Busan and all that . . .

This was the second part of our ‘back to back’ cruising from Sydney in Diamond Princess.

We spent a day in Yokohama before sailing to cruise the Japanese coast and a single foreign port in South Korea, Busan, which is across from Japan via the southern part of the Sea of Japan. We would stay there for a day, before sailing back to the western coast of Japan, and then to return to Yokohama where we would leave the ship and fly home.

DSC01439rEntering Busan port. Busan used to be called Pusan, but was renamed in 2000. We sailed passed miles of container storage areas, cranes and wharfs, confirming that Busan is Korea’s busiest port, and the ninth busiest in the world. We then sailed under the  Gwangandaegyo or Diamond Bridge, before going alongside.

DSC01454r.jpgMaureen and I had booked the 100 steps climb to a temple – not being a keen viewers of temples the tour included a visit to a famous fish market, which for us was the main reason for taking the tour.

The one thing that has stuck in my mind of our visit to Busan was the very large number of apartments – block after block, it reminded me of a Lego city that my grandchildren build. I suppose with a population of about 3.6 million and the usable land being hemmed in by two rivers and a range of mountains the only place left was to build upwards.

DSC01492rAll the city photographs were taken from our coach, some might appear slightly blurred.


DSC01495rNote that this is block number 108 so they have 107 others just like it, but how many more are in this area?

DSC01498rAs we crossed the Diamond Bridge the shoreline had larger and more expensive looking apartments. A nice coincidence that the Diamond Princess sailed under the Diamond Bridge.

DSC01456rAfter over an hours dive we left the bus and started the climb, not the hundred steps, just a inclining path, which got steeper. The above is a picture of Monuments to family members of the past.


The start of the Beomeosa Temple, which is 1300 years old.
The lanterns are lit at night and I should imagine would add to the overall ambiance of the climb.

As you see we are now at the beginning of the temple area – still haven’t reached the hundred steps.

The Gate of the Four Heavenly Kings is guarded by theses statues – they guard the entrance to heaven. They look like the do, because they wish to subdue any unruly spirits to their will.




DSC01467rThe final few steps of the one hundred to the top.

DSC01468rInside the temple grounds.

DSC01476rIt was a lot easier going down, but one had to be careful as the height of the steps varied, and in places there weren’t any side rails to hold. A sign of age when you look for rails at the side. . .

DSC01483rAt least going down, once one had passed from the hundred step area, the sound of the small river was pleasant.

DSC01485rOnce we were all down, it was back on the bus for the trip to the fish market, just under an hours dive – the traffic was a little lighter.

DSC01502rNot sure if they were a type of octopus or ????

DSC01507rVarious crustaceans, which I don’t like.

DSC01510rAll In know is that the pale worm things were not sausages.

Overall I was disappointed in the fish market – not a bit like I imagined.

DSC01503rIt was not at all like other fish markets that we’ve seen – plastic containers holding packed fish, (still alive) and filled with continuous running water from hoses. Nothing on display, I suppose it is all about what one is used to seeing.


If you can’t afford a place within the market, use the pavement outside.

From the fish market we moved across a main road to the market. Very few items for sale that were not food. The market entrance is under the pink hoops.



DSC01519rWe were only allowed a very short time in both the fish market and this market because we were running late due to traffic jams.

DSC01520rStrawberries on a stick – you bought the whole stick, which was dripping in some kind of syrup.  I wasn’t sure what they were until I got a very close look.

The road we crossed to get to this market looked interesting with int’l shops and local shops all mixed, but we didn’t have the time to explore.



It was getting dark so it was back to the ship, which wasn’t all that far from the two markets, and shortly after we sailed for Japan.


 Gwangandaegyo or Diamond Bridge -the same bridge as in the first picture.



Tokyo – part two



Not far from the restaurant is the long alleyway of Nakamasi, that leads to Sensoji Temple.
The alleyway is host to stall after stall, selling everything from snacks, toys, handbags and souvenirs, a shopper’s delight.
The stall holders first obtained permission to sell their wares in the early 18th century.

Note the ladies in kimonos.


Not all of the kimono clad ladies were Japanese – the kimonos could be hired for the day or a few hours, while shopping.


We entered the temple through Kaminarimon, which mean Thunder Gate (below the hanging lanterns in the centre).

