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
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.
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Voyage 1 Trip Log Slideshow
Voyage 2 Trip Log Slideshow
Voyage 3 Trip Log Slideshow