Our second week of the Japan headed up the western coast of Japan into the Sea of Japan and included a stop in South Korea. Here are the highlights:
We booked the Holland America Shore Excursion: Kenrokuen Garden and Omicho Market
After a thirty-minute drive, we arrived at Kanazawa Castle. We had 20 minutes to walk around the castle grounds. It was basically a quick photo stop. Then, we took the five-minute walk to the Kenrokuen Gardens entrance. We had one hour and 15 minutes in the Gardens. During that time, we walked through the whole gardens and visited the Arts and Crafts museum. We also had time to get a gold leaf ice cream. We drove about 15 minutes to the Omricho Market. It was a smaller market with seafood, restaurants, a couple shops, and fresh vegetables. We had an hour at the market, so we had an adventurous lunch. It was a thirty-minute drive back to the ship.
Busan, South Korea
We booked a private excursion with Tours by Locals. We visited the Hae Dong Young Gung Temple aka the Ocean Temple. It’s rare to find a Buddhist temple next to the ocean. It’s considered a dragon temple because dragons can manage rain and water. I loved the pagoda donated by the taxi drivers for safe driving. The temple has 108 steps to represent the 108 agonies in life.
We then went to Gamcheon Cultural Village. This area was originally settled from refugees escaping from the visiting in northern Korea during the Korean war. After many families left, the government invested in revitalizing the area by offering artists discounted rent. When this brought new people to the area, the government invested in building more tourist infrastructure and now it’s a popular tourist location. The public art is whimsical and fun throughout the village.
After the village, we headed to the traditional market and the international market. We tried some popular dishes: fish cakes, rice cakes, tempura and a special fried dough dessert filled with nuts.
Much of the morning was spent clearing immigration back into Japan. We headed into the port around noon. We found a restaurant for lunch along the canal and booked a canal cruise. We also stopped at Otaru Brewery to try some local beer.
We booked a Holland America shore excursion: Aomori and Archeology. We drove 30 minutes to a temple with a large, seated Buddha. This Buddha is dedicated to war victims with a meditating hand posture. The temple also has a beautiful five story pagoda. After an hour at the temple, we drove 30 minutes to a wedding venue for a very fancy lunch that featured many of the popular items from this area: scallops, fuji apple, and a cherry blossom bud. We had an hour for lunch. Next stop was the Sanmaru museum and ruins about 15 minutes away. These ruins were discovered during the construction of a baseball stadium. Much of it is a recreation, but they protect some of the dig sites so you can see 5,000-year-old dirt and pottery and the original holes for a large structure. We had an hour and 15 minutes to explore the ruins and the museum. We drove 20 minutes to ASAPM – a large triangular tourism center. We watched two short movies, visited the observation deck, and had about an hour for shopping.
Last stop was a 3-minute drive away: a museum dedicated to the Aomori Nebuta Festival. This is a special festival that takes place August 2nd – 7th each year. The museum shows you the behinds the scenes of the festival and how the floats are made. We had an hour at the museum. I wish we had visited the museum before ASPAM. The museum had special musical performances on the hour, but we were too late. Overall, the tour was very good and an efficient way to see several things in one day.
We booked Holland America’s excursion: Morning Market and Mt Hakodate Ropeway.
This was a very popular excursion with 5 buses of at least 40 people each. We drove 10 minutes to the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse District. This is a great shopping area and don’t miss the Lucky Pierrot hamburger shop. It’s the biggest burger chain in the area. We had 50 minutes in the shopping area.
The Ropeway was closed due to high winds, so we took the winding twenty-minute drive up the mountain. The mountain used to be only for military. No photos or pictures of the mountain were allowed. We had 50 minutes at the scenic overlook. It is a beautiful view.
We took the 20-minute drive back down the mountain to the Morning Market. The excursion had about an hour at the Morning Market. We decided to walk back to the ship. We enjoyed the market area and found a great restaurant featuring squid and sushi. We also visited the Hakodate brewery.
The shopping parts of this excursion you could easily do at your own if you are docked near the morning market. The Warehouse District is a 15-minute walk, and the Morning Market is a 5 minute walk. You could also take a taxi to the Ropeway and ride the cable car. I was glad we did the excursions since the ropeway was closed. I think Hakodate was my favorite port of call.