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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 49: 12 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysLater I explore the boat. Past the sign 'Gentles toilet' and endless slot machines dispensing beer, soap, coffee, noodles and sticky soft drinks.

There turns out to be another film crew aboard. Some 25 strong, from NHK, the Japanese BBC, shooting a drama about a woman of mixed Sino-Japanese parentage, born in Shanghai when the Japanese occupied it during the Second War, who is bringing her children to China to decide what nationality they will adopt. They are shooting a scene of a waiter walking up some steps to a cabin. As these are the steps up to my cabin, and as the waiter always seems to get something wrong, I decide to go out on deck for a while.

In a forlorn games room stand two or three well-worn ping-pong tables with legs missing. A group of Japanese students are playing cards at plastic tables in the stern, set below a circular striped plastic canvas stretched across slender plastic poles to create a little plastic gazebo. I can only see two Europeans, who I think may possibly be a honeymoon couple so deeply are they involved in each other. Shirt off and sit for a while reading Anthony Burgess's reminiscences which often make me laugh out loud.

Later Passepartout, who has enjoyed a day off, is asked to be an extra in the Japanese film. The scene is to be shot in the bar and payment is as much to drink as they want. As Nigel, Simon, Dave and Angela walk onto the set there is a spontaneous round of applause from the Japanese. On deck at 10 before turning in for an early night, I can pick out the lights of small boats and some coastal settlement to the north. Consulting my map, I deduce that we are passing through the archipelago of the Rijuku Islands, off the southern tip of Honshu. This is my first sight of Japan, as we leave the East China Sea and sail into the Pacific, the tenth sea I've entered since crossing the English Channel. I brew up some hot water in my cabin and take another dose of my Chinese medicine. The taste sensation is roughly similar to lying face downwards, mouth open in a patch of damp woodland.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 49
  • Date: 12 November
  • Country/sea: Pacific Ocean
  • Place: East China Sea
  • Book page no: 169

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