20.11.2019 - 27.11.2019
20th Nov 2019
Today we arrived in Shimizu. Until it was incorporated into Shizuoka City in 2003, Shimizu was a city of its own centred around its port. It is famous for being among Japan’s most scenic ports thanks to the views of Mt Fuji on clear days. As we sailed into Shimizu, we were lucky enough to get a view of Mt Fuji, but it didn’t stay uncovered for long, so we were grateful to see it at all today.
It took a while to get off the ship as we had to go through immigration on the ship as we had re-entered Japan. Small children entertained us on the dock while we waited.
Once again, we wanted to venture out and see as much as we could. We visited Sunpu Castle Park. Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu built the castle in 1585 and lived there on two occasions. The Edo Period castle was surrounded by moats and stone walls whose size and fortitude can still be seen in the ruins.
The castle's gate and turret have been restored.
We also saw a bronze statue of Ieyasu with a falcon resting on his arm, erected by the castle's keep near a mandarin orange tree believed to have been planted by Ieyasu.
The park has four different landscaped gardens and a traditional teahouse where visitors can enjoy a ceremonial tea service.
From the park, we continued on to Shizuoka Sengen Shrine, a complex of seven shrines, the three main ones remodelled over a period of 60 years beginning in 1804. Sengen Shrine contains 26 "Important Cultural Assets" and an extensive collection of historical artefacts from the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan for 300 years during the Edo Period.
Sengen Shrine is also noted for its dramatic architectural style and extensive use of gold leaf, lacquer and wood carvings.
There was a 5-year-old boy at the shrine dressed in his kimono. It was so detailed.
We then went to Miho-no-Matsubara, a picturesque pine grove along the eastern coast of the Miho Peninsula. This inspirational spot for artists offers dramatic views of Mt. Fuji. Well not today unfortunately.
This is the view you would have on a clear day.
This is the view today. Just a small tip of the rim was showing above the cloud.
If you walk deep into the pine grove, you'll spy a 650-year-old Japanese black pine called Hagoromo-no-Matsu. Believed to have mythical origins, its branches spread in every direction, and it is said that an angel bathing in the waters hung her clothes on its branches. A fisherman took the garments, and the angel had to win them back by dancing for him.
Beside this legendary tree, there stands a monument of a French ballerina who composed a dance inspired by this legend.
While walking back to our bus we saw an osprey.
21st Nov 2019
We were back in Yokohama today farewelling some of the passengers, but we were continuing on. As we had a spare day, we decided to visit Kamakura. I arranged for a local guide to take us there as it was a way from Yokohama, and we had to be back to the ship by 4pm. Her name was Yoko and she was fantastic. We got to see so many places in one short day. So, we took the free shuttle to the train station and then headed by train to Kamakura. Once in Kamakura we purchased tickets for the hop on hop off bus and headed around this lovely little town.
Secluded in the hills of eastern Kamakura is a small temple of the Rinzai Sect of Zen Buddhism. Originally founded during the early years of the Muromachi Period, Hokokuji Temple was the family temple of the ruling Ashikaga Clan and was later also adopted as the family temple of the Uesugi Clan.
Appearing rather unassuming as you arrive, the path to the temple leads past a relatively modest gate.
A garden as you walk up to the temple.
This is a shrine to children.
Then you walk through a small garden to the main hall, which was rebuilt in the 1920s after the original building had been lost in the Great Kanto Earthquake. The hall houses a statue of the historic Buddha, the temple's main object of worship.
To the left of the main hall stands a unique looking bell tower with a simple, thatched straw roof, which was also a feature of the original main hall before it had burnt down.
Hokokuji Temple, however, is best known for the beautiful, small bamboo grove found behind the temple's main hall, which lies thick with over 2000 dark green bamboo stalks.
Also located behind the temple are a series of shallow caves carved into the hillsides, which are believed to hold the ashes of some of the later Ashikaga lords.
A garden at the shrine.
Next was the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine which was built during the rule of Minamoto. The first thing you see is the big Shinto gate.
This is followed by an arched bridge and stairway made of stone.
There is a long walkway to the shrine and there were lots of little stalls. We had eaten toffee apples in the past, but they were selling toffee strawberries on a Jatz cracker. It was absolutely lovely.
Then a bit further on there was grape flavoured toffee on grapes. Yum.
The cleansing area where they cleanse their selves before entering the shrine.
These are sake barrels that are gifts to the shrine.
The main building is located deep into the compounds.
