Category Archives: Japan

Kanmon Straits and Fukuoka, Japan MAR 4 2024

The day after we left Kobe we had a day of scenic cruising through the Kanmon Straits.  We are traveling from the east side of Japan to the west side of Japan. This is a stretch of water separating Honshu and Kyushu, two of Japan’s four main islands.

A Lonely Lighthouse

We went under the Kanmon Bridge, a suspension bridge.

The Straits connect the Sea of Japan and the Inland Sea. The Kanmon Straits is used by many cargo ships as a shortcut to Osaka and Tokyo from Korea and China. It is less than half a mile between Honshu and Kyushu in the Kanmon Straits. The day was overcast, not a perfect view for taking pictures. And of course, very cold!

On March 5th we arrived in Fukuoka, our last Japanese port.

We did not book an excursion, thinking a shuttle would be available into the city center. On our arrival it was cold, rainy and no shuttle was available. We were happy to stay onboard. Between noon and 3:30 everyone had to go off the ship into the port terminal for a mandatory face to face immigration inspection as we “checked out” of Japan. Since we had a 1:00 appointment for our Bridge tour, we were in line right at noon to get checked.

Our Early Morning Arrival

Same Tower

At 1:00 a crew member came down to Desk Services and escorted ten of us up to “The Bridge” on Deck eight. The Bridge is the brain of the ship where all the helm/steering, speed, navigation and ship’s current conditions takes place. Think of it as the cockpit of an airplane only much, much larger. The first thing you notice are the huge windows followed by all the electronics. We were told we could take pictures but we were asked not to put them on social media for security reasons. Therefore we are limited in the pictures we can post on the blog. A senior officer named Tim gave us a tour. For over an hour he explained everything and answered all our group questions on every subject we could think of. He did an excellent job and we certainly left feeling even safer than ever. I asked what areas of the world are particularly challenging and he said definitely China. There is so much boat and ship traffic in that area of the world. The Chinese ships and boats don’t always pay attention or obey the rules. They particularly like to cross too close in front of big ships like cruise ships. They think doing so wards off evil spirits. Tim said they have to get themselves mentally prepared for Chinese waters. It was an informative and fascinating tour.

In the evening each cabin received an interesting flyer in our cabin mailboxes. A tailor would be on the ship for several days taking orders for custom made clothing for men and women. Fittings for orders of all types of clothing of many different quality fabrics from England, Italy and France would be taken. The clothing would be ready to be picked up when we reach Hong Kong on March 16th. It would be interesting to know how many passengers took advantage of this offer. 

Next up: Shanghai, China 

Kobe, Japan PT 2 MAR 3 2024

On day two in Kobe we had a great excursion with an excellent guide that took us to several places in nearby Kyoto. Kyoto, about an hour drive from Kobe, was the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years from 794 to 1868. First up was the Heian Shrine, listed as an important cultural property in Japan. Built in 1895 the shrine property has a Tori gate, main gate, castle, garden and a lake, to resemble the 11th and 12th century design periods. In 1976 several buildings were destroyed by fire and rebuilt. We have learned in Japan, over thousands of years, many shrines and temples were destroyed by fire, earthquakes or bombing during WW2.

We enjoyed walking around the grounds, though at 35 degrees, it was cold.

A tree was full of white strips of paper tied to the tree. The wish tree has good fortunes tied on the tree to bring good luck. Another example of Japanese superstitions.

In the garden we came across a happy couple having wedding photos taken.

Next we went to Nijo-jo Castle. Built in 1626, this is from the feudal period and was the home of Tokugawa shoguns. It was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1867 and rebuilt in 1893.  What makes the castle unique are the nightingale floors as they are known in Japan. They are a type of floor that makes a squeaking, chirping noise like nightingales when walked on. These floors were built for security so the shogun would hear if anyone came into the castle.

Before entering the castle for a tour we had to take off our shoes while walking on the floors.

