27.01.2013 - 31.01.2013 58 °F
I am aboard the MV Explorer right now on my way to Hong Kong. I apologize for the late blog, but I have been very busy with classes and traveling the world! This post is all about my time in Japan and the amazing time I had there. I had a completely different experience than my last voyage, not necessarily better, but less stressful.
It was 7am when we were pulling into Japan. We were running late because we hit a storm on our way there. Our captain is excellent though and he did a great job maneuvering the ship out of the worst of the storm. The swells were still huge and the ship was rocking pretty heavily, but not even close to what I experienced when I was going around the horn of Africa. The captain did say this was the worst he had been through in many years, however, this is a different captain than I had on my last voyage, so a lot of students don’t know what to expect.
Anyway, the sky was clear, sun shining bright, air crisp and the temperature freezing. As we pulled into Yokohama I could see Mt. Fuji in the distance, completely snowcapped, I don’t recall seeing it when I was in Japan the last time, but it was gorgeous and reminded me of home when I would wake up every morning as a child to Pikes Peak just miles away. The Japanese had a welcoming ceremony for us too, ships were spraying water high into the air, a band was playing at the dock, and many locals came to welcome us. I was eager to get off the ship because I finally felt like I was traveling again. When we finally cleared I couldn’t contain my excitement, explaining to the group I was with all of the sites I knew, how to get around, what to do while in port. I feel that they were very pleased to be with me so that they did not have to stress about the train systems or what to see. I didn’t do much the first day, mainly ate lots of food, drank some good beer, and checked into my hotel in Tokyo. Tokyo is only a half hour from Yokohama and very easy to get to. I checked into the hotel late because of all the walking around I was doing, but when we got there I think we had the most beautiful view of the city. It reminded me of Paris because the Tokyo Tower looks like the Eiffel Tower at night, glowing yellow for everyone to see. When I got to the hotel I was able to catch up with my parents and girlfriend which was fantastic. I went to sleep pretty late, but not before experiencing an earthquake, again! I had just gotten into bed when my friend asked what was going on with the glasses, they were shaking along with the pictures on the wall and the bed itself. I didn’t think much of it because it didn’t last long, but found out the next morning from the paper that we were indeed in a small earthquake. A similar earthquake was in Japan on my last voyage when we were there, but I noticed it less because I was on the ship. I am so thankful we left Japan when we did though because they had a much larger earthquake just a day after we left, and that would have been pretty scary to have been in.
The second day in Japan I explored Yokohama. I took a friend to the Landmark Tower and shopping malls where we got some amazing dinner and drinks. We had to be back on the ship that night though because we were sailing from Yokohama to Kobe instead of taking the Shinkansen (bullet train). It was a great two days at that port, I was very relaxed about my traveling and got to see a different side of Japan. I don’t remember liking it much last time, but my heart has been warming up to it. It is still the ugliest country architecturally in my opinion. Every building is a grey concrete color, and not unique at all. There is really nothing nice to look at when walking around until you get outside of the cities.
We docked in Kobe after a day of sailing and I had no plans. I decided to walk around the city since I saw very little on my last voyage. I discovered a completely new side to Kobe, the bar district! That night a group of us went out on the town and had some amazing fun. I had always wanted to go to a karaoke bar, and we found one almost right away that was safe and cheap. I am not the best singer, but that was definitely the highlight of Japan for me. Sitting three stories up in an open glass room, singing my heart out with everyone. I am pretty sure the Japanese were amused to see a bunch of white students acting like fools. The night ended somewhat early though because we had to catch the train back to the ship, which was fine with me because I like to be in control in a foreign country and still had one more day of exploring. The following morning I woke up early and a friend and I took the train to Kyoto to explore a few temples. When we got there we figured out the bus system and got our sightseeing faces on. I visited the same temple from my last voyage and it was amazing to see it when all of the trees were dead instead of having beautiful cherry blossoms. I definitely think that the cherry blossoms add an dramatic effect to what one experiences in Kyoto. We didn’t spend much time there before exploring a few more temples. We stumbled upon this one that had a giant gold Buddha inside. For the first time I was able to go inside a temple that required you to take your shoes off. It was amazing to be there by myself and meditate inside the temple. I felt very connected with Japan and the culture and was ready to have these types of experiences in other countries.
After leaving Japan I finally feel like this is real. I am traveling the world, having the time of my life, staying connected with my academics, and able to think more about what tourism is and how I can fit a career into the tourism industry. Japan was a great stepping stone for me to travel to these other countries. Look forward to my post on China and Hong Kong in a few days. Hope all is well at home.
Sending my love,