We then took a walk along the famous Komachi-dori Street. It was rather narrow street with modern shops in the centre of an ancient city.
There were animal cafes down the street.
We stopped here to have a traditional Japanese lunch. Shane had a Kamakura beer.
We then shared a tempura set meal which included lots of things we had never eaten before. It included a savoury egg custard, a sour plum, miso soup and rice and tempura.
Nicola and Yoko.
We then continued on to Hasedera which is a temple of the Jodo sect.
It is famous for its eleven-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The 9.18-metre-tall, gilded wooden statue is regarded as one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan and can be viewed in the temple's main building, the Kannon-do Hall. You are not allowed to take photos of the goddess.
As you walk up to the temple, there is a large area where parents can remember babies that were miscarried or stillborn. It was quite moving.
The water feature at the bottom.
A beautifully landscaped garden.
Our final stop was the Kotokuin Temple. This is the entrance.
The temple is famous for the Great Buddha of Kamakura which is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha. It is 11.4 metres high and it has long been the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. The statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tsunami in the 14th and 15th centuries. So, since the late 15th century, the Buddha has been standing in the open air.
We then took a train back to Yokohama, farewelled Yoko and got back on the ship for the last leg of our cruise.
22nd Nov 2019
Another day off the ship in Toba. It is located at the north-eastern end of the Shima-hanto Peninsula in Mie, flourished as the castle town of the Kuki family who ruled this region from the 16th century
In Toba Bay, Mikimoto Pearl Island is known for its ama (female pearl divers). The Pearl Museum traces the history of local pearl cultivation. We didn’t bother going over to the island, we chose to take the loop bus and go exploring.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t too good, but we did get to Meoto Iwa Rocks which means wedded rocks.
You walk around the coast to get there.
The path that leads to the rocks carries on eastwards, passing another small shrine, the Ryugu Shrine which is dedicated to the dragon god of the seas. It had an interesting dragon feeding water for the purification area.
We then got to the Wedded Rocks. They are two famous sacred rocks which represents the husband and the smaller is the wife. Both rocks are connected by a shimenawa rope which acts as the division between the spiritual and earthly realms.
Not far from the Meoto Iwa is the Futami-Okitama Shrine, where a number of Shinto deities (kami) are enshrined. Many frog sculptures can be seen in the vicinity of the shrine as they are believed to be a type of charm for bringing people or things back.
Even the purification area had lots of frogs around and in it.
Our next stop was Oharai Machi.
Oharai machi is the traditional approach to the Inner Shrine of Ise. Nearly one kilometre long, it is lined by many traditional style buildings, housing shops and restaurants. Some of the businesses found here have been serving pilgrims and tourists for several centuries. It was an amazing street to walk along even if it was raining quite a bit.
There were lots of tea houses.
A lot of the restaurants had copies of their food in the window so you could see what sort of dishes they had.
This was a dried fish shop; you can see a big dried fish in the photo.
There were lots of buildings with characters on the roofs such as monkeys and squirrels.
We were pretty cold and damp by the end of that so we headed back to the ship early.
23rd Nov 2019
For centuries, Osaka was Japan's cultural and commercial gateway to Asia - the point of entry both for trade goods and, most importantly, cultural influences that shaped Japanese society. The city reached its zenith in the late 16th century, when the great feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi made Osaka his capital. Toyotomi was master of Japan, and an immense administrative and commercial centre rapidly developed around Osaka Castle. After Toyotomi's death, the nation's seat of power shifted from Osaka to a sleepy little fishing village called Edo - modern Tokyo. While overshadowed by Tokyo, Osaka remains one of Japan's largest cities and a vital commercial centre. We only had one day here and really wanted to head to Kyoto which was an hour and a half away. Originally the seat of Japan's imperial court from 794 to 1868, Kyoto today remains the cultural capital of Japan. We were in for a real treat today as we had the best autumn leaves, we had seen so far.
Our first surprise this morning was being greeted by a fire boat that put on a welcome display.
Then as we docked there was a school band playing and they were very excited to see us.
The view of our port.
Our first stop was at Kiyomizu Temple. We had to walk up a narrow street with lots of shops and people.
Renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Temple was founded in 778 on the site of a rushing waterfall. Its waters are believed to have mystical powers and if you drink, you'll achieve success in school, live a long life or find love.
But Kiyomizu is best known for its wooden stage, which was built completely without nails and juts out over the hillside offering panoramic views of the cherry and maple trees, and Kyoto off in the distance. Unfortunately, it was being renovated but we still got a lovely view of the city and the autumn leaves.
