Car Ferry to Hokkaido: Our Trip on the Suisen

In our trip to Hokkaido last week, we took a car ferry most of the way. We drove the 83 miles from Kyoto to the Tsuruga ferry port, then boarded the Shin Nihonkai Line's ferry named Suisen (which means Daffodil).

— map & image data — nearby photos Big Boat Needs Big Rope -- Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — Handheld 1/6 sec, f/1.4, ISO 640, P.P. boost: +1.10EVmap & image datanearby photos
Big Boat Needs Big Rope

Looking at that big rope, I have to ask: if you had to choose, would you rather be caught between the ship and the dock, or read my blog? It's a question of whether you'd prefer to be moored to death, or bored to death....

(yeeach, that's rank, I know 🙂 )

Anyway, the boat is 200 meters long, and is designed to carry the crew, 507 passengers, 122 truck trailers, and 80 cars.

— full exif & map — nearby photos -- Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — Handheld 1/25 sec, f/2.5, ISO 640, P.P. boost: +2.87EVfull exif & mapnearby photos
Passenger Loading Ramp (Right of Center) -- Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — Handheld 1/60 sec, f/1.4, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Passenger Loading Ramp (Right of Center)

The ship has five levels. The bottom two, which extend the length of the ship, are for vehicles. The top three are for passengers (restaurants, store, entertainment, rooms, etc.) and are much shorter. Additionally, one would suppose that below the vehicle levels are “boat stuff” levels with things like fuel storage and an engine.

Vehicle Loading On Two Levels (upper-right and center-left) -- Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — Handheld 1/60 sec, f/1.4, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Vehicle Loading On Two Levels (upper-right and center-left)
Scale model of the Shin Nihonkai's Suisen car ferry, in Tsuruga, Japan
Nikon D200 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — Handheld 1/30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Scale Model

Our room was toward the rear of the top level (mouseover this text to highlight the location in the picture above), although I didn't know that for a while. The ship leaves at 1:30am, with non-driving passengers loading as early as 11:30pm, and cars at 12:30am. Being the driver, I had time to wander around taking pictures.

The ridiculous middle-of-the-night departure time is apparently to allow trucks to leave Osaka after business hours yet still arrive in time to board the ship. The main business is cargo; passengers are just an afterthought.

Waiting -- Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — Handheld 1/15 sec, f/2, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Waiting

The trip goes 585 miles (941km) north-north-east through the Sea of Japan, and takes 18 hours; it arrives at Tomakomai City, Hokkaido, at about 6:30pm. The boat generally travels about 50 kph (27 knots; 31 mph), but according to my GPS unit, at one point was going 60kph (32 knots; 37mph).


Trip Track from my GPS Device

Even before seeing the rust stains on the outside of the ship, we had really bad expectations for a car ferry that leaves in the middle of the night. We just assumed that the ship and rooms would be yucky in every respect, and so we were thrilled to find that everything was really quite nice. The rooms were smaller than you'd find in a nice hotel, but otherwise just as nice.

Our Room -- Sea of Japan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/45 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Our Room

There are several classes of room: “Stateroom,” “Special,”, “First Class,” “2nd Class/Bed,” and “2nd Class/Tatami.” The 2nd classes are communal, while First and up are private rooms. We had a “Special Class” room, which differs from “First” in that we got our own bathroom.

Hallway Outside Our Room -- Sea of Japan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Hallway Outside Our Room

The hallways were not marbled elegance, but they were clean and well lit. Overall the entire ship was really quite nice...

Enjoying the “Promenade” -- Sea of Japan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Enjoying the “Promenade”

The only problem was that nothing was open to the air except the directly-rear view; any other view was through a window, which makes photography mostly out of the question. The ship was built with a true (outside) promenade and outside decks, but they were all permanently closed off. Bummer.

In the shot below, Anthony is standing at the rearmost railing accessible, looking at the only non-window view available to passengers. The dot on the horizon is the Suisen's sister ship, the Suzuran (“lily of the valley”) after having passed us on its return trip south.


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/350 sec, f/10, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Watching the Suzuran Disappears Into The Distance
Anthony Prepares for Lunch -- Sea of Japan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 18mm — 1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Anthony Prepares for Lunch
Enjoying his Bread -- Sea of Japan, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 35mm — 1/640 sec, f/13, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Enjoying his Bread

In the shot above you can see some land, but during most of the trip no land was visible. At one point we were 75 miles (120km) from the closest landfall.

As an unexpected bonus, our room came with a complimentary hair stylist.


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 40mm — 1/30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Free Hair Styling For All

I liked the gentle rumble of the engine and gentle rocking of the boat, so I slept well. However, both Fumie and I started to feel odd the next afternoon, eventually becoming a bit queasy. We took some motion-sickness medicine, but it didn't seem to have any effect. Worse still, the next day we were both really tired, as if in an all-day “food coma”... you know, like after Thanksgiving Dinner.

For the trip back, which was on the Suzuran (having gone into service on the same day, identical except for the interior color scheme), we took the motion-sickness medicine up front, and things were better stomach-wise, but we were drugged-out tired the entire trip, and the next day was the all-day food coma again. Ugh.

It was a nice trip, but we'll probably fly next time due to how tired it (or the requisite medicine) made us.


One comment so far...

Great story!

“The ship leaves at 1:30am, with non-driving passengers loading as early as 11:30am, and cars at 12:30am.”

You mean 11:30pm?

Doh, yes, thanks. Fixed. —Jeffrey

— comment by Jay on May 11th, 2007 at 3:33am JST (10 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
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