Even with socks on our feet were freezing and we couldn’t feel our toes by the end of the tour. We did hear the floors chirping. I did not see the “no photos” sign so I was in the process of taking my first picture when a guard walked up behind me and loudly said, “No photos!!” Almost gave me a heart attack. Here is that picture.

Time for lunch. We were taken to a very nice Japanese restaurant located in a high end hotel. Each place setting had a bento box which is the Japanese version of a boxed lunch. Very nicely done. It included soup, sticky rice, tofu, shrimp, a sweet potato cake and salmon. Chopsticks and forks were provided. Lucky Bill enjoyed his lunch and mine!

Japanese Has Small Vehicles

Our final destination was the beautiful Kinkaku-ju Temple, also known as The Golden Pavillion. Several people on the cruise ship who had been to Koyoto before, said this was their favorite place. It did not disappoint. It is a Zen Buddhist temple that at one time was a family villa. Built in 1397 as a shogun palace, it later became a temple. The pavillion burned down in 1950 and was rebuilt in 1955. It is a three story building with the top two stories covered with pure gold leaf.

Picture of Their Interior Picture

We were not allowed to go inside. A one way path for tourists led past the temple. Our guide told us the guards would not allow people to go part way and then turn around and walk back. The problem was 100 steps that had to be navigated on the one way path. It turns out the steps were not too bad. I hope people didn’t decide not to go because of the steps. It is such a beautiful place, it is a shame they don’t make it accessible for people with mobility issues. There were lots of tourists there but it was not crowded.

Three young Japanese girls were visiting in traditional dress. We asked if we could take their picture and they gladly agreed.

It was a long day with an hour ride back to the ship, but a very enjoyable day. Back at the ship, it was very close to the time the ship was leaving. We had to go through Japanese immigration again (we had to do this every time we left or came back to the ship while in every Japanese port). As we were walking toward the ship we heard a band playing. We were so surprised to see a band and a crowd of people at the top of the cruise terminal with banners and flags to see us off.

On the ship, passengers had crowded all the decks and balconies to wave goodbye. It was quite a party with the crew passing out drinks, appetitizers and blankets for warmth. We quickly joined the crowd. As the band played “Anchors Away”, the people released pink and green balloons and waved goodbye to us. Wow! What a send off. Thank you, Kobe!!

When we got back to our cabin, we had another nice surprise. An invitation had been placed in our cabin mailbox. A coveted invitation for a tour of The Ship’s Bridge, which is where all the ship’s navigation takes place. Bill has been wanting to do this for a long time. We were under the impression tours had been stopped years ago for security reasons. Bill was thrilled. Can’t wait! 

Next up:  The last Japanese port, scenic cruising and a tour of “The Ship’s Bridge” 

Kobe, Japan PT 1 MAR 2 2024

In the last blog I mentioned the captain hinted that bad weather might prevent us from docking at Omaezaki, Japan. Did we get there? The answer is no. The seas were very rough during the night with the wind howling continuously. There is something spooky about a dark night with howling winds. 

The next morning we were not surprised when morning arrived and the captain announced the port was canceled. It was too rough for the pilot boat to bring the local pilot to join the ship, and local regulations required a regional pilot onboard when docking. The port was closed. 

The captain had an unexpected sea day so he slowed the ship down to a scenic cruising speed. A couple hours later we were sitting inside on the upper deck when Bill suddenly saw Mt Fuji. Until now it had been clouded in, but there it was in all its glory. We headed to the open aft deck to take pictures. Just then an announcement was made and everyone headed outside. It was like a big party with people taking pictures, selfies and exclaiming over Mt Fuji’s beauty. Disappointment over the missed port was quickly forgotten.

The rough seas continued all day. At one point we went down to deck two where people were standing in front of the large windows, memorized by the huge waves right outside the windows. We tried to get pictures, but it was too difficult to get a perspective through the glass. I walked through the indoor pool area. There is a retractable roof that slides open when the weather is warm and sunny. Today the roof was closed and it was making a very loud combination of a squeal and bang as the roof flexed in the rough seas. 

