaka and Ferry Kitakyushu (of 1992) before being replaced by the new Ferry Kyoto 2 and Ferry Fukuoka 2 in 2002. The first Ferry Fukuoka would, incidentally, end up with Stena’s brave but ill-fated South Korean venture, Stena Daea Line, as their New Blue Ocean.

The latest pair of newbuildings arrived in 2015 with the 1990s pair making way for a new Ferry Osaka 2 and Ferry Kitakyushu 2.

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Two years after that eventful first visit to Nanko port, we were back again – and this time it was to board the Ferry Fukuoka 2 and sail on the company’s sole route between Osaka and Shin-Moji on the island of Kyushu. Presented below are some images from that crossing in May 2014.

As with so many Japanese ferries, the Ferry Fukuoka 2 and her sister were built just up the coast from Shin-Moji at the Shimonoseki yard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – which also produced P&O’s European Causeway, Ambassador and Highlander. The ships are very much overnight vessels with a restaurant the only real diversion other than the open-plan central square and the attractive upper arcarde. The idea of a ferry bar, so familiar to European travellers, is almost unknown in Japan and alcohol is available only from one of the vending machines on board.

City Line Spring 2014 brochure

City Line Spring 2014 brochure

Most passengers are on board to sleep, but few miss the highlight of the crossing, which is the passage beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world and a source of much wonderment and pride in Japan. This comes early in the crossing when travelling westbound, albeit usually after dark for the later departure, but most passengers seemed to stay up to watch it. The crossing also passes beneath the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge although, despite approximate timings being provided by the on board guide, I doubt too many people were up to admire them.

City Line's route map, showing key points along the way - for many travellers the passage beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is the highlight of the trip

City Line’s route map, showing key points along the way – for many travellers the passage beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is the highlight of the trip

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Ferry Fukuoka 2

Nanko ferry terminal, looking inland from the ferry berths. At some stage it has lost its northern wing but is otherwise intact still intact from its 1980s incarnation.

Nanko ferry terminal, looking inland from the ferry berths. At some stage it has lost its northern wing but is otherwise still intact from its 1980s incarnation.

Checking in

Checking in

Ferry Fukuoka 2 preparing for loading

Ferry Fukuoka 2 preparing for loading

Heading out along the foot passenger walkway

Heading out along the foot passenger walkway

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The sun sets as we head over the gangway

The sun sets as we head over the gangway

City Line on board guide

On board guide

Deck plan. The City Line ships are genuine overnight ships with few general seating areas apart from the arcade, lobby and restaurant

Deck plan.
The City Line vessels are genuine overnight ships with few general seating areas apart from the arcade, lobby and restaurant

The Osaka Express over at the nearby terminal shared by Miyazaki Car Ferry and Ferry Sunflower. The Osaka Express is a half-sister to Corsica Ferries' Mega Express Five.

The Osaka Express over at the nearby terminal shared by Miyazaki Car Ferry and Ferry Sunflower. The Osaka Express is a half-sister to Corsica Ferries’ Mega Express Five.

The central square on Deck 5, off which the shop, restaurant and information desk can be found

The central square on Deck 5, off which the shop, restaurant and information desk can be found

The shop

The shop

Vending machine corner with secure lockers for valuables (for passengers sleeping in the open lounges) to the right

Vending machine corner with secure lockers for valuables (for passengers sleeping in the open lounges) to the right

The central area, looking over to port

The central area, looking over to port

Looking aft towards the restaurant

Looking aft towards the restaurant

The buffet restaurant

The buffet restaurant

Another view of the buffet

Another view of the buffet

Heading up to Deck 6, this is the starboard-side arcade

Heading up to Deck 6, this is the starboard-side arcade

Looking aft along the arcade

Looking aft along the arcade

Deck 7's little 'rest corner'

Deck 7’s little ‘rest corner’

Our accommodation for the night - a rather tidy four berth cabin. There are no en-suite facilities in most cabins as most passengers prefer to use the communal baths.

Our accommodation for the night – a rather tidy four berth cabin. This is a ‘Western style’ version, with bunkbeds. There are also ‘Japanese style’ rooms of a similar size with fold-out futons or tatami mats. There are no en-suite facilities in the majority of cabins as most passengers prefer to use the communal baths.

