JEJU CITY, SOUTH KOREA

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Jeju City is a vacation spot for Koreans especially honeymooners.

I escorted a excursion to a great show, called Nanta, that was a cross between Iron Chef and Blue Man Group.  Tons of dancing and laughing and throwing food around. It was a non-verbal show so it was really easy to follow.

Kal went on a different tour. Talk about that later.

We were in Jeju City  last year and we didn’t do much then, was desperate to find wifi so we hung out at a resort, and just walked around. So happy I got to see this show.

After the show we went to a official store for shopping, everything was expensive and a huge basically a waste of time.

Then we drove to an ice cream stall. They had the weirdest cones. I can’t decide if they are obscene or not. You be the judge.

 

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View from the bus

 

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The official shop we were taken to

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Above is ginger in oil or liquor and below is different kimchis

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Ice cream cones

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Heading back to the buses

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NAGASAKI, JAPAN

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Nagasaki, where the 2nd atomic bomb was dropped that finally ended WWII. The major highlights of Nagasaki are the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park, the Glover Gardens and main house, which served in the 1880’s as Puccini’s inspiration for writing what is probably his most famous grand opera, “Madame Butterfly”, and a small memorial park to US Commodore Perry, who opened up Japan to trading with the USA in the 1860’s.

Going back as far as the 1700’s under the Shogunate, the only Japanese port open to foreigners for trade was the port of Nagasaki. The Shoguns wished to keep Japan “closed” so their people would not be exposed to Western influence. How things have changed! Every young person in Japan seems to be wearing T-shirts with Latin letters on them as a kind of status symbol, and although you still see women walking around in traditional kimonos, the trend is definitely that the younger generation has rushed headlong into trying to adapt many Western mores and customs. One such sign is that so many stores at this season are decorated in Halloween colors, with pumpkins, witches, spider webs, ghouls and ghosts, etc. and places like the 100 Yen stores and many others sell not only decorations but also doll-sized props to go with the holiday. And on Christmas something similar will happen, even though very few Japanese are Christians. Some stores are already taking out their Christmas “stuff” to sell.

In short, on our previous visit we had really seen everything in Nagasaki that interested us, but there was one thing we had only seen in walking down the steep road from the Glover Gardens on our last visit and that Nina remembered, and that was the “Fish Spa”. A more appropriate name for this might be, “The Day We Became Fish Food.” In Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and perhaps in other places, you can get a pedicure by putting your feet into a small tub and having hundreds of small fish the size of guppies, nibble at the dead skin on the bottom of your feet, around your cuticles, etc. It’s an experience not quite like any other we’ve experienced, and we decided to go for it. For $5 each, we both put our feet into the “fish spa” for 10 minutes, and boy did those babies go to town! The moment you put your feet into the water, these tiny fish are all over your feet. The first 30-60 seconds, it feels like you are getting your feet tickled by thousands of tiny bubbles. I am very ticklish, so I started laughing and squirming, but after a minute or so you get used to it. You need to remember to lift your heel off the bottom of the spa so the fish can get to the dead skin on your heel, as well as on the rest of your feet. The water reached up to a few inches above the ankles, so the fish worked on both the dead skin on the tops of our feet and around the ankles, the cuticles and skin between our toes, and con the bottoms of our feet. After we finished in the fish spa we took a close look at our feet and man, this really worked. This was only the 2nd or 3rd pedicure I have ever gotten, and the first one like this, but when we get to China and Vietnam, if I have a chance to do this again, I’m gonna!

From the Fish Spa we took a trolley to another shopping arcade in Nagasaki, around which is surrounded a major 3-day celebration in Nagasaki, of which today was Day 2. There were many food stalls out, serving all kinds of strange things, some of which I couldn’t identify, but we didn’t see any festival-like activities beyond this. Nina found a yarn shop and bought a unique book of knitting patterns printed in Japan that had hundreds of patterns but no text. The intent is to use the patterns and, using scrap and leftover yarns, to make beautiful sweaters, socks, etc.

