If your palate does not enjoy fish, then you shouldn’t consider a lengthy deployment on a Japanese ship. Thankfully, this mariner happens to love fish. Fish is the predominant item at virtually all meals onboard.
Dining is a social affair onboard and if at all possible most will dine at the appointed meal hours of 0700, 1200 and 1700. The large dining saloon has 6 tables seating 6 each and the head table seating 12. There is no assigned seating other than the head table, but like many places an unofficial hierarchy and seating develops. At the head table, seating is definitely assigned. In the middle of the table looking out over the saloon sits the Captain and to his right the Chief Engineer. To the right of the Chief sits the Chief Officer and Senior Engineer. To the left of the Captain sits the Ice Navigator and the “Night” Captain. With their backs to the saloon sit the Senior Technician, Senior Met Officer, Chief Scientist, Assistant Chief Scientist and two senior university researchers.
The galley team onboard RV Mirai put out three substantial meals for 80 people every day. And by substantial, I mean plenty of good food. The Chief Steward supervises the work of three cooks and three stewards in a galley that puts to shame most others I have seen at sea. Generally, everyone passes by the galley and is served the main course to take to their place, the table being already set with the remainder of the meal items. On a sideboard are a half dozen rice steamers and stock pots where one stops to pick up a bowl of rice and soup to add to the meal.
A typical daily menu will be: breakfast, rice, miso soup, fish (for me most times fish of unidentifiable species) fried or baked, a small bowl of pickled vegetable, kimchee or cold scrambled egg and tea; lunch will be rice, miso soup or fish stock soup, fish or seafood, often one or two servings of sashimi, perhaps a small pork loin with shredded cabbage and lettuce, a desert or sweet taste of some kind and tea. Sometimes the fish and meat plates are replaced by a large bowl of rice casserole or udon noodle soups; supper is usually smaller and lighter than lunch, but always the rice, miso or fish stock soup, fish or seafood, and a small bowl of either pickled vegetable, sashimi or kimchee. I have enjoyed delicious ahi tuna prepared several different ways, salmon, cod, octopus, prawns, mackerel, squid, what I now term “fish of unidentifiable species”, scallops, crab, krill, roe of numerous types, turbot, mahi mahi, sole, what at home I would call kippered herring…and here and there on the menu chicken, pork, and less often, beef. An NYK tradition of dry curry and fukujinzuke (a Japanese replacement for chutney that I have come to prefer) is one of the “special meals”. Other “special meals” are Kobe fillet mignon, and a full on sushi/sashimi spread.
Normally, chopsticks are the l meal utensils except for the once weekly “North American” meal, that may show up at either breakfast, lunch or supper. Then tea is replaced with pitchers of ice cold water, rice is not likely to be on the sideboard, chopsticks are nowhere to be found, and knives and forks are placed for a meal that could be miso soup, salisbury steak with gravy, cold French fries, green salad and roast potatoes, or a breakfast of miso soup, cold boiled or fried eggs, French toast, and small sausages.
If your palate is open to differing tastes you will not go hungry onboard this ship.
Capt David (Duke) Snider
Photo: Galley staff onboard begin prep work for the day’s meals