Company images showing the Japanese-style rooms

Company images showing the Japanese-style rooms

Larger suites and deluxe cabins are available, as are capsule berths such as these

Larger suites and deluxe cabins are available, as are capsule berths

A corridor of capsule berths showing the upstairs/downstairs arrangement

A corridor of capsule berths showing the upstairs/downstairs arrangement

The cheapest option are the open sleeping saloons where passengers sleep on the carpeted floor alongside strangers, with blankets and pillows provided

The cheapest option are the open sleeping saloons where passengers sleep on the carpeted floor, with blankets and pillows provided

The ship has two 'Observation Bathrooms', one for women and one for men, where passengers can bathe whilst enjoying the view from large picture windows

The ship has two ‘Observation Bathrooms’, one for women and one for men, where passengers can bathe whilst enjoying the view from large picture windows

One of the bathrooms

One of the bathrooms

A quick look out on deck

A quick look out on deck before departure

Time for dinner...

Time for dinner…

The main buffet area

The main buffet area

Hot food selection

Hot food selection

Dessert and drink options

Dessert and drink options

Chocolate fountain

Chocolate fountain

Restaurant seating area

Restaurant seating area

Passengers watching baseball in the main hall area - local favourites the ORIX Buffaloes were in the process of beating the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

Passengers watching baseball in the main hall area – local favourites the ORIX Buffaloes were in the process of beating the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Ferry Fukuoka 2 miscellany

Passing beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Passing beneath the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

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Up bright and early the next morning for our arrival in Shin-Moji

Up bright and early the next morning for our arrival in Shin-Moji

The rival Ferry Settsu of Hankyu Ferry is just ahead, having sailed overnight from Kobe

The rival Ferry Settsu of Hankyu Ferry is just ahead, having sailed overnight from Kobe

There is only one berth at the City Line terminal in Shin-Moji, so the 'early ship', the 1991-vintage Ferry Kitakyushu, has cleared the port and is at anchor

Only one of the berths at the City Line terminal in Shin-Moji links to the terminal, so the ‘early ship’, the 1991-vintage Ferry Kitakyushu, has cleared the port after her 0530 arrival and is at anchor

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Also in Shin-Moji is the Ocean West, one of two pairs of 1990s sisters used by Ocean Tokyu Ferry on their long, two night service from Tokyo. The company divided their fleet into 'Standard' and 'Casual' ferries - the latter having fewer passenger facilities. The Ocean West was one of the 'Standard' ships alongside her sister the Ocean East so, based on external appearances, it's hard to  imagine how basic the 'Casual' Oceans North and South were. The entire fleet has been replaced by four newbuilds since this picture was taken in 2014 - all of which are designated as 'Simple' ships - passengers can acquire food only from a vending machine, although a bank of microwaves is provided.

Also in Shin-Moji is the Ocean West, one of two pairs of 1990s sisters used by Ocean Tokyu Ferry on their long, two night service from Tokyo. The company divided their fleet into ‘Standard’ and ‘Casual’ ferries – the latter having fewer passenger facilities. The Ocean West and her sister the Ocean East were the ‘Standard’ ships; based on external appearances, it’s hard to imagine how basic the ‘Casual’ Oceans North and South were. The entire fleet has been replaced by four newbuilds since this picture was taken – all of which are designated as ‘Simple’ ships – passengers can acquire food only from a vending machine and heat it in a bank of microwaves.

The Ferry Settsu pulls into port alongside fleetmate Yamato from the Shin Moji-Osaka (Izumiotsu) route which competes with City Line even more directly. The 'Settsu' was replaced by a new build in 2015.

The Ferry Settsu pulls into port alongside fleetmate Yamato from the Shin Moji-Osaka (Izumiotsu) route which competes with City Line even more directly. The ‘Settsu’ was replaced by a new build in 2015.

City Line berth in Shin-Moji, complete with side-loading linkspan.

City Line berth in Shin-Moji, complete with side-loading linkspan.

Passenger terminal

Passenger terminal

Model of the Ferry Fukuoka 2's sister, the Ferry Kyoto 2, in the Shin-Moji terminal

Model of the Ferry Fukuoka 2’s sister, the Ferry Kyoto 2, in the Shin-Moji terminal

Osaka Nanko in the 1980s - the New Orange, Ferry Hakozaki, Hamayu and New Katsura

Osaka Nanko in the 1980s – the New Orange, Ferry Hakozaki, Hamayu and New Katsura

To conclude, let’s go back to our port of departure and that 1980s view of Nanko ferryport. Whilst the port and terminal remain, sadly the ships seen in that picture have all long since left Japan. The New Orange was sold to China in 1999 after the arrival of the aforementioned Orange 8 and it’s not entirely clear whether she remains in service or not. The other three went to the Philippines, where the Ferry Hakozaki somehow survives, laid up as the St Joan of Arc. The Hamayu was less fortunate, burning out in dry dock in 2000 as the Superferry 3. The New Katsura was an earlier half-sister to the ship which became DANE Line’s Diagoras – she, however, ended up with Sulpico Lines as their Princess of the South. Spared one of that company’s regular calamities she managed to survive until being scrapped in 2014.