The Japanese have elevated umbrella-making into a fine art. In our window shopping we came across an umbrella shop with what can only be described as high-end pieces of umbrella art. These are not the $4.00 plastic umbrellas that the ship gives out. In the store we saw one umbrella selling for nearly US $200 made of silk and what looked like a decorated bone handle. The gorgeous color pattern, which was an illustration of a field of flowers with mutli-colored butterflies, was remarkable because then entire color pattern one would see on the outside of the umbrellas was just as completely visible – and bright – from the INSIDE of the umbrella. We were joking about “If we had the money…” when Nina said, “Lose a $200 umbrella by leaving on a bus or in an office? No, I don’t think so…” We also saw an umbrella for even more money – $270 – but the “less expensive” one was the most beautiful. Everything artistic that the Japanese put their hands to, seems to be executed with a precision and an attention to detail that can only be described as a love of the aesthetic.

The terminal

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On the way up to Glover Gardens

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I got you licked L’via!

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Inside the fish pedicure place.

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Japanese High Schoolers in their uniforms

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Girls in uniform

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More food stalls

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On the bus

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Yarn Shop, that has everything from quilting to custom kimonos to Yarn!!!

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Beautiful umbrellas!

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Slippers for Kimonos

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Selling roasted chestnuts on the street33

The trolley

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Penny Loafers. I wanted to teach them how to put in a penny!

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Glover’s home

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High Schoolers wishing us Bon Voyage!

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Fukuoka, Japan

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From Kal’s Journal:

On Tuesday, October 7th, after a day at sea, our ship landed in Fukuoka, also known as Hakata. Originally these were two side-by-side cities, but in 1899 they voted to unite. Now the names are used interchangeably, although Hakata is generally used to refer to the older part of the united city. We picked up maps from the Tourist Information booth provided by the local municipality and headed out to visit what is the oldest Zen Buddhist Temple in Japan.

But first a word about Japanese maps in English for tourists. All these maps are written in both English and Japanese, which makes sense since if you are trying to get somewhere and ask a non-English-speaking local (this includes most of them) for help, at least they will be able to read the Japanese characters on the map, and maybe they can give you directions in a “Charades”-like conversation. However, with the exception of Kanazawa, none of the Japanese cities we visited (and we received tourist maps from all of them) had clear bus or trolley routes. Yes, the routes were shown on a map, but in Fukuoka, for example, the number of the bus route from Point A to Point B was different from the number of the bus route from Point B to Point A along the absolutely identical route. It was often very confusing to try to figure out where the actual bus stop location was and especially, to figure out the bus route numbers for many of the routes. Maybe this was just an off-day for me, but I am an excellent map-reader, and if I had a difficult time, I can only imagine what others experienced. On the other hand, Japanese maps, much like the Japanese themselves, are extremely thorough, complete and precise. Virtually every temple and shrine was marked. Every commercial building of any seeming significance or “status” was marked. Every shopping mall and arcade seemed to be displayed. All the streets and alleys, in central Fukuoka and later, in central Nagasaki, were shown. All the bus, trolley and subway routes were shown, and all of them are color-coded so they can be easily followed (if you know the proper bus number along your desired route/s).

The  Temple in Fukuoka was established in 1195 CE by Ensai, a Buddhist monk from China who introduced both Buddhism and tea to Japan. It lies situated in downtown Fukuoka and is surrounded by a high, perhaps an 8-foot, wall. Once you step onto the Temple grounds, you immediately feel a sense of serene refuge from the hustle and bustle of the modern Japan outside the wall. The footpaths throughout the Temple grounds are covered with a highly pulverized stone, probably grey granite, which emits a crunching sound when you walk on it. The large Buddha of this Temple is found on the 2nd story of the main Temple building. The Buddha appears to be 25-30 feet tall and is in a sitting position. The statue is carved out of wood and highly decorated, and the background that frames the Buddha is carved out of wood with highly ornate designs. The main Temple is fairly large, although not as large as others we have seen in Kita- Kamakura in the past. As we walked up the concrete steps to the Temple entrance, a prominent sign said “Buddhists Only”, so clearly the Temple monks wanted to restrict entry to those actually there to pray and not to sight-seers.

