Heritage Adventurer

Japan, Korea,Taiwan, Philippines

May 18 - June 28, 2023

  This page is a way to save and share some images and words from my second set of voyages on Heritage Adventurer for 2023. I was aboard for 3 voyages - first (V1) a 2 week voyage on the west coast of Honshu and around Hokkaido with a day in Korea, then (V2) another 2 weeks back down the west coast and to Korea and into the inland sea to finish in Osaka; and finally two more weeks (V3) with stops in southern Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines.

  To check the details of the vessel see the previous voyages. She is superb.

  Sorry - I have made no effort to make this page work well on smaller screen sizes, and, as usual, my editor has been far too lenient.

  You can click on most images to get a higher resolution version. I have added a few hyperlinks but you can always do an internet search for any place that intrigues you.

Voyage 1 - Beyond Japan's National Parks

Tokyo to Kanazawa

   My trip started with a very tight connection in Sydney between Christchurch and Tokyo - so tight that I was given a buggy ride between gates. We landed in the Land of the Rising Sun as the sun rose and glinted off Tokyo Bay. It did not come as a complete surprise when my luggage did not appear. Making a long story short, getting it back was a fraught process - but in the end it made it to the ship just hours before our voyage started. Meanwhile, I needed some fresh clothes and that meant a shopping trip. It went quite well - though I did get reminded to "please take off your feet" at the fitting room. I was able to purchase underwear in my size, but when I put it on I found that it was a bit loose in the crotch and bit tight in the seat - giving me cause for concern about the relative size of my private parts and ass vs. the average Japanese male...

  We greeted the guests at the hotel in Tokyo and the following morning caught the Shinkansen (bullet train) to the west coast city of Kanazawa. We had an afternoon and a day in and around Kanazawa before sailing. This gave us the chance to visit the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden and a few historic sights. Kanazawa is noted for gold and sake, plus we made a trip into the mountains to visit the historic village of Shirakawa Go, famous for its thatched roof A-frame houses.






South to Korea

  First stop was the island of Dogo Jima - where we explored the rugged coastline and experienced a bit of local culture with bull sumo wrestling. During our day in Hagi we visited the Akiyoshido Cave - quite impressive with a rushing river and terraced formations - and had lunch in the local fish market.



  Our day in South Korea was quite special. We docked in Ulsan which is the headquarters for all things Hyundai - so thousands of cars and hundreds of diggers on display. We traversed the city to tour the Gyeongju area which was the capital of the Silla Kingdom for the first 1000 years of the Current Era. Highlights were the burial mounds of the kings, and the gold and other artifacts excavated from them. The emblem of Silla was the heavenly, or flying, horse. The afternoon was spent at the Buddhist Bulguksa Temple, fabulously decorated with paper lanterns in preparation for the celebration of the Buddha's birthday in 4 days time.





  It puzzles me a bit to celebrate the birthday of a man who taught that we are all reborn many times during our quest for enlightenment. But, on the other hand, perhaps it makes since because the Buddha managed to achieve Nirvana so they celebrate his last ever birthday. Whatever the case, it looked like they were going to have a hell of a party!

North to Hokkaido

  We called into Matsue to visit the Adachi Art Museum and Gardens. The garden has been voted the most beautiful garden in Japan for 20 years running - and deservedly so. In a unique, and quintessentially Japanese way, you do not enter the gardens but rather view them through windows as living works of art, complementary to the more traditional art forms displayed in the galleries. I found them beautiful, but quite sterile - a cottage garden overflowing with color and aroma is more my style.



  Next was Niigata - a rather forlorn little city with many empty shops due to declining population. We had a nice stroll in a wetland area and along the rice paddies, then visited the Northern Cultural Museum which is house in an estate formerly owned by a wealthy Meiji Period (late 1800s) family. The house, belongs and garden were all first class - with the garden viewed from the main tatami mat room much more to my liking. The afternoon included a sake brewery.






  A little further north we docked at Noshiro to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site - Juniko (12 Lakes) Park - a magnificent old-growth beech forest. We had a long and enjoyable ramble. As normal, it was the details in the undergrowth that caught my eye.