DSC01312rAs we walked through the gate on either side hung giant ‘slippers’ made of rice straw. The first pair were produced in 1941 as a thank you gift. There is a long tradition of offering sandals as a thank you gift to temples. The original pair were destroyed during the bombing in WW2.
The sandals are called waraji, being made of traditional rice straw, but with an ‘o’ in front it becomes ‘owaraji’ which means big.
Each sandal is 4.5 meters in length, 1.5 meters wide, and it weighs 500 kilos.
The re-establishing of giving the sandals to the Sensoji Temple began in 1964, and they are replaced about every ten years.
To produce a pair takes about 18 months, and the labour of about 800 people, including the people who plant the straw, and those who cook for the people actually making the sandals.


Once through the gate on the left we saw a five storied pagoda – access to it is very limited. Buddha’s ashes, officially inherited from the Isurumuniya temple in Sri Lanka, is stored on the top floor.


At night it is illuminated.
Above picture from Japan Travel site.


We entered the steps area of the temple and looked back – the smoke that can been is ‘cleansing’ smoke. The faithful rub it over their hands and any area that is giving them trouble. They believe that the smoke will help them get better, or cure aches and pains.

Next door to the Buddhist temple is a Shinto Temple.
Both beliefs live in peace with each other.

DSC01320rShinto temple



Note the barrier in the middle of the gate – only God can walk through the centre, because he is pure and unblemished, all others have to walk on the side, because they are unclean.
It took us an hour and a half and three trains (two changes) to get back to the ship – we were not delayed, it was just the distance.

DSC01323rAs we prepared to sail the band played on, and the crowds gathered.

DSC01334rAs we pulled away from the wharf everyone ashore started to wave yellow pieces of cloth.

DSC01336r.jpgThe end of the wharf – still waving.

DSC01342rThe beginning of a new voyage – next port is Busan in South Korea.

On the other side of the wharf where Diamond Princess was berthed . . . . .


For those who can remember when ships were ships, and not blocks of flats, the above is Hikawa Maru, launched in 1929, and built in Yokohama, and is now moored in Yamashita Park, Yokohama, and is a museum. She is currently owned by the NYK line.

School children are encouraged to visit so as to recognise and celebrate Japan’s maritime history.

A much better fate than the beach at Alang, in Gujarat, India. The  graveyard of many a fine vessel.





DSC01255rThe symbol of Japan, the rising sun, as we enter Tokyo Bay, on the final day of our voyage from Sydney. Our ship was too large to berth in Tokyo so we had to dock in Yokohama. The two cities have expanded so much that they have become one huge metropolis.

Many of the Sydney originating passenger were leaving the ship and either extending their holiday with land based tours or flying home. Many of us were staying on board for the first Japanese coastal cruise – called back to back. As such, I thought that Princess Cruises would have offered day tours of Tokyo, but they didn’t, just two tours aimed at those passengers who wished to fly out later on the day of arrival.

The tours offered by Princess would take about five or six hours to show the main sites of Tokyo before ending at one of the airports. The cruise company didn’t offer any tours for the couple of hundred passengers doing a back to back.

The two main airport for Tokyo are Narita, opened in 1978, and Haneda Airport, which used to be the main airport and on the opening of Narita became a domestic airport until 2010. The opening of the new terminal allowed Haneda to revert to being an international airport as well as domestic – it is also called the ‘downtown airport’ as it is close to Tokyo city.

The lack of ship’s tours for those staying on caused me to research tours for Maureen and I. This was when I found out about hiring personal guides, so we hired Masaharu to show us Tokyo.

With hindsight I think we should have still hired Masaharu, but to show us Yokohama and the surrounding area, because we didn’t realise how far away we were berthed from Tokyo city.

DSC01258rThe train tickets were cheap enough, but the actual train ride was 45 minutes before we changed to another service within Tokyo city. I’d seen Tokyo some year earlier, but Maureen hadn’t, so one couldn’t come to Japan and not see Tokyo, even if it meant a long train ride.

DSC01260rOnce again the trains were spotless and the stations very clean – the above is our origin station in Yokohama.

DSC01289rStations and trains within Tokyo were as clean as those in Osaka. The use of escalators was limited and most people used the stairs. The stations did have lifts etc for those not as nimble, but when on the stairs or the escalators in Osaka we stood on the left, but in Tokyo we stood on the right.
The yellow line that can be seen is for sight impaired people so as to find their way around. The yellow line is made up of rubber ‘bubbles’ so that they can feel the bubble through their shoe or when using a cane. In the concourse areas the yellow lines followed the main direction so as to take a person to the correct platform. They had yellow ‘junctions’ to help guide people.

The Japanese drive on the same side of the road as the UK & Australia so crossing roads was not a problem for us.

