A Travellerspoint blog

Cruise - Part 2

12th Nov 2019

We were back in Yokohama today to drop off some of our fellow passengers, so we planned a trip to Mt Fuji. We do get the opportunity to see Mt Fuji in the distance on part of our cruise but as there is no guarantee we would see it due to the clouds we thought we would try while we had a spare day. We had already missed seeing it once on our way to Hiroshima due to the low cloud.
So, we were up early to take a bus out to Mt Fuji. We decided to do a Princess cruise excursion as it was going to be a long day and if we use their excursion, they guarantee to wait for you should you be late, so the ship won’t leave you behind. Mt. Fuji is an active volcano about 100 kilometres southwest of Yokohama. Commonly called “Fuji-san,” it’s the country’s tallest peak, at 3,776 metres. A pilgrimage site for centuries, it’s considered one of Japan’s 3 sacred mountains.
As we headed out of Yokohama, our guide was so surprised. We had a magnificent view of Mt Fuji from Yokohama. The guide said it was rare to be able to see it so clearly from Yokohama. This is the view we had on the highway from our bus.

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The drive took two and a half hours to get to Hakone National Park. Our first stop was Mt Komagatake where we took the Mt Komagatake Ropeway, an aerial tram that lifts off from the shores of the lake and takes you up Mt Komagatake in an enclosed cabin with 360-degree views.

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A view from the ropeway.

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When we reached the summit, we enjoyed some time taking in views over Lake Ashi

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We were so lucky with the weather; we had such clear views of Mt Fuji.

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We climbed to the shrine at the top of the hill.

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The countryside was colourful.

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After lunch we took a short cruise across the lake in a galleon.

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Lake Ashi is surrounded by mountains including Mt Fuji and Mt Komagatake.

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It was a long drive back to Yokohama, but we were so glad we had taken the chance to go and see the magical mountain.

13th Nov

Today was a day at sea heading north up the Japanese coast.

14th Nov 2019

Today we were meant to visit Akita which is a key city in the Tohoku region since medieval times, Akita was once a castle town of the Satake clan. Surrounding the city, fertile farmland and rice fields produce some of the best sake in the country. We had a full day planned for today, but it was not to be. Our luck had run out. The captain made an announcement that due to extremely high winds we were not going to be able to dock in Akita. We would therefore sail slowly to our next destination. We were very disappointed as we had planned on visiting Lake Tazawa which is the deepest lake in Japan at almost 1,400 feet and the Kakunodate Samurai District. The day at sea was uneventful for us, but we felt sorry for the ship’s crew who were on vomit duty. There were a lot of sick people. The captain advised that we had winds as high as 84 knots which is about 160km an hour and seas were 7 metres. Shane and I slept really well being put to sleep by the constant rocking. Although there were times when it felt like a roller coaster ride.

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15th Nov 2019

Today we arrived in Niigata. With a population of over 800,000, it is the largest port on the Japan Sea coast and is the capital of the Niigata prefecture. It is famous for its rice, sake, seafood, and cut flower industry, especially tulips. It is located in the Chūbu region and is located at the mouth of Japan's longest river, the Shinano River. The ship was docked a long way out of the city, so we had to use a shuttle bus to get there. The weather was only going to be 12 degrees and drizzly, so we rugged up. The weather ended up being pretty good considering the weather yesterday.
We were on the first shuttle of the morning and it took an hour in peak traffic to arrive. The people in this town were amazing. They had volunteer staff everywhere helping out with directions. They also provided an autumn shuttle which took you to a couple of places so we took advantage of that early on but then walked our legs off seeing as much as we could.
Our first stop was Hakusan Shrine and garden. The Hakusan Shrine bas been popular with the people of Niigata from around 1000 years ago. The main shrine, whose history goes back to around 1647 when it was erected.
We first walked through the Shrine Gate; it connects the world of humans with that of the gods.

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Then there was a second gate.

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These are the Guardian Lion-Dogs. This the god’s guardian beast and is the talisman of the shrine. The statues are placed in pairs, one with its mouth opened and one closed.

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This is the ritual cleaning place where visitors cleanse themselves before worship. You draw water in a ladle and cleanse yourself by washing your hands and rinsing your mouth.

