Vacation Update #5

Hello again:

Here is Update #5. This one will complete the first cruise with the Nagasaki and Kobe, Japan sections of that cruise. Update #6 will start in Kobe, with the start of the second cruise and cover Tokyo and Hakodate, Japan with update #7 likely containing Petropavolsk, Russia. The ship is not there yet.

It was just a short (158 Nautical Mile) nighttime crossing from Pusan/Busan, South Korea to Nagasaki, Japan.

The shore excursion was to locations outside of Nagasaki. I could have gone to the Atomic Bomb Museum or the Peace Park but saw no real reason to. So, I went to Shimabara, which is about a 2 hour drive outside of Nagasaki, to the south I think but I will need to verify that. There is some Samurai history there as well as a volcano that erupted for 4 years in the early 90ís causing some damage.

Here are some pictures of this trip. It was not the most exciting of trips but interesting in seeing Japanís country side. Up until now, most of the pictures have not been adjusted in any way (except to resize them). Several in this group needed some colour correction due to tinted bus windows.

Our arrival in Nagasaki. For some reason there were a lot of TV news media around.

On the way to Shimabara. Taken from the bus window as was the first one.

Another bus window scene. There were many similar scenes to this along the way to Shimabara.

This was the view at a washroom stop (or ďpea peaĒ stop as the Japanese English guide called it).

On the way to Shimabara we saw this place and after seeing it would you not wonder what it was?

Our English guide, who had to be imported from somewhere else in Japan, asked the local guide (who could not speak English) and the answer was it is a hotel where married adults can go to have some fun of a sexual nature. No further details available. You will just need to use your imagination as to what kind of fun it might be.

Along with the Mt. Unzen Fugendake volcano, Shimabaraís claim to fame is that it has several historic Samurai houses in it. It was one of the seats of government in this area during the 1600ís to 1800ís (and likely much longer). Most of the Samurai were linked to Shimabara Castle where the governing took place. It is very complicated and I will not even attempt to explain it. I do not fully understand it myself. Here are some pictures, first of the houses. The time period for these is between 16 60 and 1880 (approximately).

One of the houses.

Main source of water. Water came from springs in mountains way off to the left.

Examples of how things may have been.

Another example.

The bathroom.

Would you believe this is the bathtub?

The Kitchen.

A real live orange tree with real live oranges on it.

Next stop was Shimabera Castle, just a couple of blocks away. Pictures were not allowed in most of it but here are a few from here.

Shimabera Castle

A view from the top.

Another view in a different direction. If you cannot tell what it is, it is a very crowded cemetery.

Some workers at the castle. Note the brooms.

I noted in one of the previous updates the differences in washrooms. The picture below gives you one of the better quality examples of the differences.

This was in the menís room at Shimabara Castle.

Most menís rooms had standup urinals as well.

Many womenís washrooms apparently had only these or worse.

The next stop was a Japanese lunch at a local 3 maybe 4 star hotel. I could not handle this any better than the Chinese ones. I tried bits and pieces but not much. Good thing it was back to the ship for supper.

The final two stops related to the volcano that erupted over a four year period between 1990 and 1994. It has been quiet since. This eruption was not huge by most standards but it sure shook up the locals here.† A lava flow came down a river valley and partially buried 19 (I think it was) houses. They have made several into a museum. See below:

Here are two of the houses that they have preserved.

Same houses from a different angle.

On the final visit of the day, the group headed up into the mountains to see the volcano. It was a ways away but you could easily see it and some of the prevention efforts they have taken to try to reduce any future problems.

Barriers to try to slow down any future lava flow.

More of the barriers.

The tallest mountain in the distance is the trouble maker.

Here is a close up. The lava from the last eruption stayed on top and added 180 meters in height to the volcano. It filled in the crater and left this.

Part of our group at the volcano lookout.

After this, the tour headed back to Nagasaki. One of the things that you notice is the incredible number of vending machines in Japan. You see it in China too, but not to nearly the same extent. Here are a couple of examples:

This machine was on the side of the road coming down from the volcano lookout. It is out in the middle of nowhere.

These were at the afternoon washroom stop.

These were at the same washroom stop as above.