Looking back up the hill.
There is always a lovely pond nearby.
The Ryoanji Temple was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Temple, built in 1450.
It is noted for its Zen rock garden of white gravel and moss-covered boulders.
It is set near the meditation hall furnished with tatami mats and a small Buddhist altar.
There were some unusually sculptured fur trees.
The beautiful autumn leaves.
Other areas of the temple.
This is Kyoyochi Pond. It was made in the twelfth century. It was accented by the beautiful autumn leaves.
We then had a lunch stop where we had a traditional Japanese lunch. It was great. There was salmon and squid sashimi (raw) and lots of other things that we had no idea of, but it all tasted great.
Our last stop was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. OMG there were thousands of people everywhere. It took a while to walk down some narrow streets to get there and it was so busy. There were food vendors all the way down the street.
Built in 711, it's one of Kyoto's oldest and celebrated shrines.
The fox is the Inari Okami’s (god of harvest) servant. A fox it is, but it is not one that lives in the fields, it is a spirit fox that has been believed to convey wishes to Inari Okami.
The Shrine is most famous for its 10,000 brilliant red gates that arch over a pathway that leads through a forest and up to a hilltop overlooking Kyoto. Again, there were people everywhere.
I had read if you could get further up the hill it may be possible to get a photo by ourselves, so we rushed up as quickly as we could, and we were in luck.
After a long day we headed back to Osaka. It was dark by the time we got back but we had a lovely time wandering around near our ship as there were illuminations everywhere relating to the nearby aquarium.
We walked through a food hall to get back to the ship. To our surprise there was a KFC with Colonel Sanders dressed for Christmas.
Another Christmas display in the food hall.
The views from on the ship.
24th Nov 2019
Kochi sits on the broad alluvial plain facing Urado Bay. This city in Shikoku takes its name from the great feudal castle that sits at its very heart. Kochi is one of the wettest places in Japan - and a frequent target for cyclonic storms or typhoons.
We got off the ship early and caught the shuttle into town. We then took a loop bus to Godaisan which is a small mountain to the east of Kochi's downtown. It was named after a Chinese mountain by Buddhist priests visiting from China. We hopped off at the observatory so we could get a view of Kochi.
The same visiting priests established Chikurinji Temple on Godaisan, which has since become an important stop on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Chikurinji's temple grounds feature an interesting array of halls and structures, including a beautiful five-storied pagoda.
Not far from Chikurinji is Makino Botanical Garden.
The gardens are named after Dr. Makino Tomi taro, a botanist from Kochi.
The spacious garden includes extensive walking paths, outdoor parks and a greenhouse.
The greenhouse was amazing. It was huge and had such a variety of plants.
Upon our return to Kochi we walked along to Kochi Castle which is one of just twelve Japanese Castles to have survived fires, wars and other catastrophes. It was first constructed between 1601 and 1611, but most of its main buildings date from 1748. The castle used to be the seat of the Yamauchi lords, who ruled over the surrounding region, then known as Tosa, during the Edo Period. The castle buildings have since been designated "important cultural properties", and now house local treasures and historical objects.
This is the statue of Yamauchi Katsutoyo which is outside the castle.
It was Sunday so the Sunday markets were in full swing. The market went for about a kilometre.
We then went to Hirome Ichiba which is a market where there are lots of eateries.
We took a walk along Obiyamachi Ichibangai Shopping street. This is all under cover.
The famous landmark of Kochi's downtown is Harimayabashi, a small red bridge on the west side of the main street. While it may not look particularly noteworthy at first glance, Harimayabashi is renowned for its role in a Kochi love story. A common version of the story centres around a priest from Godaisan and a girl from Kochi. Because the priest's temple forbade relationships, the couple hid their romance by meeting in secret and exchanging clandestine gifts. However, their romance was exposed one day when the priest was caught buying a hair comb for his lover at Harimayabashi. As a result, the couple fled the city to avoid punishment.
The shop nearby has a big Hello Kitty on the Harimayabashi bridge.
We also found some manga characters on one street corner.
Once again, we were farewelled by entertainers and many Japanese that had just bought their family down to farewell the ship. These famous entertainers have special musical instruments that are like clackers.