At bedtime I told Bill I was physically tired from trying to stay upright all day. It seemed like whatever direction I wanted to move, the ship pushed me in the opposite direction. But neither of us were seasick, and for that we were very grateful. 

The next day we arrived at Kobe, Japan. Even though it was very cold, it turned out to be our favorite Japanese port.

As we arrived in the harbor, a fire boat met us and put on a welcoming water display with changing colors.

Kobe has a population of 1.5 million, making it the seventh largest city and third largest port city in Japan. Several companies such as Eli Lilly, Proctor and Gamble and Nestlé have their Asian or Japanese headquarters in Kobe. It is also famous for a very expensive beef called “Kobe beef”. The beef comes from Japanese Black cattle and is known as a delicacy because of its flavor, tenderness and fatty, well marbled texture. It has only been exported since 2012.

The ship was scheduled to stay overnight in Kobe which gave us two full days to explore. We had an excursion booked for the second day but decided to explore on our own the first day. Bill found a Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Studios located in the nearby city of Osaka. The Kobe Port Authority provided a well-staffed information center at the port terminal. We asked the friendly, helpful staff the easiest way to get from Kobe to Osaka. No problem. Just take the monorail from the port to the train station and then take three trains to Universal Studios Osaka. Bill was confident we could figure it out, so off we went.

Buying tickets for the monorail and trains was easy since they had a button for English instructions and we had plenty of Japanese yen. The hardest thing was trying to figure out which platform each train left from since everything here was in Japanese only. We only needed to ask for help a couple times. They have guard rails that come up and down to stop people.

They also have floor instructions to control the flow onto and off of the trains.

The third train let us out right at Universal Studios where many stores and restaurants were located, including the Hard Rock Cafe. Fortunately, everything was outside the entrance to Universal Studios, so we didn’t have to pay to go in.

We bought Bill a shirt, had lunch nearby and reversed directions back to the ship with the three trains and the monorail. The biggest problem was it was just so cold. We stopped at an outside mall before getting back on the monorail but it was so cold we gave up.

Our appetizer of hot French Onion soup for dinner that night was especially tasty and warmed us up. 

After dinner the city put on fireworks display, we could see from the outer decks of the starboard side of the ship. It was very cold, but the always thoughtful crew were outside handing out deck blankets to drape around us for warmth.

Next up: Kobe part 2

Tokyo, Japan FEB 28 2024

We had two sea days between Okinawa and Tokyo. Gus Antorcha, the President of the Holland America Line, joined the ship in Okinawa for a four day visit. He always joins the yearly Grand World Cruise to meet with the passengers and crew to see how things are going and plan future cruises. One afternoon he had a presentation for all the passengers. The theater was packed, including the balcony. The presentation began with an update on how Holland America is doing as a company. Evidently very well, including breaking several records for number of cruises booked in a day. Next he announced the itinerary for the 2026 Grand World Cruise. The future grand world itinerary is always announced two years in advance on the current Grand World Cruise. This gives current world cruise passengers first opportunity to book the cruise, securing their favorite cabins and dining room seating.

The President then spent over 90 minutes taking questions, comments and criticisms from anyone who wanted to talk. Many people began with compliments followed by “however…”. At one point he jokingly said next year he was going to wear a shirt with the word “however” on the front. We thought he was very patient and graciously listened to everyone. Some of the “howevers” made me want to roll my eyes. He had an assistant who took copious notes. Don’t know what will change, but it was important that people felt like they were heard.

During these two days at sea, the ocean was very rough with gale force winds and deep ocean swells, particularly on the second night. We have become quite used to the rough seas, but they were rough enough during the night to wake us up several times as the ship rolled, pitched and shuddered.  We could hear the wind constantly howling through the balcony door. I guess King Neptune really did turn us into “shellbacks” last month since we are not phased anymore by all this, and one or two seasick pills is all I need. 