Around Hokkaido

  I had shipboard duties for our first port-of-call, Muroran. Next up was Kushiro for a visit to the Onnenai Mashlands home to the Red Crowned Crane, and the rescue centre that has brought it back from the brink of extinction. At one point there were only 33 remaining, but the locals have saved them with now more that 2000 in the wild today. Cranes are very special to the Japanese symbolizing good fortune, loyalty and longevity. The wetlands is also home to Sika Deer.




  Voyage 1 continued with stops in Abashiri, for a visit to Kussharo caldera, and Rashiri Island, where the visit was blown out by 60 knot winds. We finished in the pleasant port city Otaru near Sapporo.


Voyage 2 - Discover Eternal Japan

South To Korea

  We received our usual warm welcome at the southern Hokkaido city of Hokodate where we visited Onuma Nature Park for a boatride and a walk along a lakeside track that frequently crossed arched bridges between small islands. The shores were clad in a huge variety of flora - leaves of every size and shape and 50,000 shades of green. Then to the top of a tower to look down on the city and the old star shaped fortress.





  We made a return visit to Noshiro but this time we visited the wonderful Namahage Folklore Museum on the Oga Peninsula. So, the people in the Oga area have this remarkable tradition. On New Year's Eve the young men dress up as monsters and visit the local houses. They are greeted by the head of the household but immediately start stomping around and growling in an odd dialect and searching for naughty or lazy children. The parents try to convince them that everything is OK and placate them with a bit of food and sake. But the Namahage pull out their book where they have recorded all the activities of the village from their mountaintop home. It shows that some children have been lazy. At which point they grab the suspect child and wrestle with the parents to try to take it away to the mountains. Eventually, after a bit more sake, they yield and promise to come back next year. If the parent ever needs help they just need to face the mountain and clap three times. That will call the Namehage back to take the child away.

  The video presentation in the visitor center showed some actual Namahage visits to local homes. The terrified toddlers are screaming and grabbing for their parents while the Namahage try to take them away. Talk about bogeymen and nightmares! The locals all think it is a bit of good fun. Maybe they are right, but I think it would be close to child abuse in the west! So different. As a child in the west if you are bad then on Christmas you get no presents. In Oga if you are bad then on New Year's Eve you get dragged away to the mountains by the monsters. Talk about the carrot and the stick.



  We made a return visit to Juniko (12 Lakes) Park. Still great.


  The next day, at Sado Island, was an absolute highlight of the trip so far for me. The locals put on an extravagant welcome including a red carpet and their Crested Ibis mascot, then a quick ride around the harbor in miso tubs converted to boats - a local tradition - and, as they were not "boats" they were not taxed. Followed by a walk around a fishing village hardly changed from 200 years ago - except perhaps the sign for the local fertility festival.




  The best was a visit a drum school. Taiko, or Japanese drumming, is exuberant and fun. We got a chance for a bit of a lesson from this world famous group - see Kodo Drummers. They then performed for us. It was indescribably wonderful. Highly recommended to see them if a tour comes near you. These two video clips are a pale imitation - especially due to the limits of the microphone in capturing the power and reverb of the drum, and funky auto-focus, on my camera. You just had to be there.


  Kanazawa was another repeat visit, starting with visit from the local beauty queen and her court then a repeat visit to Kenrokuen Garden.




  We did some shopping and had lunch in the market.





  Last stop was a well preserved and restored "samurai" house from the 1800s. The rooms with hand painted screens were beautiful, but the garden stole my heart. Only postage stamp size, and the the perfect courtyard garden. Streams, bridges, koi, stone lanterns and more. It was hard to tear myself from the veranda when it was time to leave. The farewell was a large taiko group. If we received the style of welcome/farewell that we get everywhere in Japan it would seem false. But here the enthusiasm and enjoyment are palpable. Only in Japan.



