Thousands of Miles from Home


Welcome To Reality

Here we go:

This Saturday, following a late-night Hanami party at Miyama Park the night before, I had planned to go fishing with my host father and two if his friends. My host father owns a small boat and regularly goes fishing with friends from work to relax and enjoy the ocean air.

We left the house around three in the afternoon, drove to a nearby fishing supply shop for new lures, then swung by a Konbini to pick up onigiri and o-bentos for dinner on the boat. Arriving at the harbor I met my host father’s friend (Asamura-san, a fellow banker) and climbed aboard the SS Kondou.

We spent about an hour fishing off the coast of Tamano (with little luck) before receiving a call from another friend of my host father who has just come from work and was waiting for us at the harbor. Stowing our fishing poles and bait, my host father maneuvered the ship back to port to pick up our fourth companion who introduced himself as Yokogawa-san. We spoke for a while (he mentioned that I had met his wife at a volleyball meeting with my host mother the previous week) and exchanged general introductions. He asked me about my future, what I was doing in Japan, and if I enjoyed fishing.

In regard to fishing, to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I cast a pole into any body of water. I have vague memories of fishing in the pouring rain as a child, and also recall a mild phobia of spearing worms onto fish hooks (which may explain the lack of fishing experience). Nonetheless I was excited to take a fishing trip, if only to get out to sea.

Wind tearing through my hair on the warm afternoon, my host father navigated the boat to his favorite location near Naoshima Island. Using a depth meter we found the “perfect spot” and dropped anchor to keep us in the correct position. My host father handed me a pole, gave me a quick run-through on its operation, and left me to my own devices.

I didn’t have much luck for the first 30 minutes or so. My host father、on the other hand, caught about 5 fish while I tried desperately to mimic his motions. After receiving a few pointers from Yokogawa-san and my host father, I got the hang of the correct depth and motion I should use with the lures. Soon after, I felt the first nibble on the line and reeled in a medium sized fish to add to the collection below deck. For the next few hours we chatted, caught fish, and enjoyed the relaxation that is inherent within fishing as the sun set over the Inland Sea. The wind began to pick up, but everyone was wearing heavy windbreakers and didn’t seem to mind.

Between the hours of 5 and midnight, the four of us caught what I would assume to be between 50 and 60 fish. I contributed about 15 of those, including one instance where I caught two fish at once on the same line. I also caught a few small squid in a net which my host father cleaned, and I ate right on the spot (still wiggling slightly). A little after midnight we decided to pack up and call it a night.

While I was winding fishing line and stowing the fishing poles below deck, Yokogawa-san and Asamura-san began to raise the anchors out of the water. All of a sudden, Yokogawa-san fell onto my host father who was standing in the back of the boat near the engine. I though he might be having a heart attack, so my host father called an ambulance while I tried to clear a space on the boat for Yokogawa to lie down. He wasn’t conscious and I didn’t think he was breathing so Asamura-san cut the ropes attached to the anchors while my host father gunned the boat back to the Tai harbor.

I couldn’t find a pulse in Yokogawa’s wrist or neck, so Asamura-san tried to perform mouth-to-mouth. The boat was too cramped for CPR, and it was very hard to keep Yokogawa-san in an upright position because his muscles seemed very stiff. As we approached the harbor, I grabbed a headlamp and flagged down the ambulance. At that point my host father and his friend tied up the boat while I was left with Yokogawa-san. I still couldn’t feel a pulse but kept his head and chest elevated with whatever I could find until the men from the ambulance finally arrived with a gurney and portable defibrillator.

The paramedics had to cut off Yokogawa’s shirt and jacket to get the pads attached to his chest. The machine was flat-lined and showed no heartbeat, and kept scrolling the phrase “no shock advised” in English. The paramedics said he should be moved to the ambulance, so we quickly lifted the gurney off the boat.

My host mother arrived as the ambulance pulled away, and I could see the men attempting CPR through the back window. My host mother suggested we go home while my host father docked the boat and drove to the hospital. Back at home my host mother asked me a few questions then left for the hospital. Keiko was awake, even though it was very late, but I had a difficult time getting to sleep because I assumed Yokogawa-san was dead.

In the morning I awoke to find my host father downstairs. He looked as if he didn’t get much sleep, and told me that the paramedics were able to get Yokogawa’s heart started again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I don’t know much about his condition, but the doctors said they are hopeful that he will make a recovery. I was amazingly relieved, because I had assumed we didn’t make it to the harbor in time and Yokogawa-san had died in my arms.

It was certainly a tragedy, but I am glad that there were four of us on the fishing trip because with only three people it would have been much more difficult to navigate back to shore. The whole experience gave me quite a shock, with a stern realization of how quickly situations can change for the worse.

I will be visiting Yokogawa-san in the hospital soon to check on his condition but for now I can only hope that he will make a recovery. He was only 49 years old, and ten minutes before he collapsed I had no idea he was in any trouble.

I might be taking a break from any more fishing trips.


  • Your mom gave me the rundown. What a shocking experience. I'm glad it took a turn for the better. Hope that everyone is feeling and doing all right, including you.

    By Cinnacism, at 4:58 AM  

  • That's a pretty intense experience but from the post it sounds like you handled it well

    By Bernard, at 12:26 AM  

  • Hi Benjamin, who thought that fishing was boring?! What started as a very nice Huckleberry Finn like adventure turned quite dramatic in a split second. Unfortunately that’s what life is also about. But it seems that all of you acted very professional and most efficient. You seem to be a very stable and strong personality. :-) And as I am a believer in happy endings I hope the patient will be better soon. Take care, Bibi.

    By Bibi Blogsberg, at 4:31 PM  

  • i am very proud.

    By Kostya the Bear, at 4:37 AM  

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