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This is the shrine and other buildings around the shrine.

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We then had a walk around the gardens. We were in luck with the autumn trees.

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This is the monument of Hakusan Park. Hakusan Park was the very first city park made in Japan. It was established in 1872. This monument is the oldest monument of any park in Japan.

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This is Masataka Kusumoto. He was a warrior and a Japanese Samurai who devoted himself to modernising the city of Niigata. He was the one who made the park.

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A statue of an Akita dog.

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We then went to the Saito Family Summer Villa.

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In 1918, a wealthy merchant, Saito Kijuro (IV), built a beautiful summer villa. The villa cost a huge amount of money and three years to complete. The villa itself was carefully and spaciously planned for the viewing of its superb Japanese garden and to avoid the summer heat. A lovely Japanese man who volunteers there took us around and explained the rooms in the villa. They were absolutely beautiful.

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There were lovely views of the garden from the inside of the villa.

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We had a walk around the gardens afterwards.

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We then headed towards the river to visit Bandai Bridge which is said to be the symbol of Niigata City. The current bridge is the third incarnation, known as the solid bridge, that didn’t budge during the 1969 Niigata Earthquake. The bridge lights up at night.

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Yasuragitei was the name of the river walk. We had a walk along the river and visited the tourist sign.

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Along the way we stopped at Toki Messe which is a multi-purpose international convention centre. The centre was opened on May 1, 2003, and contains a hotel, restaurants, an art museum, conference rooms, and the offices of several international organizations. They have a free observation deck so you can take a look at Niigata.

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We then headed back to Niigata station where the shuttle was taking us back to the ship. We had heard about a shop called Ponshukan which is unusual as it features a sake-tasting corner. For 500 yen, you get five full shots. Small vending machines offer 117 different brands of sake produced by Niigata breweries. There are lists and rankings of recommended sake to help you make your choices. We had a couple of lovely ones.

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We then headed back to the ship where there was a lot of food vendors and shops. There were also some photo opportunities.

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This is what the set up looked like from the ship.

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Several fun characters came out for people to have their photos taken.

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Once again people came all the way out to the port to wave us off.

16th Nov 2019

Today we spent the day in Tsuruga which is located in central Fukui Prefecture, bordered by Shiga Prefecture to the south and Wakasa Bay of the Sea of Japan to the north. Much of the city centre was destroyed in 1945 during the Bombing of Tsuruga in World War II. It was a strategic transportation centre. What a lovely greeting we again had at the dock. There were lots of school children wanting to shake our hands and they were giving out presents. This is a towel shaped like an apple. During World War II a Japanese vice consul in Lithuania issued Japanese transit visas to Jewish refugees. This enabled them to go to Vladivostok by the Trans-Siberian railroad and then cross the Sea of Japan to Tsuruga. It was the only port in Japan where some 6,000 Jewish refugees landed. One young boy gave out apples to the refugees, so our apple shaped towel gifts stand for the hospitality of people in Tsuruga.

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You can see we are berthed at a working dock as around the stalls that were set up there were piles of coal and bark chip.

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There were of course some more furry creatures.

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We headed into town to do some sightseeing. It was quite a small town so easy to get around by ourselves.
There were a few statues around, that had some meaning to the town, but we weren’t sure what.

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This is Kehi Jingu Shrine which is believed to date from the year 702. The shrine’s tori gate is one of the three biggest in Japan at 11 metres tall and is a designated Important Cultural Property.

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The inside of the shrine complex is quite big.

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The petrol stations are different here. There are no petrol bowsers. An attendant pulls the hose down from the roof.

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Tsuruga Symbol Road runs between Tsuruga Station and Kehi Shrine and has along its route bronze statues of figures from two popular anime series: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato. The statues were placed here in 1999 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Tsuruga Port’s opening.

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Some of the figures had so much detail. This one had a train going up the metal pole.

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The Tsuruga Red Brick Warehouses are two preserved historical buildings built in 1905 that today house souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes, and a large diorama of Tsuruga port and its railway lines as they appeared in the mid-20th century with running model trains.

