On the Autumnal Equinox of 2011 I finished teaching a monthlong summer intensive course at a university in Tokyo, and had six days before I had to be back in my new hometown of Naha, Okinawa, for a meeting at my new university in the nearby town of Nishihara. Since I was in no particular hurry to return, I decided to take, quite literally, the slow boat to Okinawa.

So on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 24, I boarded the bullet train at Tokyo Station, bound for Hakata on Kyushu Island, and from there to change trains for Kagoshima. Although I had once visited Amami Island, which is part of Kagoshima Prefecture, I had never actually been on Kyushu itself.

After spending a few days at Kagoshima, the southernmost city on Kyushu and home to the active volcano Sakurajima, I would board the Marix Line ferry Queen Coral 8 for a 25-hour voyage to Naha.