by Shirley Shimada,
On a beautiful spring cherry blossom day, we took a holiday trip from Osaka (Honshu) to Beppu (Kyushu) by ferry boat. A country with thousands of islands has many ferry routes, but this one was considered one of the best.
I was on my spring break as a 4th grade teacher in a US Army school. My Japanese was woefully inadequate, even though I had attended Japanese language school. My Issei grandparents lived with us during my childhood.
The ferry’s three or four desks seemed to soar above us at the dock. My three Japanese traveling companions- Eiko, Sachiko and Michiko-entered our cabin with three bunks on each side and a bathroom down the hall. Eiko seemed to enjoy practicing her English skills for which I was thankful.
We were joined by a honeymoon couple in the same cabin! They held hands across the aisle when we went to sleep.
That evening we all dined in the massive dining room on the upper deck. We ate leisurely and walked around the ferry. The crowded ferry boat chuffed its way out of Osaka and through the Seto Naikai (Inland Sea). The water was smooth.
The next morning, the ferry was shifting up and down and even sideways. That didn’t bother us as we prepared to go for breakfast. For three of us, putting on our faces was a simple dab of cream, some lipstick (one color) and a quick brush.
Michiko pulled out her make-up casea small suitcase with a handle on top and a mirror inside the lid. Inside were two layers sectioned off for make-up bottles, round-lidded boxes and a number of brushes for hair, eye lashes, powder, lipsticks, creams for hands and face, eyelids. Each item had its place.
I had never seen such an array of products, except at a department store. After that short introduction to beauty and makeup, we left for breakfast.
By the time we reached the dining room, we discovered only a small group gathered for breakfast. I wondered what happened to the larger group from the night before. A waiter explained to Eiko we were going through the Shimonoseki Straits, separating the islands of Honshu and Kyushu and known for its rough waters. That kept most of the passengers in their bunks and near the bathrooms!
As we walked around the ferry, we watched a young man stepping up to the next level with his camera, trying to get a photo of someone. He overreached and before he could catch his camera it slipped from his hand. The splash could be heard as it hit the water. There was little he could do to retrieve it. It must have cost a great deal for cameras as they were not commonly available in the 1960s.
Before noon, our ferry docked in Beppu. We could see steam rising above this little town famous for its hot springs (over 2,000?). Bathing in the hot springs was said to cure several kinds of illness. We decided that we did not need to soak in the hot springs.
We wandered the streets until we found our hotel at one of the most popular onsen called the “Jigoku Onsen” or “Hell’s Hot springs. “There we could see eggs boiled in the natural hot water and smell the sulfur-ish scent of boiled eggs. Other smells floated in the stream as we walked up and down the wooden steps between the many boiling water pools.
The steam raised the temperature from a pleasant spring day to a warm and steamy summer. This was worth the ferry boat ride.
Shirley Shimada was born in San Jose. The family spent the WW2 years on farms in Colorado. After returning to San Jose, she attended San Jose State College. She received her teaching certificate in 1958. She currently lives in Kenmore and has a large garden. Shirley is active in the Seattle Betsuin and Omoide. She volunteers in the “Hiroshima to Hope” event each August 6th.