We were up very early for the sail into the Tokyo Harbor. What a surprise we had when we stepped out on our balcony and saw Mt Fuji. It is an active volcano which last erupted 300 years ago. At 12,389 feet, it is the tallest mountain in Japan. We had read that it is usually clouded over, so we were surprised to see it. It is covered with snow five months of the year. It is one of Japan’s three holy mountains and is a treasured icon for the Japanese people.

Tokyo is the capital of Japan and the most populous city in the world with 14 million people. It has the second largest metropolitan economy in the world after New York. 

An isolated country, Japan is about the size of the state of California. About 10% of the world’s earthquakes occur in Japan, as well as many typhoons. Today, Japan has a shrinking population with many young people delaying marriage or choosing not to marry. The birth rate is only 1.6 children per family. The Japanese government is paying families with more children as an incentive. The shrinking population has led to a potential crisis with their pension system. Too many people living very long lives and not enough young people paying in. 

We booked an afternoon excursion that was somewhat disappointing. It was advertised as “Tokyo Landmarks”.  First sign of a problem was our guide, a petite Japanese lady with a soft voice. We could hear her on the bus when she was using a microphone but couldn’t hear her commentary at all off the bus. 

Our first stop was Meiji Jingu Shrine. Located within a 170 acre forest, it was quite a walk from the bus. The Shinto shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The shrine was built in 1915 and destroyed during air raids during WW2. It was replaced in 1958.

To get to the shrine we walked through a Torii gate, one of eight on the property. These torii symbolize the place where it is believed the gods come down, separating our world from theirs.

Next our guide took us to a purification station where you are supposed to wash your hands and rinse your mouth. Our guide did this but did not insist we comply.

Visiting the shrine was frustrating. We walked up steps to the entrance but could not go inside and there was a stern guard to be sure no pictures were taken and everyone remained very quiet.

Our guide demonstrated the process of making an offering. You throw a coin in a box, bow low two times, clap your hands to get the attention of the gods, say a prayer and then do another deep bow. She then said we could do it. I think she was surprised when no one took her up on the offer.

Our second of three landmarks was Shibuya Crossing. It is said to be the busiest intersection in the world and is pictured in many movies and photos of Tokyo. During the busiest time of the day, it is estimated between 1,000 and 2,500 people cross the intersection coming from several directions at once, every TWO minutes. I thought we would get off the bus somewhere nearby and walk through the intersection to experience being part of a mass of humanity. No, instead, we stopped at a light and slowly rolled through the intersection as a bus load of people jockeyed to take pictures. Are you kidding me? That is it? That is how we experience one of the three major landmarks of the day?

Our third major landmark was the Zojo-Ji Buddhist Temple. The main gate, from 1622, is the oldest wooden building in Tokyo. The original temple, and more than 120 surrounding buildings, were destroyed by fire, natural disasters and air raids during WW2. The temple was rebuilt in 1974.

Bill was able to get pictures of the inside temple from a distance, away from the guard’s watchful eyes.

On the property are trees planted by President Ulysses Grant and President George H. W. Bush. We were surprised to learn Grant visited Japan.

Throughout the afternoon our guide talked about how superstitious the Japanese people are and about some of the Buddhist beliefs. They believe that certain numbers are unlucky, such as the numbers 33, 42, 61, 73 as well as several others. When you reach those ages, they believe you need special prayers to the gods to protect you. 

There was a large bell on the temple grounds. At the end of the year and to bring good luck in the new year, large crowds gather while a priest rings the bell 108 times. Buddhists believe there are 108 types of defilements or unclean thoughts. Ringing the bell drives those defilements from the body in the new year. They believe the greatest defilements are anger, greed and stupidity. Special prayers are said repeatedly during the year to rid you of those.

