DSC01712rI asked this lady’s permission to take her photograph. It was during a ‘formal’ evening on the Diamond Princess when a number of Japanese ladies dressed in the national dress of Japan.

Our next port of call was Akita, which would be the last for Maureen & I, because we would leave the ship in Yokohama.

DSC01714r Wind farms as we entered Akita harbour area, I suppose to supply the dock area with power.

DSC01719rThe local people seemed pleased to see us – I was quite surprised as we normally see more people farewelling than greeting us.

DSC01725rThe inevitable manga showed up. He gets around.

I had arranged for a walker guide in Akita, and he was waiting for us in the terminal. His name is Toru, and as soon as he met us we were ushered quickly to the bus, which would take us to the local railway station. He told us that the city had placed a special train at Diamond Princess’ disposal and the first one hundred passengers would travel free. That word ‘free’ always gets my attention!

DSC01755rWhile we waited on the train we were entertained by a display of Japanese kanto lantern skills. Akita is well known for its rice, from which they make award winning Sake, and over the years this has grown in to a celebration of rice.

DSC01733rThe kanto (or pole lantern) comes in different sizes with the largest measuring 12 meters, and weighing 50 kilograms (about 100 lbs) and carrying as many as 46 paper lanterns, which are lit by real candles at night. To the sound of drums & flutes onlookers chant “dokkoisho, dokkoisho”, (a loose translation is ‘heavy ho, heave ho’), when each kanto is hoisted up by a single performer who balances the kanto on end using various techniques. The performers change every few minutes and gradually add extensions to the pole until the kanto is at its maximum height.
The above shows lanterns, which represents the rice grains on a stalk of the main plant. The individual holding the pole shows his skill and ability to control the kanto from balancing it in his hand to placing the end of the pole on his chin and letting go of the pole. As he balanced the pole we were surrounded by drum beats.

DSC01734rOne handed


DSC01746rcWhen the wind blows  . . . but he managed to save it.

DSC01738rcIf he’d been a ‘chinless wonder’, (a British thing), he couldn’t have managed this feat.
In August Akita has a lantern festival and teams compete, and in the evening march through the town.

lgPicture of the night scene taken from the internet.

DSC01726rAs we stepped on to the train we were greeted by Geishas – the more experienced Geisha is called geiko and the student or apprentice is called maiko – for those who are wondering, sex doesn’t come in to being a real geisha. They are entertainers, and the geisha is often skilled in classical music, dance, conversation etc and the word Geisha in English means ‘performing artist’.

In the old days the geiko was called okiya by the maiko, which means that the geiko would supply the food and clothes for the maiko, so once the maiko became a geisha she would repay her okiya for her training, clothes & food etc. I don’t think this ‘bonded’ system works today. Perhaps I’ll ask questions at the end . . . .

DSC01745rMaureen and the welcome party, they joined us on the train to the city centre.


DSC01748rAs the train pulled out of the station we were farewelled by a group of well dressed males. Not sure if they were from the town council, rail company or port authority.

DSC01757rOn arrival in the main city station we were greeted by a couple of longhaired old friends on the platform.


As well as inside the main building.

Akita-InuAkita inu (Akita dog),

The Japanese Akita inu used to be a hunting dog to find and fight bears, deer etc. The dogs came from the northern part of Japan and the surrounding areas of Akita, hence its name.

Hachikō was the most famous of these dogs, and he lived from 1923 to 1935.

In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the Tokyo Imperial University, took Hachikō as a pet and brought him to live in Shibuya, Tokyo. Ueno would commute daily to work, and Hachikō would leave the house to greet him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued the daily routine until May 21, 1925, when Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, while he was giving a lecture, and died without ever returning to the train station in which Hachikō waited.
Each day, for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.
During his lifetime, the dog was held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity. (The above information is thanks to Wikipedia).

DSC01766rSo of course you can buy a stuffed Akita dog at the railway station . . .

