A Travellerspoint blog

Rounding Cape Shiono

Saturday, 31 March 2012

The weather has deteriorated overnight and the ship is quite lively. Temperature is about 18 °C but with a 50 knot wind and 25 foot high waves. As we sail on a NorthEast bearing the temperature continues to drop.
Heater's lecture was cancelled this morning because heater is under the weather. Spent some time talking with Paul about a previous cruise which sailed around Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. The ship had about 200 WWII veterans aboard and a wreath laying ceremony was conducted at both islands. By the time the ship returned to San Francisco about 15 of the old guys had died. As Paul said, last respects paid, job done.
As you'd expect, William Roberts was not effected by the rough seas and took off from where he'd last taken us and covered the battles that took place in Papua New Guinea and on Guadalcanal. It appears that at this time just about every senior officer was replaced. It also marked the first time that the Japanese advance was halted and its navy sustained more damage than it inflicted.
During the afternoon I attended what was described as a Photographic Workshop, it was aimed at all those who were using a 'point and shoot' camera for the first time. Not much value for even a moderately competent shutter-bug. I've attempted to capture the height of the waves but taking photos from Deck 14 doesn't do it justice but Deck 7 is closed to passengers.
Another great dinner, Asian Night so a lot of different choices. Jeffrey concocted another of his surprises. The laugh was on me when he placed a chilled dinner plate in front of me with the word "Blaahh !!" written in strawberry syrup. Very funny !! He brought out a three-scoop sundae with lots of berries and chocolate topping - decadent.
Tonight's entertainment in the Princess Theatre was a comedian by the name of Mick Meredith, a bit corny and it helped to know the characteristics of Blacktown, Rooty Hill and Mt Druitt.
Winds are still over 50 knots and the waves are over 25 foot. We'll be rocked to sleep.

Posted by greynomadm 04:44 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Osaka and Nara

Friday, 30 March 2012

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Not a spectacular start to the day as we sail into Osaka but that was truly compensated by the heartiest welcome yet. First there was the traditional fire-tug with six water canon shooting a spectacular fountain into the air. As we approached the pier we were greeted by a local high school brass band. They looked and sounded as good as any professional band. Most of the musicians were girls and they appeared to be enjoying themselves as much as we enjoyed their efforts.
We'd set ourselves a bit of a challenge, we set out to visit the Todaiji Temple in Nara. We set off as early as possible and were aboard to local subway train at Osaka Ko on the Chuo (green) line and travelled 16 stations to Ikoma station where we transferred to the Kintetsu line for Kintetsu Nara. It was all very painless and we arrive in Nara about an hour later.
The Todaiji Temple is one of many temples, shrines and museums within Nara Park. We wandered our way through the park and encountered many of the deer which roam freely throughout the park. There are stalls selling 'deer cookies' which the tourists are encouraged to feed to the deer. The deer seem to know that these stalls are the focus of food source and hang around in some numbers, they then accost people with bags of food. They didn't bother us because we didn't buy any. You could see them sniffing the air to sense if the human carried food and aimed directly for the food.
We saw the Five-Story Pagoda and walked through the Nandaimon Gate and finally reached the Todaiji Temple. It is the largest wooden structure in the world and was originally built in 752, destroyed twice by fire and most recently rebuilt in 1692 but scaled down to 2/3 size. Inside is a huge Buddha statue and also large statues of other deities (?). The structure, its contents and surrounds is a World Heritage Site.
On the way back to the Nara station I decided to change another $100 to yen at a local bank, turned out to be a half hour adventure. I was greeted by two uniformed staff who deduced that I wished to perform a foreign currency exchange. A queue number was duly printed and I was shown to some seats near the appropriate counter. Eventually my number appeared and I approached the teller. She requested my passport and then had me fill out an application form. We eventually resolved the problem of no 'local address' by using the shipping agent's details. I was invited to resume my seat while the necessary administrative activities were performed. About 5 minutes later I was presented with the local currency in a plastic bowl and asked to check that all was in order. Some bows and thank you utterances and I was able to depart.
The return trip was simply a reverse of the original. We did however observe how well dressed and polite the railway staff was. This was highlighted when the guard made his way towards the front of the train. He opened the connecting door, stepped through, closed the door and bowed to the carriage, he then walked the length of the carriage and turned around and bowed to us again before opening the door and going on to the next carriage. This same performance was repeated on his return to his compartment a few minutes later.
We were back aboard the Sea Princess by about 1400 and had a quick lunch, ditched some of the pamphlets and took off to find the '100 yen shop'. The shop contains thousands of essential, and many more non-essential, items for a standard price of 105 yen (recent inflation). That's about $1.25 in our money. We managed to find over 40 items we just couldn't live without.
The dinner menu was a repeat of a previous one but so long ago that we couldn't remember when. Great meal as always.
Didn't attend the entertainment instead Jen watched something on TV while I stayed on the Promenade deck to ensure we got under way without mishap. It must have worked. We are out at sea as I write this.