DSC01265rAfter about an hour and a half of travel we eventually popped out of the metro near the Imperial Palace. The picture above is the outer moat.

DSC01268rIt was quite a walk from the moat through the royal park to the inner moat. The bridge across the moat is the one used by international dignitaries when visiting the Emperor on State visits. Like Buckingham Palace in London, we were restricted as to how close we could get to the palace.

DSC01277r Beyond the bridge used by dignitaries, is another, but there is little chance of getting any closer.

DSC01287rI photographed the fence because it reminded me of Scottish thistle. Our guide did tell me what they represented, I think it was a pine cone. The park that we walked through had many pine trees.

Another train trip to an area in which we planned to eat, Asakusa, plus it was an area to see and perhaps shop for souvenirs.

DSC01291rAs we came out of the train station it was the old meeting the new.


The above picture is from the Japan Travel site.


Lunch was at a famous restaurant Sushizanmai in Asakusa, and the owner, shown in the picture, owns quite a number, (about 30 I think) and in 2013 he paid about AUD $1.9 million at auction for a bluefin tuna, (222 kilos) the first of the season.

In Australia, at auction, people buy the first tray of cherries or the first mangos and the money goes to charity. Buying the tuna for such a high price is similar, and of course he was on national TV and radio, so the price was cheap considering the publicity for his chain of restaurants. I’ve been told that the owner of the Sushizanmai chain, Kiyoshi kimura, is one of the riches men in Japan.

Masaharu (our guide) went in to the restaurant and listed us down for a table, because the restaurant is open 24 hours a day and people are queueing outside all the time, particularly after twelve o’clock for lunch. We arrived about a 11.45 am and didn’t have to wait long before we were shown in to the restaurant.
Our table was being cleared of dirty dishes and the previous  diner was still putting on his jacket – time was money.

DSC01299crWe could have sat at the counter and watched the staff making the sushi, the process never stops, all day every day. The menu was all in Japanese (of course), but with pictures and having Masaharu with us, we were able to ask questions.

Once decided the service was very polite and friendly, and fast.

DSC01301rMasaharu and I had small battered items (not sure what was in them, but they were tasty) . The jug was full of Sake and small cups for our use. Masahaeu poured mine and I poured his, and Maureen’s. Sake is a rice wine with an alcoholic percentage of about 15%. It had been years since my last drink of Sake.

DSC01303rWe ordered a mix of sushi with various different centers and pickles, (the white item on the left). All eaten with chop sticks of course (hashi in Japanese).


The suchi was followed by seaweed soup, I quite liked it . It didn’t taste of the sea, but it was different. Wild seaweed can be used, but the seaweed is mostly cultivated for quality and regular supply.

The meal for three of us, including the Sake and two beers (Masaharu & myself), came to about $54, cheaper than I expected.





Shimizu & Mt Fuji



The photo was taken from our balcony as we approached Shimizu in Japan, we were very fortunate that it was a clear day. We decided not to do any excursions, because we only wanted to see Mt Fuji and from reading Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic web sites, I knew that if we couldn’t see it from the town, then there was little chance of seeing it even if we were half way up the mountain

Of course, as we moved alongside I knew that we had a shopping centre quite close . . .

DSC01214rLike many of our fellow passengers we wondered over to the shopping area and the Ferris wheel. It was obvious that Shimizu was a popular place for private boats.


DSC01233rThey do say that size doesn’t matter, but this one looked a fine vessel, not sure if it offered trips round the bay, or if it was a private yacht.

DSC01228rOf course talking of size – you can see the Diamond Princess alongside.

The  above three pictures were taken as Maureen and I took in the views from the top of the Ferris wheel – not expensive for a single rotation, but when we were at the top the wind strengthen and caused the whole structure to shudder & sway some what . . . ..


Taken as our seats on the Ferris wheel reached the top.

DSC01221rAnother shot of the ship as we started our descent.

DSC01235rTaken from the ground level.

DSC01217rThe shopping centre, which was not all that large, also catered for the children.

DSC01201rEveryone seemed to be clicking cameras and they all pointed at Mt Fuji – we just couldn’t help taking more and more photographs. It seemed to hold a fascination for everyone.
DSC01252rAs we sailed from Shimizu I remembered an old Japanese sage saying, during my time at sea when on the Japanese coast. If you see Mt Fuji as you leave you will return to Japan – each time we sailed from Japan I managed to see Mt Fuji, except the last time when we sailed at night, so I was unable to see the mountain – this would have been in the late 1960’s.