They were about 90 feet or 30 meters from the other ones around a corner.

Coke is the major one (by far) with Pepsi, Nestles and some Japanese brands as well.

The tour arrived back at the ship between 4:30 and 5:00. At 6:15, with a Japanese high school band playing on the pier, we sailed for Kobe, a trip of 544.05 nautical miles through Japanís inland sea.

Japanís inland sea is the body of water that separates the various major southern islands of Japan. Japan has been busy building big fancy bridges to connect the major islands together. Unfortunately I cannot remember the names of these two bridges but the first one is the longest (something over 4 Km) suspension bridge (multi-span not single span) in the world and the second one is a combination of several different types of bridges for a total length of 13.4 Km.†

This is the first big bridge we passed under as we approached it.

We went under the part to the left of the island in the left picture.

People on cruise ships find going under a bridge (any bridge) fascinating.

Passing under the bridge.

Same bridge from the other side.

The bridge with the fascinated viewers on the ship.

The second bridge looks a bit like the first one butÖ.

It has a number of other sections off in the distance.

We arrived in Kobe at 9:30 P.m. this evening. We were early but it was necessitated by a number of factors. These were the possibility of major fog in the morning as well as hundreds of small fishing boats. The ship was kept sealed up until it could be cleared by Japanese immigration officials early the next morning.

After the ship was cleared there was a local tour for those of us going on the next cruise (so called In Transit passengers) as well as for passengers leaving the ship with airport transfers and later departing flights. There we approximately 400 staying on and 800 leaving with 800 new passengers joining.

This tour started at the Mt Rokko observation area. It was early in the morning and the fog/haze had not burned off yet so this was the result.

Cannot see too much. I think it is Osaka.

Look hard! Just left of middle is the ship!

Downtown Kobe, ship to the middle left.

Going down, the group went by the Rokko Cable railway that has been there since 1932.

At the appropriate moment the up bound car passes the down bound car.

The trip takes about 10 minutes. It is not too far but it is not very fast either,

Unloading at the bottom.

Our buses drove down and were awaiting our arrival at the bottom.

Our last stop on the tour was at the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum. This company has been making Sake since 1743 so I guess they know how. It is a complex process requiring a certain type of rice, cold and time. Here are a few pictures of the museum.

One of the early steps in the process of making Sake.

I think this has some to do with refining the rice.

A general view of the second floor of the museum.

Traditional method of putting the Sake in barrels of Yoshino Cedar. The Sake was distributed in these barrels in the past.

Here are a few pictures of the outside of the museum and the trip from there back to the ship.

This is the museum. It is an old brew house converted to the museum. It is in the area of Kobe that was badly damaged in the 1997 earthquake.

The tour buses. Two were going back to the ship and the rest were going on to the airport.

Lots and lots of bicycles.

The bridges that were rebuilt after the earthquake. You would never know there had been one.

The English guide told us that he has two house mortgages, one for the house he had before the earthquake and one for the new house that was built after the quake. He has to pay off both of them. Seems somehow unfair doesnít it?

After returning to the ship I took several pictures of the Kobe area. Here are several of those.

This was taken as we boarded the busses for the tour.

Downtown Kobe from the ship.

Kobe harbor from the ship.

The Mt. Rokko observatory from the ship later in the day. The two black spots are birds near the ship.

A normal Kobe train.

I do not know why, but this one was very different. It was the only one I saw like that.

It was warm enough to open the enclosed swimming pool cover.

This concludes this update. As stated way up at the top, the next one will cover the departure from Kobe, the trip to and tour of Tokyo, and the trip to and tour of Hakodate, Japan. It should be along in a day or so.

As I write this we are just half a day away from Petropavolsk, Russia and then the four day crossing to Alaska and a time/date change that will put me many hours behind you instead of ahead of you. We loose an hourís sleep for seven days in a row here just to keep in sync with the world. Just think of changing to Daylight Time seven nights in a row. The results are not always pretty! We are in day 3 of the process now. To make it all the more confusing our time will be an hour ahead of the local time in Petropavolsk tomorrow. This is to save having to make a two hour adjustment later on. Very kind of them, I would say.

Back Soon!

Les A.