FOLLOW THE VOYAGE:
Through Japan’s Ryukyu Islands
Fukuoka to Keelung | 8 October 2023 to 23 October 2023
Master: Mark Neill, Expedition Leader: Dawn Singleton, Guest Lecturers: Mike Sugden, Reed Knappe and John McBride
Day 1: Nagasaki, 8 October 2023
We arrived at Nagasaki Port in the morning and attended John’s presentation on ‘An Introduction to Japanese History,’ providing context for our upcoming historical site visits.
After an early brunch, we went to Mt. Inasa, enjoying the cable car ride with city views and passing a wild deer habitat.
Next, we visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, exploring its 900 artifacts. We then strolled through Peace Park, passing Ground Zero and various international monuments.
Finally, we returned to the ship and shopped at local kimono stalls, trying on kimonos for a local festival.
Day 2: Nakakoshiki, 9 October 2023
Our morning at Nakakoshiki began with a vibrant cultural performance by locals dressed in traditional attire, playing traditional drums.
Some of us even had the chance to try drumming, with the locals guiding us and providing short black kimonos to wear.
Afterward, we departed for Sebi Kannon Mitaki Falls, enjoying a scenic ride through dense forests and misty mountains.
The falls consist of three tiers and stand at 55 meters tall, with a shrine featuring a Goddess Kannon statue.
Day 3: Kagoshima, 10 October 2023
We received a warm welcome at Kagoshima Port by the locals, who were waving flags and wearing flower hats.
We were fortunate to have clear blue skies, providing excellent conditions for our visit to Sakurajima island.
We enjoyed a scenic drive along the volcanic island’s coastline, with the large volcano on our left and the blue sea on our right.
We explored the Nagisa Boardwalk, where some people walked the longer 800m track, others followed the guide for an informative experience, and some simply relaxed and enjoyed the view.
Next, we visited Nagisa Park, where we relaxed in the traditional thermal foot bath with clear views of the sea.
Some participants opted for a 3km coastal walk, while others explored the Sakurajima Visitor Center, which featured a short documentary on historical eruptions.
In the afternoon, we explored the Sengan-en gardens, with the guides leading us before we had some free time to shop at the local stores in Tenmonkan.
Our day concluded with a BBQ dinner, offering clear views of the Sakurajima volcano as our backdrop.
Day 4: Yakushima, 11 October 2023
This morning, Yakushima Island was shrouded in clouds as we arrived at the port.
After disembarking, we boarded the buses and embarked on a journey along the coastline, passing through a village nestled against the coast.
As we ventured forward, the road gradually ascended into the mountains, affording us clear views of the landscape along its winding path.
Our surprise came when we spotted Japanese Macaques, with little babies clinging to their mothers’ backs and scampering up thin tree branches.
Eventually, we reached Yaksugi Land, perched at 1000 meters above sea level.
Two groups of long-distance walkers and one group of short-distance walkers made their way through the moss-covered canopy of the ancient forest.
After our forest adventure, we returned to the buses and descended from the mountains, with one group spotting some deer on the way back.
In the afternoon, we had the choice of participating in either a hike or a chopstick-making class.
The chopstick group headed to Yakusugi Craft Centre where they met their Chopstick senseis.
First, they carefully chiseled the ancient wood into their desired shape and size, followed by smoothing them over with traditional sandpaper.
Once the chopsticks were completed, the guides thoughtfully gift-wrapped each individual’s set for a take-home package.
Meanwhile, the hiking group made their way to Shiratani Unsuikyo, which was a shorter drive but offered breathtaking scenery as we wound our way up the mountain, enjoying the clear views and hike in nature.
We returned to the ship in the evening for a traditional cultural local dance performance, representing the flying fish and the women who awaited their husbands’ return.
Day 5: Suwasonejima, 12 October 2023
We arrived at the high cliffs of Suwasonejima early in the morning, where we all gathered on the upper decks to enjoy some drinks and relax while taking in the view.
We had the opportunity to witness small eruptions as well as a larger one as we rounded the side of the island with a better view of the crater.