I didn’t return to Japan until the late 1980’s, (by air) when working for another company, and didn’t see Mt Fuji during that trip – in future I think I’ll stick to a simpler use for old sage, and mix it with onion for stuffing a Christmas turkey.

MGI forgot to mention that our guide in Osaka, Toichi, took out his felt tip pen and created the above in Japanese script.

The top one is ‘Geoff’ and the bottom is ‘Maureen’. When we arrived home I showed the piece of paper to my grandson, who is studying Japanese at school (he’s thirteen).

He looked at it and shook his head and told me that he could only recognise the bottom three syllables on the left. He said they represent the sound of ‘more’, so I said how about Mau as in Maureen?





大阪市 = Osaka, Lunch at last


DSC01118rThis type of street is in my memory of Osaka of the early 60’s – just across the bay from Osaka is Kobe, and both towns had many similar style of streets.
The razzmatazz and noise of the shopping area leaves me cold, but small streets like the one above encourages one to explore the unknown.

Toichi (our guide) came up trumps with his choice of restaurant. It had small individual rooms off the main area of the restaurant, which itself was not all that large.
The above shows the main area as we entered the restaurant.

I took the above from our small room and aimed the camera back to the main area.


Our room had just been vacated and the previous dinners had only just left, so the staff had not had time to remove their dirty dishes. The room was just big enough for two tables, the one that can be seen, and ours, which was like a mirror image, but without any dirty dishes.

The menu was, of course, all in Japanese, but accompanied by pictures, which helped, but as we were with Toichi the lack of English script didn’t bother us.

Maureen of course had to be careful due to being a coeliac, so she played safe and picked sushi –

DSC01125rToichi and I decided on the same dish – pork in egg (similar to a large omelette)

DSC01126rThe main dish with the red ribbon is the egg / pork, which was still cooking over flames – the red ‘ribbon’ is so that you can removed the lid without burning your fingers. The heptagon on the left contained rice, the yellow food is a type of pickle, the black pot contained soup and the white food is tofu. As you see Toichi had the same.


The grand opening of the hot pot dish.

It was all very tasty and hot, and one had to be careful – the flame under the pot kept it ‘cooking’. Of course we had to use chopsticks, which wasn’t a problem, because Maureen and I often use them with Asian dishes at home.  I used the large spoon to cut the omelette in the pan, before using the chopstick. I haven’t yet worked it out how to ‘cut’ using chop sticks. The food was not all that spicy, but the overall taste was very pleasant, and the pork meat was well cooked.

Including two beers and a soft drink for Maureen, the whole meal for the three of us came to about AUD $50.00, a great experience at an inexpensive price.


Once outside we were still in the time warp of my 60’s memory – I was nineteen again.

DSC01131rOne of the smallest, if not the smallest, temple in Osaka – unfortunately I can’t remember what Toichi said about it.
DSC01133rSpace being at a premium inside, the staircase is on the outside of this house.

DSC01134rA small Shinto shrine – drop a coin in to the box and take a roll of paper (they look like cigarettes). open the roll and read your fortune. If you don’t like your what it says, tie the paper to the red/black fence on the right, and walk away leaving your bad fortune behind you.




大阪市 = Osaka food market


DSC01109rThe food market – many foreigners come here, just to stroll around and perhaps taste some of the local food.
DSC01108rWould you like a white strawberry – not sure of the weight, but the box will cost you about AUD $56.25


Pre-packed lunch boxes, which reminded me of bento, which is a Japanese packed lunch either bought from a bento seller or created by a worker’s wife, for her husband or  child at school.

Bento_box_from_a_grocery_storeTraditional bento meal

DSC01112rJapanese butcher stall – it all looked very attractive, but I lost my appetite as I worked out the cost. The top one with a price of 255 yen is per 100 grams, which equates to AUD $32 / kilo. The bottom right at 280 yen = AUD $35 / kilo.


I moved on a few stalls and checked the competition. The meat shown at 1200 yen equates to AUD $150 / kilo . . . . it was interesting to check out the food, and the meat displayed was very different to the meat in Australia – even though some of it might have come from Australia – all in the eye of the beholder.
The Japanese meat was very thin with lines of fat running through each slice. I don’t know if it would be eaten raw, à la beef carpaccio, because it looked so delicate that it might disappear if you tried to fry or grill the slice.

DSC01114rFurther in to the market and more stalls.

