Our first week on the Japan cruise, we visited Omaezaki, Kobe, Kochi, and Fukuoka (Hakata) as we sailed south from Yokohama. Here are the highlights:
One big lesson I learned on this trip was that we overbooked excursions. I was unsure about how easy it would be to navigate from the ports. It turned out most ports had a shuttle to the downtown area or public transit. I underestimated how comfortable we could be at navigating in Japan.
We received a grand welcoming ceremony in Omaezaki because it was the first time Holland America docked in this port. Holland America provided shuttles to four different locations near the port plus there was a market set up right next to the ship. The area is know for green tea production.
We booked a very expensive excursion to the Kunozan Toshogu shrine. The area has a beautiful tower and a great view of Mt. Fuji when the weather is cooperating. It wasn’t. The shrine is great. You take a ropeway (cable car) to get there. It was about an hour from the port. Knowing what I know now, I would have not booked an excursion and utilize the shuttle system.
In Kobe, we booked Holland America’s Mt Rokko and Sake brewery shore excursion.
After about a 45 minute drive, we arrived at the Mt Rokko
Garden Terrace for the “$10 million view”. It was so foggy that visibility was
only about 10 feet. We spent about 45t
minutes at the view point and then transferred to the cable. The cable car ride
was fifteen minutes and we could see a little bit through the fog. We drove 15
minutes to the sake brewery. This is the largest brewery in the area and it has
been in operations since 1743. We had about an hour at the sake brewery and
museum. The museum was very well done. The displays led you through the full
process of brewing sake. We got to small samples of sake. We also paid 500 yen
for additional samples of a very nice sake. The ride back to the ship was about
30 minutes. I think this was a very good excursion to hit a couple highlights.
Kobe is also a great port to do your own thing since you have access to Osaka,
Kyoto, and the city of Kobe.
We decided to stay onboard here. No excursions were offered. The city is famous for the Kochi Castle and a market nearby. Several other guests went and said the Kochi Castle was very nice.
The day began with scenic cruising through Kanmon straits starting at 7:30 am.
This port was a little frustrating because originally we were scheduled to dock at 10:00 am. This gave everyone plenty of time for long excursions including to the city of Hiroshima. We had planned to go to Beppu City. Our arrival got changed to be 2:00 pm. We had a great tour guide through Tours by Locals who quickly adapted our itinerary. We took about an hour ride on a bus and train to get to the Reclining Buddha temple. This is the largest bronze stature in the world. It was built to receive Budda’s ashes from Tibet. The train station is five minute walk. We paid 500 yen per person to go inside the Buddha. You take off your shoes. You step along 88 steps from the temples featured in the Shikoku Henro pilgrimage. Then, you climb a winding staircase to pray in front of Buddha’s ashes and deposit your own wish. You also get a ticket to try to throw a small ball with a feather attached into box to win a prize.
We headed back to Hakata and visited a shrine that hosts
the Yamaska race with floats each year. Close to that was a shopping street so
we tried chicken skin skewer and a pork skewer. We also had delicious ramen.