The morning of August 11, 2012 Katsuo and Sumiko Kimura picked us up and drove us from Sapporo to the city of Otaru to catch the 10:30am ferry called Yuukari to arrive in Niigata at 0600h the next morning. We have taken overnight buses in Japan and been on ferries before, but this was the first experience with an overnight ferry.
We had attempted to purchase the cheapest tickets, but these were sold out, so Katsuo on our behalf purchased ones a level more expensive. There are four types of passenger accommodation. The first has about 8 people sleeping in a common room on the floor. The second, which we had tickets for provided a very small cubicle for each passenger, closed at one end by a cloth curtain. These were both on the third or entry level. The fourth level had cabins for passengers, while the fifth floor had suites. Washrooms on the third floor were public ones. There were public baths aboard the ship as well. This is one aspect we were simply not prepared for. We did not have body wash, shampoo or towels. Most of the other passengers were well aware of what was required and later in the evening the hallway railings were entirely covered in wet towels.
We were able to watch movies in the ship's theatre. A juggler entertained the kids (and adults) in a cafe area. Later Yayoi and I ate in the ship's restaurant. The food was edible, but nothing to brag about.
Neither one of us slept too much and at 5am many people were up getting themselves ready for disembarking in Niigata. Sure enough, with typical Japanese punctuality the Yuukari docked in Niigata at precisely 0600h where Yayoi's junior high school friend Hiroko and her husband Hiroshi were waiting for us.
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