DSC01116rFish stalls, mainly shell fish, which is not my favourite fish food.
1500 yen is about AUD $18.75, but I don’t know if this was the price of a single crustacean or per 100 grams – the 1800 yen equates is AUD$22.50.

We came out of the market and were bamboozled with adverts, and the noise of hawkers shouting on behalf of their restaurant, and loud music from everywhere.

DSC01120rStaff are constantly advertising to encourage pedestrians to enter their restaurant – just the type of restaurant that I didn’t wish to visit for lunch.

DSC01136rAcross the way from the smiley guy was a large octopus to encourage one to visit – we didn’t.


Perhaps a restaurant that specialises in one eyed crabs . . . we avoided this one as well

DSC01139rIt didn’t matter how big your crab was, I wasn’t interested . . .

DSC01135cI definitely didn’t want a blow fish meal . . . not sure if the sign to the left of the blow fish is for a hot dog or a nail brush.


As we walked through this ‘mad house’ of restaurants you might find yourself on TV via a very large screen capturing shoppers and general foot traffic – Maureen was ‘captured’ with our guide, Toichi, who is on Maureen’s right.

As we came out of the market area and left the encouragements to eat in various restaurants behind, we arrived at Dotonbori canal, which is considered to be the heart of Osaka.

As we crossed the Ebisu Bridge I snapped the canal.

GlicoThe Glico running man. He’s doing well considering, because he has been running since 1935.
If you think he is advertising running shoes or a running vest you’d be wrong. He is the logo of a confectionery company that manufactures sweets and ice-cream, so he is most probably running off the snack he had last night.

The company was founded in 1922 and the snack was an energy product that had glycogen added (which came from oysters), to it was advertised that each treat would give you enough energy to run 300 metres, which is why their logo is a running man.

Osaka_Dotonbori_Ebisu_BridgeThere were plenty pf people around when we were there, but the crowds grow in the evening. The bridge that can be seen is the Ebisu Bridge.

If you go back to the photograph that I took of the canal you will see the ubiquitous Ferris wheel to denote a shopping area. It was built in 2005, but has been out of action for some time, but is now operating again – approx. AUD $7.30 per person and a rotation takes about 15 minutes.

The link will take you to a piece of film called Osaka at night, which is about 4 minutes long, but you can jump ahead for various views of the city taken from the Ferris wheel.

The oblong wheel is also known as the as the Ebisu Tower – Ebisu, is the god of tradesmen, fishermen and luck (prosperity), which is featured on the façade of the Ferris wheel.






大阪市 = Osaka


DSC01095rWe arrived early morning in to the port of Osaka in Japan. The weather was overcast, but it wasn’t raining, which was a good sign.

DSC00981rThe port authorities seemed please to see us. Different coloured water jets from a local tug boat.

I’d checked the cost of the ship’s tours and found them to be more expensive that I was willing to pay, so I investigated an alternative way of seeing Osaka.

I’d heard of private guides in Japan, so I researched this aspect of touring, and I am pleased that I did, because the cost of a guide for six hours was cheaper than the ship’s tour for Maureen & I.

Because we wished to travel around by metro, we were bothered about the language barrier and that we would waste too much time trying to sort out which train etc. Our time was limited (we sailed at 6.00 pm), so we considered a private guide to be the best answer.

The guide and I decided the number of hours required, after I’d listed what Maureen & I wished to see. This chatting was all via e-mail, and very easy. Having a local, all to ourselves, enabled us to understand the various aspects of Japanese life much easier.

The small additional costs, over and above his hourly fee, were for the guide’s train ticket and his lunch. My only stipulation was that I wanted to eat at a Japanese restaurant that was not on the tourist route, but was typically Japanese.


DSC00988r.jpgThis is for those readers who like shopping.

In Japan, just find a big wheel (Ferris wheel), and at the bottom you will find a shopping centre. I would say that every shopping centre that we saw had a Ferris wheel attached, or very close. I hate Ferris wheels now . . . .

DSC00995rRush hour was over by the time we had met our guide, Toichi, and made our way to the local metro station. The station was spotless and I didn’t see any graffiti or litter.

The trains were clean inside & out, and if they were a few seconds late they announced an apology for being late . . . . . enough said.

DSC00996rMaureen and our guide Toichi holding a map of the rail system.

DSC01002rI doubt that we would see such a notice on Sydney rail.

DSC01004rWe changed trains from the dock area train to a city metro – still didn’t see any litter or graffiti. Our new train is arriving.
DSC01006rWe exited the rail system and made our way towards the mint (as in money), to view the famous cherry blossom.
Once we were in the area all the main sites that we wished to see were within walking distance.