Before entering Buddhist and Shinto Temples it is customary for believers to “cleanse” themselves by washing their hands. In this Temple was a structure off to the side that appeared to be something like a shallow well with a stone cut in the patterns of a lotus blossom in the center, and two ladles for filling with water from the well for the purpose of pouring over one’s hands.

The Temple also had a tall, perhaps 8-story, pagoda-like building with a tall polished brass point (could it possibly have been real gold and still be there?) at the top. We never learned what the building was, but it’s bright orange color made it a stand-out attraction in the Temple. As with all fine crafts we have seen in Japan, which all seem to be made with great care, respect and love, the finishing’s on this building were made of what looked like ½” to 1” white square tiles highlighted by gold-colored grout. It was like applying these white tiles to the cut ends of 4X4” pieces of wood that faced outward, in order to beautify them. And there were hundreds of these “exposed ends”, reaching all around the various roof levels of the pagoda and all the way to the top.

The Temple also contained what appeared to be a cemetery, perhaps for monks who had served or for personages important in the life of the Temple through the ages. The inside of the portion of the large outer wall facing the street wall contained what appeared to be 2-foot high statues of the Buddha in 4 or 5 repetitive poses. I don’t know whether this was merely decoration or whether it had some symbolic or other meaning. Regrettably, we could not find any monks on the premises to ask.

From the Temple we continued on foot for several hundred yards and turned down a side street, on our way to a shopping arcade Nina wanted to visit, when we came to what was apparently a major Shinto Temple in the downtown heart of Fukuoka. The grounds of this Shinto Temple seemed even larger than those of the Buddhist Temple. In Japan both Buddhism and Shintoism are practiced, and I am told that many believers practice both. They share some similar rites, such as washing the hands before prayer, but in the Shinto faith rice seems to play a big role. Rice stalks are woven into fancy ropes for Temple decoration, people write their wishes on rice paper and ties the strips of paper to what I can only describe as a square “wishing fence” made of wood, and of course rice offerings are made to their gods. Upon entering a Shinto Temple you are confronted with a pair of large and horrific-looking face masks hanging from one of the Temple rafters closest to the entrance. These face masks are there to ward off evil spirits that might enter the Temple and disturb the worshippers. As in Buddhism, in the Shinto faith one removes shoes before entering the sacred space of a Temple. In Shintoism respect at the Temple is shown by bowing twice and quickly clapping twice after saying what appear to be private and personal prayers, then putting some coins into a collection (charity?) box, lighting a candle and burning incense. In Shinto Temples there is also a practice of writing wishes (for health, wealth, love, return to here, etc.) on small, thin planks of wood about 4X6” and tying them to a wooden “wishing fence”. Sometimes the wood planks are also decorated. We saw messages in Japanese, English, German and French. We first saw this same practice two years ago at the huge Shinto Temple in Kita-Kamakura.

After visiting this Shinto Temple we left via a side entrance that led to a small alleyway which emptied onto a downtown side-street. There were many food stalls and small shops on this side-street, but at the bottom of the stairs leading down from the Temple was a food stall where the proprietor was making fresh sweet red bean rolls and selling them. There was a long line of Japanese locals waiting to buy, so we got into line. We had eaten these red bean rolls before, in an Asian market in Phoenix, where there, too, the rolls were made before our eyes. While red bean paste rolls may not sound particularly appetizing to a western palate, the red been paste filling is a bit sweet, and the rolls themselves kind of sticky-chewy, as if the baking were not quite finished. And man, are they good! We each had one, and then, who should show up but a busload of people from one of the ship’s organized tours, including many people we knew. Of course they saw us eating the rolls and wanted to know what it was, how does it taste, etc., and a few moments later a line of about 20 people from the ship are standing in line to buy and try….

