A Travellerspoint blog

Tokyo, Hiroshima and Yokohama

28th Oct 2019

This evening we headed to Melbourne for our flight to Japan. We were able to get a really good deal on business class flights but have to go via Melbourne and Hong Kong. Our international flight was for 1am so we looked forward to our flat beds so we could get some sleep. We decided not to have anything to eat on the plane and went straight to sleep.

29th Oct 2019

After a good sleep we awoke an hour before the flight arrived and had breakfast. We had a 3 and a half hour wait for our flight to Tokyo, so we held up in the business lounge, had some more breakfast and relaxed. Upon arrival at the gate we were told that they needed to swap planes over due to technical issues so we would have to wait an extra 40 minutes. We arrived in Tokyo at 16:30. While we waited for our luggage, we had our first experience with Japanese toilets. I sat down and the toilet seat was heated. It felt really weird. Our luggage arrived, so we then made our way into Tokyo to our hotel the APA Hotel Ginza-Takaracho in Kyobashi. It took about an hour and a half as it was peak hour and cold and drizzly. We had read the reviews about the rooms, but I gasped when I opened the door. The room was tiny.

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30th Oct 2019

We had a spare day today so wanted to visit the Imperial Palace. The weather had changed. We were so lucky we had a lovely sunny day all day. Our hotel was only a half hour walk so off we went. The history of Japan being reigned over by an Emperor dates back to 660BC. The Tokyo Imperial Palace is located on the site of the original Edo Castle which was established during the Meiji period. In 1868 the capital moved from Kyoto to Tokyo and was established from this exact spot. None of the original buildings remain but there are original moats, walls, watch towers and entrance gates. It is still the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family.
We first visited the statue of Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336). He is a Samurai Warrior from the 14th century who fought for Emperor Go-Daigo in the Genko War. He is said to have been a brilliant tactician and strategist and his loyalty was recognised with the highest honours of the Meiji government in the 1800’s.

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We then went to the Kokyo Gaien which is a large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace. It is about 500 metres from east to west and 800 metres from north to south. Originally it was a garden for the Imperial family, but it was opened to the public as a national park in 1949 after World War II. The main area is covered with gravel roads, lawns and Japanese black pines. From Kokyo Gaien, you can view the Nijubashi, two bridges that form an entrance to the inner grounds. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) for its looks. The bridge in the back was formerly a wooden bridge with two levels, from which the name Nijubashi (Double Bridge) arose. This is the formal entrance to the Imperial Place and is only open for important State events.

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There were guards on duty.

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This is some of the views closer to the bridges.

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You couldn’t miss the moat surrounding the grounds.

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We then walked over to the Kikyo-mon Gate where you could do a free tour of the Imperial Palace grounds. You couldn’t go inside any of the buildings, but it was nice to hear the history and see all the buildings.
There were 2 gates to go through to get inside the grounds.

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The tour was very well organised, and they had 5 groups for 5 different languages.
We visited Fujimi-yagura. This three storied keep was reconstructed in 1659. It was a watch tower and is one of the oldest remnants of Edo Castle. The rampart is 15 metres high and the keep itself is 16 metres high. The city surrounds these grounds, you can see the skyline in some of the photos.

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At the foot of the high stone wall there is a moat called the Hasuikebori (lotus moat) where in summer the lotus bloom. As it isn’t summer, we didn’t get to see them.

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This is the Imperial Household Agency Building. It was constructed in 1935. The third floor of the building was used as the temporary Imperial Palace for some years after World War 2 until the new Imperial Palace was built.

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This is Kyuden Totei. This plaza is located in front of the Chowaden Hall of the Imperial Palace. On occasions the Emperor and his family stand on the balcony. The plaza can hold 20,000 people.

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Beside the plaza is a structure that represents a fur tree.

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Behind Chowaden Hall is the Kyuden which is the actual Imperial Palace (although they don’t live there) it is only used for special occasions. They live in another area of the complex. It was completed in 1968 and consists of 7 buildings including a Function Hall, State Banquet Hall and Emperors Office.

