Sarra J

Joined July 2016
  • Day11

    Rainbow Bridge

    April 19 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    From the National Museum, we walked to Ueno Station, where we caught the metro as far as Toyusa so we could pick up the Yurikemome, Tokyo's equivalent of the DLR but completely automated. We rode overground across Tokyo bay, with stunning views of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo skyline. On arrival at Daibo, we spent some time overlooking the beautifully lit bay and bridge before going for dinner in the 'Hawaiian Burger'. Fantastic food and a fabulous view over the bay to round off the holiday before grabbing the train back taking us up and over the Rainbow Bridge.

    In Tokyo Station, we spent a confusing few minutes trying to orientate ourselves to relocate our luggage. Eventually we found it, hauled it and our aching feet to the JY line, to catch the train then monorail back to the airport. After checking the baggage, we treated ourselves to a shower room each in the airport - best decision ever! After a very long, very hot day, coupled with sunburn and moving luggage, the shower and peace was most welcome. And with that, we cleared security and awaited the plane.

    Biggest lesson of the holiday - the Japanese do not accept card payment anywhere near as much as the UK and it's a real pain
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  • Day11

    National Museum

    April 19 in Japan ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    From the Meiji Shrine, we headed to Jimbocho - an area famed for 170+ new and second-hand book shops, including many in English. The wide streets with a lovely breeze and lack of people made for a lovely jaunt towards Akiharaba.

    At Akiharaba, the Electric City, the streets became rather more crowded, and much more bizarre. The geek central of Tokyo, the shops were full of anime, video games and slot machines. The noise in the pachinko parlour is an assault on the senses in a way that not even Las Vegas manages; the cacophony is almost unbearable! We walked through this main wonderland towards Ueno Park where we took the opportunity to have a relaxing, and quiet, park front beer.

    In the park, the oldest structure in Tokyo, standing where t has since 1698 but built decades before, made an interesting detour on our way to the National Museum.

    The museum is huge. Floors and floors across building after building of cultural and national treasures. There were examples of art, textiles, pottery, stunning metalwork, armour, swords, deities and more besides. We spent over two hours in the buildings and still missed out whole floors. It was, by this time, around 6pm and we'd been on our feet since 9am. So we departed for the Tokyo Bay to find some food and to see the Rainbow Bridge before we departed Tokyo for good.
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  • Day11

    Meiji Shrine

    April 19 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    We had to be out of our room by 8am today, and off of the ship by 9.30am, so we breakfasted and packed early with the goal of spending a final day in Tokyo. A quick 20 minute walk through the streets of Yokohama to Kannai Station followed by a 40 minute train journey put us in Tokyo Station. We stowed our luggage in a locker for the day - and took many many photos of the route back to it in the hope that we wouldn't actually lose our luggage in this vast station!

    From Tokyo, the Marunouchi line took us west to the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife under whom the Meiji restoration took place. The weather was glorious, making it a perfect day to visit (a far cry from when we were last in the Shibuya area), but also making the sunburn rather more sore and hot. The shrine itself was odd. One of the most famous in the city and yet relatively barren compared to many we visited, despite the forested and spacious settings. It also appeared to be more of a tourist centre than any of our other visits, with more westerners here than we had previously seen in Tokyo. We spent some time lookong through the buildings before making our way back to the metro.
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  • Day10

    Sunburn!

    April 18, Philippine Sea ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    So our final day at sea was very relaxing - we hot tubbed, morning trivia'd, swam, ate, saw ice carving, read, and watched the Deadliest Catch (albeit the latter in our cabin). However, under the glorious Japanese sunshine we neglected just how strong the sun was, even in short bursts, and got sunburnt to buggery!Read more

  • Day9

    Mt Sakurajima and Kagoshima

    April 17 in Japan ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    A somewhat lackadaisical start to the day - we had to wait to be called for Japanese immigration but we were group 10. We waited for the best part of an hour after docking and they were only at group 5 - so we thought 'sod it' and headed out anyway.

    We got the ship's shuttle bus into town from where we bolted for the Sakurajima ferry. Sakurajima is an active volcano on almost it's own island in the bay of Kagoshima, although cloud was so low today it was difficult to distinguish that from the smoke. The island's sightseeing bus was just across the road from the port and toured up to the highest viewing point through windy country roads. The sightseeing route was pleasant enough from the bus but with low cloud and a bus only every half hour, we decided to stay on for the whole route and enjoy the scenery.

    The Sakurajima visitors centre had lots of interesting information about the volcano and also monitors current volcanic activity. The last major eruption was 1914 when the flow actually joined the volcano to the peninsula. This year, there has been 58 eruptions, of which 33 were 'explosive eruptions'. The resulting fertility of the soil apparently makes Sakurajima famous for its production of giant radishes, the biggest weighing in at 31kg with a model provides in case you needed one!

    Heading out the back of the centre and aiming for the lava trail, we came across a public foot bath and had to have a go - shoes off, socks off, feet in, feet immediately out followed by lots of swearing and laughing at the immense heat! It took us a good five minutes to be able to keep our feet in, to the amusement of the locals. When we eventually got our, we had beautiful bright pink shins - akin to a third degree scald!