On the grounds are over 1,300 Jizo statues with red hats and bibs. These represent children, both living and dead. Parents place statues here and visit to pray for the safety and good health of their living children. Parents of children lost to death, miscarriage, stillborn or abortion also place statues here to pray for their lost children. Some have placed pinwheels for the children to play with and to bring the spirits. The guide said the children go to hell because they have not collected enough good deeds. Upon seeing the look of horror on many of our faces, she quickly said it is okay because the jizo spirits take the place of the children so they can cross the river to the other side.

Please understand I really know nothing about Buddhism and I am trying to write this from my memory of what the guide said. 

We then headed back to the ship. We did notice some interesting buildings and structures.



Plum Trees Bloom First

Bill noticed how the cars do not have bumpers. Some gas stations have the fuel pumps located in the overhead and the hoses are pulled down to the car.

Gas Station

Students With Backpacks Walking After School

The Tokyo Tower, a communications and observation tower, was built in 1958 and is the second tallest tower in Japan.

On our second day in Tokyo we rode the port’s free shuttle to a large mall. Along the way we passed the Statue of Liberty. The French loaned a Statue of Liberty to Japan from 1998 to 1999 as a symbol of friendship between France and Japan. When it came time to return it, the Japanese people wanted their own. The Japanese statue was created in 1999 with the permission of France and unveiled in 2000.  It is quite a bit smaller than our Statue of Liberty.

The Rainbow Bridge is another popular landmark. It is lit with white lights at night and has colored lights on special occasions.

We really liked the drink dispensers throughout Japan. If the drink had a blue line underneath, it was a cold drink. A red line meant it was a hot drink like coffee. Bill tested it out by getting a coffee. He said it was hot. Not super-hot but hot.

The captain announced in the evening that rough weather was expected tonight and tomorrow with gale force winds and rough seas. Nothing new there! But he added it might be too rough for us to dock at our next Japanese port, Omaezaki. If it is too rough for the pilot boat to come out to deliver a pilot to us, the port would be closed. 

Next up: Omaezaki? Yes or no? 

One note: With all the Japanese ports, we are a little behind in our blogs. Today, March 6, we are headed to China. We will be in Shanghai tomorrow. We have been told by our ship officials that the Chinese government will most likely block our tv satellite reception, some email accounts like Google, and all social media like Facebook. We may not be able to update the blog for a while. There may be a lapse between postings. We will be back! 

Okinawa, Japan FEB 24 2024

We arrived at the port in Naha, the capital of the island of Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa, the birthplace of karate, has a population of 1,384,762 and is 66 miles long and 7 miles wide.  There are 160 islands that make up Okinawa, with the island of Okinawa being the largest and main island. Okinawa is an important, strategic location for the United States Armed Forces. There are around 26,000 US military personnel stationed in Okinawa today.  There are 32 military installations that cover about 25% of the island.  The main economy is tourism and the US military presence. It has a fast growing population and a low unemployment rate. Okinawans have the longest lifespan in the world.

Typical Japanese Small Vehicles


Okinawa was the location of the bloodiest ground battle in the Pacific, taking place from April 1 to June 22, 1945.  Around 95,000 Japanese and 20,195 Americans were killed. Approximately one fourth of the civilian population of Okinawa were either killed or committed suicide. Very few Japanese were in POW camps because the Japanese chose death rather than surrender.

Shuri Castle Falls, The American Flag is Raised

From 1945 to 1952, the American military occupied Okinawa and then it was under the control of the Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands until it was returned to Japan in 1972.

Our tour guide told us some interesting information. He said the Okinawa citizens feel that Japan deserted them after the war. Because of this, they do not fly the Japanese flag, only the Okinawa flag. They do not teach the Japanese national anthem to the school children. He also said that for many years the young people on Okinawa resented the American military presence in Okinawa today. But when North Korea started launching missiles over Okinawa and China started threatening Taiwan, the young people began to appreciate the US presence. We got the feeling that the people of Okinawa would like to be their own country rather than under Japanese rule. 