We finished our red bean paste rolls as we walked toward the shopping arcade we had originally been headed toward, as Nina was looking for yarn and for a few souvenirs. Shopping arcades in Japan (different from malls) are indoors, but they are narrow shopping strips that may run for several blocks with street-like cross-strips every few hundred yards that have more shops. It’s kind of like the main street in the Old City, but everything is under roof and there is no merchandise displayed in the areas that serve as walking paths in the arcade. However, the shops are deceptively small as you can only see the outer facade of the shop from the street. To see the entire shop, you need to go inside, and once inside you can find stores as large as any major chain store in the USA. Japan has what they call 100 Yen stores, which are like 99-Cent stores or Dollar Stores and that are easily as big or even bigger than those in the USA, and a lot more merchandise is crowded into some of those stores than in their USA equivalents. Nina was looking for – and found – large cooking chopsticks, since she does a lot of wok cooking. And – surprise, surprise! She even found three—pack sets of these large, bamboo cooking chopsticks with the tops painted

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A grave with head stone for one of the monks.

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Leaving the temple. Would you wear a kimono everyday? And the shoes????

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The Shrine

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Masks hanging in the Shrine.

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Prayers written on paper and tied, similar to the Western Wall28

The Gate. There are Gates to enter everything, from cities to Temples to China Towns

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Wishing plaques

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The old stone Gates

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The best sweet bean paste buns! Yum3435363738

 

Another food stall. I guess I won’t ask for a tea from this one! 39

The enclosed shopping arcade.

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“SHIMAYA???”

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One Yen equaled one penny. So 100 Yen is a dollar. The melon is  $29.80

 

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You choose what you want and place it on a tray. Then go to a table and eat.

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LA Diner??

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This florist had amazing flowers I just had to take pictures of them.

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Would you believe these are real? And not dyed!!

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A store that sells altars. They were beautiful.

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The two cutest doggies ever.

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A drum group wishing us good bye. They were great!

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Kanazawa, Japan

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The day before we were suppose to arrive in Tokyo we were told by the captain of the ship that a typhoon was heading straight for Tokyo and that we would be right in the eye of the storm if we stayed on course. The typhoon was a category 3 turning into a 4 and that we would be avoiding it and so we wouldn’t be going to Tokyo but to two other ports which would be a first for our ship.

The first stop was a city of about one million people called Kanazawa. (Who the hell ever heard of Kanazawa????) But we docked at 8am and had a shuttle that took us to the train station where we took a “loop” bus or trolley around the downtown.

Yes, it was pouring.. not raining but it turned out to be one of the nicest days ever.

This is one town I wish we had more time to spend in.

There is a castle and gardens in the center of town and a ton of museums, including The 21st Century Museum, a Japanese Traditional Crafts Museum and The Gold-leaf Museum.

Kanazawa produces 98% of the Gold-leaf in the entire world. Our first stop was the museum for Gold-leaf. It was fantastic.

The Japanese has such a discerning eye for esthetics, design and form. I am so bowled over by the incredible style.

After we walked over to the Gardens by the Castle in the pouring rain.. and I mean pouring rain!! We found that the Castle wasn’t worth the visit and we headed to the Traditional Craft Museum, grabbing a snack along the way.

The snack was really good, it was grilled tofu, filled with warm sushi rice and veggies.

 

I could talk forever about the art, design and craftsmanship, but pictures speak a thousand words.

Unfortunately, we had to get back to the ship by 4:30. We would have spent way more time walking down the little streets full of fascinating shops and restaurants.

 

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Smoking  chamber (there are smoking areas all over the town)

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Japan Vending Machines

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Interior of the train station

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Kids mucking around outside of the station

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The TRAIN STATION Entrance

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Things we saw during our bus ride around the town called the “Loop Bus”

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See the SAKE BARRELS?

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Small Temple

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Hello, Kitty!

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The Gold Leaf Museum

Dining Room Set only $15,000

 

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Additional Chair

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Temple Gate – The white hanging garlands are Origami Cranes

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More from the Gold Leaf Museum

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On the bus to the Castle and Gardens.

Wearing a Kimono in the pouring rain?

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Walking up the road from the bus stop to the Gardens. This was my snack. YUM!

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The entrance to the Castle and Gardens

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In the pouring rain actually cutting the grass one blade at a time? Or pulling weeds?

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Gardens

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Professional Photographer

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The Traditional Craft Museum

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Next two pictures are together. It explains how they made stencils for fabric

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Candles

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Famous dolls (our next stop is the main manufactures of these dolls)

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An altar of gold and black lacquer

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The café at the museum. Such a simple center piece that is so esticatly pleasing

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The two pictures below explain what the seat in the toilet stall says. I am sure you can figure it out.