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The Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum is a museum celebrating both the early history of Tsuruga Port and also its role in the story of the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara and the Jewish refugees he helped escape from the Nazis in World War II. The museum recounts his story as well as the stories of the refugees who passed through Tsuruga’s port.

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This is the railway museum.

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We then visited the Eishouji temple.

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We then took a long walk over to the other side of the town to visit Kehi-no-Matsubara which is a large pine grove along Tsuruga Cove with around 17 thousand red and black pine trees. A place of great scenic beauty it has many walking trails and its white sand beach is very popular in the summer.

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We had some lunch at the beach and next thing this eagle or hawk swooped for some of our lunch.

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On our way back into town we crossed a river and there was this unusual duck.

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When we returned to the ship, we saw the Gagaku Traditional Court musicians.

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Then there was a group of men who had a musical instrument made from a shovel.

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The school children were also at the dock to entertain us.

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Then some calligraphy students did a presentation.

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By then it had gotten dark, was pouring with rain so we set sail for our next destination.

17th Nov 2019

Today we were in Sakaiminato. This small fishing port has been esteemed for centuries for its superb seafood. Here, the Sea of Japan yields up both crab and hon-maguro, the prized Bluefin tuna esteemed by gourmets around the world. To the east rises the great snow-capped summit of Mt. Daisen, considered one of the four most scenic mountains in all Japan.
We drove an hour out of Sakaiminato to visit the Tottori Prefectural Flower Park which is a spectacularly laid out and meticulously maintained 50-hectare garden park in the west of Tottori Prefecture. It was opened in 1999.

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At the entrance there were lots of fun shaped plants.

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The valley of flowers is presided over by lofty Mt. Daisen in the near distance.

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The focal point of the park is its futuristic transparent tropical Flower Dome. The Flower Dome is a huge, clear transparent hemisphere 21 metres high.

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Inside the dome.

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Encircling the dome is the 1-kilometre fully covered Circular Walkway for access to the various themed gardens that fill the circle, and to the several other sprawling gardens beyond.

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Staff planting out more gardens.

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A fun photo opportunity.

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This is the mist garden.

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This is the floating garden.

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This is the jungle dome.

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Our next stop was a massive sweet factory and shop. It was built 20 years ago in the shape of the local castle.

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We then returned to town to visit the famous Shigeru Mizuki Road. It runs for almost a kilometre.

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Famed manga comic author Shigeru Mizuki was born in Sakaiminato. This manga author and historian is best known for his series GeGeGe no Kitarō. Manga are comics or graphic novels created in Japan or by creators in the Japanese language, conforming to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th century.

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A common sight is the Yokai - approximately 160 bronze statues of supernatural characters as imagined by the author. The Yokai have become synonymous with the town and delight visitors at every turn. Not just are there the bronze statues but everything around town is geared towards them.
As you can see the taxis, buses, vending machines and even the police station are themed as Yokai.

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There are so many signs and graphics too.

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Even the Sake Brewery.

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There is a manga museum.

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Even the public toilets signs are manga themed.

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We found a bakery who had a sign thanking Diamond Princess passengers and a lot of their baked goods had faces on them.

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The park lampposts and shop lights have the eye theme.

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We found it hard to narrow down the number of Yokai we took photos of. Here is a rather big selection.

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We had a long day ashore. When we returned to the ship the locals had yet again set up to entertain us and farewell us. There was a school marching band.

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They then created a love heart shape and had lights and balloons.

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18th Nov 2019

We also got to visit South Korea. We docked in Busan.

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Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, it was formerly known as Pusan and is now officially Busan Metropolitan City. Modern high-rise towers dwarf ancient Buddhist temples.

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We had another full day on shore. This time we arranged to have a local from Busan give us a private tour of this amazing city. Her name was Lada. We went to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

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Nestled on a beautiful stretch of cliff coastline in north-eastern Busan, the temple dates back to as early as 1376. Like most temples in Korea, it was damaged and rebuilt over the years. During the early Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598) the temple was nearly destroyed by fire, falling into ruin, where it remained for years. It was only in the early 1930’s that a monk began to reconstruct the complex.
From the carpark you walk down a street full of vendors. They had lots of unusual food and teas for sale.

