Patchwork Yokohama
12. Port Yokohama
by Pencil Louis
          Like most harbours,  the  only place to see Yokohama Port is
          from the water.  While  Connie  hailed  from  a long line of
          seafarers, Vince himself  had  nearly  got  seasick  on  the
          Hikawa Maru, a  former  ocean liner which was bolted hard to
          the sea bottom. Vince would claim that the commentary in the
          boiler room of  the  former  ocean liner had the Hikawa Maru
          steering into a  typhoon,  the  first  mate crying, "Hard to
          Starboard! Hard to Starboard."

          Despite the Hikawa  Maru  experience,  Connie  was  able  to
          convince Vince to  take the Red Shoes cruise around the Port
          of Yokohama. Like  most  members  of seafaring families, she
          couldn't possibly see  how he could get sea sick on a cruise
          that took little over an hour and was on waters as choppy as
          an ice skating rink.

          For Vince's part,  he was more fascinated by the name of the
          boat upon which  he  would ride the high seas. The Red Shoes
          had been a  Hans  Christian  Andersen tale that he had heard
          frequently from an aunt, Auntie Thora, during his youth. The
          story of the  little  girl  who  had  put  on the red ballet
          slippers and been  condemned  to  dance  forever,  had  been
          turned into a film which Vince had never seen, but which had
          been inspiration for hordes of young ballet dancers from all
          over the world.

          This particular red shoes legend was from another story that
          was all Japanese.  There  was  supposedly  a  statue  of the
          Little Girl with  the Red Shoes in Yamashita Park, but Vince
          had looked everywhere for it and had never seen it, himself.
          The story that  the statue tells is of a young Japanese girl
          abused by a  foreign  man  who was giving away red shoes. Or
          that was as  far  as  Vince could gather. The message seemed
          all too clear  to  Vince  and  he  felt there were parallels
          between it and the Yellow Cab documentary that had warned of
          young Japanese women  in  search of decent sex being used by
          hordes of gigolos  to support their families. The actors who
          had played the  parts  in  the documentary later admitted it
          was a sham.

          Sham or not,  Vince  was  attracted  by a tiny red shoes key
          ring he had  seen  in  a nearby souvenir stall. He bought it
          for Connie and  watched  the woman behind the counter give a
          lesson in typical  Japanese  overwrapping.  The key ring had
          only cost 250  and  yet  she  insisted on wrapping it once,
          putting it in a box, wrapping the box and then placing it in
          a plastic bag.  As if this wasn't enough, the woman then put
          it in a  second  oversized  paper  bag with cord handles. As
          soon as he had given it to Connie, she unravelled each layer
          of wrapping, almost  within  sight  of the woman who'd taken
          such care in  bundling it up. She put it in a single plastic
          bag and dropped  it  into  her  handbag. She then folded the
          rest of the paper and put it in her backpack.

          Vince boarded the  Red  Shoes  boat with little trepidation.
          Indeed, he was  feeling  fine as they cruised past the inner
          breakwater and Yamashita  Pier  which,  a  recorded  message
          informed him, had  once been the main pier. It was only when
          they passed under  the  Yokohama  Bay  Bridge,  "the  second
          largest cable span bridge in the world, 860 metres long, 172
          metres high, with  a  central  span  of  460 metres and a 55
          metre clearance for  ships"  that  he started to feel at all

          Vince decided to go up on deck to get a glimpse of the round
          observation  tower  under  the  Bay  Bridge  and  the  F-Cap
          floating car park  "that  could hold up to 300 vehicles". He
          felt the need  of some fresh air. By the time, the Red Shoes
          had been in  and  out  of  the Honmoku Pier's finger jetties
          with  their super  gantry  cranes,  Vince  had  two  fingers
          pressed firmly on  the motion sickness pressure point on his
          left wrist and  was  trying to get a glimpse of the horizon.
          This was one of only two sea sickness cures that Vince knew.
          The other was  to get rolling drunk, but there was no bar on
          the Red Shoes,  just  a vending machine from which you could
          buy beer.

          They passed the  Yokohama  Tower  with its flashing F, which
          "stands for free, meaning that ships are free to come and go
          from Yokohama Port  as they wish." Vince thought glibly of a
          number of other  words  that  F  could  stand  for. The boat
          passed another breakwater  which  was crowded with fishermen
          even though "it is illegal and very dangerous to fish here."

          As the Red Shoes picked up pace, Vince started to despair of
          the pressure point  cure  for  sea  sickness.  They  skirted
          through far less  lubberly boats than the Red Shoes and were
          told that " a black ball on the mast meant that they were at

          Connie had since climbed onto the deck as the boat slowed to
          pass Nippon Kaikan,  the  largest steel mill in Japan on the
          border of Kawasaki and Yokohama.

          " ... the  raw materials are off-loaded on the Kawasaki side
          which is painted  red  and it goes through the manufacturing
          process to be reloaded at the Yokohama side which is painted
          green ..."

          "Goodness, Vince," Connie  remarked.  "You  look as green as
          the Yokohama side of Nippon Kaikan."

          " ... and  on  the  port side, you can see the Daikoku pier,
          which is a state of the arts artificial island pier ..."

          Vince leaned precariously over the side and groaned.

          "And right in  front  of the bow, you can see the second Bay
          Bridge, which is still under construction."

          "Vince!" Connie screamed,  grabbing her husband by the belt.
          "You're not going to be sick, are you?"

          " ... it  is  another  cable  stage  bridge  and  when it is
          completed it will  be  the  longest such bridge in the world

          "You can't do it over the side. What will people ...?"

          "It is due  to  open  in  1994 and will link Yokohama to the
          Metro Shore Expressway ..."

          "Here," Connie pulled  something  from  her  hand  bag, "use

          " ... it  will  enable  vehicles  to  drive from Yokohama to
          Haneda Airport without passing through Tokyo ..."

          Connie thrust the plastic bag in Vince's direction.

          " ... on the starboard side, you can see the Showa Shell Oil
          Company ..."

          Vince teetered momentarily.

          " ... the Tokyo Electric Company Tower ..."


          " ... and the mouth of the Tsurumi River."

          And veered back  towards the deck. He fumbled at the bag and
          something small dropped out, clinked on the deck and bounced

          The red shoes, Vince thought.

          But it was  too  late.  He  fell  to  his  knees,  retching,
          groaning, gagging and  generally missing the bag altogether.
          Vince didn't even  hear the guide tell him about the Daikoku
          Bridge which had once been the only bridge in the harbour or
          the Mizuko Pier,  which  as  well  as  being occupied by the
          United States Army  was  the best located in the entire port
          and the only  one  in  which  you  could turn around. Or the
          Nippon Kokan Asano  Shipyard where they had once made ships.
          Or the New  Grand  Hotel.  Or  the  Landmark  Tower, Japan's
          tallest  building  at  70  stories  high.  Or  the  Kanagawa
          Prefecture police headquarters and Yokohama Customs house.