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Published: October 26th 2017
We arrived in Kushiro
on the island of Hokkaido on October 13th
. The Moo and Egg were the main tourist attractions right off the port. Moo is a large shopping complex with restaurants, shops and free Wifi! The Egg (Ever Green Garden) was a tropical conservatory where you could try calligraphy, watercolor painting, dress as a Geisha and sing with a local accompanist. We arrived to hear Sonia (Main stage singer from the ship) signing Carpenter songs in a bright orange Kimono. She will post it on her blog if you want to catch that moment!
Wandering the streets reminded us of the unique Japanese way of life that we enjoyed back in the 80’s when we performed at the Manza Onsen on Honshu, north of Tokyo and represented Canada at Expo ’82 in Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido. We loved the daisy wheeled car, the photos and artwork that replaced overhead street signs and the generous friendly people of this wonderful country (see photos below).
After another sea day we arrived in Yokahamo (near Tokyo) where the rain came and stayed with us throughout the rest of our time in Japan. We explored
Yokahamo where a street festival was happening in the Park near the port. We watched several very soggy but happy dance troupes perform in the rain (photos below). We walked by the Yokohama October Fest that was happening – bratwurst and oom pah pah music played in a tent where every German beer you could think had a booth. We walked further into Yokohama then took the train into Tokyo.
We started in Shibuyu where the famous intersection that allows passengers to cross in every direction between car traffic became a sea of umbrellas! We had to share a photo below of one of the zany ads that overlooked the square as well – only in Japan! We found that the Japanese celebrate Halloween in a big way with every store decorated and films featuring this upcoming event (see an ad below). We journeyed through the subway toward Roppongi to get a view of Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower. There was a unique participatory music festival in the entrance area that was fun to watch. Sadly the tower was only open half way up due to renos but we thought we’d have a look anyway. Not much
to see as far as a view on a cloudy, rainy day but it was all decorated with video and lasers with a scary Halloween display which was kitchy but very fun. After that Darold and I discovered a Yakitori restaurant that featured a gourmet selection of every part of the chicken; first chicken breast then thigh then tail then ground chicken, liver and ??? – who knew that one little chicken could offer so much dining pleasure. We had ginnan as part of our appetizer (a type of bean – I think) which I never heard of before but what the hell, we were celebrating our anniversary and wanted to enjoy a new dining experience. Thank God for our limited Japanese and several phrase books!!! The waiter even escorted us down to the street and gave us his card. I don’t think we will be a regular patron but it is all part of the Japanese experience.
Next day, we stopped at Shimuzu the gateway to the Mount Fuji. Thankfully Darold got a great photo from a picture in the Subway or else we wouldn’t have seen the famous mountain on this cloudy day! Our Shimuzu
adventure was to navigate the train system to see a castle that was home to the Shogun that introduced the Edo period of peace in Japan after uniting the country.
Next stop was Osaka and we were excited to see the reknown Osaka castle that we visited over 35 years ago. I recall a great photo that I took back then of an artist sitting in front of his easel with a perfect painting of the castle with the actual castle up the green hill in the distance. Well, 35 years does change things as it was much more of a commercial experience with vendors, street musicians, buskers and dress up as a Samarai booths!!! The castle was as amazing as I recall but the grounds were very different. We captured some great photos of the ferris wheel as we sailed away from Osaka port (there were Ferris Wheels in every port that we visited so far).
The next day, we visited Beppu, famous for the many Onsens (hot springs) in this harbor. We opted to experience an Onsen (flashback to our time at Mansa Onsen) but did not bury ourselves under the hot
black sands that was a special treat in this port city. We saw photos dating back to the 1800’s with women with Geisha hair buried in the hot black sands on the sidewalks as we approached our chosen Onsen, Takegawara. Those that did said it was incredible but we were happy just experiencing the onsen ritual and soaking in the 43 degree Celsius water (it was hard to stay more than 10 minutes or so).
On October 20th
we docked in Hishoshima port by the city of Hyagu. Visiting shrines and wandering the town culminated in a dance performance by the ship that was obviously meant to be tongue in cheek. All male dancers with masks playing female and male roles (see photo below) made our day fun in this sleepy little town.
Our last stop was in Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu. A great city with interesting shops and an active volcano. We couldn’t see much of the volcano but the ashes singed our eyes when the wind blew back at the ship. The subway/street cars had grass growing which I thought made for a pretty picture. I love some
of the ideas that come out of this country. Our last 2 stops were last minute additions as the Chinese government wouldn’t allow our ship to dock if we went to Korea. So instead we had 7 ports in Japan rather than the original 5. Disappointing in some ways as I was looking forward to visiting Seoul again but I loved our visit in Kagoshima and will return some day.
As we left Japan, we raced ahead of a typhoon that made our next sea days very rocky. I added a picture from our window (yes we got an upgrade - lucky us!!!).
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