We were in Okinawa for two days. The first day we took an excursion and was fortunate to have an excellent tour guide. The first place we went was the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters led by Japanese Rear Admiral Ota. The tunnel complex was dug in 1944 by 3,000 men using pick axe.

The Walls Show The Pick Axe Strikes

It is 65 feet deep, 1,476 feet long and built in the shape of an arch with concrete.

It was left untouched for years after the war ended. After the recovery of soldiers’ remains, 820 feet of the tunnel was restored and opened to the public in 1970.  This was done by the Okinawan people in the hope that “future generations would see the futility of war and instead pursue world peace”. 

As the end of the Battle of Okinawa approached, Japanese Rear Admiral Ota sent a telegraph to the vice minister of the navy saying that the Okinawan people did their very best in the battle and deserved special recognition. Later, he and his remaining men committed suicide in the tunnel rather than be captured. Approximately 4,000 men committed suicide or were killed. Holes and scars on the walls from his suicide, and others, by grenades are evident on the walls throughout the tunnel. 

We descended a series of steep steps into the tunnel where tall people had to really watch their heads. The passageways were low and narrow in places.

Next up was the Himeyuri Peace Museum, where we learned the unbelievably sad story of 222 female students from ages 15 to 19, and 18 teachers, who were ordered to go to a Japanese army hospital. The Himeyuri Monument was built in 1946 and The Himeyuri Peace Museum was opened in 2009. No photography is allowed in the museum. For a time the surviving students, over 90 years of age, served as curators and tour guides at the museum until they could no longer travel to the museum.

Graduating Class From

They became known as the Himeyuri Student Corps and worked in several  underground hospital caves made of limestone. The working conditions were deplorable. They were originally told they would be working in hospitals away from the fighting but instead they were placed on the front lines. The museum is located where five teachers and 46 students hiding inside Ihara third surgery cave were killed during an attack by US forces. The only access to the cave was by ladders down a hole. Injured soldiers were carried down the ladder on the backs of other soldiers.

In the dark cave for three months they had to help with crude surgery and amputation, often done without anesthesia. They had to care for the gravely ill, help bury the dead, transport ammunition and supplies to front line troops under life threatening conditions. 

The girls endured disease and malnutrition, often giving their daily food rations to the suffering soldiers. Before June 19, 1945 only 19 students had been killed. They were ordered to “go home” on June 19, 1945.  Many then died in crossfire and a few died by suicide using grenades and cyanide given to them by Japanese soldiers or by jumping from cliffs. They had been convinced by the Japanese if they were captured by the Americans they would be raped and killed. By the end of the battle, 211 students and 16 teachers had died.

Our guide told us a harrowing story of his grandmother and members of her village hiding in one cave. His grandmother gave birth to her first child in the cave, a son who was our guide’s uncle. She constantly held the baby, afraid he would cry and make noise. Nearby Japanese soldiers would kill any babies who made noise because it would alert American soldiers of their location. Inside the museum was a painting of a threatening Japanese soldier standing over a woman and her baby with a sword.

Another painting showed a child reaching for a pamphlet and the mother holding him back. Our guide told us that Americans sent pamphlets down from planes telling the citizens if they brought that pamphlet to an American soldier they would be safe and not hurt. If the Japanese soldiers found a Japanese citizen with one of those pamphlets in their possession, they were killed. 

Our last destination was the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum which was opened in 1975.

It was built next to the “Suicide Cliffs” where the Battle of Okinawa ended.

Nearby is the Peace Prayer Park with a semicircular path of stones engraved with the names of those who died by nationality, including a section for Americans.

American Soldiers

Japanese Soldiers

There was a Peace Flame and Fountain with a map of the Pacific. The flame is lit up when important people visit or during special occasions.

The museum did a nice job describing the island of Okinawa and the events leading up to the battle. Information on the battle as well as life for the Okinawan people after the war was also detailed. No photography is allowed in the museum.