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Artist at work.

He is working on a needlepoint canvas.

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On our way back to the ship.

Walking through the Gardens again. All these gardeners are volunteers and I even heard they clean each and every rock in the garden.

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Do you see the bark on the small trees in the lake? The trunk of the trees were supported with bamboo poles.DSCN9027

View of the city from the gardens

 

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Kushiro, Japan

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Kushiro is our first stop in Japan.

 

Since Kushiro is right across the bay from Russia and at the top of the islands of Japan they are the fishing mecca for the area. I guess you might say they are the Japanese equivalent to Dutch Harbor in Alaska.

The fishing boats here seem to be extremely updated with the latest technology and have solar panels (I am not sure why) all over the boat.

We saw boats fitted out for crab fishing, sea bass, flounder, halibut and other fishes. The boats have vacuums that suck up the fish. With all this equipment on the boats I have no idea how they manage to have a crew!

It was pouring so we headed out to the closest Mall. Near the pier there was a small mall so we went there looking  to find WIFI. After 4 days at sea, we all wanted to make contact with the outside world, I guess. I barely had any luck. Just enough to post the first two posts of this blog and a couple of emails.

In most places when we all (and that’s about 1000 guests and another couple of hundred crew members that have time off the ship) try to get onto whatever free WIFI we can find, the connection gets slower and slower.

I can tell you that once we hit China there won’t be any internet at all, unless something has changed.

Anyway, back to Kushiro

We made our way to the mall (it was called the “MOO MALL” would you believe) thinking it was a large and exciting one (since we were told the fish market was attached, plus all kinds of food stuff and fabrics etc.) Well, it’s tiny winny with not much going on.

There were about 1 produce vendor, 2 fish vendors a few cafes, one kimono store that allowed you to try on kimonos and a couple of bakeries.

Take a look at the prices.. understand that 1 US Dollar equals 100 Yen.  I think you might never eat fruit again!!! The Japanese actually bring fruit as gifts.

 

 

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Picture from our cabin!

Taxis lined up and waiting for us!

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That’s $55 for that crab!!!

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That’s salmon roe and fish of every kind.6

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Plastic food, Japan is known for their plastic food.9

Preparing some sort of smoked fish. It seems to be a snack

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All through the Mall people were trying to connect with home. That’s a fish tank in the background.

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The girls from the ship (Front Office) Having some fun.

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Typical cafe

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And what’s a blog of Japan without a sweetie Japanese Kid!

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DEADLIEST CATCH–DUTCH HARBOR–UNALASKA

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Dutch Harbor isn’t really much of anything! Just a little itty bitty town at the edge of the top of the world.

 

Being in Dutch Harbor made me think of the Caren Carpenter song:

I’m on the top of the world, looking down on creation!!!

 

Daylight (Sunrise) didn’t arrive until about 9:30am.. So very strange to wake up in the middle of the night and it’s after 8! The temps were in the high 40’s but with the wind chill (and there was a serious wind chill) it brought the temps down into the 20s easy. So cold. We wrapped (or I did, Kal is a polar bear anyway and doesn’t need much.)

I was hoping to see someone from Deadliest Catch or at least the boats but the season didn’t start yet so no one was really there. But there were some boats in the harbor. The bus driver, who took us into town, said that the NorthWestern was in port but we didn’t see it.

The things to see are the Russian Cathedral, WW2, the only hotel in town and the highlight is the Safeway.

The population of Dutch Harbor most of the year is approximately 2500 and they are lucky to get 3 cruise ships a year.

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Crab Pots just waiting for the crew!

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The most important building in Dutch Harbor!

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Henk, our Hotel Manager has a tandem bike that he rides everywhere with his wife Crystal, who is the Guest Service Manager . What a great way to travel around.

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Kodiak Alaska–Grand Far East/Australia 2014

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Before I start posting pictures of Kodiak Alaska (our first stop) I would like to show you some beautiful flower arrangements and other things on the ship.