We arrived a few minute before the gardens opened at 10.00 am. All the way along  the queue guards kept us clear of the road via the orange ‘hats’. They were all very polite, but they didn’t have to worry too much as the queue was very quiet, friendly and civilised.


The gates have opened and we moved in to the park, without pushing or shoving. To see the cherry blossom is free.


The trees around the mint are pink blossom trees, as against the traditional white blossom. The white blossom had been early blooming this year, and as the pink blossom comes after the white, we were just in time to catch the pink period on opening day.

DSC01019rThroughout the gardens are lamps as shown in the photograph and these are lit at night, which I should imagine would add to the whole experience.

DSC01023rCrowds thinned as they spread out across the gardens.



As we strolled through the gardens a small orchestra from the mint played music – not just Japanese, but western music as well. All very pleasant.

DSC01027rThere were a few white blossom cherry trees.

I took so many photographs I didn’t know where to start, so as to pick out just a few for illustration.

DSC01034rFor such an important event as the Cherry Blossom season the media were on hand photographing the crowds for newspapers and filming for evening TV news broadcast.

We couldn’t pick up Japanese TV on the ship’s TV system, so I don’t know if we were on TV or not . .

DSC01037rLoud speakers warned in Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin I suppose) and English, not to pick the flowers or to break the branches, and not to walk on the grass. I did notice the security people chasing  certain Asian visitors from a large country with a long wall. But most obeyed the request.

DSC01052rWe left the blossom tree area and entered the food sales area to make our way to Osaka Castle, which was to be our next place to visit.


Not yet lunch time, but the vendors had started to cook snacks.

DSC01055rI did ask our guide what various items where, but I was more interested in the colourful display.

DSC01057rThis was a different way of cooking BBQ fish over hot coals.


Keep the children happy with a fishing game  . . .


Coloured dolls & stuffed toys, the same the world over.


On arriving near the entrance to Osaka Castle we saw this train – it transported passengers to the Castle, but from where I don’t have any idea.


Osaka Castle – we had yet to cross the moat.


The moat was big enough to operate small tourist boats to show the castle from various positions.


As we entered the outer area of the castle we saw this memorial.


DSC01076rOsaka Castle

DSC01079rAs we walked up to the castle, damaged areas from the bombing during WW2 was pointed out to us. Note the black marks.


It was massive – the picture doesn’t do it justice – the stone weighs about 130 tons.


We visited a Shinto temple, which is the national religion of Japan. Buddhism and Shintoism live in peace, side by side.
According to our guide many Japanese are Shinto, but like many who call themselves Christian, it is because of their parents and the society in which they live.

DSC01089rShinto Temple within the castle grounds.


When I saw the above display of rocks I thought it was the Ryoanji Temple rock garden, but I was wrong as the Ryoanji Temple is in Kyoto.
From what I’ve been told if you stand in the Ryoanjt garden you will only see 14 of the 15 rocks, regardless of where you stand. The symbolism being that nothing is perfect on this Earth, and only after death will we see perfection.

I tried to write the history of Osaka Castle, and keep it short – and found that it is easier to copy the Japan Guide description, after all it is their castle.

The following is thanks to Japan- Guide web site.

The construction of Osaka Castle (大阪城, Ōsakajō) started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. It was the largest castle at the time.

However, a few years after Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down.

It was not until 1931 that the present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built. During the war it miraculously survived the city wide air raids. Major repair works gave the castle new glamor in 1997. The castle tower is now entirely modern on the inside and even features an elevator for easier accessibility. It houses an informative museum about the castle’s history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.


The old world and the new world as we left the castle.

Next stop is a market area – in downtown Osaka

DSC01107rThe trains are beginning to get crowded.




Easter @ Sea

Two years ago, when we sailed in the Diamond Princess from Sydney to Singapore we celebrated Easter during the cruise. In that year Good Friday was the 25 th March and Easter Day 27th March.
History repeated itself and once again we celebrated Easter during a cruise, on the same ship.

In 2016 we were in Melbourne for Good Friday, and Adelaide for Easter Sunday – this year we were at sea.




Easter egg display in the Atrium – 2018

DSC05086 - Copy

Part of the 2016 display


This year we had more rabbits . .


Club Fusion Bar

Princess Cruises had arranged for a Protestant ordained husband and wife team to officiate at the Palm Sunday service, followed by the Good Friday & Easter Sunday services. I think the ministers were from the Uniting church of Australia.
Maureen and I decided to attend the services, and we were surprised at the large number of people who also attended.

