Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 11 Aomori, Japan

We arrived early this morning into Aomori Japan. I enjoyed my visit here last year so I was looking forward to coming back. Our first stop on my tour was to visit the Showa Daibutsu, Big Buddha. This was an amazing place. The temples, grounds and the Buddha itself were spectacular. This was certainly the highlight of the day. They even had rice fields adjacent to the temple and if there is anything I love it’s the natural beauty of rice fields….. Next, we went to see the showcase for the Nebuta Festival. I went to a different site celebrating the festival last year and loved, once again, seeing the floats from the Spring Festival. We went to lunch at the really lovely, Aomori Hotel. The food and service was fabulous. Finally, we visited the ruins and excavation of the Sannai Maruyama site. It is amazing that this goes back to the time of the pyramids…. Finally we went to the Tourism & Produce Center which wasn’t particularly good. I did get a nice shot of the ship from there. It was a great day….
Tomorrow, we are once again at another port, Miyako, Japan. I will be taking another ship’s tour in the morning. Here is the ship’s description: Miyako Highlights
Known for the stark and beautiful contrast between the cobalt blue of the ocean and the white cliffs and rocks of the shoreline, Jodogahama Beach is located in the center of Rikuchu Coastline National Park and it's popular with bathers and sightseers alike. The name of the beach is supposedly derived from a Buddhist priest 200 years ago who once remarked, "This place is like paradise!" The word for paradise of Buddhism in Japanese is jodo, and hama means beach. Gentle waves make for good ocean fun and the promenade is spectacular regardless of the season. Sanno Rock is a collection of three large rock pillars that appear to be standing upon the surface of the ocean, including the Taiko Rock shaped like a large drum. The Otoko Rock, fully 164 feet tall, hides a cave that is said to bring good luck to those who pass through it. There are strata of conglomerate and sandstone contained within the rocks that date back to the Cretaceous period. Finally, you will visit Seatopia Naado, short for Sea/Utopia/Naado. Naado means "how?" in Miyako dialect. Here, local fish, vegetables and specialty products are sold and visitors can enjoy the local foods at the restaurants.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 10 Hakodate, Japan

Today was about as perfect as it gets…. The weather was fantastic, we were very warmly welcomed when we arrived at Hakodate, Japan and the tour was great. We first went to the market, one of the largest I’ve seen. The seafood on display was amazing. There was a huge selection of King Crab, one of my favorites. Next we went to the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse area which had a pretty large selection of shops. Lunch was next at a local hotel. We had several courses and the lunch was pretty good. It was a bit too much food for me but tasty nonetheless. After lunch we went up the aerial
cableway to the top of Mt. Hakodate. The views were spectacular! One the way back down we made an unscheduled stop to see some local churches and temples…. Next we went to the Goryokaku Tower, again with fabulous views of Goryokaku Fort and the surrounding area. Finally, we went to the Trappistine Convent before proceeding back to the ship. It was a great day! We leave Hakodate tonight at midnight and take a short sail to Aomori, our next port. We will arrive at 0800 tomorrow and I will take a ships tour. Here is the description:
Aomori & Archaeology
Your first stop on this comprehensive tour of Aomori will be at the Showa Daibutsu (meaning big Buddha). At 70 feet tall, this landmark stands on Kuwabara Hill, and is the city’s symbol of wisdom, kindness and inner power. The statue weighs 220 tons. Continue on to Aomori Natural Park recreation area, which showcases the Aomori Nebuta Festival, including 10 giant Nebuta floats on permanent display. You’ll have a chance here to see the experience show and try festival dancing as well as handling the Nebuta. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Sannai Maruyama ruins that date back more than 4,000 years. An exhibition room holds various artifacts from the site. Transfer back to Aomori city to visit the Tourism and Produce Center— a 15-story, triangular building that overlooks Mutsu Bay.
Tomorrow should be another great day……

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 9 At Sea

Today was a pretty nice day. The seas have calmed, the winds moderating and a lot of sunshine. I really enjoyed the fact that we are inching nearer to our scheduled ports of call and warmer weather. We are sailing close to the coast of Japan and are scheduled to take on our pilot at 0530 tomorrow morning. We will be docked in Hakodate by 0800. We have to go through Japanese immigration procedures which include finger prints and photos. I just hope Interpol doesn’t get their hands on them…. J I will be taking a ship’s tour. Here is the description:
A Day in Hakodate
This morning, visit the Goryokaku Tower--a graceful structure dating back to 1864, built
to defend Hokkaido and now surrounded by a public park. Next is a visit Hakodate Morning Market, which is made up of more than 400 stalls lining the walkways, selling everything from groceries to clothing, souvenirs to shoes, and more! You will also visit the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse area, remodeled in 1988 as part of a waterfront area redevelopment with a theme
of combining the old and the new. After lunch at local restaurant, take the aerial cableway up Mt. Hakodate. From the top you can look back over the Hakodate Peninsula, viewing the city, the ocean and an endless panorama. Back in town, you will visit a Trappistine Convent known for its
picturesque red brick walls and green roof. The Trappistine Convent was built for the Order of St. Benedict and is now home to seventy nuns. The convent also operates a store selling dolls, candies and cookies made by the nuns.