 

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These few arrangements are just some of the fantastic flowers the couple from Holland make on every cruise. They receive additional fresh flowers whenever they need. They get delivered fresh directly to whatever port in whatever country we are in at the time.

 

Then of course, our cabin stewards make these cute towel sculptures, almost every night. Plus, of course, there is the little bit of chocolate on each pillow just in time to brush our teeth!

 

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Kal will be writing a journal and so I will take his words and my pix and together

we might get something decent.

I will also put the info all together and the pix altogether. That way if you only

want to skim you don’t have to stop and start. If you would rather placed it

differently I’ll change it. Of course, you won’t read anything from Kal about YARN or shops.. So let me fill that part in.                        

YES! There is a great yarn shop called The Rookery, it was full of wondrous yarns from major manufacturers.  You will see a couple of pix of the shop. They had the largest collection of NORO I have ever seen anywhere. SO MUCH YARN! The proprietor was a lovey woman who was very helpful. And for the quilters, there was a great shop too!

The ship docked in Kodiak, Alaska, a primarily fishing town on Kodiak Island at the east end of the Aleutian Islands. Kodiak Island is the home of the indigenous Kodiak brown bear, the largest brown bear in the world, with males weighing in at roughly 1,400 lb. and standing 10-12 feet tall on their hind legs. Of course the bears were located in National Wildlife Refuge located outside the town (and which takes up 2/3 of Kodiak Island and major portions of 3 other adjacent islands). There was an interesting exhibit and movie at the National Wildlife Information Center showing how virtually everything on Kodiak Island and vicinity flourishes because of the millions and millions of salmon (there are at least five varieties of Pacific salmon – chum, pink, Chinook, sockeye and silver) – that come here to spawn and thereby provide food, directly or indirectly, for the rest of the wildlife. There are an estimated 3,000 Kodiak brown bears and 500 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the Kodiak Wildlife Refuge. Of course, it being Rosh Hashana we could only avail ourselves of the free exhibits at the Wildlife Refuge and could not take advantage of the tours that were available for purchase to some areas where the Kodiak Island wildlife could be seen. Maybe on a next trip to Kodiak…..

The ranger at the Wildlife Refuge Information Center told us that usually Kodiak had only about 10 really clear and sunny days a year, but that this summer had been the most glorious that even the “old-timers” could remember, and the day we were there the weather was clear and sunny and the temperature in the low 60’s Fahrenheit – very comfortable for strolling about….

For me the most interesting thing we saw in Kodiak was the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church, the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in the New World, first built around 1746 (?) . Alaska was originally owned by Russia, which hunted furs and whales here and established a colony at Kodiak, the white settlement in Alaska that was closest to Russia, as its base of operations. The church was there to serve the needs of Russians but also to convert the local Aleutiiq Eskimos with whom they traded. After the Russians got badly beaten up in the Crimean War and needed money – and with their fur hunting and whale hunting and fishing resources almost all used up, they offered to sell Alaska, now their “white elephant”, to the USA for $10 million. After some bargaining the US Secretary of State Seward was authorized in 1867 to pay Russia $7.2 million for Alaska, and the deal was done. Initially many Americans referred to this purchase as “Seward’s Folly”, but the purchase was undoubtedly motivated by a sense of Manifest Destiny that was prevalent in America after the Civil War.

Back to the Russian Orthodox Church. First, it is relatively small. It holds the reliquary of St. Herman (whoever that is) and houses many beautiful, if modern icons that are prevalent in Orthodox churches. Some icons go back as far as 300-350 years, but the majority are much more recent, the most recent (and the ones closest to the standing congregants) were done only about 10 years ago by a Russian iconographer named Shkolnik (!) who lives in San Francisco. There is no Russian in any of these icons; all the texts, when they appear in the icons, are in English, although the alphabetical characters are written in a highly stylized alphabetical script that makes them look like Cyrillic iconographic script until one looks at the texts closely. When we mentioned to the young priest in attendance that the name Shkolnik was very identifiably Jewish, he remarked that he hadn’t seen Shkolnik for 10-12 years since the icons had been done, but his recollection was that Shkolnik was of Russian-Jewish extraction, he thought from Kiev. Is that a job for a Jewish guy??