    Briefly afterwards we took a jaunt along the lava trail, looking at the huge lava rocks left from previous eruptions and looking over the bay to Kagoshima before returning on the ferry to the city itself.

    Here, we took just a brief shopping trip in the downtown area. We were heading initially for the Meiji Restoration Museum but time got the better of us.

    Our final day at sea tomorrow before we dock in Yokohama on Friday. A final day of relaxing!
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  • Day8

    Busan

    April 16 in South Korea ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Early arrival into South Korea today. Once off and through immigration, we used took the great metro tour of Busan...meaning we spent a lot of time on the metro and achieving little! Largely because we realised too late that many of the metro stops were too far from the temples that we hoped to visit. So we headed out east, popped briefly to the beach before heading back into the centre to see the UN cemetery for those killed in the Korean War.

    The cemetery itself is a large and peaceful space in this city of skyscrapers. We spent some time walking around the site, looking at the different monuments erected by each nation to their fallen before heading through the park to the Busan Museum. Packed into this museum was millennium upon millennium of the history of this area and made for an interesting detour.

    Back on the metro to the west of the city and the markets, we stopped by the Gukje Market and the undercover shopping market for some souvenir hunting, although came back empty handed. Our last metro journey took us back to Busan Station where a quick stop at Dunkin' Doughnuts used up the remainder of our South Korean Won currency before heading back to the ship for a formal night.
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  • Day6

    At sea

    April 14, Japan Sea ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    After returning to the ship yesterday, we triumphed at trivia before dinner! Today was a chilled day at sea - eating too much, reading lots and sleeping. We did take a class in learning Japanese calligraphy in the morning with a lovely mother and daughter volunteer showing us how to write our names and other phrases. After lunch, we enjoyed the hot tub before some afternoon trivia in which we were not so successful.Read more

  • Day6

    Niigata

    April 14 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Niigata port was a new stop for the ship we are on...and we weren't entirely sure why as it didn't seem to have a lot going for it. After some free WiFi research on the dockside, we decided to get the shuttle bus to town and give it a go.

    From being dropped at the station, we headed out towards the Bandai Bridge which is apparently an attraction due to its sweeping arches. On the way, we passed the Media Ship building and took advantage of the free 20th floor observatory. They also had a local market on which sold interesting trinkets and jewellery, as well as a clown for the kids!

    The Bandai Bridge, over the Shinano River, took us to a beautiful riverside walk, covered in cherry blossoms and tulips. We walked about a kilometre north to the old customs house, before returning and walking a further kilometre south to the Hakusan Park where Arts Mix Japan festival was taking place. The weather was pleasant enough for a walk but with the sun out and the sky clouded over it was rather muggy. Nonetheless, along the length of the riverbank, Japanese families were out picnicing under the cherry blossom trees.

    The Hakusen Park was teeming with people. There was a dance troupe on entertaining both the locals and the vast number of tourists from our ship. At the top of the park, food stalls offered octopus, dough balls, noodles and candy floss in the shade of the Hakusen Shrine. The slow jostle to the shrine itself through the crowded stalls gave us a chance to see the drumming display on inside, before popping on the free shuttle bus back to the station, to get our shuttle back to the ship. A worthwhile visit despite our reservations!
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  • Day5

    Mt. Hakodate

    April 13 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C

    After a far calmer night, we arrived into Hakodate on Hokkaido greeted by a local girls school dancing on the pier. The ship's shuttle bus dropped us at the station and after a shaky start (couldn't find an ATM, the bus we hoped to catch not running), we started to yomp towards Mt. Hakodate. Through the Morning Market and past the red brick warehouses and up the lower slopes was the Hakodate Ropeway, a cable car up to the viewing points at the summit. The view from the top is supposedly spectacular at night, but looked equally impressive in the daytime.

    Back at the base, we walked to the historic centre of Hakodate. Sadly the Public Hall was covered in scaffolding but the old British Consulate and similar buildings gave a strange ecletic mix of architecture to the town. Crossing the Hachiman-Zaka slope afforded great views over the port down this steep road (albeit not as steep as Lombard Street!).

    We walked back through the red brick warehouse district for some shopping, taking in the local glassware specialities, before stopping off in the Hakodate microbrewery to try the local brew. Ordering could only be done on an iPad (even for drinks), continuing our experience of the weirdness of Japan - massively technological in some ways yet we've never struggled more to find places that accept credit cards!

    Back on the ship, we spent a happy and relaxing afternoon in the hot tub under the sun and on the sunbeds reading.
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  • Day4

    Ishinomaki

    April 12 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C

    On our way back to the ship, we climbed the big hill (as is our cruise tradition) in Ishinomaki up to Hiyoriyama Park. The park overlooks the shore of Ishinomaki where the tsunami hit. Today building on this devastated land is considered too dangerous, so it remains barren with plans to turn it into a memorial park.Read more

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