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Diary Last Updated: Jun 16th, 2015 - 16:51:13


Stage 7 - Wednesday 28 May – Day 86
By Dick and Pip Smith
May 28, 2008, 19:32

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We cross Japan in a day

The crossing was extremely smooth with calm seas and we were amazed that we felt no engine vibrations in our cabin. Dick thinks the engines must have been well balanced. The total distance travelled on the ship was about 450 nautical miles.
Calm seas on the Sea of Japan looking out the stern of the M/V Rus
Pip sending emails for the web site via the Iridium phone sitting on the back deck

Of the nearly 200 passengers we were two of only four foreigners on board, the rest were Russians. We were seated at the dining table in the restaurant with two young men, Bouno, a Frenchman, and Valentino, an Italian - both of whom spoke very good English. They were actually travelling separately but were allocated a cabin to share for the voyage. They were both spending most of this year travelling the world. We enjoyed their company at each meal and had many interesting discussions about each other’s travel experiences and world affairs.

We arrived into the port of Fushiki, Japan around 11am this morning and instantly noticed the contrast with Vladivostok. Everything here was neat and tidy. The wharf was almost empty with only a couple of trucks parked on it and two speed boats waiting to be shipped to Russia. None of the second hand cars were to be seen.
Coming into Fushiki port we saw this Japanese pilot boat

We were told to wait in our cabins for Customs clearance. Dick was asked to go down and drive the Earthroamer out of the ship’s hull. He was directed to park it on the wharf. About an hour later we were processed by Immigration on board the ship and were finally allowed to leave the ship at 12.45pm Vladivostok time. We now had to turn our clocks back 2 hours for Japan time – 10.45am.
Dick was instructed to drive the Earthroamer off the ship and park it on the wharf

To bring a foreign, privately owned vehicle into Japan we had to obtain a special Carnet which is a document issued by International Motoring Organisations guaranteeing that your vehicle will be taken out of the country after a certain time. If the vehicle is not removed, the International body pays the relevant duty. Because of this, we had to raise a bank guarantee with the Canadian Automobile Association and this cost over $US16,000.00. Everywhere else the Carnet is accepted at the border – that’s the whole reason for it – to save delays. Not in Japan. The Japanese bureaucracy has devised an extraordinarily bureaucratic system that includes having the document authorised by the Japan Automobile Federation before it can be used. This authorisation requires a visit to one of the JAF offices. This is what we had to do.

Fortunately we had been given the name of a New Zealander, Mark Bremner of Brave Auto, who lives in Nagoya and exports cars all around the world. Mark arranged to send one of his staff, Shingo, to meet us at the wharf with a rental car. He drove us 45 minutes to the city of Toyama and to the JAF office. We were lucky this office was there – it could have been 5 hours away!! We then spent half an hour while a young lady in the office photocopied the Carnet, typed a document of authorisation and put a red stamp on it.

We then returned to the Fushiki port where we awaited the arrival of a Customs Agent who would handle our documents. He finally arrived after 45 minutes, but he wasn’t sure how to deal with the Carnet. He took us upstairs to the Customs office, situated in a building opposite the wharf. Fortunately a young officer there knew exactly what to do and processed the Carnet by completing the section that had to be filled in to show that the vehicle had been imported. We presume that somewhere in the distant past another adventurer had come this way from Russia and this officer had handled it!

It took us 5 hours to deal with the bureaucracy that in other countries such as Norway or Finland only took a few minutes. Finally at 2.10pm we were allowed to drive the Earthroamer through the gates and off the wharf. Dick had to be careful to drive on the left hand side of the road - the first on the left since we left the UK about 12 months ago.  Of course it is a left hand drive vehicle so there is a bit of difficulty especially considering the roads are so narrow.  We followed Shingo a few kilometres first to refuel the rental car and we filled up our front tank with diesel. What a contrast between a Russian refuelling station and a Japanese one! The attendants rushed out to assist us and filled up the tank with smiles and laughter. The service station was neat and clean and we were on our way again. Shingo returned his car to the rental car yard and then climbed into the passenger seat in the Earthroamer.
After 5 hours we were finally allowed to drive off the wharf and enter Japan
Friendly garage attendants refuelling our vehicle

It wasn’t long before we were on the ‘smooth’ freeway heading to Nagoya. We had to stop every now and then to pay a toll or collect a toll ticket. It cost about $80US for approx. 300kms because we called it a camper. If we had called it a 7 ton truck it would have cost three times as much for the tolls.
Toll gates coming into Nagoya where we paid about $US80 toll

The freeway speed was marked at 80kph but most vehicles (including us,) travelled at between 90 and 100kph and we didn’t see any policemen. It felt fantastic to be driving on a smooth road with nothing rattling in the Earthroamer!

The scenery on both sides of the freeway was magnificent. There were small neat houses with tiled roofs with up-turned corners (Japanese style), and every spare piece of land was either a rice paddy or a wheat field – all neatly kept. We also climbed into the hills covered in thick forests. With such a large population of over 120 million people it was amazing to see so much natural green forest.
Beautiful homes surrounded by rice paddy fields
Another Japanese home with a paddy field
Wheat growing near these homes
A graveyard surrounded by paddy fields
We saw many golf practice ranges

We stopped at a roadside truck stop to get something to eat and noticed immediately another enormous contrast to Russia. Here everything was neat, clean and well displayed. We noticed that the trucks here are similar to America – shiny chrome and clean but half the size.
We stopped at a truck stop and noticed the trucks are smaller than America
The highway ran through a number of tunnels

We reached Nagoya city around 6pm and expected to join a traffic jam but we were in luck and had no trouble driving round the ring road and out the other side. Shingo directed us off the freeway and along narrow streets to meet Mark and his Japanese business partner Jimmy Ukita. They climbed into the Earthroamer and Dick drove us up the very narrow street to Jimmy’s business premises with his house next door.
Shingo Mori
A dummy flag man warning of road works ahead
A beautiful home near the mountains

We parked the Earthroamer there and left it for Mark to ship to Australia. We stayed the night in Jimmy’s home with his wife Hiromi and their two young daughters Miyuki and Mayuka with Jimmy’s Mother, Misako. We enjoyed a wonderful home cooked Japanese dinner and slept on the matted floor in the traditional Japanese way. It was a wonderful way to finish our short journey across Japan.
We made it Shingo, Mark, Dick, Pip and Jimmy
We parked the Earthroamer beside Mark and Jimmy's premises for them to ship it to Australia
Jimmy's wife Hiromi and youngest daughter Mayuka
We enjoyed a wonderful Japanese dinner with Misako, Jimmy's mother
Jimmy and Hiromi's daughters, Miyuki and Mayuka

Total today 330 kms  32,116 kms since Anchorage, Alaska.

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