25th Nov 2019
Another new stop today at Kagoshima. From the 12th century to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Kagoshima was the chief stronghold of the mighty Shimazu clan. The city lies at the top of the Satsuma Peninsula, a mountainous, geothermal wonderland of hot springs and geysers. The area is also rich in modern Japanese history: Saigo Takamori and the Satsuma samurai were leaders of the Meiji Restoration that toppled the shogun and restored the Emperor to power in 1868. In 1877, dissatisfied with the direction of the new government, Saigo led the Satsuma Rebellion, which ended in his death and the final defeat of the samurai.
The symbol of Kagoshima is Sakura Jima - the volcanic island that sits just offshore. The volcano has erupted over 30 times in recorded history. The volcano smokes constantly, and minor eruptions often take place multiple times per day. Located in the middle of Kagoshima Bay, Sakurajima is the area's most prominent geographic feature, having an elevation of 1117 metres and a circumference of about 50 kilometres. It was a bit hazy, but we did get to see it smoking.
A view of Kagoshima from the ship.
There were a few locals there to greet us, waving flags.
This morning we visited Chiran. The streets were decorated with beautifully sculptured trees.
Chiran was the stronghold of the Shimazu samurai during Japan's Feudal Era. We strolled down a lane lined by residences of warriors who lived in the Edo period (17th through mid-19th centuries). Some of the properties were open so we could go in and see their gardens that are mainly sand, trees and rocks.
There was one however that featured water which apparently is unusual.
We came across the river and an old bridge.
There was one house that was totally different to the others. This is a Futatsuya style house, found only in Chiran. It connects a living space called Omote and the kitchen called Nakae.
It was a lovely place to visit and we were so glad to see it seeing we had missed another samurai village from the day we could not dock.
We haven’t seen many birds around; we are not sure if it is because of the season. But we did see one today. It was so small but made a lot of noise.
In December 1941, The Chiran Army Flight Training school opened. However, with the deterioration of the war situation, it changed into a military base for “Tokko” in March 1945. Tokko means “Special Attack” in Japanese and refers to the military tactic of ramming attacks in which pilots crashed themselves and their aircrafts into enemy warships. Tokko is better known as Kamikaze internationally. From each base in Japan, but mainly Chiran base, 1036 Tokko pilots who were in their twenties, made a sortie and died in the sea of Okinawa.
Today, a peace museum dedicated to the pilots, the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots ("Tokko Heiwa Kaikan"), marks the site.
Out the front of the museum was a statue of a Kamikaze pilot and a plane.
There was also a statue of a mother looking at the pilot’s statue. Her clothing is the national wartime attire. There was a lovely inscription on he back of the statue “Mother and son will be together forever”.
This scene was above the entrance.
We visited the museum and saw its comprehensive collection of recovered aircraft, models, mementoes and photographs of the Special Attack Corps.
Portraits of the deceased pilots.
This is the remains of a plane that they found on a seabed and recovered it for the museum.
There are hundreds of Japanese stone lanterns, one for each deceased pilot.
The grounds of the museum had several shrines and other planes.
There was a replica of the pilots living quarters.
This is the peace bell that anyone can ring.
26th Nov 2019
We were back in Busan South Korea today. As we had already visited Busan we decided to have a lazy day onboard the ship as the last few days had been long.
27th Nov 2019
Our final port was Nagasaki. It is located on Kyushu Island. The earliest contacts between Nagasaki and the west took place in 1543, when the Portuguese arrived. Next came the Spanish followed by the Dutch.
For most travellers, Nagasaki is a symbol of the horror and the inhumanity of war. An estimated 75,000 people perished in 1945 when the city became the second target of a nuclear attack because of its strategically important ship building industry. This occurred 3 days after Hiroshima on the 9th of August. Today the city has been completely rebuilt. It was a beautiful city with the mountains as a backdrop. We explored the city on the efficient tram system.
Our first stop was the Nagasaki Peace Park which is a tranquil space that commemorates the atomic bombing.
The Fountain of Peace. The fountain sends up a sparkling spray of water in the shape of a pair of wings, evoking the dove of peace.
The main feature in the memorial park is the iconic Peace Statue which is 30 feet high.
Some of the other monuments in the park.
Not far from the Peace Park is Urakami Cathedral. After enduring a long period of oppression, Christians built the church over the course of 30 years starting in 1895. It was destroyed by the nuclear blast. A new cathedral was built in 1959 and renovated in 1980.
In the church grounds are remnants from the blast.
This is the remains of the belfry. It weighs 50 tons and rests on the spot where it fell on the day of the bombing.
In the Hypocentre Park is a black monolith that marks the explosions epicentre.