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To Sendai on the Kitakami

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This mid-April journey begins in the port city of Tomakomai on Hokkaido, in the distant north of Japan; farther south the country had just been battered by a once-in-a-half century typhoon but, before that, it had been possible to stroll around in t-shirt and shorts. In Hokkaido the winters are harsh and even with cherry blossom blooming across the country, up here snow could still be found lying on the ground and everywhere trees remained wrapped in their winter straw overcoats.

Tomakomai is perhaps the most important port on the island of Hokkaido, with overnight ferry routes heading south along the eastern, Pacific coastline with Taiheiyo Ferry (to Sendai and on to Nagoya) and MOL/Sunflower (to Oarai, nearer to Tokyo). A shorter service is provided by Silver Ferry to Hachinohe. A few kilometres from the main port lies Tomakomai Higashi (East) port, from where the masters of the Sea of Japan, Shin Nihonkai, maintain a regular service down the western coast of Honshu. This confluence of routes has seen companies serving the Tomakomai area receive perhaps the four most significant new Japanese ferries of 2011 and 2012 in Shin Nihonkai’s soon-to-be delivered Suzuran and Suisen, Silver Ferry’s Silver Princess and the new Ishikari of Taiheiyo. The latter was delivered in 2011 and has received many plaudits but, for this crossing, we are sailing on the earlier half-sister of the old Ishikari, the Kitakami of 1989.

The Tomakomai-Sendai-Nagoya is served by three ferries of which the Kitakami is the eldest.

The Tomakomai-Sendai-Nagoya is served by three ferries of which the Kitakami is the eldest.

A taxi from Tomakomai train station brings us to the port where earlier clouds have cleared to reveal clear blue sky. Passengers are free to amble along the quayside where we obtain up-close views of our vessel and of the adjacent Sunflower Furano. This pair of ships hold particular interest for admirers of the Greek ferry scene for they have each had close relations sailing there in recent years. The Nissos Rodos (ex-Kiso) of Hellenic Seaways has seen sparing passenger use since being sold by Taiheiyo in 2004 but was previously a close sister of the Kitakami. The Sunflower Furano, meanwhile, is the sister to the pair that for many years maintained ANEK’s Venice service, the Lefka Ori and the Sophocles Venizelos – those robust and speedy ships have recently left Greece for new lives in South Korea.

Tomakomai ferry terminal.

Tomakomai ferry terminal.

The Kitakami.

The Kitakami.

Sunflower Furano.

Sunflower Furano.

Walking to the small park adjacent to the port we observe the arrival of the brand new Silver Princess, a ship for whom pink is the new black and which boasts a slightly chavvy promotional theme. She turns and reverses onto the berth to the stern of the Kitakami. Returning to the terminal, a small port museum is located upstairs with models of some famous Tomakomai ships. More models can be found in the check-in area downstairs, where we are swiftly dealt with by the Taiheiyo Ferry staff. Although we have made a reservation, in Japan this does not involve payment in advance, so we hand over our 10,000 yen each for accommodation in capsule berths on tonight’s sailing to Sendai.

The Silver Princess.

The Silver Princess.

A model of an earlier Sunflower Sapporo in the museum - this ship is now Agoudimos's Ionian Sky.

A model of an earlier Sunflower Sapporo in the museum - this ship is now Agoudimos's Ionian Sky.

A fine model of the first Ishikari - which went on to become the Eritokritos of Minoan Lines and, later, Endeavor Lines before going for scrap after the 2010 season.

A fine model of the first Ishikari - which went on to become the Eritokritos of Minoan Lines and, later, Endeavor Lines before going for scrap after the 2010 season.

The Shiretoko Maru - more familiar to European eyes as Minoan's N Kazantzakis.

The Shiretoko Maru - more familiar to European eyes as Minoan's N Kazantzakis.

The Kitakami in all her scaled glory.

The Kitakami in all her scaled glory.

Taiheiyo Ferry check in.

Taiheiyo Ferry check in.

Tomakomai ferry terminal, seen from the ship.

Tomakomai ferry terminal, seen from the ship.

Kitakami deckplan. Click for larger image.

Kitakami deckplan. Click for larger image.

