Ferry Sunflower kindly provided me with free tickets to travel on their Matsuyama to Kokura route as a 'monitor', to provide them with my impressions. My impressions were good.
Loading starts at 9:00, and at 9:55, the ferry departs.
In port, the smokestack was illuminated by spotlights and a nearly full moon. The red stack is a helpful navigation point in the dark.
Matsuyama recedes in the background. Good though it generally is, the iPhone camera fails the test of moving night photography.
The ferry has a well-appointed bathroom. Before the boat gets underway, everybody rushes in there to avoid the rush. Wait an hour, and you have it to yourself.
At 5 am the ship arrives at Kokura. The channel between the main island of Japan and Kyushu is complex, and a queue of ships glides between the floating traffic lights. It's a fine sight.
I was allotted to sleep in "Steerage Class", a big, hard floor with thin mattresses and plastic pillows. When I turned in around 11:30, a little girl of about four was lying in my space. She had rolled away from her dad. I found another space and spent a slightly rough night.
Kokura has some heavy industry in the port area. This is the Sumitomo steelworks.
The port area is attractive, if difficult to capture clearly in early morning moonlight.
The sun starts coming up beyond the smokestack and mast. Breakfast is still several hours away, although you can have it on the boat if you like.
When I went to the parking bay to get my bicycle, this outlaw motorcycle gang was firing up their array of Harleys, side-car rice-rockets, and three-wheelers. The noise was deafening. They were noisy when they were drinking and on their bikes, but otherwise harmless. The girl on the back of this three-wheeler waved at me like crazy when they gunned off.
On the return journey, a typhoon was rolling towards Kyushu and Shikoku. Matsuyama Tourist Port looked very small in the rain, just like a fishing village. I got soaked riding home in the rain.