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On the roof of the centre piece is a phoenix.

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We then had the opportunity to walk across Nijubashi bridge. This is the steel bridge we had taken a photo of previously.

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Views looking back to the city.

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We then wanted to visit the East Gardens. This is another part of the moat.

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The Otemon gate is the watari-yagura, a building that was used for storage and defence. This was reconstructed in 1968, the original having been destroyed in April 1945 during WWII. This is where you entered the East Gardens.

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We walked around the gardens which were lovely but unfortunately a lot of it was closed off for renovations.
A guard house.

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A tea house.

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Some of the gardens.

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We then headed to Tokyo Station for another experience. On the way we found the sign for the Rugby World Cup.

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Outside the train station they also have a count down for their Olympics next year.

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We even found a famous shop. Well famous for us.

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The old part of the train station was lovely.

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We then headed inside to try and buy some tickets to Shibuya. That was an experience in itself but between the 2 of us we worked out how to buy the tickets. So, we headed off to the Yamanote line and headed for Shibuya. A trip to Tokyo wouldn't be complete without setting foot on Shibuya Scramble Crossing. Jostling through the surging wave of people that floods the intersection outside Shibuya Station every two minutes is an experience in itself.

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We went up to Starbucks for a drink so we could sit and watch the frenzied crossings. It was a bit of fun.

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A high rise view.

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Meet Tokyo's most famous pooch, Hachikō. This Akita dog came to Shibuya Station every day to meet his master, a professor, returning from work. After the professor died in 1925, Hachikō continued to come to the station daily until his own death nearly 10 years later. The story became legendary and a small statue was erected in the dog’s memory in front of Shibuya Station. We couldn’t believe it there was quite a long queue to have your picture with the statue, so I just snapped a shot between poses. What a sad story though, I teared up telling Shane about it.

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Then as experienced train travellers we went back and bought our ticket back to Tokyo Station and headed back to the hotel after a long day.

31st Oct 2019

This morning we checked out of the hotel as we had an early start. We had to be at the Tokyo Station for a 6.50am train to Hiroshima. So, we boarded the Tokaido Nozomi Super Express Shinkansen. This bullet train is named for the road that took travellers in centuries past between the new and old capitals.

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We arrived in Hiroshima at 11am. It had been a smooth ride with a few stops along the way. We couldn’t believe we had travelled 676 km in 4 hours. We then headed to our hotel. The Hiroden Hotel. It was only a short walk from the station. Hiroshima, a modern city on Japan’s Honshu Island, was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. We only have a short time here, so we headed straight out to see some of the sights.
We visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which commemorates the 1945 event. It is in the centre of Hiroshima and this is the memorial. It is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, and to the memories of the bomb's direct and indirect victims.
In the park are the ruins of Genbaku Dome, it is a brick building designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel that was completed in 1915 as the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall. In 1945, the structure housed national and municipal government offices. At 8:15am on August 6, 1945 an American B29 bomber carried out the world’s first atomic bombing. The bomb exploded about 600 metres above and just 160 metres southeast of this building, ripping though and igniting the building, instantly killing everyone in it. Most of the building’s walls were destroyed in the bombing, but it was one of the few structures in the area to remain upright. In the post-war era it became a symbol of the atomic bombing; in 1996 it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Preservation work at three different times has helped to keep the building standing.

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This is the Red Bird Monument which was by the dome. It serves as a symbol of Hiroshima’s recovery from the devastation of the bomb and the hope for world peace.

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A view of the dome and peace park from the bridge.

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Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall was opened by the Japanese government in 2002 as a place to mourn the victims of the atomic bombing. It contains tens of thousands of written and video testimonies by survivors of the bombing and photographs of those who were killed.