The service took place in Club Fusion, which is right aft on deck seven and had an open area where the service leaders could stand. The picture below shows just a small area of the service.

It was standing room only if you didn’t get there early enough, and the area was quite large, which was used for many different functions from entertainment, evening bar to exercise classes.



The Good Friday service, slightly blurred because I had to use max zoom. We right at the back, but managed to find a seat


The Easter Sunday service, being a happier event, was decorated with flowers.

As we entered Club Fusion we were presented with a service sheet, on which the various hymns had been printed. Overall in was well done.
Palm Sunday and Good Friday services lasted for thirty minutes and Easter Sunday was a little longer.

Palm SundayEaster.jpg

Overall the services were simple and straight forward and all started at 8.30 am and were finished by 9.00 am for the first two, and 9.30 am for Easter Sunday.

Immediately after the end of the services Club Fusion reverted back to an entertainment area – trivia pursuit was one of our favourite, which stimulated our brains and gave us the opportunity to meet new people.

As always from around 11.00 am pre-lunch drinks were on the menu.

DSC00479rCrooners Bar, pre lunch drinks on Easter Sunday.


Hong Kong – fragrant harbour


41_Pt_I_Ch_6_The_Victoria_Harbour_viewed_from_Kowloon_1965How things have changed since my first trip to Hong Kong in 1963. Note the clock tower to the left of the picture, right on the waterfront, more about it later.

Pan am

I found this old advert, which also shows Hong Kong of the 60’s.


We entered Hong Kong harbour via the Tathong Channel on the eastern side of the island.
It was early morning when Diamond Princess arrived, and the island began to wake.


It was misty, early April, winter not long over.DSC00823r

I found the continuous tower blocks a little depressing, perhaps because my memory of the excitement of Hong Kong was of an earlier age. The population in 1963 was about 3.5 million and now it is 7.5 million so I suppose the growth in apartments was inevitable.

BOACThe cruise terminal used to be the int’l airport Kai Tak, which had a hair-raising runway to land on in the early 1960’s. As the aircraft came in to land, and if the passengers looked out of the window, they could see in to the local apartments.

China AirwaysNot everyone landed safely – China Airways missed the runway or couldn’t stop in time.


Kai Tak in the 1960’s – when I flew out of Hong Kong I used to check the location of the various ships at anchor and to try to judge how much runway was left as we passed each vessel. Self torture I suppose.


The old peninsular shaped runway is now a cruise terminal – at the end of the terminal they have a park called Kai Tak Runway Park . . . . . the above photograph shows the cruise terminal as we swung around to face out to sea for our night time departure.

Maureen and I had been to Hong Kong a number of times so all we wished to do was to visit the Peninsula Hotel for lunch. Well, I had the wild idea of having lunch there as a surprise, but once we entered I must admit I changed my mind.

DSC00875rI suppose I was a little ambitious thinking that we could have lunch at an acceptable price, particularly as I took this photograph a helicopter lifted from the roof – the only way to travel really in crowded Hong Kong.

DSC00876rcThe rest of us would have to put up with being met at the airport in a green Rolls Royce.


DSC00846r.jpgI tried to capture the green of the Rolls, but the day was a dull and the gleaming ‘green’ duco didn’t show up in the photograph.

DSC00847rIt was late morning and many were finishing their breakfast, while others were having a pre-lunch drink. I ordered a beer and an iced-coffee for Maureen. To be fair they came with peanuts, chocolate thingies, and something else that I can’t remember. The bill came to over AUD $27, which wasn’t bad for such an establishment, and it gave us a chance to read the menu.
The cheapest thing that I could find for lunch was AUD $50 for a Caesar salad, and if you wanted chicken or prawns with the basic salad, that was extra . . . one can dream, perhaps one day. It was an interesting experience.

In 2007 I visited Hong Kong with my son – he’d won a draw for two economy tickets to Hong Kong, and during our trip we visited The Bar at The Peninsular, (it doesn’t open until 3.00 pm, so I couldn’t take Maureen).


After we’d finished our drinks we left and I took a photograph of him walking down the stairs as we left the hotel.

History repeats itself as I took a photograph of Maureen coming down the same stairs.

DSC00858rIt was a short walk to the Star Ferry at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

DSC00861rIf everything else has changed the Star Ferry seems to be stuck in a time warp.

DSC00862rStill the same system to come alongside – the ferry terminal is the same one that I remembered from the earl 60’s.