The park also has part of the Urakami Cathedral Wall. A portion of the southern wall was brought to the hypocentre to make way for the construction of the new church in 1958.
This is the statue in the park.
You can also see the ground level at the time of the bombing. They have preserved part of the ground where roof tiles, bricks, scorched earth and glass melted.
From the Hypocentre we made our way to the museum. There were several memorials as you climbed the hill.
This is the peace flame.
On the hill above the park stands the sobering Atomic Bomb Museum.
Next to the museum stands a memorial hall for the victims. The hall is located mainly underground and its design involves water and light.
This is a memorial for School Children and Teachers.
A statue depicting Children trusting in the future.
The Sanno Shrine, situated 900 m from the centre of the blast, was instantly obliterated by the explosion and the 4000 °C heat wave vaporised nearby trees. The only thing that remained is the torii arch standing on a single pillar, reminding us of the tragedy that took place.
These two camphor trees survived the atomic bombing. Both trees were broken at the upper portions of the trunk however branches have flourished to form lovely canopies. Although they were stripped of their leaves by the bombing, they eventually budded and regained their vitality.
We went up Mount Inasa which is 333 metres high. The summit can be reached by ropeway.
The views of Nagasaki were great.
This is Mount Inasa from the ship.
This is the Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan. 6 foreign missionaries and 20 Japanese Christians were crucified on February 5th, 1597, after Christianity was banned. The story of these 26 Christians was heard in Europe by Pope Pius IX who canonised these martyrs as saints in 1862.
Nearby there was also an unusual church.
A fun character we found along the way.
Meganebashi or Spectacles Bridge is the most remarkable of several stone bridges that span the Nakashima River in downtown Nagasaki. The bridge gets its name from the resemblance it has to a pair of spectacles when reflected in the river water. The bridge was originally built in 1634, its construction apparently overseen by the Chinese monk who would go on to become the resident priest of Kofukuji Temple, which is located a short walk away. The bridge, along with many of the others along the river, was badly damaged by floodwaters in 1982, but has since been repaired with recovered stones.
We then headed to the Dutch Slope. During the Foreign Settlement era western residents of Nagasaki were known as Dutchmen regardless of their country of origin. This slope was called Hollander (Dutch) Slope to denote the many westerners that lived in the area.
These are some of the oldest western homes at the slope.
Oura Church is a Catholic church that was built towards the end of the Edo Period in 1864 by a French missionary for the growing community of foreign merchants in the city, it is considered the oldest standing Christian church in Japan. It is dedicated to the memory of the 26 Christians who were executed in the city in 1597. The church was the first Western style building in Japan to be designated as a national treasure.
Our final stop was at Glover Garden.
It is an open air museum that exhibits mansions of several of the city's former foreign residents. It is located on the hill where Western merchants settled down after the end of Japan's era of seclusion in the second half of the 19th century. The main attraction of the garden is the Former Glover House, the oldest Western-style wooden building in Japan. Unfortunately, it is being renovated and was covered up.
Thomas Glover (1838-1911) was a Scottish merchant who moved to Nagasaki after the opening of its port to foreign trade in 1859.
This is a public water tap from the Meiji period. Nagasaki’s modern waterworks started operation in 1891. A municipal employee was assigned to each public water tap, opening it in the morning and closing it at night.
This is the former Walker House. The second son of British ship captain and entrepreneur Robert N Walker purchased the house in 1915 and lived there until his death in 1958.
This is the former Ringer House.
One of the gardens.
This is the former Steele Academy. The building was erected in 1887. The school provided a unique style of English language education for some 45 years.
This is one of the earliest asphalt paved paths in Japan. Frederick Ringer suffered from heart disease later in life and he had a path paved from the bottom of the hill to his house so rickshaws could carry him to his home.
This is the former Jiyutei. Erected in 1878, the building was originally a western style restaurant. The building was purchased by the Japanese government and converted for use as a public prosecutor’s office until being donated to Glover Gardens in 1974.
This is the former Mitsubishi No. 2 Dock House. Erected in 1898, the building served as a dormitory for crewmembers while their ship underwent repairs.
This is the Gatehouse of the Former Nagasaki Higher Commercial School.
This is the former Alt House. It was built in 1865. It also served as a school house and US Consulate.
On our walk back to the ship we came across the Former Hong Kong and Shanghai bank building. It was established in 1904.
After a day at sea our cruise comes to an end back in Yokohama so we will sign off here.