Although the guidebook does not say so, before the big eruption in 1957, when the crater was deeper and steeper, despairing lovers for whom circumstance prevented marriage bought one-way steamer tickets to O-shima to jump into the volcano. These romantically frustrated pairs usually were practical enough to spend a few nights at one of the inns before taking the plunge, leaving behind an unpaid bill. The suicide rate was drastically reduced when the steamship company refused to sell young couples anything but unrefundable round-trip tickets, while room clerks developed the habit of demanding cash in advance. Being alone, I managed to occupy a room at an inn without paying first.
Morning found this determined traveler, nourished by seaweed and rice, toiling upward through a landscape by Dante out of Hollywood. High above in the mists other tiny figures plodded ever higher. The Japanese curiosity surmounts all. Each time I was tempted to stop, a family group ambled by, a toddler, clutching her mother's skirt, staring at me. Finally I achieved the crest to look down into boiling rock and steam, a sight which, in any circumstances, made unnecessary for me the suicide guard armed with binoculars and power megaphone stationed at the crater's edge. As I wondered why I had left a comfortable cockpit to climb a pile of hot rock, there suddenly was a rift in the clouds that had shrouded the peak all morning, and I had a wonderful moment: a sweeping view back across our wake to the Izu Peninsula, dark green, with the majestic cone of Fuji shimmering above the plains to the north.
By the time I had descended, Andrea Gail was waiting at the quay of Okada. We cast off, and with light winds began the 30-mile passage to Eno-shima, site of Olympic yachting in the 1964 Games. It was another lazy day, and I was content to compare the relative merits of sailing and mountain climbing from a supine position on the deckhouse. Fish came flapping in over the stern as Mike tended the line, while the wind gradually hauled into the south and put little cresting wavelets on the backs of the swells.
Somewhat gingerly, we approached the Olympic basin under construction at Eno-shima, not knowing what might be hidden underwater among the pile drivers and dredges. We had no sooner gained the distinction of being the first yacht to enter than we were startled by an underwater explosion, which, happily, left us unharmed. Eno-shima means "Picture Island," and in many ways lives up to its name. Shrines are tucked among trees magnificent even for Japan, and there is a cave where once a dragon lived, according to legend, now occupied by an image of Benten, one of the Seven Deities of Good Luck. But, alas, Eno-shima, like Capri, is an island whose beauty has become its undoing: Coney Island crossed with a bit of Waikiki Beach, three levels of escalators finally debouching into an amusement park complete with botanical gardens and a zoo. From a miniature Eiffel Tower on the summit there is a sweeping panorama ranging from O-shima to the Izu Peninsula to Mt. Fuji, but also, unfortunately, encompassing the fishermen's huts huddled just behind the Olympic basin.
Poking in behind the breakwater at Hayama, we found a small harbor packed by small boats, indicative of a growing enthusiasm for sailing among the Japanese. We lunched in the cockpit while a mixed fleet practiced starts to a flurry of broken battens and a few dunkings, for the afternoon breeze had reached the proportions of a Buzzard's Bay sou'wester. Outside later, Andrea Gail had all the wind she wanted with working lowers and a small jib topsail, driving, rail down, into the path of the sun. From the wheel I could not help comparing Sagami Bay with the Bay of Naples, site of Olympic yachting in 1960. Under Mt. Fuji, conditions might well be almost the opposite of the fickle airs and calm waters in the shadow of Vesuvius. Winds may be expected to attain weight at any season. Spirited sailing should be the order of the '64 Games.
Well down the coast of Miura Peninsula, we skirted Kamegi Sho, and Andrea Gail's home port opened over the bows—Aburatsubo, cradled by surrounding hills, one of those rare sanctuaries truly safe in any wind. It is an ideal harbor, a natural rendezvous for the growing Japanese cruising fleet. And, in fact, Aburatsubo shelters perhaps half a dozen vessels in the 40-foot range, with approximately another 20 of lesser size. Midget ocean racers are the most numerous class, partially explained by a 40% government tax on all yacht construction. To serve the fleet, Aburatsubo has maintenance facilities, as well as a delightful clubhouse on a bluff, its front porch jutting over the moored fleet. It is a harbor exuding tranquillity.
By way of contrast, a short sail down the coast lies the fishing port of Misaki. Here converges much of the fishing fleet that supplies the huge Tokyo metropolitan area. Vessels of every type shuttle to the docks, where a shed the size of a football field cannot begin to accommodate the daily catch: swordfish with the bills hacked off for more compact storage, tuna, shark—monsters from every ocean of the world side by side with small mackerel, baskets of shrimp and tubs of squid, caught within sight of the nearby island of Joga Shima.
The big ship quays of Misaki have something of the air that must have pervaded New Bedford and Nantucket during the voyages of the whalers. Crews work over gear, open-air shops make repairs, stores are taken aboard. Vendors of sushi and sheath knives and ice cream push little carts from gangplank to gangplank. Children are led aboard for a look. Wives and sweethearts stand under umbrellas, waiting. For the high-bowed white ships of Misaki make voyages lasting two years or more, and each departure and return is a local event. We watched Bocho Maru No. 3 cast off. Loudspeakers played the atonal music of the Orient for a crowd of several hundred on the quay. Code flags and pennants snapped from masts while colored paper streamers were thrown across the opening gap to the crew waving goodby from the stern.
South of Misaki, as we close-reached across the steamer channel to Yokohama and Tokyo, ships of all nations passed bow to stern, like circus elephants on parade. Gradually the wind increased, until the life-rail stanchions buried; eased by striking the jib top, Gail moved along more comfortably. Rapidly we crossed Uraga Strait to enter the flat, dusty port of Tateyama. Walking the streets of this outwardly drab town, I happened to glance through the open gate of a private house and saw one more priceless vignette of the old Japan: a serene and lovely garden, its grass velvet-smooth, pine trees artfully spaced and pruned, a perfect composition in the texture of granite, raked pebbles, weathered wood and the sweeping curves of a tile roof.
Back on the boat that night, a whistling wind kept us in the harbor; but next morning the breeze was light as we sailed northward into Tokyo Bay. Around noon it dropped out completely, and we unfurled the cockpit awning against waves of heat reaching out from the city pavements ahead. We passed the tumbled ruins of island fortifications shown on the chart simply as Forts 1, 2 and 3, navigational hazards that were not victims of war but of the great earthquake of 1923, when most of Tokyo was leveled.