How do you arrange a perfect morning? There are plenty of recipes, but this one worked well for me.
First, head to bed early, due to a rolling sea that tires you out and kills your appetite. This allows you to wake up at 3.30am, unable to sleep. As a result, you go out on deck and lie on a bench, looking up at the stars, enjoying the balmy and breezy night more or less on your own.
After that, you can return to bed and snooze for a while, only to reemerge at about 5.30am, just as the eastern sky is starting to lighten. Then spend about an hour just sitting there, watching as the sun comes up over the land of the Rising Sun, listening to the soundtrack to Halo, redolent of an encounter with things ancient, technologically advanced and wondrous.
After breakfast, you can watch Japan’s rugged and lush coastline pass by as the ferry pulls into Sakaiminato harbour, one side of which is industrial, the other the aforementioned lushness. You can listen to Ludovico Einaudi’s soaring Divenire too. Tears? Nah, just the wind in my eyes.
At this stage, customs will hold no fear for you, even if they are a bit put out at your lack of accommodation planning.
A very fine way to start a birthday, I tell you.
P.S. I wrote the above while going through customs in Sakaiminato. Right now, several hours and three train journeys (the last on the “Nozomi” Super Express Shinkansen, which officially travels at Ludicrous Speed), I’m in Kyoto’s shopping district, having gone wandering from my ryokan and finally found a usable wifi network. Still, all the above still holds. And Japan is delightful thus far.