I am ready for this new adventure to unfold….. Japan, here I come!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day 8 At Sea

Today was not too bad considering the weather. We still have gale force winds and cold temperatures. We have a lot more sun but at times it’s just too cold to sit. The winds are swirling and you really can’t get out of them too easily. This makes for a pretty cold wind chill, too much for me (at times). Tonight is a formal night, Black & White theme, without the scheduled ball. The rough seas make it a bit dangerous for the ladies in heels. I am having drinks with the Captain & Apollonia after dinner which should be nice. It would have been nice if Allan & Sandra were there, we talk about them often.... I’ll get a photo with everyone scrubbed up…. We only have one more day at sea before we reach our first port of Hakodate, Japan. I am enjoying the people on this voyage, they are very pleasant. Some voyages you run across a lot of disagreeable people and others you meet a lot of really nice people. After a bit more than a week aboard I am happy to report that the food has been excellent. Even with a much smaller selection of choices as was the case in the past, the choices that remain are very good. The staff are very pleasant and the service impeccable as usual. I’m glad that we are getting ready to start getting serious about visiting some interesting places. We could have some excitement in our future…. I understand a typhoon is heading for Hong Kong…..

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 7 At Sea

Last night was very rough…. Just like I like it! I sleep so well when the ship is rocking and rolling. A lot of people didn’t fair as well. Many people had a sleepless night. This was particularly true of those in the very front of the ship. When I woke early this morning we had 30 Kt winds and 20 ft seas but…… it was sunny! I went topside and was bronzing by 0715 this morning. The gaining and extra night every night is making it difficult to sleep in until at least 0700. I spent about 7 hours out in the sun today, going in for brief stints if some particularly egregious cloud would come by…. All in all it was a fabulous day. We keep lucking out, I hope (knock on wood) it continues. I do hope it warms up soon. Bronzing in these conditions is getting more and more difficult. As a professional tanologist I am obligated to continue on despite the conditions. Otherwise, I may as well move to Canada with my very, very pale friends…. I am now 14 hours ahead of the East coast. I think we gain at least one more hour before we get to Hakodate, Japan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 6 Crossing the International Dateline

Imagine my amazement when I woke this morning to find calm winds and a light breeze…. The skies cleared just after 0800 and I went out and enjoyed the sun for a couple of hours. Then the area of low pressure off the Kamchatka Peninsula started to catch up with us as the skies clouded over. The rest of the day brought gale force winds, rain and cold temps. The seas also began to pick up a bit. I’m sure the attendance will be down tonight for our second formal evening as passengers succumb to sea sickness. The day was enjoyable. I met new people and visited with past acquaintances. In the morning while sitting in the sun Apollonia joined me for a while and the only thing missing was Allan & Sandra. It’s a shame they are not here to join us. It is getting more and more difficult to sleep until a reasonable hour since we have gained one every day. I am now 8 hours behind East Coast time back home. The other item of note today was at 0837 we crossed the International Dateline so actually I am currently 16 hours ahead of east Coast time. At 837 we went from Wednesday the 24th of September to Thursday the 25th….. Nothing like losing a day! The prospects for tomorrow are pretty bad, the storms will continue. I have been very fortunate so far so I guess I can’t complain.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 5 At Sea

Today was a day of extremes….. This morning I came out to winds that were near gale force, rain and cold temperatures. I had no expectation of this day developing into anything other than a gloomy day. I spent the morning sitting in the Lido Pool area mid ship (enclosed area) reading, doing puzzles and listening to music. This was interrupted occasionally as a friend would stop by and chat. At 12:15 precisely, I noticed a brightening of the sky as I looked through the pool roof. I looked outside the window and saw clear skies coming fast…. Winds and cold be damned, I was going outside…. I spent the next couple of hours in heaven. I got out of the wind and the sun warmer me up nicely. This was wonderful, especially after the Captain came on with his daily announcement at 1:00, detailing navigational and weather information. Apparently overnight we are going to start experiencing rough seas and gale force winds. Too bad, he has so far eluded three storms but I guess this one is going to get us. I don’t expect to be outside again for at least a day or two, unless it is to take a wicked photo of a passing ship in rough seas….. It was a very nice day and so far I am quite pleased that I have gotten out each day so far, much better than I expected prior to departure. I am really enjoying seeing the Captain and his wife Apollonia again along with crew members and guests from prior voyages. Some people have even come up to introduce them selves because they have been following my blog and know me from there….