Shortly after leaving Nagasaki, we enjoyed some scenic cruising around the island of Gunkanjima or Hashima Island. It is also known as Battleship Island due to the shape of some of the ruins.
The island was previously a Coal mine after coal was discovered there in 1810. In 1890 Mitsubishi became involved until its closure in 1974.
In 2009 the island was re-opened to tourists, and in 2015 it became an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Many passengers assembled on deck with big expectations of the scenic cruising. From our point of view on the Diamond Princess about 6 nautical miles to the west of the island and late in the afternoon/early evening, visibility was poor and it was extremely difficult to even focus a long lens.
This is what we might have been able to glimpse (courtesy of Princess TV).
At sea at noon on Tuesday, the Captain warned us of following SW winds and a 5m swell which might make life on board rocky.
And so our cruise is coming to an end. We have thoroughly enjoyed most ports along the way and the sailing has been great. We were surprised by some of the ports, the cleanliness and neatness of Taipei, and the decline in public smoking over the last five years by the Japanese in Tokyo, Osaka and elsewhere.
The cruise obviously catered for the Japanese market where Princess has been operating for five years. The main difficulty has been engaging our fellow Japanese passengers in conversation and the small helpings in the dining room. Some translations took a long time but the dual language crew staff made it easy to overlook that English was secondary.
This morning, 2 July (Sunday), we woke a trifle earlier than normal to enjoy scenic cruising through the Kanmon Straits – even at this time of the morning, a busy, narrow twisting body of water that goes under the Kanmon Bridge across the narrowest point heading west towards Busan. The two major cities on either side are Moji and Shimomoseki.
We sailed through fog to enter Busan and dock early in the afternoon.
The second largest city in South Korea, Busan is your gateway to a fascinating land whose culture is a unique amalgam of old and new. Modern high-rise towers dwarf ancient Buddhist temples. The city’s bustling business district offers a stark contrast to the serene grounds of Yongdusan Park. In short, Busan is a microcosm of South Korea, a nation whose startling economic success often obscures one of Asia’s most sophisticated and venerable cultures.
Busan was the scene of bitter fighting during the Korean War. The United Nations Memorial Cemetery marks the final resting place for the troops from 16 nations who gave their lives during the conflict.
We visited here in 2012 when we visited Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, the fish markets, and Dongbaekseom Island (APEC House).
It took two hours to go through immigration, and then we took the shuttle to the markets for a relatively short visit before returning to the ship.
Again, the ship sailed through offshore fog on the way to Nagasaki.
Today was our third visit to Nagasaki (previously 2012 & 2008). We have seen the Peace Memorial Park, the Atomic Bomb Museum and many of the other attractions including Glover Gardens, Oura Catholic Church, Shimabara, Arita, Mt Inasa, and the city on foot.
An estimated 75,000 people perished in 1945 when the city became the second target of a nuclear attack so Nagasaki’s Peace Park was our first stop this morning. The massive “Peace Statue,” erected in memory and a symbol of world peace, dominates Peace Park commemorating the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.
After immigration formalities (the fourth entering Japan this trip), we took several trams (one planned sector turned out to be on way the other way) to the park and spent some time there. Then a return trip to the Shianbashi area for a walk through the local neighbourhood where there were many shrines. Caught another tram back to the ship with many other passengers.
Nagasaki is celebrated as the setting for Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly – and for building the Diamond Princess (also the Sapphire Princess).
Kochi sits on the broad alluvial plain facing Urado Bay. This city in Shikoku takes its name from the great feudal castle that sits at its very heart. Completed in 1611, Kochi Castle was the seat of Yamauchi Kazutoyo, a noted warrior who supported Tokugawa Ieyasu in his successful quest to become Shogun.
Kochi is one of the wettest places in Japan – and a frequent target for cyclonic storms or typhoons. So it was no surprise that we had rain and lightning overnight on the way to an overcast, drizzly, humid Kochi.
From the port we travelled by shuttle bus to Kochi City to explore. We walked to Kochi Castle. Originally constructed in 1603 and rebuilt in 1753 after a fire, it is one of 12 Japanese castles to survive the post-feudal age and a classic example of Edo period architecture.
Our next call was to the Hirome Market and then on to Harimayabashi Bridge/Canal which was originally a private bridge over the Hori River. The bridge has been replaced several times and the river is now a canal. It is the centre of one of the shopping districts in Kochi City.
Joy was searching for a taste of Bonito Tuna – Katsuo Tataki which is lightly seared and served with sauce. We eventually found the recommended restaurant and shared one serving (at an early hour). Delicious.
A return to Kobe, a new cabin and the third sector of our cruise begins – to Kochi, Busan, and Nagasaki. Only 1400 Japanese passengers this time.
Like seasoned travellers this time, we found our way into and around Kobe without any bother, and walked on to the ship easily.
We walked to City Hall for a foggy view from the 24th Floor, then through Hageshi-Yuenchi Park towards the Flame of Hope commemorating the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
Then on to the Tokyo Pearl Museum where we met the Executive Director of the Japan Pearl Exporters’ Association. He told us about fake Kobe Beef (there are only three legitimate outlets), the world rankings of baguettes, the Japanese 5 cent coin which commemorates the contribution of the pearl industry in particular, food in Kobe being the most westernised, where pearls are found, where Kobe beef cattle are and so on …
We returned to the Sannomiya Centre Gai Shopping Street, and headed towards the Ikuta Road Shopping Street for a rest break and the train back to the Diamond.
The oldest Chinese reference to Taiwan dates back to the Han Dynasty in the 3rd century BC. However, it wasn’t until the 17th century AD that Chinese Hakka traders first settled on the island. These bold merchants were soon followed by European and Asian adventurers seeking to control and colonise the strategic island. The most famous migration of all occurred in 1948, when the government of the Republic of China fled the mainland. Taipei is Taiwan’s capital city and one of the world’s most important commercial centres.
From the port of Keelung, we travelled about 60 minutes to Taipei where our first stop was at Lungshan Temple, a serene Ching dynasty landmark featuring elaborately carved wooden doors, stone and bronze beams, dragon-like poles and unique cavorting figures on the rooftops. First dedicated to honouring Kuanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, the “dragon mountain” temple is over 250 years old, making it Taipei’s most historic house of worship. This popular temple was returned to its original glory in the 1990’s when it was painstakingly refurbished.
After a spot of shopping, we visited Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a regal monument honouring the former president of Taiwan. With its glossy blue-tile roof, gold apex and serene white marble, the memorial evokes peace, solemnity and warmth.
Of primary interest was the 12 noon changing of the guard which was an impressive ceremony that occurs hourly. The National Theatre and Concert Hall adjoin the building.
Then Taipei 101, the second tallest skyscraper in the world. Completed in 2004, this modern structure features 101 floors above ground, five below and a luxurious shopping centre off to one side. It has a wind buffer at around level 88.
A good excursion into a bustling city. The island is very green and mountainous.
Last night, we attended our second ‘most travelled passenger’ cocktail party with the Captain prior to Dinner.
Today was another balmy, steamy, hot 32C day ashore in Ishigaki – the cultural, political and economic centre of the Yaeyama Islands – 270 Km away from Taiwan – our call tomorrow.
We did not have an organised excursion but Joy’s square walk took us to the Yugarena Mall for the municipal markets, and through some inner residential areas to the Torinji Temple and the park housing the World Peace Bell.