October 17, 2018 – Yokohama, Japan

Tokyo Street Corner

Nezu Jinja Shrine Gate

Nezu Jinja Shrine Grounds

Nezu Jinja Shrine

Fukagawa Edo Museum

 

Kiyosumi Gardens

The weather on this day started out beautiful with sunshine and temperatures around 70 degrees. By the end of the day it began to rain slightly and the skies had turned gray and dark. The sun is rising early about 5:45am and setting about 4:45pm with it getting dark by about 5:00pm.

Our tour on this day was titled “Old Town Tokyo”. We headed to the Fukagawa area, east of the Sumida River, called the Shitamachi (Old Town).

Our first stop was at the Fukagawa Edo Museum, nestled in a narrow, tree-lined street among numerous temples and shrines. The museum was established in 1986, and here we saw a display from the Edo period, including everyday items and a reconstruction of Fukagawa Saga town. The town from the 1800’s was very interesting in that they had a full-scale neighborhood with homes and shops that would have existed at that time. We saw typical one-room homes with mats on the floor, a corner carved out for the kitchen and everyday items that would have been in a home at the time. They showed the watchtower that would have existed at the time to watch for fires and the fire brigade buckets in the event of fire. The homes often served as the family business as well selling things like noodles, vegetables or household items.

Our next stop was at Kiyosumi Park, near the Sumida River where it is easy to imagine you are far from the bustle of the city. The site of this park was once the site of a mansion owned by a wealthy merchant. By 1878 the surrounding area was acquired by Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi. The garden served as a place for recreation for the family’s employees as well as a place to entertain dignitaries and distinguished guests. In 1923 after the great earthquake the Iwasaki family donated the land to the city of Tokyo. After restoration the property was opened as a public garden in 1932.

The gardens are extremely beautiful with immaculately manicured pine trees trimmed into topiaries. The large lake has several islands and is home to a variety of fish, turtles and birds. Unique rocks gathered from around the country create a walkway around the lake and there is also a teahouse and iris garden.

After lunch at a local restaurant we visited Nezu Jinja Shrine built for Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa. The shrine has been designated a National Cultural Asset. Families visit this site when children are born and when they turn 3, 5 and 7 years old to give thanks to the gods for healthy children. The locals practice Shinto religion that believes in gods of all types including the god of the moon, sun, house, trees, and most anything that the locals come in contact with. They also believe in the Buddhist religion from India while Christians represent only about one-percent of the population.

Next, we were off to Ueno, which is a district in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, best known as the home of Ueno Station and Ueno Park. Some of Tokyo’s finest cultural sites are found here, including museums and a major public concert hall. Here we headed to the Ameyoko Discount Market (a very crowded local market area) near Ueno Station where we were given some time to shop. The streets were filled with vendors selling fresh fish, toys, shoes, clothing, food items and more. The vendors would often stand on stools hocking their goods with signs stating what type of discount or price they were offering on something they were selling. We helped our friend, Bryan, find some Bonsai pruning shears but could not find his wished-for Sandalwood soap.

The evening’s entertainment was a saxophonist, pianist and singer by the name of Craig Richard. Craig is from Colorado Springs and was featured in a television show about people who should not be alive. He is a rock climber and broke his leg while rock climbing and had to crawl for 18 hours to get out of the mountains. He was also a finalist on American Ninja’s last year. We thought that he was a very accomplished musician but his show was lacking a spark.

October 17, 2016 — Arnhem, The Netherlands

Arnhem Stately Home

Arnhem Stately Home

Arnhem Shop

Arnhem Shop

Arnhem - Bridge Too Far

Arnhem – Bridge Too Far

This morning some onboard visited the National Liberation Museum in nearby Groesbeek. The Liberation Museum is set in the beautiful landscape near Nijmegen, Arnhem and the German border, a unique location: Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation in history took place here in September 1944 and Operation Veritable, the Rhineland Offensive, the final road to freedom in Europe, started from here in February 1945.

The museum brings the historical events of the liberation by the American, British, Canadian and Polish troops back to life. In the museum they saw the period preceding the war, experienced the occupation, celebrated the liberation and witnessed the rebuilding of the Netherlands and Europe after the war. Aromas, interactive presentations, diorama’s, models, original films and sound fragments captivatingly depict the liberation. The museum shows both young and old the current value and importance of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Not wanted to be depressed by memories of war, we chose to take an alternative panoramic bus tour of the Arnhem area followed by a walking tour in the heart of the city. Our tour took us through some stunning scenery from simple country cottages to large stately homes. Everywhere we went, there were lush green trees planted in rows surrounding each plot of land and many just beginning to turn colors in the fall air. We did drive by the fields where some 25,000 allied soldiers parachuted into the area in a failed attempt to take control of the bridges (one was the famous Bridge Too Far) crossing the local rivers.

In town we heard about the history of many of the old buildings and shops lining the pedestrian only streets in the heart of town. The shops used to have three dimensional figurines mounted on the front of the shops to tell passers by what they sold inside. For example, a pig’s head might indicate that it was a butcher shop where they sold pork, while a cow might indicate that it was a Jewish butcher where beef was sold but no pork.

We returned to the ship about 12:30pm in time for lunch and to begin sailing towards our next port of call Koblenz, Germany. Due to the low water levels and heavy traffic on the river it would take us about 28 hours to reach our destination. In addition to the many tourist river boats there are many commercial goods transported on the river.

For dinner, the ship had prepared a special captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner for us. They served a four course dinner including lobster soup, veal tenderloins and crème Brule. After dinner they showed a film about the Andre Rieu Concert. Andre is a violinist and conductor who is trying to bring classical music to the masses by making it entertaining. In this case the concert including vocalists, ballroom dancing, ice skaters dancing, elaborate costumes all in a fairy tale setting of a stately manor home. We were not familiar with him but others said that he is often shown on public television programs.

February 2, 2016 Sea Day

We attended a coffee chat with the cruise director and the nautical department. Four of the ships officers were on stage to answer guest’s questions about everything related to the navigation of the ship.

Brian Stoddart lectured on India’s Global Business and Labor Empire. He discussed how India’s population has migrated over the last 150 years, providing labor around the world. Indian’s have created great wealth by inventing many drugs, products and services around the world.

We had lunch with Gail in the dining room prior to doing our daily walking on deck in an attempt to ward off some of the extra pounds.

The afternoon brought a lecture by Werner Salinger about Africa and its fastest growing economies in the world.

We were invited to dinner at the Canaletto Restaurant with John and Steve from San Francisco. Following dinner we enjoyed an internationally acclaimed trumpet player and vocalist by the name of Chuck Curry. He was a public school music teacher in Scottsdale, AZ before the district discontinued the music program. He had a nice voice but not much stage presence.