Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Snazzy New Ferry for Aomori-Hakodate

The Hakodate ferry terminal is getting a face lift, disproving, I hope, my former theory that Aomori-Hakodate ferry travel was doomed to grow old and die.

The Aomori-Hakodate route is also getting a snazzy new catamaran named Natchan Rera. "Natchan" is short for Natsumi, which is the name of the seven-year-old girl who designed the pictures painted on the side (see the above poster). "Rera" is Ainu for "wind." You can read all about the new ferry here on the website of Incat, the company that manufactured the Natchan Rera. Unfortunately, we will never see this ferry docked at the desolate Oma ferry terminal ten minutes' drive from our house. A pity, that, since it's twice as fast as a normal ferry.

According to the president of Incat, "The Ship will turn heads in Japan and revolutionize sea transport between the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. The ship will also turn heads around the world, its entry into service will be widely reported and closely watched by European operators." I guess that means I should invest in a pair of binoculars so that I can watch it whizz by Shimokita during its maiden voyage scheduled for 1 September.

According to the Incat website the Natchan Rera is the first of their giant 112 metre catamarans and is designed to carry up to 1,500 passengers, but Higashi Nihon Ferry has opted for a deluxe interior design that only accommodates half that number.

The thing is HUGE compared to the dinky little Vayu that runs between Oma and Hakodate. I'm hoping that Higashi Nihon Ferry orders a mini-size catamaran to replace Vayu, but that is probably wishful thinking. (If they do get one maybe I can win the picture design contest and have it named Lukey Iomante or something ("Lukey" is long for "Luke," and "iomante" is the Ainu name for the Ainu bear festival).