Friday, 19 August – We boarded the coach for a drive to Usa City where we visited the Usa Jingu Shrine, a Japanese National Treasure. Very lovely architecture and gardens, but it was also very hot that day as we made our way up the many steps that Shinto shrines always seem to find necessary. We were pleased we packed plenty of water!
Then back to Beppu for a visit to the main attraction, Jigoku Meguri, the “Boiling Hell” hot springs. They are named that way because each spring seems to depict an image from hell. We expolored two of them, Chinoike (Blood) Jigoku with its deep crimson colour and Onlishibozu Jigoku – mud bubbles, which emerge from boiling mud pools and look like the shaven heads of monks.
This was fun – no one told me that the water in the spring was about 40oC!!! It took me several minutes, but I did it! ( Obviously not looking too relaxed, because it was HOT!!!)
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!
Waiting for the clouds to clear.
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.
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.
Time to dust off the passports once again for another trip to Japan. We enjoyed visiting there so much earlier in the year that we have decided to do a short vacation and fly out on 14 August to Yokohama, where we will board the Diamond Princess for a 10 day cruise to several Japanese and Korean ports and then fly home on 25 August.
This is our itinerary. Highlights include an excursion to Mt Fuji (no, not climbing it ourselves, we will take the easy way!) and a Korean Festival with a fireworks display. Also looking forward to boarding a ship that we haven’t been on before, which will be the biggest so far. Getting excited!
The weather was very nice as we set out on Wednesday, 30 March for our last stop in Tokyo. Into the coach and off to see the Imperial Palace Gardens (we thought!) Driving through the city, I was a bit disappointed – nice but nothing spectacular or memorable really, except for the Tokyo Tower….. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Some motorbikes and bicycles, but mostly cars on the road.
A city of 12.5 million we were told – with a floating population of 2 million. Hard to imagine!
Anyway, once we got off the coach we noticed an unending line of people making their way to the Garden and found out that the Emperor only opens the Gardens to the public two days per year – and this was one of them! One million people were invited. So we were taken to the Imperial Palace Plaza and a short walk to a bridge near the East Gate – very pretty, but only a 10-minute photo stop in reality …. we had an hour!!!!
Next stop was the Meiji Shrine, with twin 40 feet tall Torii gates, one of the country’s largest. Lunch was western-style at a Tokyo Hotel. Very nice.
We continued on to Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo, and we saw a Japanese bride and many girls in traditional dress. Lastly we spent quite some time at Nakamise-dori, the “street of Inside Shops”, an alley lined with souvenirs and handmade crafts. Very crowded but very interesting – plenty of time to explore. So much to see.
We have taken so many photos – especially in Japan. It was difficult to only choose a few. Many great memories…. and we have met some lovely local people.
Now we are on our way back home – currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean! So we say goodbye to Japan for now, but hope to see you again.
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.
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.
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.