The The World of Suzie Wong is a movie that was made in 1960, but the beginning of the film is also an historic record of Hong Kong at that time, try and look beyond the printed word on the screen.

This piece of film is of how cargo would be worked in 1963. It is silent, but you will be able to see cargo ships moored to buoys in the harbour, and large cargo junks alongside working cargo.
We would be in port for several days and as soon as we were secure to a buoy the sew sew girls would be after us to do our laundry, and make tailor made uniform shirts and shorts – hence the title sew sew girls (although their card had ‘sow sow’, not sew sew) – I didn’t mean so so girls, which would have been very un PC.
I had a number of uniform shorts made in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bombay, and still have a pair of shorts that was made in Singapore – and I can still get in to them . . .

I mentioned the clock tower at the beginning of this blog, which used to be closer to the water than it is now.


DSC00872rReclaimed land perhaps, but the area has certainly been ‘beautified’, I think it used to be a bus terminus in this area.


I was very impressed with the metro – clean, very efficient and cheap.


We sailed in the early evening.


The new Kai Tak cruise terminal is large enough to take more than one cruise ship.

DSC00904rWe used our side thrusters to push off the wharf and begin the short transit to the open sea.

We returned to the open sea the way we came in, rather than via Victoria Harbour, which was the way we would enter and leave in a cargo ship of 7,000 gt –


British India vessel Landaura that I sailed in when we entered Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, in 1963. I was nineteen at the time.
The Diamond Princess is 115,875 gt just a small difference in size.


DSC00912rFarewelling Hong Kong was a cold business in April.

DSC00913rA final shot of the blocks of flats before we disappeared inside the accommodation for a spot of warmth.








The Robert Taylor Museum


The above statues sit outside the Robert Taylor Museum , which I had to photograph because they reminded me of the current crop of politicians – you pick the country.

None so blind as those who will not see what those who elected them can see.

If I don’t hear the complaints, there mustn’t be any.

I never said that, you misunderstood me . . . .   

If you click on the above link you will see a page in Vietnamese, click on the top right hand black box to have a choice of English or Vietnamese. The English is not all that clear, but it will allow you to click on the gallery for more detailed images.

The Robert Taylor Museum of Worldwide Arms is the full title of the museum, Robert Taylor is the owner and the operator.

Mr Taylor, who is British, visited Vietnam to work in 1991 to establish a company specialising in the construction of anti-corrosion, insulation, sound insulation and personnel training. He later married a local girl, and in 1996 he settled in Vung Tau, the city in which he now lives.

From a young age he had a passion for collecting old weapons and military uniforms. Over the years he has collected 2500 items; guns, swords and uniforms. About 1500 items are between two and three hundred years old.

In 1996 he began procedures to obtain permission to import the various weapons and uniforms in to Vietnam so as to create a museum. This took four years before he receive the licence to do so. When this happened he sold his assets in the UK.

The museum opened, but in 2012 he divorced his wife, and because of property problems with his wife, the museum was closed.

In 2015 the provincial government offered, as a loan, the current building that Robert  now occupies, and the museum reopened.

The museum has become a ‘must see’ attraction for visitors to Vung Tau City, not just for foreigners, and it is open from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.

DSC00628rForecourt of the museum – the entrance to the building is on the left.




    There are two floors of exhibits – the above is on the 1st Floor.


Also on the first floor are exhibits of
Chinese, Mongols, Samurai, Greeks, Romans & Vikings uniforms and arms.

DSC00630rAs we climbed the stairs we met some old friends, Henry VIII

DSC00641rAdmiral Nelson


Napoleon Bonaparte

DSC00636cPikeman from the 1600’s

DSC00642rThe 2nd floor focused on the Napoleonic wars – French, British, Russian & Dutch exhibits.

DSC00643rA display of British uniforms through the ages.

There is a special area within the museum complex for the Australians.

DSC00652rA display of mementos for Long Tan, and the 50th anniversary of the battle,
which was in 2016.


Australian evening dress uniforms, with the wall covered in mementos.

DSC00655rMemorial service for the 50th anniversary of the battle.


WW2 has not been forgotten.

The portrait is of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, who ruled from 1888 to 1918, after which he abdicated and lived in exile in the Netherlands.
He lived long enough to see the rise of Hitler.

Wilhelm died in 1941 and is interned in a mausoleum in the grounds of the house in which he lived from 1919.

German monarchists visit the house frequently, and in 2012 the house had 25,000 visitors from Germany.

For $5 USD the visit to Robert Taylor’s museum was well worth the fee, and extremely interesting.





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