Boarding is permitted an hour and a half before departure and a quick look around confirms that this is a truly splendid ship. The five vehicle decks show why Hellenic Seaways were content to use her sistership initially only as a freighter but that was always a waste of the passenger areas. On the Kitakami these are spread over two decks, B Deck and C Deck. Accommodation is essentially split fore and aft with the forward sections primarily cabins; aft on C Deck are a small driver’s area, a small cinema and the public baths. The presence of the latter is important on Japanese ferries and helps to explain why, generally, so few of the cabins have en-suite facilities. The Japanese convention is to go to the public bathing areas, have a shower, followed by a quick five or ten minutes or so in the scorching hot baths. Many early bathers may subsequently be seen around the ship for the rest of the evening in the company-branded kimonos and slippers which are waiting for them on their berths.

Entrance to the men's bathhouse with storage lockers adjacent. With so much open-plan and shared accommodation the latter are an important feature although theft is, frankly, unlikely.

Entrance to the men's bathhouse with storage lockers adjacent. With so much open-plan and shared accommodation the latter are an important feature although theft is, frankly, unlikely.

Public bath.

Public bath.

There is a quite broad range of accommodations. At the top end, there is a small selection of deluxe suites forward on A and B Decks. First and special class cabins, the latter without facilities, come in both ‘Western’ and ‘Japanese’ styles (i.e. with beds or bunks or, in pure ‘Japanese’ rooms, only tatami mats). “A-bed berths” are the capsules in which we have reserved for the evening – on this ship these come with upper and lower capsules in a room accommodating 48 in total. “B-bed rooms” are dormitories with bunk beds. Traditional Japanese ferry travel persists in the form of open plan rooms, where a blanket and thin fold-out mattress are provided to lay across the floor. This is the cheapest option and still very popular.

Suite, as found forward on A Deck.

Suite, as found forward on A Deck.

Deluxe Japanese-style cabin.

Deluxe Japanese-style cabin.

First class cabin corridor.

First class cabin corridor.

Western style cabin.

Western style cabin.

Special class cabin corridor.

Special class cabin corridor.

Central passageway running through the "A" and "B" bed areas forward on B Deck. Whilst the Kitakami is a one class ship in her public spaces, there is a clear hierarchy with regard to the accommodations and the corridors reflect this, becoming progressively less luxuriously finished the further down the scale one travels.

Central passageway running through the 'A' and 'B' bed areas forward on B Deck. Whilst the Kitakami is a one class ship in her public spaces, there is a clear hierarchy with regard to the accommodations and the corridors reflect this, becoming progressively less luxuriously finished the further down the scale one travels.

"A bed" capsules.

'A Class' capsules.

Complete with personal TV, air conditioning and reading light this capsule will be my home for the night.

Complete with personal TV, air conditioning and reading light this capsule will be my home for the night.

"B Class" dormitory.

'B Class' dormitory.

The cheapest way to travel is in the open plan sleeping areas, as shown.

The cheapest way to travel is in the open plan sleeping areas, as shown.

It would be the height of rudeness for passengers to enter this area in normal footwear so these are discarded at the entrance in favour of either slippers or stockinged feet.

It would be the height of rudeness for passengers to enter this area in normal footwear so shoes are discarded at the entrance in favour of either slippers or stockinged feet.

Aft on the port side of C Deck, freight drivers are given their own dormitory .

Aft on the port side of C Deck, freight drivers are given their own dormitory.

Drivers also have this separate lounge area.

Drivers also have this separate lounge area.

Entrance to the small cinema, amidships on C Deck.

Entrance to the small cinema, amidships on C Deck.

Inside the cinema.

Inside the cinema.

C and B Decks are linked by the ship’s grand staircase which opens onto lobby spaces on either level. With the lack of en-suite facilities, ample toilet and washbasin facilities are provided nearby. On the upper level can be found reception and a small shop along the forward side with a bar counter aft (the ‘Ferryca Club’). No alcoholic beverages are available here, however; for whatever reasons these can only be procured from the myriad number of vending machines found in corners all over the ship.

The Kitakami’s overarching design theme is that of an English country house or hotel and aft of the B Deck lobby can be found, to starboard, the Grosvenor House buffet restaurant. Echoes of the Red Bar and the Rink Bar at the Grosvenor House hotel can be found in details through the ship in styling, ceilings and colour schemes. On the port side is the main arcade, a most comfortable place to recline with a drink or a book whilst, right aft, is the Star Dust show lounge.

The lower lobby, complete with English-esque telephone kiosk.

The lower lobby, complete with English-esque telephone kiosk and vending machines discretely concealed behind curtains.

