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Tokyo – South Korea Cruise pt 1

It was change-over day on Monday with a number of people getting off a new persons just getting on. I’d booked it as a separate cruise for fiscal reasons and was lucky enough to have the same cabin, so I didn’t have to pack.

We docked in Yokohama which is Japan’s second largest city. It’s right next to Tokyo. I taxied to Chinatown, as you do when you’re Japan. It was actually quite clean for a Chinatown – that’s Japan for you. “Look, we don’t mind you having a Chinatown, but we won’t tolerate the usual mess”. It was an interesting place and I walked around for a couple of hours before returning to the ship.

The nationalities of the passengers has changed considerably. We have less than 700 Japanese now and the British contingent has increased to 392 from 151. Americans, Canadians, and Australians have also increased. This only meant one thing. Far more teams at the trivia events.

We left Tokyo Bay and the following day was at sea. Glorious weather and I was able to replenish my plummeting vitamin D levels.

Our first stop was Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost of the four large islands. On the basis that I had never heard of Kagoshima, my expectations were low. I taxied to the ferry port and boarded a car ferry which was heading to Sakurajima, a small island with a dirty great active volcano in the middle of it.

The ferry took about 15 minutes and on the other side I hopped on the tourist bus. The highlight was driving up to a lookout point some 370m above sea level. Other than that it wasn’t overly exciting.

After ferrying back I boarded a taxi and headed an hour north to the Kamikaze museum. Kagoshima was one of the locations for the kamikaze sorties as it was only 400 miles to Okinawa, where most of their efforts were concentrated.

The museum could have done with more English translations, however, there was enough to get a sense of what life was like prior to their untimely deaths. The pilots were volunteers aged between 17-22. The letters to their families were very moving. These young pilots felt it was an honour to die in defence of the Japanese Empire.

It total, 3800 kamikaze pilots died and they were responsible for the deaths of around 7000 allied naval personnel. They sank 34 ships and damaged many more. Only 19% of missions were successful though. Most were shot down before reaching their target. Ejector seats hadn’t been invented by then, so the special attack weapons” as they were called needed to be piloted to the target.

Yekio Seki was an interesting character. He flew a total of 9 missions and eventually died aged 23. There were some kamikaze survivors, most notably amongst them was Chicken Teriyaki.

The next stop was Busan in South Korea which is a city in the south of the country. It was a wet and cloudy day and after a minor crash, the shuttle bus from the ship dropped us in the centre of town. It scored a 5 on the interesting scale. I changed some dollars for some Korean Won – almost 1400 to the dollar.

I found an upscale shopping mall and wasted 20 minutes of my life there, before finding an underground shopping area which was far more interesting. It was built under the street and was accessed by subway stairs.

Korean pedestrians don’t exhibit the same obedience as their Japanese counterparts. It’s more of a free-for-all which suited me.

I hopped in a taxi to go 12 miles to the Haedong Yonggung Temple. It was billed as the most beautiful temple in Korea and I could see why. It lies on the coast and sits up high, built into the rocks. The dramatic backdrop was breathtaking.

It was a busy tourist attraction with lots of slow moving Koreans who weren’t necessarily suited to navigating the rocky steps. I scored “below average” for my patience.

After a thorough mooch, I found a taxi driver to take me back to the city. I’ve had more sedate experiences on rollercoasters. His driving was atrocious. Without doubt the worst taxi driver ever. And that includes Mad Marco in Sicily some years ago. He even made my mum look good. I think this guy may have only passed his test a week ago. It was jerky beyond belief. I wondered if his right leg had Tourette’s.

Busan is the second largest city in South Korea. It’s known by Koreans as Pusan. It’s famous for its beaches, temples, mountains, and a rather pungent fish market. I strolled around the market seeing all manner of fish – some dead, some alive. The octopi were the most fascinating, although there was a bowl of something that looked like mutated penises that had been put through a mangle. See below.

The queue for the shuttle bus back to the ship was beyond my limits of patience so I opted for a taxi. I couldn’t find one initially and my phone was down to 1%. My Korean isn’t what it used to be and I wondered how I was going to explain where I wanted to go. Normally I would just show the taxi driver a photo of the boat. With my phone dying, I figured I might have to “draw” a picture of a cruise ship. Playing Pictionary with a Korean taxi driver wasn’t what I had planned for.

Three more trivia wins since starting this second cruise. Now up to 11. I won Motown trivia alone but I’ve had to join forces with some others because the competition has arrived. 25 teams yesterday.

Georgia is working hard with more kids to wrangle on this cruise so I’ve not seen as much of her. I’ve made some friends though – casino friends, trivia friends, sauna friends. A nice group of people.

There are three formal nights on this 9 day segment which is 2 too many for my liking. They’re a cut above on Cunard – the other day I saw a guy on the treadmill wearing a cravat.

If anyone is interested my book is now available on Amazon. East of the Mississippi. Picture below.

Next stop Nagasaki.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Nice summary of the trip so far, thankfully I’ve now been able to prove to Kate that the volcano did actually rumble a little during our stay, she can be hard to convince sometimes – thanks for that. Chicken Teriyaki was good last night too! Bit of trivia that may come in handy for later…most successful Oscar winner to date….Walt Disney. Red and Gold gala tonight. M K

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