In Port – Kagoshima, Japan
From the ship’s Navigator
This morning we will embark the local pilot at 6:00 am. Thereafter we will sail on a northwesterly course to our berth. The weather forecast calls for an outside temperature of 78 degrees with a fifty percent chance of rain. A fresh breeze will blow from the southwest with a force of 5.
Located as the southwest tip of Kyushu, Kagoshima includes a chain of islands stretching further to the southwest for a few hundred miles. Surrounded by the Yellow Sea to the west, it has 1,635 miles of coastline (including the 28 islands) and includes Kagoshima Bay, sandwiched by two peninsulas, Satsuma and Osumi. Kagoshima was known as the ‘gateway’ to Japan at various times in history due to its strategic position. There is a chain of active and dormant volcanoes in the area, dominated by Sakurajima, towering out of the bay opposite the city. Smoke and ash trickles steadily from the caldera and mini-eruptions happen on an almost daily basis. This day the Volcano was obscured by a cloud cap.
As we approached our berth at what appeared to be a newly built terminal complex, the skies were somewhat overcast, but it was not raining – yet. Waiting for our arrival were a few of he local citizens, but the real treat was what appeared to be very sharply dressed high school marching band. These outstanding musicians put on an impressive display of precision marching and musical talent. They were outfitted in western style blue and white uniforms. What a great way to be greeted; although it was early it was standing room only at the rails. After their performance they were organized for a group picture with the ship as a backdrop. It was obvious there were several proud parents in attendance – taking their pictures.
After breakfast, Barbara and I went ashore to see what information was available on transportation into the city. There being no shuttle bus, we had to hire a taxi to take us to the city bus station. The cost was a shock to us because on previous ports visits we had been on paid-for excursions. The cost was 2000 yen or around $20 for up to four people! Not finding anyone to share the cost we decided to “pay the piper”.
The city does have an excellent bus and tram system, once you get to the city center, we chose the “City View Bus”. This was a hop-on-hop off service that covered a fair amount of the city in one hour. After a pleasant stop at the city center information booth, where we were assisted by a very competent English speaking attendant. After we purchased our all day tickets ($6 pp) and were given a map to the correct bus stop, we were on or way. One of the most interesting experiences of this bus was witnessing the local families on holiday. Some families included a grandmother who made sure her grand kids were attended to. After making the circuit once, we chose to ride again, getting off at the most interesting attractions, and re-boarding a half hour later. When it was time for lunch we decided to get off at the bayside Iso-Teien Garden and Shimazu Mansion. As we were getting our bearings as to the location of a place to eat, the ‘fifty percent chance of rain’ decided to make it’s appearance – in spades. As we purchased our tickets, $10 pp, we were offered loaner umbrellas by the attendant – we accepted. We were blessed to have the rain at the time of our visit to the gardens as it enhanced the beauty of the grounds. During the deluge, we decided it was time to eat. At the entry to most Japanese businesses is a stand by the door, where a plastic “umbrella sheath” can be found, then each establishment has a large ceramic pot to store your umbrella in while you are inside, having missed the message, we carried our sheathed umbrellas to our table. Not wanting to offend us, no one said a word. Feeling a bit embarrassed, I deposited ours properly. The first item the kimono clad young lady brought to our table, along with the menu, was a cold damp washcloth wrapped in saran wrap. We ordered what looked like a good meal on the picture menu, and were amazed at its presentation – beautiful – even the sushi looked good. All the food was served in separate bowls and dishes, placed at our table on a beautiful wooden lacquered tray I did not care too much for the green tea however. While we dined in this beautiful place the downpour continued drenching the gardens outside our window. By time we finished and paid our bill ($14), the rain had stopped and the skies began to clear. As in all Japanese gardens, every view begs to be photographed.
Finishing the city tour where we began, we decided to investigate the basement of this large department store. Here we found more families, enjoying shopping and eating at the various food stalls, the most popular of which was a McDonalds. We visited the area that contained the groceries and purchased a jar of “Marim” what I hope will be Japanese powdered “coffee mate”.
Our return taxi ride back to the ship was exciting as our driver did not speak a word of English, but assumed we could understand Japanese. Traffic was backed up so it was apparent to us that he was making cell phone calls to someone, trying to find a way around it. Speeding down side streets was exciting to say the least. But we finally arrived, with the meter reading 2500 yen instead of 2000. Our price to pay for the traffic backup, I guess.
Our sail-away from Kagoshima was the most moving I had experienced on this trip. Hundreds of local men and women and their families were on the pier to wave good bye, and as the ship started to slip away, the terminal public address played “Auld Langs Ayne”, just the memories of that moving experience brings tears to my eyes. As we slipped farther away from our berth, the Captain signaled goodbye with three long blasts of the ships horn, twice. This brought on more waving and shouting “goodbye” from the shore- side gathering. What a fitting way to end a most wonderful visit to a beautiful, friendly, loving country.
Sayonara, Till next time,
Jack and Barbara