Friday, October 17, 2003 6:48 AM
Subject: The Japanese guy
The second letter,
I told you all about when I had to take my boat over to a marina in Malaysia
to keep it safe while I looked for work. The Marina was called Sebana
Cove and was quite plush. It was a bit expensive to eat and stay in a
bungalow but the berthing fees were reasonable. That made it a common
stop for circumnavigators and all kinds of cruisers. I actually did not
find it to be a very friendly place. Johor Bahru was much better.
But I did meet this really nice Japanese guy. Well, I suppose I shouldn't
say really nice because I only knew him for a few days but he was genuine
Japanese; courteous, shy, utterly honest and extremely giving when you
get to know him.
He was walking around the docks and I said "Hi."
As soon as he started talking I knew he was Japanese. So I asked him in
Japanese and he started speaking Japanese quite vigorously. I told him
I didn't remember jack shit of my Japanese since I started relearning
Thai. He then told me he had studied Thai for four years. I was shocked
and we started conversing in Thai. It was crazy. He would also say things
in Japanese and after a while it started to come back, and I was surprised
at how much I could understand. I tried to ask questions in Japanese and
he would answer in halting English and if we couldn't get it right in
English we went to Thai. It was very entertaining and we both laughed.
He had a 29-foot, steal cutter and was traveling with his only son. His
name was Ryoichi. His son was about three years old and was just like
a little monkey. His name was Ryo like his farther but without the "ichi."
He didn't speak any language but was excellent at grunting, squealing,
whining and howling. He actually did know a few words in Thai and a few
in Japanese, but he was wild and I think Ryoichi had zero control over
Ryoichi was not having the greatest time at the marina either. He was
in the process of sailing his boat back to Japan but was just about out
of money. He found one of his old credit cards and discovered he could
use it but had no money to get to Singapore to use an ATM. He asked one
of the older guys on a hugely expensive 45 footer, if he could borrow
50 ringgits (15 US$) to get to Singapore and that he would pay him back
upon his return. I know Japanese people and this surprised me. Ryoichi
explained that he met another Japanese guy on the docks that said this
other guy was a good person. It is very humiliating for Japanese to ask
to borrow money and this guy was a real ass about it and said
"If you don't come back from Singapore, I'll take your boat."
The guy also took his credit card and did a credit check on it. I find
that amazing for a sum of 15 dollars. I am sure the guy spends 150 dollars
on his boat in the blink of an eye. So Ryoichi was so incensed by what
the guy did that he said forget about it and asked the Marina if he could
get over to Singapore on a loan. They easily agreed and he was able to
get a lot of money.
I just couldn't believe that guy would be such an absolute ass over 15
dollars. Good lord! I would have handed Ryoichi the money in about 2 seconds.
He was leaving his boat in the Marina which was worth 30,000 US$ so why
shouldn't I trust him to come back. I would have been irked by what that
Ryoichi was extremely insulted and ranted about it for about an hour to
me. Self respect and Honor are extremely important to Japanese but I suppose
you all know that anyways.
That situation and also some experiences I had made me feel pretty strongly
that rich people are victims of their money. I don't think it is true
for all people. I know some wonderful people who would be considered rich.
But I met some very unkind people at that Marina. It was strange in fact.
It was an overall feeling that contrasted sharply with all the time I
had spent traveling rural areas; smaller towns and cities in southern
Thailand and Malaysia. I know anyone who traveled with me would agree
that in most cases generosity abounded, particularly from people who were
distinctly NOT wealthy. But in the Marina I found people had their own
motives and games. Some people were kind and generous but others were
tightfisted and wanted nothing to do with "people like you."
I could not figure out what exactly that meant. I suppose it meant poor
sailors, out for money and favors from others.
I was quite shocked by this attitude.
I was also quite shocked to see looks of dislike and animosity from people
I didn't even know. That happened a few times while I was in Singapore
and Johor Bahru. I couldn't understand it at first. Then it occurred to
me that those people were judging me by something I represented to them,
by my skin color, my clothe and my race. It is strange to feel that. In
America I have rarely experienced anything like it, being a 20-something
white male. I guess it is good to experience it so that I can relate and
understand and know that it is something that should be exterminated.
So back to Ryoichi, he was married to a Thai woman for 3 or 4 years. She
ran away and left him with their half Thai and half Japanese son. I don't
know why she left him. I could speculate about it. I have heard that Japanese
men are not very kind to their women.
Anyways, Ryoichi decided to take his money, buy a sailboat and return
to Japan by sea.
He had found a tank full of some stinking liquid in the forecastle of
the boat. It was a rather large tank and he had no idea what was in it.
He mentioned it to me while we were talking about his boat and the previous
owner. He was a doctor and apparently a lush. So, I guessed it was some
kind of alcohol. We poured out a glass and I walked around asking other
boaters what they thought it was. I came back with the consensus of "cheep
Whisky," although it reminded me bitingly of Tequila.
Later in the day he went out and purchased a few cokes and sodas and we
had a great time sitting around talking about all kinds of things, drinking
cheep whiskey and coke. It was a blast.
Anyone who knows about my time in Japan might be confused. I found myself
wondering about it myself. I really hated Japan while I was there. I guess
more accurately, I hated my job and it rubbed off on everything else.
Japan has an intense and powerful culture and it was hard to adapt to
But apparently I must have learned a thing or two because I understood
this guy a lot better then I understood a lot of the other boaters. He
was a good man and I was glad I got to meet him. His son was incredibly
cute and ran around like a crazed animal. I started playing monkey with
him and we grunted and swung around the inside of Ryoichi's boat like
Ryoichi was told to leave by the Marina Office after two days with the
excuse that there were twenty boats coming over from some Singapore Marinas.
It was a bit depressing to me. The twenty odd boats never showed up after
Ryoichi and his son left. I know he had the money to pay his bills so
why should they want him to leave? There were still about 25 slips open
when he left, about 1/3 of the marina was empty. I think he was one of
those "lower class" people and was not liked by some of the
members of the "club."
He also mentioned to me that he often felt racist looks towards him. I
must admit he looked a lot like a typical Japanese male and maybe fit
the bill for some of those Japanese soldiers who murder and massacred
ruthlessly during WWII. He speculated that that was a big part of it;
a lot of residual hatred and fear of the Japanese. I didn't know what
to say about that but it certainly hit home to me after feeling the looks
I got earlier. It was another thing that made me sad.
But we had a great time getting drunk on coke and whiskey and talking
well into the early morning.
A lot to say about two photos. Guess I get kind of carried away.
That covers Ryoichi and Son and Grin and Apprehension, and a whole lot
Hope you all are well,
With love to my friends and family,