Shimizu, Japan

We loved visiting Japan again this year, this time flying into Yokohama on Monday, 15 August to pick up the Diamond Princess for our cruise.

The weather was hot, hot, hot!  Getting off the plane, the heat and humidity hit us and it took a moment or two to realise we were in Japan – not Darwin!  The temperature was in the mid to high 30’s all the time we were there and the humidity was way up there as well.

Woke up Tuesday morning to find ourselves in Shimizu and looking forward to visiting Mt Fuji.  We got as far as the 5th Station at 7,900 feet which involved a 2 hour coach trip.  This is the most popular station and it contains some restaurants as well as some shops for climbers to stock up before heading up to the summit.  We passed a number of people jogging or on bicycles and I had to admire their fitness and dedication.  It’s a long way up!

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Waiting for the clouds to clear.  

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The view of Mt Fuji from the 5th Station looking up – the view down was obscured by clouds

Then we visited the Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Art to see a collection of woodblock printing.  Very interesting exhibition of the works of Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) which ranged from beautiful landscapes to some humorous caricatures.

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We took this photo before we found out there were no photos allowed!  Here is the link to see some of the landscape blocks.  It is a small museum  that we found very interesting, with the woodblock process explained in the foyer and the opportunity to try it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Home Away From Home

This was our home for 9 days recently when we flew to Yokohama to board the beautiful Diamond Princess for our Asian cruise.

Click here to see the amenities and features.  As this was a short cruise we decided not to go for an oceanview stateroom but for an interior stateroom instead, which was very comfortable and quite spacious enough for us.  We have found in the past that the expense of a balcony stateroom was wasted on us.  I guess it all depends on how much time you want to spend there;  for us it is not much.  There was so much going on around the ship, we didn’t want to miss a thing!

Our first time on a such a big ship and on this cruise there were 3,000 passengers plus crew.  We were off seeing the sights of Japan most days, so there were a few areas of the ship that we didn’t have time to explore, but we had a great time and look forward to travelling on her again sometime.

 

Afterwards

It’s always sad to say goodbye when our cruise comes to an end.  Back to the “real world” – shopping, bill paying, chores…..  However, the positives are coming home to our cats and sleeping in our own bed.  No matter how comfortable other beds may be, there is nothing like your own pillow!

The one thing that everyone loves on a cruise ship is the food!  So here are some average amounts of the food we consumed on a daily basis:

  • Fish:  1,700
  • Poultry:  1,400 lbs
  • Beef:  1,700 lbs
  • Pork/Pork Products:  1,400 lbs
  • Veal:  300 lbs
  • Lamb:  200 lbs
  • Salads:  1,600 lbs
  • Mayonnaise:  13 gals
  • Pasta:  500 lbs
  • Potatoes:  2,700 lbs
  • Soups:  550 gals
  • Flour:  1,500 lbs
  • Pastries:  6,000
  • Ice cream:  100 gals
  • Butter:  400 lbs
  • Coffee:  470 gals
  • Sugar:  400 lbs
  • Glasses washed daily:  21,500
  • Dishes washed daily:  70,000

Is this all?   Well, not quite.  After the passengers are served, then it’s time to feed over 848 crew members!  (And by world standards, the Sea Princess is not even  a very big cruise ship!)

So now our Asian cruise is a memory and I have some serious scrapbooking to do, but already we have booked our next cruise!  Around Australia from Brisbane to Perth with some friends who will be visiting from England in November.  We did this cruise once before, but this time we will stopping at two ports in New Guinea – the previous one went to Bali.

Meanwhile, I am having trouble remembering what day it is – I’ve already missed an appointment this week, so I must set myself a reminder to meet with my quilting group tomorrow!

 

 

 

Aomori, Japan

Aomori Mt Fuji

Monday, 28 March – The capital of the Amori Prefecture in northern Japan, Aomori is famous for its apple orchards (home of the Fuji apple) and the Nebuta Festival, an elaborate yearly event in which participants illuminate giant paper representations of samurai warriors, animals and popular cartoon characters and parade them through the streets.

Snow was still on the ground in places as we made our way to the Tsugaru Kanayama Kiln.  It is the end of winter but we have had great weather in Japan; today the temperature was about 8-11degC.  We were warm enough in just t-shirts and jackets, but of course, the coach and all the shops are heated.  It was a nice trip, through forests of beech, cedar and red pine.

Incidentally, we found out why so many people wear masks in Japan.  I thought it was to avoid germs or pollution – but no – it is because many people apparently suffer from hay fever caused by pollen from the red cedar trees.

 

Arriving at the kiln, we discovered that Aomori is also well known for unglazed copper-coloured pottery and we had an interesting tour and spoke to some apprentices as well as the owner.  Although this pottery was founded in 1985 it draws its inspiration from unglazed pottery made around 250 to 538AD.  I liked that they source the clay from the local reservoir and fire the kiln with local Japanese red pine wood.  We bought a small vase as a memento and enjoyed some of the local apple juice.

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Our next stop was to Tachineputa no Yakata –  “The Hall of the Standing Neputa” we took the elevator to view the 3 floats on display.  They stand as tall as a 6-storey building and weigh 19 tonnes.  We also visited the workshop and our tour guide interpreted for the owner to explain how the floats are made.

Float construction

 

From what I remember, they start with just a drawing – not plans – and fix a metal pole into a base.  32 modules are formed using timber framing and wires which are tied together and then screwed in around the pole.   Paper is pasted over the wires and waterproof paints are applied.  All this work is done by volunteers. They are absolutely amazing to see and the painting is a work of art from all angles.  They are lit internally powered by generators and when the huge doors open for the parade, 6 men pull them along with ropes.  They are quite a sight to see.

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Kanazawa, Japan

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What a lovely town, set in between two rivers.  Saturday, 26 March and we were off again on another adventure!  This time to Kenrokuen Gardens, and the Samurai and Geisha districts.

Such a pretty drive with snow on the majestic Japan Alps.  We passed through small villages consisting of several houses close together surrounded by some land.  There were a lot of townhouses as well.

 

We started our excursion by walking through some winding streets with beautifully restored residences known as Nagamachi Samurai House Row.  After removing our shoes, we walked through The Terashima Samurai House, circa 1770, for a closer look at how a middle class warrior lived.  Every sliding thick-paper door had a picture of a landscape drawn on it.  The gardens were very skilfully laid out, with a waterfall, streams, a bridge and various kinds of garden lanterns arranged here and there.

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The Higashichaya Machi district was the next stop, established in 1820, it is the home of the geisha.  Kanazawa is one of the few cities were traditional geisha still exist.  We did see the building where the girls train for 5 years from the age of 15 years, but it is very difficult to actually see them.  There seemed to be only one teahouse that offered performances to visitors – at a price!

 

We did see lots of girls in kimonos, however, and even a couple who were having their wedding photos taken.  They were very surprised to be suddenly surrounded by about 20 people with cameras, but they graciously posed for us.

Our final stop was to the lovely Kenrokuen Gardens, of the celebrated “Great Gardens of Japan”.  This 25-acre landscaped garden was opened to the public over 135 years ago and we spent an enjoyable time wandering the paths to see Japan’s oldest fountain, a teahouse dating back to 1774, winding streams and a pagoda donated by a warlord as well as all the beautiful trees.

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Modern as well as traditional, we though Kanazawa has a lot to offer, and we enjoyed our day – especially the cherry blossom ice cream!