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Published: March 20th 2013
We always look forward to visiting Japan because this is where we met. To enter the country there are lots of immigrations procedures. Every passenger had to have a face-to-face meeting with officials, have our picture taken, then our temperature taken, then fingerprinted, our passport inspected and then our picture taken again. Another unusual thing was that every official had a white mask covering their mouth and nose. I was wondering if it was because of the fear of radiation from the tsunami disaster two years ago. But we were later told by our tour guide that everyone wears these masks because of the pollen and the pollution which is carried by the prevailing winds from China to Japan. The Japanese call this smog the "yellow dust" and they aren't too happy to have this unwanted import from their neighbors to the West.
We have been to Hiroshima quite a few times and have toured the atomic bomb memorials. So we decided to go out to our favorite island. Miyajima is just a few miles off the coast of Hiroshima, but it is light years away from this busy port city. Miyajima is the home of the famous floating torii.
We took the ferry on the short ride to the island. There are no cars, no highrises and no malls. But there are lovely vistas, friendly deer, shinto temples and nice hiking trails. After a pleasant stroll around, Katja, the ship's destination manager, joined us for a tempura and soba noodle lunch.
The next day we arrived in Osaka. It was cold and rainy so we took the metro into town. We bought an all-day subway pass which was quite cheap and we hopped from train to train to visit various parts of the city. Osaka has miles and miles of covered pedestrian shopping arcades. This being Sunday they were packed mostly with young people. It is quite the social scene
While we were cruising in Japanese territorial waters we had no access to the internet, TV or phone on the ship. For some reason all satellite transmissions are blocked by the Japanese government. Some of the passengers went through email withdrawal and were very happy when we cruised back to international waters. We were lucky that we had our iPads which are equipped with cellular service. So we were able to get our email whenever we went
ONSEN...NATURAL HOT SPRINGS
A little bit of Japanese heaven. Photo by Cheshirejin.
ashore in Japan. We love visiting this fascinating country and always end up reminiscing about our courting days here in the land of the rising sun.
ONSEN--Down Memory Lane with Kevin
The port of Osaka is the gateway to Kyoto, and we fully intended to take the Bullet Train for another visit to this shrine city. But we came up with a better idea. Onsen! That is the Japanese word for hot springs and the spas that surround them. This is a wonderful Japanese tradition for the whole family and one that we enjoyed when I was stationed in Japan as a young naval officer over 40 years ago.
After meeting on a flight from Travis Air Base on the 4th
of July, 1969, Susan and I finally reunited in Tokyo four months later. Our first date was a two day climb up Mt. Fuji. After decending back down the mountain, we enjoyed the pleasures of a hot soak in our ryokan's ofuro, or hot tub. Following this treat we received his and her massages. That occasion was the first of many visits to onsens all over Japan on our motorcycle.
We found one of our
Susan and I love to monkey around in the Japanese hot springs
favorite onsens on a ski trip to Zao. We departed Tokyo on an overnight train to Snow Country. The next day we boarded a gondola that took us up the mountain to a ryokan. The inn had a huge natural rock pool that we could soak in after a day on the slopes. The extremely hot, sulphur water was piped up from the ground into the large ofuro, about the size of a small swimming pool. The pool was for men, women and children and we all wore our birthday suits. Being westerners, we were a bit of an oddity.
Probably the most convenient onsen was at the Atsugi Naval Air Base where I was stationed. We called that one the "Hotsy Totsy." The ritual started with a head to toe washing by trained mama-sans, then a steam bath followed by a soak in the ofuro. After that came an hour massage. For all this pampering we paid 540 yen, or $1.50. But the beer was extra!
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