Vacation Update #7

Here is Vacation Update #7. This was originally intended to be part of Update #6 but #6 got rather large. This update contains the trip to and shore excursion in Hakodate, Japan. It also contains the somewhat interesting departure from Hakodate.

The trip from Tokyo to Hakodate took about 36 hours and was a bit rougher than some but not nearly as rough as the one from Kobe to Tokyo.

Hakodate is located on what is almost the southern most tip of Japan’s northern most island of Hokkaido.  It is the main access point to the island of Hokkaido. There is an undersea tunnel over 33 Miles long that connects the main island (Honshu) to Hokkaido. The tunnel exit is located at Yoshioka but Hakodate is the first main city after that.

The day started off with a bit of rain, the only rain to date. The tour started off at another local market. It sold mostly fish but this one was a bit more diverse although the pictures I have will not show that. Here are a few pictures.

Some large crabs here.

Crabs, crabs, and more crabs. Some are trying to climb out!

The first thought that came to mind when I saw this was that famous line that Humphrey Bogart says in the movie Casablanca, “Here’s looking at you”

These are small squid, I believe. You could buy one, they would prepare it for you, and you could sit down at a table and eat it right there.

Just a note here, some of these pictures may be a bit dark due to a setting problem on the camera that I did not catch until the next stop at Petropavolsk. I have compensated some of these for the problem but not all of them. It particularly affects the outside shots.

The next stop is Mt. Hakodate. This is one of those great stops that they take you to, to see the area. To get up to this one you can drive or take a cable car which in Asia are called ropeways. With the early morning rain, the prospect of a good view was not the best. It did not start out too good but it gradually improved. Here are a group of pictures from there.

The cable car / ropeway that went to the top.

A view as we went up.

The view was not the greatest.

The view was slowly improving. This is the Statendam at the pier in the harbor.

The view was improving. This is just slightly to the right of the one above left.

One of the disadvantages of tours like this is there is only very limited time at each place so we had to leave before the view got significantly better then the picture above. By the way the mountain is 1100 feet or about 330 meters high. The bus drove up the winding road and took us down. There were a number of busses. One (not mine) had a minor altercation with a car that was coming up. It was not serious but delayed things a bit.

The next and last stop on this half day tour was Goryo-kaku. What we actually visited was the Goryokaku tower which is build beside Goryo-kaku. Goryo-kaku is the remains of the oldest western style fort in Japan. It was started in 1864 and took 7 years to build. It was built to keep the Russians out after several Japanese ports were opened up to foreign trade in the mid 1860’s. We went up the tower to view the remains of the fort, and as the weather improved, the city and the mountain we just came from as well. Here are some pictures.

All that is left of the fort are the moats. This is one side.

Here is the other side. The building in the middle is the Hakodate Museum.

A view of the city.

The ship from the tower.

Just a few bicycles here.

As the weather cleared, here is Mt. Hakodate. We were on the highest peak just right of centre.

The inside of the tower.

I wonder where they got this idea? It certainly impressed the Japanese here.

This is the tower that overlooks the fort.

The famed Japanese cherry blossoms had finished in Tokyo when we were there, but with Hakodate being much further north they were just at their peak. There are 3000 cherry trees in and around the fort area. Here are some pictures from the ground of those.

The flowers and trees around the fort.

Close up of the cherry blossoms.

A view down a nearby street showing both cherry and other trees in blossom.

After an hour or so here we headed back to the ship. Hakodate must not get too many English speaking tourists. Maybe they just do not get 1200 at once. A number of the English speaking guides on the bus tours had to be flown in from Tokyo the day before our arrival. Each bus had an English speaking guide as well as a local guide who could not speak English. They were constantly conferring with each other in Japanese to make sure the information was correct. You may recognize this as the same thing apparently happened in Nagasaki. The guide from Tokyo was flying back that afternoon. Arrival back at the ship was around 1:00 P.M.

One of the things that happen on a cruise like this are the complex immigration procedures that are required in virtually every port. This happens because the ship sails in international waters from place to place which means that even if the next port the ship stops in is in the same country as the last one, the ship has technically left the country and has to reenter it. At each arrival it had to be cleared. The Japanese at least recognized that the last several ports were in their country. Because Hakodate was the last port in Japan there was the process of leaving Japan for the last time that delayed everything, of course. This involves checking every passport of every person on the ship, including the crew, and recording this in some fashion both for their records and in the passport.

The next pictures were all taken from the ship. Here are a few of the area around the ship.

This is a high speed catamaran ferry that was painted in an interesting way.

The main part of Hakodate is in the distance. The thin vertical line left of centre is the tower by the fort.

As you can see, Mt. Hakodate really cleared up. Here you can see one of the cable cars in the centre. If I remember right, I think it was going down when I took the picture.

A wider complete view of the 1100 foot (330) meter Mt Hakodate from the ship.

Even though the weather cleared it became very windy. It was a very strong onshore wind. The Japanese Immigration people took their time as noted above so we left a bit later than planned. Usually the ship with its stern and bow thrusters can sail without too much help. In this case the ship had to turn the bow 90 degrees (it was probably a bit more than that) to port (left) to head out through the channel. There must have been some concern because a tug boat appeared and was connected to the ship with a long rope. It sat there for over 90 minutes waiting for the immigration clearance. The Japanese were not off the ship more than 30 seconds and the gangway was gone then things got interesting.  Here is what happened with some pictures.

The channel was just to the right of the lights you can see in this picture. Notice the waves crashing over the breakwater. There is a ship anchored out there to.

Here is the tug at the stern pulling with all its might to keep the stern from crashing into the pier as the bow turned to the left towards the tug.

This picture was taken from the stern looking forward (towards the bow). You will notice the stern where the tug boat is (on the other side) is further out than the bow. We got about this far out then……

We ended up back here.

It was decided the wind was too much for the bow thruster to move the ship sideways (directly into the wind) so another tug boat was needed to pull the bow out as well as the stern. It took about 15 minutes to get the second one. After about another 15 or 20 minutes or so of both tug boats pulling with all their might we made it into the channel and headed out.

The tug boat above took off the harbor pilot and then pushed the ship around the tight corner into the strait and departed. The wind was so strong that once we made it out into the strait the wind was causing the ship to list fairly seriously to port. Dinner was on at this point and the water in the glasses on the tables was on a slant.

This was the last we saw of Japan, Mt. Hakodate with the agitated sea in the foreground.

Once out in the strait the captain turned off course for a while to reballast the ship. We noticed as dinner progressed that the liquid in our glasses (what ever type of liquid it may have been) leveled out and we proceeded on our two day journey to Petropavolsk-Kamchatsky, Russia

On to Vacation Update #8.