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The cenotaph consists of a stone chest beneath an arch representing the roof, inspired by the haniwa pottery used to decorate prehistoric tombs. It is also known as the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace, because it was built out of a desire to reconstruct post-war Hiroshima as a city dedicated to peace. Within the chest is a record of the names of all the victims of the atomic bombing, not limited by nationality. As of August 6, 2015, there were 297,684 names on the list. The cenotaph is inscribed with the phrase: “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.”

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The eternal flame.

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The eternal flame, cenotaph and museum complex.

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Sasaki Sadako was exposed to radiation at the age of two when Hiroshima was bombed. A decade later, she was diagnosed with leukemia and died after an eight-month battle with the disease. Based on a traditional Japanese belief, Sadako thought that if she folded 1,000 origami cranes she would recover; she ultimately made more than 1,300, often using the paper wrappings from her medicine. When she died, her shocked elementary school classmates wanted to build a statue for all the children who died as a result of the atomic bombing, and schools around the country began raising money. On May 5, 1958 (Children’s Day), the statue was completed. Schoolchildren often bring folded cranes with them on trips to the monument today. There were lots of children at the memorial today.

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The museum was built by the city of Hiroshima to present an accurate picture of the atomic attack by recording the tragic and terrible effects of the bombing and subsequent radiation. It opened in 1950. The main building conveys what happened on August 6, 1945, through scientific explanations and exhibits of items belonging to the victims. The east building tells the story of Hiroshima before and after the bombing and describes the city’s nuclear disarmament efforts. This was horrific but well presented and sent shivers down our spines.
A view of the park from the museum.

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We then continued walking around the peace gardens. This is the Bell of Peace. You are asked to step forward and toll the bell for peace.

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The Peace Clock Tower. At quarter past eight every morning which was the time the blast occurred, the clock chimes for peace.

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1st Nov 2019

Today we headed to Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima. We headed down to the Hiroshima Peace Park where a ferry leaves from. The hotel had given us a free day pass for the light rail, so we went on that instead of walking. It is a very good form of transport in Hiroshima. Some of the cars were modern and some were still old.

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It was a 45-minute ferry ride to get to Miyajima. 20 minutes was on the river and 25 minutes was on the inland sea.

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Miyajima is a small island in Hiroshima Bay. It is known for its forests and ancient temples. The island is also famous for the deer that wander all over it. You are warned to be careful as they will eat pretty much everything. We laughed quite a bit during the day as they were chasing people that were trying to eat.

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We first had a walk along the waterfront.

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We headed to the Itsukushima Shrine. Originally built over the water in 593 AD, the shrine has about 20 wooden buildings which are connected by boardwalks.

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Just offshore, the giant, orange Great Torii Gate is partially submerged at high tide. It marks the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine, which was first built in the 12th century. Unfortunately, it is being renovated, so this is what we saw.

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This is what it would have looked like.

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You could see the Five-storied Pagoda from the shrine. It is 27 metres tall.

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We went up to the Five-storied Pagoda.

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Next door was the Hokoku Shrine made in wood.

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A view from the shrine.

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We then took the ropeway up Mt Misen. We first had a lovely walk up to Momijidani Station where the ropeway started. To do this we walked through Momijidani Park.

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There was a lovely bridge there.

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We were lucky when we arrived at the ropeway. There was no one else there so we had a small green car to ourselves which took us up to Kayatani Station.
There were lovely views on the way. We also chose this time of the year to visit Japan due to the autumn leaves. We had been told that they are a bit late this year due to the previous weather, but we were lucky to see some signs of colour.

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We had to get off and transfer to a much bigger car which took us up to Shishiiwa Station.

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There were thousands of oyster beds in the inland sea.

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Once you get off at the platform it was then about a half hour walk to the summit. We were so lucky with the weather. It was a beautiful sunny 24 degrees. This was the sign about the walk.

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Our first stop was Misen Hondo which is the main hall.

