Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hokkaido, luck and ferries

I am going to Aomori but this is my last chance. No ferry there, I only have the city of Oma left as a solution and I shall not forget that I have to get home relatively soon and time is running out.
I get an email from Catherine saying that the police never heard about the souvenirs in my bag so I can forget about them. That's alright, my mind has been in another place now for some time already.
As we ride towards Aomori I notice a different landscape. Sakura (Cherry blossom) trees are starting to appear again, less than on Shikoku though. There are fewer bamboo trees and I can see snowy peaks! I haven't seen snow for a very long time.
But I don't have time to explore the otherwise very interesting north of Honshu island. My drivers, two young guys leave me in front of the ferry terminal, and wish me good luck. It is lunch time and I wonder if this is a good time to hitchhike a ferry. I can hardly ask someone for advice or encouragement because everybody would tell me that hitchhiking a ferry is stupid. That's the thing with hitchhiking boats and airplanes, I am pretty much alone in this. But I have my hitchhiking note designed especially for getting ferries and a ton of good luck messages on it. What else could I have?
There are two floors in this ferry terminal. On the first floor there is a ticket counter, I don't want to go there if I have other options. Then, there is an office upstairs and an office downstairs. Some guy in a suit brings his lunch into the upstairs office. Upstairs it is then.
The manager is very kind and I am received right away. He examines the map of my journey with growing wonder. When his eyes slip into my hitchhiking letter he is impressed by all the support. Thank god for that festival, most of the messages are from there. All hitchhiking friendly enthusiasts were at that festival, no wonder the page filled so quick.
My hitchhiking note is surrounded by good luck messages.

"ちょっと待って 下さい" (Chottomatte kudasai - wait a moment please), the magic sentence that means that someone has put my crazy request under consideration.

We go downstairs to which seems to be the real office. So my guess was wrong but it is of little importance now because they are already trying to help me. The guy goes out of the office, he has just called his supervisor.

"There are two companies, each owning one ferry," he tells me in a mix of English and Japanese, "the first company says no. The second company also says no but they say less no than the first company. So I think maybe now there are no guards at the entrance of the second ferry terminal. So just go, get across that fence into the ferry and good luck!"
"Could I have a letter to show to the guards if I encounter someone?" I really don't want to spend time in jail a second time, mostly because of Catherine who is now my legal guardian in Japan.
He writes me a sentence on my map, I have no idea what it says and I never will because I will leave that map behind later on without copying the message.
I go towards the boat, the ticket check is empty, there are no guards, just as the manager told me. This one really did his best with what his small position of power allowed him to do. He didn't have the power to issue an official invitation but he did have the power to order the guards to get lost. The relationship between power and people is an interesting one and I have been a primary spectator to that for the most part of my trip.

Until now it seems to me that it is not the people with a lot of real power who are the biggest assholes. From what I could witness, really rich and/or powerful people usually do conserve intellect and humanity. It is not them who need to show themselves superior, it is not the elites who need to diminish the weaker to feel stronger.
There is a lot of rambling about evil selfish rich businessmen who think they are the greatest because they have money. I did not see that from my experience.
What I saw, was kindness in the lowest stages of hierarchy as well as in the highest. To put it into stereotypes, it is the workers and the wealthy bosses who have the kindest hearts.
The highest concentration of assholes is the little chiefs. The middle management. Those who have acquired a little bit of power but feel a great need to show it to everyone.

And this little manager of the Aomori ferry terminal falls into that category. However he does not show the typical middle management behavior. Instead of using his small power to demolish the weak and defenseless side of the battle, meaning me; he uses his power to shift the odds towards my direction as much as he can. And it is just enough.

I get into the ferry, the space where cars are usually stored. Everything is empty. We are 2 hours prior to departure. I consider hiding somewhere in there but I finally decide to go up to the passenger suite. If I hide here, I will not be discovered at first but I will have to take a risk to get out and mix with the passengers once the ferry is afloat. Or I can go to the passenger floor and the risk is shifted to being discovered before the ferry leaves. But once it leaves I will be mixed among the passengers and there will be no way to know that I boarded this ferry in an unusual way.
I am on the passenger floor now, waiting for my fate. How officially am I on this ferry? I have no way of knowing. Maybe everything is alright and almost everyone agreed to take me for free so I have nothing to worry about. Or maybe everyone is counting on my skills of not getting discovered in which case they are clearly overestimating me because my hiding spot would not make me last a minute in a hide and seek game. My bag is hidden in the corner of the hallway and I am in a corner in the next room. If there is a security check prior to the boarding, they will see me through one of the windows of my cabin unless they are blind or think that I am a piece of furniture.

The boarding time is approaching and I start hearing voices. Either it is a preliminary security check prior to boarding or it's passengers. If it's passengers I am saved. Once I am in the mix what can anyone do?
And yes it is passengers. As I realize this I understand that I am indeed going to Hokkaido. I am so relieved.


Leaving Aomori
Events are repeating themselves, on the ferry I meet a young couple much like the one from the ferry trom Shikoku to Kyushu.
They are going to Sapporo and offer that I come with them. I gladly accept because Sapporo is a long way from Hakkodate where the ferry arrives and I have a lot of administrative stuff to take care of.
First, I must ask for my russian visa. I already have an invitation so I have to go to the consulate and hope they won't ask from me unreasonable documents. I checked the documents and they only ask a medical insurance which I don't have because it has expired since April.
I am too lazy to photoshop another one so I will ask for it without insurance. I hope it works.
I realize that asking for a visa is one of the few normal things that I have done in a long time.
What I mean is that wherever I go I ask for things that people don't expect and I am a little tired of it because people always react in a weird way when they don't expect something.

When I go to shops, it is never to buy something. It is to find internet or an electric plug to charge my computer. When I go to hotel they ask me if I want to make a reservation and I ask them for internet. When I go to the ferry terminal they expect me to buy a ticket and I ask for the manager and a free ticket.
This time, I am going to the consulate to ask for something everyone going to the consulate usually asks: a visa. Doing this seems weird to me.
But besides that visa I have one last thing to do. And that thing is very unusual.
My ride's girlfriend with a pikatchu case for her iphone.