DSC01768rOnce again, every where was spotless and graffiti free. I took the above from the escalator as we went down to street level.

DSC01769rToru, our guide, steered us towards an area similar to a public square, where we saw smaller kanto close up.

DSC01770rMaureen was given the smallest one that we could find, and it was still heavier than it looked, and awkward to handle. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the photograph of Maureen balancing the kanto on her chin.

DSC01775rWe walked up the hill to the old ‘castle’s’ front gate. We saw inside the castle guard house, and the surrounding area. Main gate shown below.


DSC01786rWe walked up further from the gate to the Kubata Castle at the top.

Toru wanted to show us the views of the town, from the highest point, which was very good, even though is was a little overcast. On leaving the castle area we came across . . .


something different, red torii gates leading to Hachiman Shinto Shrine, Akita.

The day was drawing to a close and we had to cut short our visit to the castle hill and make our way to the meeting place for the coach to take us back to the ship. The train was only one way. As we got closer to the meeting place it started to rain and quite a few other passengers had the same idea and the queue was quite long.

When the bus arrived I didn’t think that we would all get on, but once all the normal seats were filled the driver dropped down aisle seats. I’m glad we didn’t have an accident because I don’t have any idea how we would have all escaped.

DSC01790rI was on one of the centre aisle seats, and the head in front (black hair) is Toru our guide. At least the centre passengers were first off when we reached the ship.





Diamonds of Japan

Three guesses for our next destination. I was eighteen when I first visited Japan and have always wanted to take Maureen, so when a positioning cruise came up, at the right price, – I booked Diamond Princess. 

Diamond Princess1

We sailed in the Diamond Princess from Sydney to Singapore in 2016 so hopefully it’ll be like coming home. If you like days at sea, which we do, look for a positioning cruise because they are nearly all cheaper than a standard cruise, as long as you don’t mind flying home.TYO VoyageWe sail from Sydney to Darwin, Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), Phu May (the port for large vessels visiting Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in Vietnam, Nha Trang (Vietnam), Hong Kong, Osaka (Japan), Shimizu (the main port to see Mount Fuji in Japan) and Yokohama (also listed as Tokyo) The transit time from Sydney to Tokyo will be twenty two days.

Once in Yokohama many of the passengers will leave the ship and be replaced by a large number of local Japanese for a coastal cruise, which will also call at Busan in S. Korea.

When I made the booking I offered to the cruise company that we would do a back to back i.e buying a further cruise, as long as we didn’t have to move cabins.  They agreed, so we have extended our time onboard by a further seven days for the coastal cruise.

JapanWe sail from Yokohama to Busan (S.Korea), Sakaiminato (Japan), Tsuruga, Akita and finally Yokohama where we leave the ship and fly home.

I’ve not been to S. Korea, nor the western side of Japan, so this trip will be new for both of us.

The passengers will be predominantly Japanese, so it should be an interesting trip. I’ve been dragging the old grey matter in an effort to remember a few polite Japanese greetings. When I was at sea, the company for which I worked, traded between the Persian Gulf, Japan & China so I made a point of learning some Japanese and Cantonese. The Cantonese didn’t help much on the China coast, because they didn’t speak Cantonese outside of Hong Kong!

We are hoping that we will be able to repeat the pleasant time that we had in 2016, when sailing from Sydney to Singapore. I doubt that the same piano player, Paul Burton  will be still around, he was very popular.

We sailed from Sydney in 2016 on the 23rd March, and this year (2018), we sail on the same ship on the 22nd March.

This will be our second Easter at sea, and on the same ship – 2016 Good Friday was 25th March, which was in Melbourne, and this year it is 30th March, when we will be at sea.

Easter Sunday 2016, was in Adelaide, and this year we will still be at sea. It’ll be interesting to see if Easter at sea is acknowledged as a Christian celebration, or just a choco-holiday.


The picture shows 2016 Easter on the Diamond Princess, but as the ship was in port, passengers had the choice of churches in Melbourne & Adelaide.




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