39
COMING HOME

The salmon season ended before I had a chance to process
sujiko. Mr. Kojima, Yonemoto and Hasegawa wanted to go
back to Japan at once. They stayed in Kamchatska under hard
circumstances for more than three months, which was a month
longer than expected. It was enough for them.
Though, Pyotr Ilichov still had some fish processing to do
after the salmon season.
All four Japanese, including me, gathered on Pyotr Ilichov.
I told the Russians our wish to go back home at once.
According to what the Russians said, only limited and
difficult ways were available. For example, we had to land at
a place called Oktyabriskij to meet a car arranged by Mr.
Khriukin of the Lenin Kolkhoz, and drive across the Peninsula
eastbound to get to Petropavlovsk Kamchatskij.
Mr. Kojima and the two technicians were very happy at
hearing this. There seemed to be no alternatives to what we
were going to do, but I decided to remain on Pyotr Ilichov. I
had two reasons to remain. One was because I wanted to
observe the kambala (flatfish?) the Russians were going to
process. The other reason was because I wanted to see the
sujiko and material delivered to the port of Petropavlovsk
Kamchatskij fairly.
This was against the Japanese way of tending to be uniform.
Though, Mr. Kojima accepted it.
Personally, I wanted to go back to Japan and take the
summer vacation cancelled before, together with my wife. A
voice from my insides was telling me that it was useless to
remain on that Russian ship. But I was a son of a gun hired for
a fish company, so what I believed was that I had to find where
the profits were. I had to take the chances.
A few days later, Pyotr Ilichov started her processing of
kambala. The Russians were freezing them to use as raw
material for fish cans.
One of the crew showed me a can of "Kambala in Tomato
Sauce."
The kambala seemed to be a Japanese righteye flounder,
more specifically, pleuronectes asper, or pleuronectes puncta-
tissimns
perhaps, since they had yellow colours close to their
fins. Anyway, they were a species that had not much market
value in Japan.

Two weeks later, Pyotr Ilichov came back to the port of
Petropavlovsk Kamchatskij . A crowd there were waving their
hands on the dock. Most of them were the families of the
crew of Pyotr Ilichov.
No one was waiting for me. I got off the boat and walked
alone to the office of Lenin Kolkhoz.
I met Mr. Khriukin there and asked him if he could make
my reservations for the flight back to Japan. I knew it wasn't
easy.
"I can't promise you when," said Mr. Khriukin.
"Thursday? Friday...?"
The day was still Sunday.
I went back to Pyotr Ilichov only to stay there and wait.
Most of the Russian crew were already on their way back home
with their families. The ship was almost empty. Alone on the
ship. I had to wait for news from Mr. Khriukin, not known
when it would come. I picked up my paperback I hadn't yet
finished reading since the beginning of the trip.
Only a short period of time had passed, when Mr. Khriukin
came to the door of my cabin. He knocked the door, came in
and said, "You've got to leave within ten minutes. I got the
reservation. Hurry up!"
I packed my bags in ten minutes like a miracle.
Before I left Pyotr Ilichov, I went to the bridge and said
my farewells to the captain and the first mate. There was no
time to contact Japan.
Mr. Khriukin drove me to the airport and did everything
that was necessary for me to get on the flight.
It was a sunny day. Last time when I came to Petropavlovsk
Kamchatskij, the flight was at midnight, so I could see nothing
from the flight. I was going to fly above Russia in the daylight
for the first time.
I waved my hand to Mr. Khriukin and checked in. I passed
the gate where the stewardess of the flight was telling everyone
which way to go.
I reached Khabarovsk, and there, I had to make reservations
for the flight to Japan by myself. I went to the front of an
airline company, where the clerk there told me to come back
the next day, which was the day the flight to Japan was
available. It was almost 20 hours later from then and he told
me nothing else: he told me nothing clearly nor made promises;
he didn't say that I could make reservations; he just told me to
come back.
I had a night to spend on my hands and I had to think about
it. I had heard that it was quite difficult to stay in a hotel
without reservations. This situation seemed to be the same as
in the days of communism. The lack of my Russian ability
was also a thing to worry about.
So, I decided to spend the night over at the airport. It was
also the best way to be back at the front the next day. There
were no pay phones at the airport, so I couldn't call Japan.

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