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At the same spot was Kiezu-no-hi which is the hall of the spiritual flame. This hall is said to protect a flame which Kobo Daishi is said to have lit when he began worshipping on the mountain. It has been burning ever since and was also used to light the Flame of Peace in the Peace Park.

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There were certainly some unusual sights along the way.

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We then climbed up to Sankido Hall.

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Some other temples

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There were unusual rocks along the way.

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We then made it to the summit.

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When you get to the Mt Misen summit, there is a viewing platform. You are now at 535 metres above sea level.

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On the way back down, we stopped at Dainichido Hall.

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We took the ropeway back down and continued our sightseeing. About 15 minutes from the ropeway was the Daisho-in Temple. This is where Kobo Daishi first began the practice of Buddhism. Daisho-in features a variety of buildings, statues and other religious objects for visitors to admire. These include the Kannon-do Hall, the Maniden Hall, a sand mandala made by visiting monks from Tibet, a tea room and a cave filled with 88 icons representing the temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. It was absolutely beautiful.

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The colourful buddhas were lovely.

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Shane had an unusual lunch. Hiroshima is famous for its oysters. Shane decided to eat a Oyster Curry Bread. It was a donut consistency and inside was a big oyster with curry sauce. He said it was yummy.

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We then visited the Tahoto Pagoda. This was built by the priest Shunkan in 1523, it is 15.6 metres tall.

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This is the Kiyomori Shrine.

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We still had some time before taking the ferry home so decided to have an ice-cream. Shane thought he would have deer poop ice-cream. He said it was yummy. (I guess that’s because it was covered in chocolate pieces).

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When we got back to the hotel, we decided to have a Bento Box for dinner. We had no idea what most of it was, but it was really nice. We identified octopus and lotus seed and of course the rice, but not much else.
This is the packaging which wasn’t much help.

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This was what it looked like.

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2nd Nov 2019

Today we had our last day in Hiroshima. Our train wasn’t until 17:06 so we checked out of the hotel, left our luggage there and headed off to see more of this lovely city.
We visited Shukkeien Garden which is a historic Japanese garden which was started in 1620. In the centre of the gardens is Takuei Pond and around its circumference are bridges, arbours, gardens and a tea house. Again, this garden was destroyed by the bomb, but they restored it to the condition of prior to the bombing.

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There was a bit of bird life in the garden.

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These 2 girls were having photos taken in the garden. They told us they were celebrating “coming of age”. This means they have turned 20.

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We also went to see Hiroshima Castle. Before the moat there is an old gate. It was bombed 170 metres from the blast centre and survived. It was moved here in 1956.

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You can see what it looked like after the bombing.

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In the park there were some children all dressed up.

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Hiroshima Castle, also called the Carp Castle, is a good example of a castle built on a plain in the centre of a city as opposed to hilltop and mountaintop castles. The main part is five stories tall, and its grounds are surrounded by a moat. Also, within the castle's precincts are a shrine, some ruins and a few reconstructed buildings of the Ninomaru (second circle of defence).
Hiroshima developed as a castle town, whereby the castle was both the physical and economical centre of the city. Built in 1589 by the powerful feudal lord Mori Terumoto, Hiroshima Castle was an important seat of power in Western Japan. While it was spared the demolishment that many other castles met during the Meiji Restoration, like the rest of the city, Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945.
Thirteen years later, its main keep was rebuilt in ferro-concrete with an attractive, partially wooden exterior. Inside the keep is an informative museum on Hiroshima's and the castle's history and Japanese castles in general.

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Panoramic views of the surrounding city can be enjoyed from the top floor.

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In more recent restoration efforts, some structures of the Ninomaru, the castle's second circle of defence, were reconstructed using original building methods and materials. They include the castle's main gate and two turrets adjoined by a long storehouse.

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There was a man on the moat bridge feeding ducks. He gave us some of his bread and told us to go to the other side of the bridge as there would be something better than ducks.