Peace Hill Monument, Okinawa (Japan). Represents a naturally formed cave, in which many citizens of Okinawa hid and fended for themselves.

Peace Hill Monument

We took an elevator up to an observation deck. A flight of stairs led further up with beautiful views of the ocean and park.

The only other people up there were a couple with their two young children. We struck up a conversation with them. They were fascinated by our cruise and had lots of questions about the places we had been and were going. Turns out he is in the Marine Corps, serving in Okinawa. They said they like living in Okinawa, with the wife saying she loved their own little world there. Bill thanked him for his service before we went our separate ways.

Okinawa Peace Hall

The excursion had been a day full of overwhelming sadness. Our hearts felt heavy as we reflected on it on the way back to the ship. 

Our second day in Naha, Okinawa we decided to explore on our own. We walked from the ship to Kobusai Street, a popular area with stores, malls, souvenir shops, hotels and restaurants. The port had provided a free shuttle back and forth from the ship to Kobusai Street. After walking around, we were more than happy to take the shuttle back to the ship.

That evening the ship had “The Great Fun Fair”. The inside pool deck had been turned into a carnival atmosphere with carnival games, prizes and food such as popcorn, candied apples, ice cream, appetizers and drinks. It was loud and very crowded so we didn’t stay long.

Next up: Two days in Tokyo 

Ishigaki, Japan FEB 23 2024

After three rough days at sea, we arrived at our first Japanese port, the island of Ishigaki. The island is located surprisingly close to Taiwan. 

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands of which 416 are inhabited. It has 18,486 miles of coastline. It has four writing systems and the main language is Japanese. The currency is the Japanese yen. Ishigaki has a population of 48,000 and is 86 square miles in size.

We decided not to take an excursion but instead explore on our own. We were very pleased to find that Ishigaki provided free shuttle bus service from the port into town.  A very nice, large, clean bus.

First we had to have a face to face meeting with the Japanese immigration authorities on the ship and turn in our declaration forms. We received stamps in our passports and colored stickers on our ship cards and we were then free to go off the ship. After stepping off the ship we once again had to show our passports and ship cards to more Japanese officials in the terminal. They also had people standing with large signs with pictures of all the things we could not take off the ship including meat, vegetables and fruit. No way people could later say they didn’t know the rules. Some people try to take fruit and sandwiches off the ship from the buffet area to snack on. It is prohibited in all ports but usually they get away with it. In Japan they do random checks of bags taken off the ship. We were all warned if caught, you face a very large fine and even the ship can be fined.

The ship always provides us with a map of the area which also shows the location of the ship, how to say “Take me back to the ship” in the local language, and the ship’s emergency phone number. 

We had studied the map and selected a few places within easy walking distance. It was the Emperor’s birthday, a big holiday in Japan. Some things were closed such as banks. We had a little trouble finding an ATM that would work with our bank cards so we could get some Japanese currency. We could have gotten it on the ship but knew the exchange rate was better off the ship. We finally found an ATM that worked, most machines appear to be for local bank accounts.

We enjoyed the sights walking through town. Throughout Japan you will find “shisas” on rooftops and entrance ways of homes and businesses. It is believed they protect you from evil. The left shisa has a closed mouth and the right shisa an open mouth. The open mouth wards off evil spirits and the closed mouth keeps good spirits in.

We visited the Tourinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine. The original was built in 1614 and was washed away in a tsunami in 1771.  It was then rebuilt and has been restored several times.

Inside the Closed Temple

Gongendo Shrine


It is always interesting to walk in a food market and compare it with what we have back home.

The Euglena Mall was a fun, colorful place to walk through.

We caught the shuttle bus back to the port where an official boarded the bus to check our passports and ship cards. Once in the terminal there were more Japanese officials to once again carefully check our passports and ship cards to be sure the names matched.

Next up: Okinawa, Japan