April 14, 2019 Azamara Quest 13-night cruise Circum-Japan This was my fourth trip to Japan, but my first cruise around the island. I was interested in seeing some of the ports along the western coastline, as well as Korea. This was my 20th cruise on Azamara. I like the crew, the ship and how well I am treated. I travelled as a solo and used 3 free loyalty nights that I had earned.
I traveled from IAD to Narita and arrived around 4 PM. I then took the train to Yokahama. I had one large suitcase and a cabin bag, and it was very easy. Took taxi from the Yokahama train station to the Rose Hotel across from China town. Hotel was nothing fancy, but I had a nice dinner with friends in China town
April 14th Found an ATM and did some shopping (I collect small antique animals, but none here), then took a taxi to port. Embarkation was a breeze and I as unpacked before the boat drill. Ship departed Yokahama 6 PM.
April 15- sea day- IMPORTANT get up early (you could ask the night before- 8 am was fine) and you might catch Mt. Fuji. It was the only time I saw Mt Fuji on this trip.
April 16th Hakodate 8 AM to 8 PM. I have stayed here before and the highlight is the view of the town at night from the nearby mountain. Being there only for daylight, I walked around the fish market and had lunch at a local noodle shop. Then I walked to a shopping area called “red brick warehouse”. IMPORTANT buy the melon (cantaloupe) chocolates. They are amazing!!! Buy some as gifts, you will not be sorry. They are only available in Hokadate. I walked back to ship and later went out for a great seafood dinner at Kaikoba restaurant directly across from port.
April 17th Akita 8 AM to 4PM. This was a maiden port, and the town went all out welcoming us. I took the port shuttle into town. I walked up the hill to the Senshu Park, but the cherry blossoms were not blooming yet. There is a reconstructed tower that you can climb and have a great view and some interesting exhibits about the fort that was there. There are also “grandmas” who sell rose ice cremes that are fun. I had lunch a restaurant in town. About two blocks from the bus drop off, there is a handicrafts store in the basement of a government building. I highly recommend this store. They had many examples of the traditional cherry wood bark items. I bought a small box, and some other gifts, but no antiques.
April 18th-Kanazawa 9 Am to 6PM. I think there was a port shuttle from where I took a taxi to Kenrokuen Park and walked around for several hours. It is a beautiful garden, but the cherry trees were past peak. Still highly recommend, it was very beautiful to explore. I then took the tourist bus (kind of HOHO) and went to the area of best-preserved town samurai houses and geisha quarters, which was touristy. I took the bus again to another area that had lots of old streets and houses that was much less touristy. It is a very lovely town to explore. I got the info and map about the bus and route at the drop off spot. Visited an antique shop and got one little bronze ram.
April 19th Sakaiminato 8 AM to 5:50 PM (Matsue City). This port is very far from town, so I took a ship tour. The bus ride was very scenic. I went to see the Matsue Castle, then took a boat ride around the Horikawa river. The little boats have to collapse their tops to make it under the bridges. It makes for fun as the passengers must lie down in the boat when this happens.
April 20th Busan, Korea 9 AM to 10 PM. Because I had never been to Korea, I took a ship tour “best of Busan”. I went to the Songdo Skywalk over the ocean to Turtle island. Then we visited the fish market, where I caught an octopus escaping down the street gutter. Then we had about an hour to walk around another shopping area. Very interesting but I thought things were expensive, and no antique shops found. Then we went to the Yongdusan hilltop park, where the Busan Tower is located, for a view of the city. That night was the Korean culture and taekwondo performance for the Azamazing evening. I was quite impressed with the evening. Definitely fun.
April 21st Kitakyusha 8 AM to 7:45 PM
Because we had “left japan” to travel to Korea there was a huge ordeal with customs in Kitakyusha. The captain was livid and threatened to leave the port. All tours were canceled, and we couldn’t get off the ship till after lunch. It was crazy. So, my original plan of finally getting to Kyushu were kiboshed. So, I just walked off the ship and around the port and into town. Luckily it was Sunday and in the port area there were all kinds of booths and stalls selling foods, antiques, and crafts. Lots of people dressed up Harajuku style. I found a small stone lobster, and the glass fishing floats that I also collect. So, this was hours of fun.
April 22nd Hiroshima 8 AM to 6 PM
There was a port shuttle into town. I had been here before and have seen the Peace park and museum which I would recommend. From the drop off point is a short walk to the peace park where I took a ferry to Miyajima Island to see the floating tori gate. The ferry took about 45 minutes. I had been here in 1998, but at low tide. So, I was interested in seeing it again at high tide. I walked around the island, ate some oysters, and avoided the rather aggressive deer. Returned the same way.
April 23 Takamatsu- 5 am to 8 pm
I visited Ritsurin Park Garden about 10 minutes from Port. From there I walked around town and back to the ship. A 10-mile day exploring and shopping. I found several interesting antique shops and got several small animals (metal crayfish for my son and a bronze turtle).
April 24 Kobe 8 AM to April 25th until 2 pm
This was a port stop for travel to Kyoto and Osaka. I would strongly recommend doing Kyoto or Osaka as part of a land tour. Since I had been in Kyoto three times and Osaka once before I chose to explore Kobe. I took the port shuttle into town and walked down the arcade shopping street and China town area. I must have walked 10 miles that day. Very interesting town and found a small stone rabbit at one second-hand store. Later that night, I joined friends for a Kobe beef dinner.
April 26th Shimuzu 9:30 am -6 pm
This was the port to get to Hakone/ Mt Fuji. Again, Hakone an easy trip from Tokyo, or as a night (including a stay at a ryokan) as part of a land tour. The Hakone “Romance train” tickets are easily bought in Tokyo and include the whole circuit (train, narrow gauge train, funicular, ropeway, then the pirate ship). It is definitely fun and a must do in Japan. I instead went on a ship excursion ”tea harvest and garden”. A bus drove us to the tea farm, which had a gorgeous view of Mt Fuji (I am told as it was fogged in). No one on this cruise saw Mt. Fuji, except for that first morning. After the photo ops and tea experience, we drove to Sumpo Castle in Shizuoka where there is a lovely park with a few left-over cherry blossoms. We walked around the lovely Momijiyama garden with a mini Mt. Fuji.
April 27 departed the ship and took the transfer to Narita. Another great vacation.