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We wandered back to Hiroshima station and caught our bullet train to Yokohama. We then had to find our way from Shin-Yokohama bullet station to the underground station near our hotel. We are getting pretty good at using the train systems but boy it was hectic. We just happened to arrive when all the fans from the Rugby World Cup were trying to make their way back to Tokyo. It was loud and chaotic.

3rd Nov 2019

Yokohama is Japan's second largest city with a population of over three million. It is located less than half an hour south of Tokyo by train, and is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture. Towards the end of the Edo Period (1603-1867), during which Japan maintained a policy of self-isolation, Yokohama's port was one of the first to be opened to foreign trade in 1859. Consequently, Yokohama quickly grew from a small fishing village into one of Japan's major cities. This is where our cruise will leave from tomorrow, so we spent some time having a look around.
A view from a bridge.

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We then passed the Red Brick Warehouses. These former brick warehouses are now a shopping & cultural centre with stores, cafes & its holds seasonal events.

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The Osanbashi pier is one of Yokohama's best spots for a walk, it also one of two cruise ship terminals. The 400-metre pier has walkways and green spaces that are open to the general public, making Osanbashi Pier an interesting attraction even for travellers not boarding a ship. The pier was originally built in 1894 but was reconstructed in 2002 as a passenger terminal. Its bold new design incorporates grass and floorboards that mimic rolling waves. We were originally departing from here but a few weeks ago we were advised we were now boarding from a brand new cruise terminal not far from this one.

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From the pier you have unobstructed views of the Minato Mirai skyline. Minato Mirai 21 is a seaside urban area in central Yokohama whose name means "harbor of the future". It has many large high-rises, including the Landmark Tower, which was Japan's tallest building from 1993 until 2014. The area was a large shipyard until the 1980s, when development began to turn it into a new city centre.

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We took a walk along the waterfront to Yamashita Park. Yamashita Park is a public park that stretches about 750 metres along Yokohama's waterfront. The park is about a hundred metres wide and consists mostly of open green space. It was constructed after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

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There is a statue of a girl in the red shoes. The sad song portrays Kimi Iwasaki, who was separated from her mother and adopted by American missionary Charles Huit and his wife when she was 3 years old. The song has been sung by nearly all Japanese during their childhood. It was first performed in 1921 so has now been memorialised with this statue.

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Strolling through the park, it is hard to miss the massive ocean liner in the water beside the promenade. The ship is called the Hikawa Maru and was first put into service in 1930 along the Yokohama-Vancouver/Seattle line. The ship had first-class cabins that attracted the likes of the imperial family and Charlie Chaplin for the transpacific journey. In 1960, after 30 years at sea, the ship was retired. It now serves as a museum, with informative displays and interiors in the style of the 1930s.

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Near the Hikawa Maru, and also hard to miss, stands the Yokohama Marine Tower. It is located just beside the park and extends 106 metres into the air. Although not as high as the Landmark Tower Sky Garden, the Marine Tower's observatory also has a 360-degree view, located 100 metres above ground but unfortunately that is closed at present.

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As it was Sunday there were people everywhere. They love their dogs, there were dogs everywhere too. Some were being walked, some were being pushed in pushers and some in handbags. We came across this wedding where they had to have their fur baby included in the wedding shots.

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We visited the Nippon Maru which is a training ship. It was right in the middle of town in front of the Landmark Tower.

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There was a school band playing. They were really good. They played the music from West Side Story and a Steven Spielberg set including ET, Jaws and Star Wars.

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We then headed back to the hotel for a rest as we wanted to head out tonight to see the city by night. At the moment they have an illumination event and there are lots of things set up for the kids to do in the evening. We also got some shots of the city by night.

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Posted by shaneandnicola 02:57 Archived in Japan

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Comments

Wonderful pictures as always, guys. Several of the places you visited brought back memories of our time there.

Enjoy your cruise.

Leanna and Brenton x x

by Leannab

Lovely photos, enjoy your cruise xx

by Denise15

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