  Matsue was another repeat destination with different excursions. We went to Mount Daisen for a walk up the pilgrimage trail at the foot of the holy mountain.The path is lined with Shinto and Buddhist shrines and is a nice nature walk too. Then down to the city to visit Matsue Castle - one of only 12 original castles in Japan. the rest were all destroyed - mostly after the emperor took control back from the Shogunate in 1868.



  For our return to Hagi I was aboard doing Zodiac driving duty in the rain. The final return visit for this voyage was to Ulsan, South Korea. We repeated the first visit of Hyundai, tombs, museum, restaurant, and temple, then added a stroll in a bamboo forest. Nice.




Into Japan's Inland Sea

  We stopped in the city of Karatsu on the island of Kyushu. The highlight for me was a visit to the Nagoya Castle Museum. It is dedicated to the often problematic relationship between Korea and Japan and deals mostly with the 1590 invasion of Korea by Japan. Japan was at that time led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He rose from a peasant background to be the most powerful man in Japan. In addition to creating a fleet of warship for the invasion, he had a tea room made entirely from gold to awe his friends and adversaries.


  Next stop was Shimonoseki on the narrow Kanmon strait separating Kyushu from Honshu. The strait is only 700 meters wide at its narrowest and is extremely busy with shipping traffic. We went to the market which featured whale meat sushi and puffer fish - which can kill you if not prepared properly. 65,000 Yen is about $US 480 - so you need to pay a high price to risk your life, but at least you get a bottle of sake too. We have been visiting castles and gardens along the way, with the hydrangeas having an especially good season.




  Our first stop on Shikoku island was the city of Uwajima - an off-the-beaten-track gem. We saw first hand the process of farming pearls, from the seeding of the oyster to the harvesting of the pearl. The manager opened 4 oysters as we watched and each contained a large pearl. 660,000 Yen is about $US 4800 - the world is your oyster indeed! The same excursion visited a village where the landscape had been terraced in past times for the growing of potatoes. Those folks works awfully hard - carting rocks from a island in the harbor to build the terraces. The spuds we sampled were very good, but you can't help thinking that they would have been better off farming pearls.




  Our visit to Hiroshima started at the A-bomb dome - the remains of a civic building that was very near the center of the bomb blast on August 6, 1945. We walked from there past the memorial to a young woman, Sadako Sasaki, who died at age 12 of leukemia after being irradiated at age 2. She started the tradition of folding origami cranes - which have become a totem for peace in Hiroshima. More than 10 million cranes are delivered to the city each year, including a small contribution from the passengers and crew of this voyage. The museum is intentionally confronting with explicit photos and personal stories of the victims - 40,000 in the first instant, then 100,000 slowly and painfully over the next few months, and now nearly 220,000 who have died as the result of the blast. The visit was made doubly difficult by the large number of school groups there at the same time. Walking among them to view the burned bodies of the child victims was a somber experience indeed.



  Happily, the afternoon excursion was to the island of Miyajima, home to the famous Itsukushima shrine and many temples. Tori gates are used to mark the entrance to Shinto shrines - the "floating" tori gate at Itsukushima is one of the most photographed places in Japan. As is common, Shinto and Buddhist shrines/temples co-exist side-by-side. At the shrine, people make an offering to purchase a small plaque, write their wishes on the plaque, and then hang it on a rack. Eventually they are collected and burned - sending the wishes to heaven. One temple featured more than 500 small statues of the bodhisattva Jizu, who is the protector of children who dies soon after birth and thus had no time to accumulate good karma for their re-birth. Red is the color for children in Japan. The place was full of happy families.




 We have visited a number of truly beautiful gardens throughout Japan, and it seems like the best was saved until last. Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu is over 400 years old and it seems that every tree, rock, hill, pond and teahouse has been crafted over the years to achieve remarkable sense of peace and harmony. It seems like every tree in Japan is either a cherry tree or has been carefully pruned to a pleasing shape. This is true not just in the famous gardens, but in every garden. The amount of work done is impressive, and the results very pleasing.





  The final highlight for this voyage was a visit to a bonsai farm. This owners were proud of their centuries old business, and the decades old trees were astounding. Delightful.