Posted by greynomadm 06:17 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

From the East China Sea to the Pacific

Thursday, 29 March 2012

This morning we sailed through the Osumi Strait and passed Cape Saka the Souther-most point of Kyushu Island. The sunrise was not spectacular as the sea mist or fog blurs the horizon between the sea and the sky and the sun peaks through as a bright red ball.
Today's lecture by William Roberts focused on the dropping of the two nuclear bombs on Japan. He provided details from recently released government documents from both sides and in particular the estimated casualties that would likely have resulted from an invasion of the Japanese 'homeland'.
Lindsay presented her usual entertaining lecture on the sights, transport and shopping for the port of Yokohama and further afield in Tokyo. Any one of these places deserve at least a week to touch on even a fraction of what's available.
The lunch-time theme at the Horizon buffet was Japanese. An ice sculpture, carved fruits and vegetables and a profusion of sushi with pickled ginger and super-strength wasabi. Spent an hour or so talking with the South African couple whom we've shared lunch tables with a few times.
A time-line of the history of Japan was presented by Heather, emphasising the importance of the Kansai region including the cities of Osaka, Nara, Kyoto and Kobe resulting in many significant historic and cultural buildings.
Another high standard dinner and a 'special' cheese platter rather than ice-creams. After dinner off to the Princess Theatre for a variety show featuring comedian Mick Meredith and vocalist Jennifer Gray. The comedian was better than some we've had and occupied only 15 minutes, Jennifer looked spectacular and sang songs from Gershwin and some more recent composition. She sounded just like Julie Andrews for some and Barbara Streisand for others. Great range of style.

Posted by greynomadm 20:37 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

The Day in Nagasaki

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

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The harbour is surrounded by steep hills and much of the waterfront is clogged with ships, cranes and other nautical endeavours. There were few if any parks or residences. The Cruise Ship Terminal was close to the edge of the city and a short walk from the tram stop.
But I'm ahead of myself, first we had to pass through Japanese border control, we were thermally scanned, photographed and had our fingerprints electronically recorded. A very useful tourist's map and an all-day ticket for the streetcars. When other Japanese cities did away with their trams, Nagasaki bought them so now there's a diverse collections of trams running on five colour-coded routes covering about 20 Km of track and connection most of the designated attractions.
Our first stop was the Glover Garden, a remnant of Western architecture set on a steep hill-side overlooking the harbour. We spent close to two hours there.
Onto a No5 tram (Green) to stop 31 then transferred to a No1 tram (Blue) to stop 18 were we found our way uphill to the Peace Statue. The statue and many other sculptures are set in an extensive garden and are dedicated to world peace. a short walk to the obelisk marking the Atomic Bomb Hypocentre. Another short walk and lots of stairs to the Atomic Bomb Museum surrounded by many shrines to commemorate various population groups who perished in the blast. The museum itself contains remnants of structures and graphic photographs of the destruction. There is also a small section that provides a time-line of Japan's WWII exploits but is very sparse on details. According to Heather, there is still a strong sense of denial that there were any atrocities committed by the Japanese. Their code of conduct would never allow them to behave in such a manner.
Back to the tram and we break our return journey at the JR (Japan Railway) Nagasaki Station stop where we find our way to the Site of the 26 Martyrs where 26 Christians were crucified in February 1597. Back along some narrow streets to the Railway Station and the adjoining Shopping Complex. Three floors of top brand fashion and accessories. Very expensive and only available in smallish sizes.
Back to the tram to continue our journey to the ship. Before boarding we visited some small stalls selling a bewildering array of colourful souvenirs. I indulged in a street vendor's sorbet which she served in a cone and built up like the petals of a flower, I'd eaten the first when I realised I should have taken a photo - HAD to buy another didn't I ??
Back on the ship and rested our feet, watched a movie on TV and had an excellent dinner. I had the cheese platter and Jeffry looked very despondent that I didn't do the usual. The ShowTime act is 'A Musical Battle of the Sexes' by "String Fever". She played the cello and he the violin. They were both quite excellent instrumentalists and in my mind spoilt it by his attempts at comedy. Their tribute to the Beatles - a set of 30 snippets - was wrecked by his idiot antics.
A sea day tomorrow so back to our regular routine of enrichment lectures and craft activity for Jenny.

Posted by greynomadm 21:35 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

In the Port of Busan

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

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A cold start to the morning and a less than brilliant sunrise. A most interesting entry to the port which is extensive and VERY busy, we were part of a line of four vessels entering.
We were welcomed by a colourful troupe of singers and dancers in traditional dress. The bank was on hand in a mobile van to perform currency exchange and there was also an information booth providing tourist's maps in English. The City of Busan provided complementary shuttle buses for the 25 minute trip into the down-town area. There we strolled along a most impressive 'fish market' which sold fresh fish - some of it still alive - more species than I've ever seen before.
We found our way to a local Metro station and purchased tickets for the UN Memorial Cemetery. We changed from the Orange to the Green Line but got on a train heading in the WRONG direction. We thought it would be easy to get off, change platforms and head in the correct direction. Unfortunately the exit machine swallowed the ticket and Jenny became concerned about the passage of time. We aborted the Cemetery trip and bought tickets to get us back to our start point where we browsed some clothing shops. Plenty of cheap clothing on sale but sizes are too small.
A long queue waiting for the shuttle bus and it was almost 1300 by the time we returned to the Sea Princess.
At about 1515 the Korean dancers returned to bid us farewell and shortly after 1545 we cast off and headed out to sea en route to Nagasaki, Japan. Jenny and I were invited to join Heather for afternoon tea and a chat about the history of Nagasaki in particular and Japan in general. She is a very passionate person with an incredible ability to dredge up historical facts with dates and names.
Dinner again was excellent and Jeffry the waiter outdid himself with a 'made to order' sundae for me. I didn't make it up, he takes great delight in creating a monster. Tonight there were three scoops of ice-cream on a bed of mixed fruits including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, glacé cherries, preserved pineapple and possibly more. This was topped with whipped cream and smothered in chocolate, butterscotch and strawberry syrup, then for good measure liberally sprinkled with chopped macadamia nuts. He almost had me beaten but I managed to wrap myself around it.
Tonight's attraction in the Princess Theatre was Jennifer Gray, billed as a vocalist, a title she satisfied in every respect. She covered Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston and others almost as well as the originals. A nicely presented young lady to boot.
Another busy port day tomorrow and possibly a communications black-out for the next 5 days.

Posted by greynomadm 21:06 Comments (1)

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