The dramatic central staircase.

The dramatic central staircase.

Lobby at B Deck level.

Lobby at B Deck level.

Reception...

Reception...

...and the adjacent shop.

...and the adjacent shop.

The 'Ferryca Club' bar area.

The 'Ferryca Club' bar area.

On the starboard side, just forward of the entrance to the Grosvenor House restaurant.

On the starboard side, just forward of the entrance to the Grosvenor House restaurant.

Inside the restaurant, looking aft.

Inside the restaurant, looking aft.

Looking across to port in the central section of the Grosvenor House.

Looking across to port in the central section of the restaurant.

Back on the port side of the ship, this is the main arcade heading aft.

Back on the port side of the ship, this is the main arcade heading aft.

The entrance to the 'Star Dust' showlounge, aft.

The entrance to the 'Star Dust' showlounge, aft.

The lounge awaiting the evening's entertainment.

The lounge awaiting the evening's entertainment.

This saloon has a rather more informal, European-style feel to it when compared to the equivalent spaces on the ship's fleetmates, which lack the booth seating, tables and corner bar counter in favour of a more rigid theatre-style layout.

This saloon has a rather more informal, European-style feel to it when compared to the equivalent spaces on the ship's fleetmates, which lack the booth seating, tables and corner bar counter in favour of a more rigid theatre-style layout.

The last of the public spaces, and one perhaps easily overlooked by many travellers, is the forward observation lounge – certainly it enjoyed little patronage on this overnight sailing but when the ship used to sail south to Nagoya during the day it may have been better used. The Kitakami travels that path infrequently now, primarily being restricted to back and forth operations between Tomakomai and Sendai with the legs farther south being covered instead by her two more modern fleetmates, the present Kiso and Ishikari.

Forward observation lounge.

Forward observation lounge.

The company goes to the trouble of advising “first time” (and other) passengers of an appropriate timetable of events to ensure they get the best from the crossing. Not wanting to look out of place, this we duly follow with buffet in the restaurant being taken just before departure; the food was fine, with Taiheiyo Ferry branded wine accompanying cooked-to-order steaks.The evening’s entertainment in the show lounge commenced at 8pm and, headed by a team of three shamisen players, lasted an hour or so after which we turned in for the night.

Buffet food.

Buffet food.

A nice bottle of Taiheiyo red.

A nice bottle of Taiheiyo red.

The evening's entertainment was headed by a team of three shamisen-players and lasted an hour or so after which we turned in for the night.

Another clear blue sky greeted us the next morning as we motored towards our 10am arrival in Sendai. A buffet breakfast was on offer in the restaurant but, after a stroll on the outside decks, I took a book to the observation lounge – but not before a further consideration of some of the ship’s idiosyncratic pieces of signage and artwork.

Kitakami miscellany

Kitakami miscellany

Kitakami miscellany

Kitakami miscellany

Kitakami miscellany

Kitakami miscellany

Kitakami miscellany

Kitakami miscellany

The view from the observation lounge.

The view from the observation lounge.

What we casually refer to as the port of Sendai is actually in the city of Shiogama, and its official name is now Sendai-Shiogama Port. This was particularly badly devastated by the 2011 tsunami although, one year later, most of the evidence of that day has been removed and rebuilding has been carried out in earnest – look closely, however, and many hints remain, in particular the large amounts of scrap metal piled on the quayside.

Waves coming ashore at Sendai.

Waves coming ashore at Sendai.

Glowering on a hillside in the distance is the Miyaga Stadium, one of the venues from the 2002 football World Cup.

Glowering on a hillside in the distance is the Miyaga Stadium, one of the venues from the 2002 football World Cup.

And so we bade a sorry farewell to the Kitakami, at the end of a splendid crossing on a splendid ship. Although Taiheiyo do not have any new vessels on order at present, this 1989-built classic is approaching the veteran stage, certainly by the standards of Japanese coastal and overnight ferries. Her sister, the old Ishikari, has been sold on to Chinese owners and, when the time comes, the market is such that this ship will probably remain in the far east rather than come to Europe. For now she continues to provide valuable and comfortable service on the routes for which she was built.

A procession of cleaners head aboard as we disembark.

A procession of cleaners head aboard as we disembark.

Inside Sendai ferry terminal.

Inside Sendai ferry terminal.

A model of the old Ishikari remains on display here.

A model of the old Ishikari (now the Grand Spring) remains on display here.

The Kitakami at the port of Sendai-Shiogama.

The Kitakami at the port of Sendai-Shiogama.

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