I love harbors and I love big ships and if there is one place to really see them up close it is at the International Port of Yokohama, the Osanbashi Pier. Last year I saw the gigantic MS Asuka II (飛鳥II) at port. It is the largest passenger vessel in Japan right now, at 241m. It has a crew of 545 and can take 960 passengers. I usually use this site to track the position of large ships but I already knew that the Asuka II is currently in port at Hakata/Fukuoka on the north coast of the island of Kyushu, in southern Japan, where it arrived about half a day ago.
The ship was launched in 1989 and is currently sailing under Japanese flag (which is unusual in this day and age of “Flag of Convenience” maritime traffic.
A couple of weeks ago I passed through the city of Shimoda on the east coast of Izu peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. Shimoda and its harbor are mostly famous these days for being the place where Japan was finally opened to the outside world, partly with the gunship diplomacy of US Commodore Perry and his black ships in 1854. The first US consulate was established at a temple here in Shimoda in the same year. Today Shimoba harbor is much less exciting than those 150 years earlier, but I still found some interesting ships in harbor, the prime being the beautiful Coast Guard vessel Kano, a Tokara Class Medium Patrol Vessel. There is also a tourist ship “dressed up” to look like one of the 1840 era American black ships, and most of my friends who visit Shimoda feel a trip on this ship is mandatory. I was in a hurry though, and did not have time to do anything else than take these pictures and stock up on local produce at the excellent farmers (fishmongers) market at other end of the harbor! I will have to visit Shimoda again.
Visiting Yokohama with friends last week I just had to take a detour to one of my favorite Yokohama landmarks, the Osanbashi and the International ship terminal there. Sort of blocking our view though, was the biggest ship I have ever seen, the simply gigantic Costa Victoria. The name might ring a bell if you remember the more unfortunate Costa Concorida that capsized of the coast of Italy earlier this year. The Costa Victoria really towered above the usually quite huge Osanbashi, even though we missed out on the view of Yokohama Minato Mirai, we were impressed by the ship instead. Funny thing was, on the other side of the pier, another huge ship was resting at anchor, but I forgot her name (last photo of the blog post). I wonder if anyone on these ship reads this blog?
It’s easy to forget, well to be honest, for most people in Tokyo life has nothing do with the ocean, that Tokyo is one of the greatest port cities in the world. The Port of Tokyo has 30 000 people working receiving over 32 000 ships and a staggering 100 million tons of cargo. There also a few terminals that receives passenger ships, ferries and long distance cruise ships. Usually these are busy places with customs and immigration, but on the days when no ships come in to harbor, it is almost completely deserted. Harumi Terminal is popular with boatspotters and even busspotters, this being one of the best places in Tokyo to take photos of busses! There is also what could be taken as an observation tower on top of the terminal but as you can see from the photos it is a bit difficult to see anything from it. The terminal is also a good spot for photography: every time I go there I spot a handful of photographers with assistants and models. I took these photos earlier in the year, it was very cold and windy, not like the warm days I have spent at the port in May! Harumi Terminal is at the end of Harumi Island which is a nice but rather long walk from Ginza. But if you have time and good walking shoes I recommend you to try it!