Recently I took the ferry from Kagoshima and I begun reflecting on the beauty and romance of the ferry. Many ferry routes offer two options: a jet foil, a super-fast and sexy ferry that speeds you quickly to your destination; or a slower passenger ferry, the daggy aunt to the eternally youthful jet foil. But. There is nothing wrong with a daggy aunt, but sometimes you want to enjoy a slow journey (and save money to spend on island omiyage souvenirs).
My ferry, pulls up loud and clumsily to the dock as the crowd waits. Groups and singles become one big mass as they move up the ramp. Inside, cheery staff with crisp retro uniforms greet you, and help explain the layout of the ferry to anyone who needs assistance. People shoot off in every direction: some seeming to know exactly where they are going, others a little lost but keen to present a confident face. There are Japanese-style rooms with tatami-covered floors, the Coffee Lounge Bougainvillea with faded pink-purple-yellow sofas, outdoor seats, top-deck seats, seats in the library, among others.
The ferry pulls away from the dock and the announcements start, “If you get sea sick, please see the staff at the information counter for free medication. The library is now open, please feel free to rent a book. The soba and udon counter will open for lunch between 9:00 and 10:00, and 11:15 and 11:45. The theatre, gift shop, gaming room, and turtle room are all open.” With so much to check out and only four hours, where to start.
Ferries in Japan were once critical to the tourism and transport industry given the sheer number of beautiful surrounding islands. Sadly though, over the years, tunnels and bridges have overtaken in popularity and ease, as well as people preferring air travel, and many of the once-busy routes have been canceled.
However, if it weren’t enough that you may see dolphins, many of the sea-routes that remain have great names, like the Olive Line or Sunflower Ferry, which is a clear point in their favour. There is also the promise of better food and cheaper beer than a plane, and ferries can handle bigger bulkier luggage, like bicycles and cars.
Ferries provide a chance to slow down, catch up on the news or rest, and often, to go back in time. So on your next Japanese inter-island journey don’t hesitate, grab a ferry.