Our sea day began with Mike’s talk on ‘Sharks and Rays of the Pacific’, followed by our first engine room tour.
Later, we enjoyed a lecture from Reed on ‘An Introduction to the History of Japan’s Southern Islands: Barbarians, Rebels and Samurai’.
In the afternoon, we explored Wanjo Beach and indulged in a wine tasting.
Day 6: Amami Oshima, 13 October 2023
This morning, we arrived at Amami Oshima, an island surrounded by coral reefs and clear oceans.
After breakfast, we embarked on a pleasant drive through the township, passing through tunnels in the hillside before emerging in the north of the island.
Our first stop was Anami Park, where we visited the Tanaka Isson Memorial Art Museum, dedicated to the late artist who spent his life painting Amami Oshima.
We marveled at his vibrant tropical artwork, depicting the island in incredible detail.
Next, we visited Oshima Tsumugi Village, renowned for its silk production, which has been used to create high-quality kimonos for over 1300 years.
Here, we saw triangular wooden houses situated near a small river that supplied the workshop’s dyeing and rinsing ponds with fresh water for the silk production process.
We observed weavers diligently working on looms, intricately crafting each swatch of fabric, with the fascinating fact that they only produced 30 cm in 8 hours.
We also purchased some local goods at the gift shop and had the opportunity to view an impressive display of very expensive kimonos, some worth tens of thousands of dollars, in the kimono room.
Afterward, we had the choice of either diving or visiting Mangrove Park.
Opting for the latter, we enjoyed a kayaking tour and were thrilled to spot a Lidth’s Jay, a fantastic birding sighting for the day!
Day 7: Okinoerabujima, 14 October 2023
Today, we arrived at Okinoerabujima and began our day with a caving experience at Rimstone Cave.
We were equipped with helmets, headlamps, boots, coveralls, and knee pads after a briefing.
Upon reaching the mouth of the cave, we were met with darkness, and the sound of water running deep below.
With our headlamps on, we navigated into the first of the underground rivers.
Progressing in single file, the challenges increased as we encountered deeper pools of fresh water that filled our boots and suits.
At certain points, we had to submerge ourselves in the adjacent chamber, clambering over domed stalagmites flushed with cold water, only to drop over falls into the pool below.
The entire experience was exhilarating and presented a great challenge.
Along the way, we had the privilege of spotting some rare small bats.
Our guide mentioned that this was the first time he had seen them all year.
As we continued, we paused to admire impressive examples of huge stalagmites connected to ‘tites.’
At the final pool, the guides moved ahead and dropped dive cameras into a tessellation of rimstone pools, producing amazing results.
After returning to the ship, we had the opportunity to snorkel and explore Wanjo Beach.
Day 8: Yoronjima, 15 October 2023
This morning, we arrived at Yoronjima and divided into groups.
The first group went snorkeling at Yurigahama.
This area featured shallow coral gardens sheltered by a limestone break.
During their snorkel, they observed vibrant coral reefs and even encountered a white-tip reef shark.
The second group explored the location by kayaking before relaxing on the beach.
Additionally, there was a group of coastal walkers who enjoyed a leisurely trek along the coastline, where they spotted coral reefs through the clear water.
In the afternoon, we had a delightful snorkeling and scuba diving session with 25 meters of visibility and impressive coral growth.
Day 9: Naha Okinawa, 16 October 2023
As we docked in Naha, Okinawa, we prepared for a day of exploring the city.
We enjoyed a visit to the Shikinaen Garden, which was constructed at the end of the 18th century as the second residence of the Ryukyu Kings.
It featured simple wooden palace buildings with Okinawan-style red tile roofs and a spacious Japanese-style landscape garden and pond that made for the perfect photography location.
Then, another group went to the Bingata dyeing workshop, where they learned that it was originally produced solely for Okinawa’s warrior class since the 15th century and discovered the secrets of this ancient art, creating their very own piece of Ryukyu Bingata as a souvenir.
Afterward, they enjoyed some free time on Naha’s main street, Kokusai-dori, to shop at local stores and explore the rest of the city.