Blog # 9 March 23, 2016
We are at sea, just a quiet day but with 2 interesting speakers, the first one on the days event for the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Osaka Japan and the plane that carried the first Atomic Bomb. The second speaker was Felicity Aston the lady who crossed the South Pole on a personal expedition on skies pulling two sleds which she did it in 38 days. All of the speakers talk on their subject for 45 minutes.
The weather has been chilly for this time of the year as all of our recent stops should have had cherry blossoms in full blooms buy this date, but not this year. On the morning of the 24th of March we arrive in the port of Hiroshima for a full day of adventure. We have our breakfast aboard and gather our coats and head out to the shuttle buses.
We are offered one of 3 different destinations, we select the longest one, that being a trip to “Yahatagawa Sake Brewing Company“. Try to say that companies name three times fast. The drive takes us through a large portion of the city of Hiroshima. Our van is full of folks who want to see the same thing as we do. Upon arrival we leave the van and walk down several side street and shortly we arrive at the brewing house and meet our English speaking guide. She explains the process to us. We then enter a large storage area where the rice of three kinds are mixed with purified water and heated in large vats. When the grain and water reach the desired heat and cooking time, the bottom of the cooker is opened and the mash empties into the metal fermentation tanks.
After 30 days the sake is put through several layers of very fine cloth and bottled. In the tasting room we are offered one of 7 different varieties, we choose a Plum Sake. We then move to an open area outdoors where several different companies are displaying their goods for sale. At this site is also where they are making rice cakes. At this location is where a local television station film crew is taping the entire adventure we are seeing, and they ask both Marilyn and I if we would give them an interview! We most likely were on Osaka 6:00 news cast. Yes, I have video of the Sake experience.
Shortly thereafter we boarded the shuttle transport and returned to the ship. Upon our return we viewed many of the companies that set up booths in a very large building adjacent to the pier. It was so large we went back aboard ship had lunch and then returned to the pier and the large building. All afternoon we were entertained by many musical groups, mostly school children. At near 4:00pm we return to the ship. This we found out later was the ships initial visit to this city.
As we have visited several Cities in Japan in the past 10 days we now have a problem with many passengers with Nora virus and it is spreading. So far none of our group has been affected.
On March 26 the ship calls on Naha, Okinawa Japan this will the last call for the Japanese ports for this 2016 cruise. We arrive around 7:45 am. This will also be a maiden call port for the Queen Elizabeth. We have breakfast in the dining room, return to our room and get ready for our ships tour of the city and outskirts. We will be on coach number 16 for this 4 to 5 hour tour. We depart the ship and get one of the first 5 seats in the coach, our guide today is a short middle aged Japanese lady named ‘Cashee’. She speaks with a very strong Japanese accent, but if you listen intensely you can understand her quite well.
We leave the port area and immediately get onto an elevated highway and head toward the city center, we reach our destination in about 30 minutes. It is, I guess you would call it down-town, lots of stores on both sides of the street selling everything you can think-of. We are ushered onto an escalator and arrive at the second level. We then walk for a couple of 100 feet and are told we will be painting our very own canvas bags. Wow, this is certainly something different! We enter the store where each of us is seated at a table and on top of the table we select our flower design to be painted onto our canvas bag. Instructors show us just how to do it and we all get to painting our very own design on the bag.
When we get into a bind help is there to assist us. 30 minutes later and we all are finished with our art work. We return to the main street and it starts to rain, undeterred we head for the public market where all sorts of food and vegetables are available as well as trinkets of every description, the place is packed with people looking and some buying. We remember our pledge, if you buy it you must pack it in your suitcase to get it home. We clutch our canvas painted bag and leave. When we reach the main street it has stopped raining and we return to the bus at the designated location.
Our next and final stop is Okinawa Shurijo Castle park. The coach driver gets as close as possible and then we walk up the wide paved path to reach the upper developed temples. All of these temples have been restored following the war. This is a walled complex with 4 painted wood buildings and a center open parade grounds. This location has a great view of the city below.
On Sunday March 27th, Easter Sunday, we are at sea and we start the day by attending church services at 9:00am.
At 11:00am we have a special lecturer, Terry Waite, this is the second part of his three part lecture entitled “Survival in Solitude”. He packs the ships auditorium which holds just over 900 people. Then at noon we have a small lunch in anticipation of the evening’s meal being something special. Following lunch at 3:00pm, the entertainment dept. had an egg drop competition. All of the contestants were given a raw egg, you could use any material on board ship to wrap or protect your egg. The object of the contest was for each contestant to drop an egg from the 9th deck and it had to land on the 8th deck without breaking. The passengers gathered at the drop hour to witness the results. Very few, I think, just 3 eggs made the drop without breaking, everyone had scrambled egg for their efforts.
After a great evening meal, we got back to our room where we find two chocolate Easter Bunnies. The following morning we arrive in Keelung, Taiwan. The ship docks right at the pier in down town, we just walk off the ship then through the terminal and we are on a busy downtown street with taxi’s awaiting our arrival. In most ports we do not change our US dollars for the local money. Most taxis do not want US dollars, so we decide to just walk a few blocks into the city, and return the same way back to the terminal.
As we get just a block away a Yellow cab pulls up next to us and wants to know if we would like a tour. He speaks fairly good English. I tell him we just have US dollars, he says that is fine with him. So we pick a tour from his selection and we jump into the cab, we decide a tour for two hours. Off we go, he drives through the main section of Keelung and then take the shore side route and head for Yeliu Geological Park, a park where Mother Nature has carved some amazing rock formations.
We can’t believe how many sightseeing victors are here, numbers had to be in the thousands, and the parking lot was full of sight-seeing coaches, each one could carry 50 or more people. We return to the pier just in time for your noon time lunch. We spend the rest of the afternoon just soaking up the sunshine on our deck on board ship. We leave just after 7:00pm. And head back out to sea, after another day, we will make our second stop back in Hong Kong.
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