Cruise Report # Ten – Day 16 – Sunday, October 7, 2007

At sea – Western Pacific off the east coast of Shikoku, Japan

From the ship’s Navigator

Today we will sail on a southwesterly course with an average speed of 14 knots towards Kagoshima, Japan. The total distance between Kobe and Kagoshima is 383 nautical miles. The weather forecast predicts a temperature of 78 degrees and a moderate breeze blowing from the southeast with a force of 4. As on all US Navy ships, rumors or scuttlebutt, abounds and cruise ships are no exception. Since we will be sailing through waters that are occasionally visited by Typhoons this time of year, there are those who are taking bits of this and bits of that and forming various opinions as to what weather conditions we will be subjected to the farther south we sail. Whatever it is – it is, and should prove exciting. Stay tuned.

Tonight’s Dress

Informal/Smart casual. For ladies, cocktail dresses or suits are appropriate. For gentlemen, slacks and collard shires are suggested. Jackets and ties optional. No shorts, t-shirts or tank tops please. This is an example of appropriate dinner wear, as it changes every evening. This evening “Wearing a traditional happi coat is encouraged”.

The Matsuri Happi Coat

Originally a Japanese overcoat worn by shop keepers, happi coats carried a family crest, shop name or emblem printed on the back of the coat. Some ship keepers still wear the coats – but there are largely used in festivals, parties and as uniforms in sushi restaurants. More recently, the happi coat has also taken on a new use as a “robe”. Shorter versions of the traditional yakata and kimono are solely used as robes. The short robe is called a happi and the term happi is used for any short or mid-length clothing. I will be wearing the men’s kimono that Barbara bought me in Aomori. It will be an interesting evening.

Yesterday in Kobe and Kyoto

We had another exciting day yesterday. The ship arrived and was cleared by port authorities with typical Japanese efficiency, and an entire schedule of events awaited passengers remaining on board during the day. Unfortunately for us we had scheduled a shore excursion that would last the entire day. October 6th 2007 commemorated the 140th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Kobe, and it coincided with the very first visit of the ms Amsterdam to this port.

Once Barbara got me on the correct excursion bus, # 5 instead of # 6, we were on our way. Humbled again! Our bus sped us over expressways, that just 12 years earlier, had been an important part of a city that was destroyed by an earthquake. It is as if the Japanese people stand ready to “snap back” at what ever disaster mankind or nature throws their way. There was absolutely no evidence of that disaster. Roads were rebuilt, buildings seem to rise even higher, (albeit earthquake proof) and the public just gets on with life. Very resilient, these folks. Anyway, we traveled for about an hour or a distance of 80 kilometers to the ancient city of Kyoto. Even though it is an ancient city, it had that same vibrancy of every other Japanese city we have visited. Since it was Saturday, the attractions we visited were quite crowded with Japanese tourists.

The starting point for our Kyoto excursion was to the Ostentatious 1603 Nijo Castle, complete with “nightingale” floors that were designed to squeak to warn the inhabitants of intruders. After removing our shoes, got rid of our gum, and put away our cameras, we were allowed to enter the castle. As I was waiting for the others to arrive, (bathroom stop) there were people walking by me and it sounded like one of them had a cell phone turned on, or other some-such musical device. It was then that I discovered why they were called “nightingale” floors. They did not squeak like ordinary wooden floors do, but emit the soft sounds of chirping birds. A fantastic carpentry technique! Barbara even managed to get a quite good recording with her camera. It has to be heard to be believed.

After an hour there we moved on to the Kinkaku-ji temple, originally built in 1397 (yes 1397) as a retirement dwelling for Shogun Yoshimitsu, then reconstructed in 1955, faithful to 14th century design. Elaborate gold foil lends the structure an almost gaudy appearance, as well as being appropriate for its name – the “Golden Pavilion”. As with every attraction we visited, the grounds were immaculately landscaped, with every view a photo opportunity.

Lunch was an elaborate four course meal (I had my first sushi) served in a dining room of a grand hotel. Practically everything in the room was white with gold accents. After we ate we moved on to a famous “Handicraft Center”, an excuse to shop, and were dazzled with beautiful merchandise from lacquer bowls to $150 “55 percent off” men’s ancient kimonos.

Our excursion ended with a visit to the Heian Shinto Shrine. Surrounded by magnificent gardens, this was a two-thirds scale model of the Heian Imperial Palace that features a Chinese-style bridge that spans a majestic body of water. The sun, being lower in the sky (late afternoon), made for great lighting as it filtered through the lacy leaves of the Japanese maples and needles of the pine trees. Additionally the branches of the pine trees had been pruned and shaped in a most aesthetic manner. A pleasant one hour bus ride back to our floating hotel, rounded out a most enjoyable day

Tomorrow a day at sea, which will include a Sunday Service including World Communion service, other numerous activities. Monday morning will find us docking bright and early at our last Japanese port of call; Kagoshima.

Till next time, we send our regards to all,

Jack and Barbara

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