For those of you who read Ben in Japan, you are familiar with Mori. Mori was my best friend in Japan, my fishing captain, my partner in crime just about every weekend, and one of the best people I have ever met, regardless of nationality. His family took me in and treated me like one of their own, never asking anything in return, always complimenting my Japanese and inviting me along to do things. I met Mori on my second day in Japan, and saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The last thing Mori said to me as I stepped onto the ferry for the last time was “I’ll see you in New York.”I never knew if it would really happen. Flying from Osakikamijima to New York is a huge ordeal, much easier said than done. As the weeks went on, it seemed more and more likely that Mori would come with Fumiko, his girlfriend. I made sure I would be free for the entire two weeks, and started planning for their visit. In the first week of October, I found myself at JFK, waiting for a plane to unload, still having trouble convincing myself that Mori was actually going to come walking off the plane. I waited and waited, and then suddenly there he was, skateboard in one hand, suitcase in the other, the same easy smile and shout of “hey Ben!” Fumiko walked behind him, rolling the biggest suitcase ever made, and only then did I really believe that they were here.
I had two weeks to return a full year of hospitality, and I did my best. I am going to devote two posts to Mori and Fumiko, but even so, the task is not easy. I took 900 pictures in those two weeks, and I can post about 25 pictures in the two posts. That about 3 out of every hundred photos I took, which is to say a lot is omitted. I think you’ll get the idea though.
Ironically enough, my camera died on the first day, so my photos start on day two. This is Fumiko’s “I have spotted an interesting looking shop” face.
Our days in New York usually centered around skating or shopping, usually a bit of both. This is the famous Brooklyn Banks, under the Brooklyn Bridge. It is apparently a super-famous street skating spot. After skating, it is also a good place to leave your tag, if you are a graffiti artist who has come all the way from Hiroshima.
At the top of my list of priorities was to go fishing with Mori. The first time I hung out with Mori in Japan, we went fishing. Our earliest conversations were comparing and naming fish from our respective oceans, and we had talked about fishing in New York for a long time. In the year I was away, Fred bought a boat - whenever he sent me pictures, I forwarded them to Mori immediately. We talked about fishing on the Honey Bee, and so I wanted to make sure it happened. As the weekend I had set aside for fishing in Montauk approached, the National Weather Service was not encouraging. Winds were expected to 30 knots, and seas were projected to be 8-12 feet. Montauk is a lovely place in the fall, even if the seas are treacherous. Sabrina came to the city to meet us, and we piled into the Suburban and headed east.
Mori and I were up at 7:30 the next morning to go fishing, but we caught no fish and took no pictures. It was terrifically windy, with giant waves crashing onto fishermen up to their armpits in the water. No one was catching, so we checked a few other spots, and then finally went home a couple hours later to find that neither of the girls was even up yet. When we finally managed to get everyone up and fed, we went back out to the fishing spots to see if we could find any fish. We didn’t, but the weather had gone from terrible to really amazingly beautiful.
Mori: It looks like he has a fish, but i think he either has a huge clump of seaweed, or is stuck on a rock.
My parents arrived later that day, and since it was too rough for the boat, we went to Napeague Harbor, a beautiful little bay near Montauk.
That night we went home for an unexpected surprise from Mori and Fumiko - they made us dinner! The day before we had gone to a Japanese supermarket in New Jersey, where M and F had insisted on paying for a whole slew of ingredients I didn’t even know you could buy in America.
We had a pretty fabulous Japanese dinner. It tasted perfect - just like at Mori’s house.
The next morning was forecast to be just as windy and awful as the day before, and so somewhat despondent, Fred, Mori, and I planned to go surfcasting early in the morning. The honey bee would remain in her berth for another day…or so we thought! At 5:30 we were up and leaving the house. At 6 we went to the harbor to see what was happening with the wind and tide. The wind was strong, and the waves were big, but boats were going out, and so Captain Fred decided we would chance it. by 6:30 we were heading out for fishing on the Honey Bee.
Heading out of Montauk Harbor before sunrise.
On our way to the point, the sun peeked out over the horizon, and suddenly there were fish breaking all around the boat, birds diving for bait, and we were the only boat in sight. Fred cut the engine, grabbed the rod rigged for this exact circumstance. He cast the line, gave it to Mori to reel in, and just like that, on the first cast, we had a fish.
This is my favorite picture, probably from the whole two weeks. For me, this picture is everything great about that day of fishing. Bluefish have a lot more fight than most fish in the inland sea, but Mori wrestled it onto the boat, and just like that, we were off and running.
Doesn’t this picture give you good feelings? It gives me good feelings.
It was such a perfect day. We caught probably 10 other fish, and all the while the winds slowed and the water got calmer. At one point we were drifting for Bass, and Mori let out a shout. It was a giant ocean sunfish, slowly flapping its way along the coast. We all watched it go, and then kept fishing. Notice the stream of blood draining out of our cooler.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day of fishing. At about 9:30 in the morning we were heading over to a bay to try for some other fish, and I said something along the lines of “pretty good day, right?” to Mori. He said he was worried, because it was too good. With all this good, something bad was bound to happen. I hoped he was wrong, but it seems he was right. First, a giant column of smoke rose from the shore. A hotel across the street from the Honey Bee parking spot caught fire, burning a good quarter of the building. After that, as we drifted along, the engine of the boat suddenly cut out, leaving us stranded. An hour later, towed home by another boat, while cleaning fish, both Mori and Fred cut their fingers. The Honey Bee is now fixed, but even with all that bad, I still thought we were having the best day ever, and it was only 11 when we got home.
Bluefish and porgies - yum!
I can’t even remember all the other things we did - shopping, sightseeing, adventuring - it was all great.
Hooray for American excess! Lobster for lunch and steak for dinner! As you can see, it is shocking to Fumiko.
One other thing we did in Montauk. We went to my favorite spot, some cliffs over the ocean, that despite years of tourist invasion have remained pretty isolated and just as beautiful as when I first discovered them. One day they will be gone, the victims of erosion and over developed shoreline, but that weekend they were perfect, and of the dozens of pictures I took there, this one captures what I love about that spot best.