Voyage 3 - Exploring Asia's Subtropical Islands

  Having turned around in Osaka, the first three days of this voyage were the final three days of the previous one - Takamatsu, Hiroshima/Miyajima and Uwajima. At Takamatsu, our farewell performance was calligraphy as dance performance. The short time lapse video doesn't do it justice - especially without the pop music soundtrack. It was such fun and the girls obviously enjoyed performing - real flair and style - art on the paper and in the dance.


  From there we turned south and made landings along the Ryukyu island chain (a.k.a. The Okinawa Islands) starting with Yakushima and Amami Islands. Here we were able to walk in wild nature, away from the manicured gardens and into the forests. Yakushima is the rainiest place in Japan with rocky cascades and Macaques along the walk.We are headed closer to the tropics now with temperatures around 30˚C, high humidity, and mangrove forests in the river deltas.



  Our final two stops in Japan were at Okinawa and Miyakojima Island. On Okinawa we did a nice nature walk at the Valley of Gangala, and visited the reconstructed Shiro Castle (rebuilt after being obliterated during the Battle of Okinawa in which more than 120,000 Okinawans lost their lives - over a third of the population). Guiding duty had me assigned to the Former Japanese Navy Headquarters Underground Museum - the tunnels dug by Japanese soldiers at the end of the battle - where more than 1000 of them died including the top brass who committed suicide. Horrible. Happily on Miyakojima we went nature walking, fish viewing through windows in an underwater room and snorkeling.




  We had two days full of contrasts in Taiwan. Day one was in and around Taipei including a visit to the military Martyrs' Shrine, the dragon boat races (we were there on the 4 day weekend to celebrate dragon boat racing), the National Palace Museum (where I was very taken with the porcelain "rescued" from the mainland during the civil war), and a night market. The night market was a full-on sensory assault - and wonderful. High heat and humidity magnified by a crush of people on the Friday of a holiday weekend (think mosh-pit), charcoal braziers, the chattering of happy, excited people in a foreign language, carnival games, aromas and tastes of unusual foods, lights, scooters, and dogs (not babies) in strollers. Pictures fail.







  Day two was at the Taroko National Park outside of Hualien City. A narrow marble gorge was exploited by road builders in the late 1950s to create the first and only east-west crossing through "the most mountainous island in the world" (that isn't the way you think of Taiwan, is it?). The gorge is in itself gorgeous, and the hand hewn tunnels provide the perfect route to appreciate the work to create the road and view them. More than 220 men died building the road. Their memorial at Endless Spring Shrine is constructed around a gushing cool river roaring from the hillside. And, at nearly midday at nearly the Tropic of Cancer at nearly the northern summer solstice, I can point out that you have very little shadow.



  We made three stops in the Philippines before I signed off in Manila. The first was at the most northerly inhabited island in the country - Batan Island. This was a quite delightful excursion to the local lighthouse, a traditional fishing village where a local was using a cast net, a ridge-top refreshment stand with friendly locals and a chance to wander out along the ridge to help the cows enjoy the view. Sidecar motorbikes are ubiquitous.




The next two stops were on the north part of the main island of Luzon. The first was in and around the city of Vigan with has a long Spanish colonial history. It was a bit of a shock to be visiting Catholic churches instead of Buddhist temples. We stopped into furniture and a pottery factories before strolling the well-preserved colonial section. We were lucky to it the pottery factory on the one day every two months that they fire the kiln.





  For the final stop we were back to nature in the Hundred Islands National Park. We had a fun morning cruising in the colorful outrigger boats around the raised coral islands eroded into mushroom shapes. The water temperature was perfect and the snorkeling OK. From there the Heritage Adventurer continued south through the Philippines and Indonesia to Darwin and beyond. I headed to the USA and then the Arctic but hope to re-connect with her in the southern summer.




  Click the links below to download the trip logs or slideshows.

  Voyage 1    Trip Log    Slideshow

  Voyage 2    Trip Log    Slideshow

  Voyage 3    Trip Log    Slideshow