Tokyo and Mt Fuji

Once again having just a short visit of three days here was only enough to scratch the surface.

Outside of the Emperor’s Palace

The city of Tokyo is one of the most modern in the world as well as one of the largest. The greater Tokyo metropolitan area with its population of over 36 million includes development all along the 37 kms of motorway beside Tokyo Bay from where the Volendam berthed at Yokohama to the centre of Tokyo.

The city proved to be a wonderful contradiction of skyscrapers and the tradition Japanese gardens, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and the Emperor’s palace.

Cards of some of the Performers

We were lucky enough to have a night out at a small theatre restaurant. Apart from the delicious cuisine and jugs of local beer the entertainment was delightfully traditional Japanese with a Beatles number thrown in for good measure. The stage was segmented and the different sections were raised and lowered to create constantly changing landscapes across which the performers danced and bounded.

An exciting show

 

We then took a day excursion from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji. We didn’t see the volcano because of the overcast, and we were told that it is quite a rare event to see the summit (so I bought a postcard instead). We had escaped from the megalopolis that is Tokyo into the country where we visited a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine, walked in some lovely gardens and enjoyed some local cuisine, all the time while our guide, Satoru, gave us insights into Japan’s history and culture.

Our several days in and around Tokyo were most enjoyable but with regards to my Japan visit there is another aspect that deserves my blogging about. Japan has held a special significance, if that is the right word, for me because of my own father’s experience as a Japanese prisoner of war in Changi and on the Burma Railway during WW2. I haven’t harboured any hatred of this nation and its people but it has been like a cloud hanging over my feelings that needed to be confronted.

Mt. Fuji is to the left – somewhere

Accordingly I had been looking forward to Japan and particularly Tokyo to learn about this country and its culture that seemed so very different to my own. Learning more about a country’s history certainly helped in my understanding of their culture (and isn’t that one of the main reasons for, and benefits from, travelling overseas).

Mt. Fuji on a rare clear day at Cherry Blossum time

As explained to us, Japanese culture emphasises humility and belonging to a group rather than individualism. This is in evidence by the respectful bowing that is the norm in society. Unfortunately this same culture has led to some serious social problems especially in retirement. During a career where employees become so dedicated to their company a large proportion do not have time for other interests, and this becomes a real problem for them when they retire.

Without exception, everyone that I have spoken to that has travelled to, or spent time in, Japan has told me that they are a friendly people.

Following WW2 and the virtual obliteration of Tokyo the world has seen how Japan has emerged as an industrial powerhouse in the modern world, largely based on the efficiency and dedication of the Japanese people.

Japan is also particularly prone to natural disasters but these people have a philosophy, as explained by Satoru, along the lines that “thunder, earthquake, typhoon and an angry father, will pass”. To me it seems that this approach in conjunction with their combination of religions is partly responsible for their philosophy – life goes on after such an event.

In our small minibus on the drive back from Mt. Fuji I can say that I have seldom felt more relaxed, content and at peace. The weather during our visit to Japan has been cloudy and often raining, but on a personal level I feel that the clouds have been blown away.

Crossing the North Pacific – Friday October 6

A much better day dawned today with a lot of pale blue between fluffy white clouds. The Pacific Ocean is also blue, but a darker shade, and is living up to its name being quite peaceful on a moderate swell.

The feeling from my morning treadmill looking down over the ship’s bow as it glides smoothly across the great expanse is almost one of man’s control over nature, but I know this is not true, as it is still able to impart a sense of the power that those water can generate. Only days ago even those slight seas tossed us around as a warning that we were interlopers here. Today we can feel more at one with our environment – at least for the moment.

Our days at sea (when not visiting ports with their ‘mandatory’ sightseeing) are without fixed commitments and unhurried. Accordingly it is often quite difficult to keep track of both the day of the week and the time (zone) during our long Pacific crossing – although it is doubtful that it is necessary most of the time. We have turned our clocks back an hour almost every night since we left Alaska to progressively adjust to Asian time. Luckily we are assisted in remembering the day of the week by means of the mats in the lifts that are changed daily.

I guess it must be Friday

We have had a couple of birthdays celebrated on board at dinner time recently, including for Scott a couple of nights ago. Unfortunately if ones birthday occurs on October 7 then they will be disappointed this year as tomorrow for us in Sunday October 8. We actually crossed the International Date Line during the day but luckily it didn’t affect our scheduled Happy Hour, so all was well.

Starting Across the North Pacific

Today is grey; overcast with low clouds and mist hiding the horizon. The sea is a darker grey, on a moderate four metre swell with only a few white caps, which generally means that the wind is less than 20 knots. Currently, we are several hundreds of nautical miles out of Juneau and south of the Aleutian Islands, heading approximately south-west at 18.5 knots with about 3000 miles to go to Japan.

Goodbye to Alaska’s calmer waters

We are now into our seven day sea crossing from Alaska to Japan and this gives me more free time to blog. In between there is eating, reading, eating, resting and maybe more reading, the odd lecture or seminar, meeting up for happy hour in the Ocean Bar with our favourite jazz trio, evening dining with some nights requiring formal attire, and then maybe a movie or live show. Some of our number have been busy visiting the shops, masseurs and manicurists but so far we have all managed to avoid the casino and art show sales.

To compensate for the excess of food on board that is difficult to avoid, spending 40 minutes in the gym this morning eased my conscience somewhat. My treadmill looked directly out over the bow and I strode along with slight up and downhill trajectories as the ship eased through the swell. We passed through a pod of dolphins apparently heading for Alaska and noticed quite a few sea birds skimming over the waves a long way from any land.

Yesterday’s rougher weather has gone for the moment. In those higher seas what had come to my mind, through the fuzzy feeling in my head, was how James Cook, George Vancouver and other seafarers of past times would have coped with the foul weather conditions that they inevitably encountered.

In the short time that I have been sitting, blogging here on the Lido deck near the pool and spa the swell appears to be getting higher and the ride a little bumpier as a second low pressure system passes to the port side. We have been warned of a third, probably more intense low pressure system, to be expected tomorrow.

Blogging

I approach blogging as an opportunity to write, to communicate and to share thoughts, ideas, beliefs and accumulated knowledge of the history of my own and connected families, and of any other topic on which I feel the urge to wax lyrical. Basic summaries of connected families may be viewed on the www.morrisonfamilyconnections.net website which is updated on a regular basis. The family line that has proved the most enticing mainly because of the amount of information available and the length of its history was the Briscoes. Many years of stop-start research and writing has resulted in the recent publishing of Our Briscoe Family: Cumberland to Kilkenny to New South Wales. Both eBook and paperback versions are available through www.lulu.com as a means of facilitating distribution at a reasonable cost.
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