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You then come across the Chinese star signs.

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Mine is Tiger.

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Shanes is Horse.

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There is then the Traffic Safety Prayer Pagoda.

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To get to the main complex there are 108 stairs and stone lanterns that snake their way towards the temple.

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There is a beautiful bridge to cross where you can try and throw a coin into a big bowl for good luck.

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The temple complex is centred around the Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary, which was restored in 1970.

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This rock formation is known as the dragon.

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Perhaps the most noteworthy site is the Haesu Gwaneum Daebul, or statue of the Goddess of Mercy. It’s said that this structure is particularly mystical, as snow never settles.

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The complex had several parts to it.

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Pigs are good luck.

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We went down into a small underground temple where so close to the ocean there was a spring that you could drink out of. The water was so clear and tasted amazing.

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A view of the whole complex.

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We then visited the United Nations Memorial Cemetery.

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The main entrance.

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The cemetery marks the final resting place for the troops from 16 nations who gave their lives during the Korean conflict. There were some surprise nations involved. The countries were Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom and USA.

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This is the memorial service hall which was built in 1964. It has stained glass on all the windows.

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This is the UN Forces Monument. It was constructed in 1978. The front wall is sculptured with doves.

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Inscribed on the copper plates on the walls are the support troops provided by the UN nations and the numbers of their fallen. This was Australia’s.

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This is the unknown soldier’s pathway which stretches southward from the UN Forces Monument. Each side of the pathway consists of 11 cascades, 11 fountains and 11 pine trees representing the 11 countries who have soldiers interred at the cemetery.

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This is the Wall of Remembrance. Engraved in the wall are the names of all the UN troops who fell during the Korean War. 40,896 names in all.

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This is the Daunt Waterway. The waterway is named in honour of JP Daunt, an Australian soldier who fell at the age of 17. He is the youngest fallen resting in the cemetery.

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Outside the cemetery there was another memorial at an intersection.

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We then headed to Jagalchi Fish market.

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It is Korea's largest seafood market, selling live, dead and dried fish. After the Korean War, the market solidified itself as a fish market. Most of the people who sell fish are women, so the vendors here are called Jagalchi Ajumma, "ajumma" meaning middle-aged or married woman in Korean. There were 2 parts to the market, an inside part selling fresh live seafood.

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There were some species that we could identify but several we couldn’t.

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While we were walking around one of the vendors asked where we were from. Next minute Shane has a live octopus in his hands.

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The second part was outside stalls where everything was dead or dried.

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There were even stalls selling pork.

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Not far from the fish market was Busan’s modern movie district which was originally little more than a pair of cinemas that were built following Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule over half a century ago. However, major renovations took place ahead of the first Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), and the newly transformed district was named BIFF Square on August 14, 1996.

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We then took a walk through the streets. There were lots of Christmas decorations.

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Also, lots of food stalls.

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We went to a Korean barbecue restaurant; it didn’t look much from the outside, but the food was great.

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We had pork belly with lots of condiments. We tried it all, some of it was unusual but tasty. Along with the pork we had Soybean stew and Stone-pot rice.
Leaves were provided so you could wrap up your goodies, dip it into a sauce and then eat it.

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Our last stop for the day was the Gamcheon Culture Village which is a lot more colourful now than what it used to be in the 1950s when Korean refugees fled for safety to Busan (the only place in Korean peninsula that was war-free). The small population of the hillside- and coastal village quickly grew as makeshift houses from wood, rocks and corrugated iron popped up everywhere. These days there are lots of artists in residence. It was really colourful.

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We had a walk around the streets.

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The artists have some out there artwork. Including:
Pigeons with human faces.

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The cat with a backpack.

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The birds with beanies and scarfs or headphones.

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Even their fairy floss was artistic. There were kids everywhere carrying around their fairy floss art.

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On our way out of the port we had crossed under this massive bridge. Earlier in the day we had driven over earlier in the day. It is so high and there is not enough road for a big ramp, so it circles around like a roller coaster to get you onto the bridge.

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Posted by shaneandnicola 02:42 Archived in Japan

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