The priest, who was not more than in his mid-30’s was born Daniel Dresdow south of Chicago in Illinois (was also a surfer dude from California) to an evangelical Lutheran family but converted to Orthodoxy. (He mentioned that his brother, 4 years older than himself, also converted and was also a priest in a Chaldean Orthodox Church in Ohio). Upon becoming a priest his name was changed to Fr. Innocent. The Russian Orthodox priests are allowed to marry but only before they are ordained; after ordination they cannot marry. Wives of priests are given the honorific of being addressed as “Mother” although they hold no ecclesiastical position. When I asked him, this priest said that the entire religious service is conducted in English, not Russian, and that in fact, he didn’t know a single word of Russian. I found that somewhat strange for a Russian Orthodox priest but didn’t comment.

I asked the priest several questions about the Orthodox rites. In Russian and other Orthodox churches, there are no chairs or pews for worshippers to sit down in (actually, there are a few as a concession to the elderly who may find it difficult to remain standing throughout the service, but this is definitely not the norm, and the priest mentioned that their shortest service lasts about 1½ hours and goes up from there, to about 4 hours, all throughout which most of the parishioners remain standing). When I asked why this was so, he explained that in the Orthodox view one stands in the presence of a king, and when standing in the presence of God, the King of Kings, one should always remain standing, and so they do; and the fact that they stand during their services thereby marks the prayer space as sacred space. Not far from the Jewish thinking on the subject, I said to myself.

I then asked the priest about the Orthodox cross, with two straight bars and one crooked bar toward the bottom. He explained that the first, straight bar represented the original cross of the crucifixion with the inscription from Pilate of INRI – “Iesus Nazareth Rex Iudeorum (?) – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. The second, longer but parallel straight bar represented the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified. Two objects that seemed to come out of each of the ends of the second bar that comprised the actual cross, were representations of a spear and a sponge – spear that wounded Jesus, sponge used to cleanse his wounds. The bent, third bar toward the bottom of the cross is supposed to represent the foot pedestal on which Jesus stood while he was being crucified. According to a legend he pressed down on the foot pedestal so hard that he bent it out of shape so that it became crooked, and that’s the representation of the third bar.

According to the Russian priest, the Russian Orthodox Church in Kodiak gets along well with the local Roman Catholic Church as the two priests understand that both are “brothers in Christ”. However, one of their differences comes in hierarchal matters. While the Pope is the leader of the Roman Church and has authority to appoint and move personnel around, in the Russian Church there is a Patriarch, but the local authority and control is in the hands of Bishops or Archbishops, and these arch/bishops apparently protect their turf. So it is that if a arch/bishop from one area wants to go into a church in another area and preach there, he cannot do so without the express permission of the local arch/bishop (and the parish priest?).

According to the priest at the Russian Church, about 70% of his parishioners are Natives, and many of them have Russian sounding last names (undoubtedly the result of successful missionizing by the Russian Orthodox Church here over the centuries). From the church we went to the old Russian Cemetery in Kodiak, which is located amid a grove of fir and spruce trees at the top of a hill overlooking the city and where there were graves with Russian names going back to the early 1800’s. All the graves seemed to have Russian crosses only, and many of the burials were arranged in family plots. The cemetery ground felt loamy to walk on, almost like walking on carpet, but I couldn’t tell if this was unique because we were on cemetery grounds or because that’s just the soil conditions here.

The main industry in Kodiak is fishing, and Kodiak harbor is filled with hundreds of fishing vessels of all shapes and sizes. The Russian priest told us that even though most of the fishermen are not particularly religious, almost all of them have an icon onboard of one of the saints – St. Nicholas, I think – although I don’t know his relationship to fishermen or what he is supposed to “stand for”. In addition, he said he is constantly asked to bless fishing vessels, even for those who are not of his faith or church, but who want a religious blessing on their boats before taking

off to sea.

 

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WHAT DOES THIS MEAN??????

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Dutch Harbor here we come!  Maybe we will bump into guys from The Deadliest Catch!