Voyage Log: Journey to Japan | Yap to Tokyo
Yap to Tokyo | 7 September 2023 – 22 September 2023
Auther: Guest Lecturers Ian Herford & Mike Sugden
Day 1: Cairns to Yap
7 September 2023
An enthusiastic group of travellers gathered at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel to meet the Expedition Team and receive a preliminary briefing on our expedition from Yap to Tokyo. Transferring to Cairns airport, we boarded our (spacious) Nauru Airlines flight to the tiny island of Yap located at the western end of the Federated States of Micronesia. Being such a small group, we received right royal treatment from our attentive cabin crew.
Yap International Airport greeted us with heat, humidity and also with examples of its famous stone money framing the entrance. We were quickly processed through passport control and customs and were on our way to the Coral Adventure, our expedition headquarters forthe next 16 days. After a warm greeting from Captain Matt and crew, we were ushered intothe dining room for a delicious afternoon tea, where we had a chance to meet fellow passengers who had stayed aboard from the previous cruise.
After being shown to our cabins by the delightful hospitality staff, we settled in and then proceeded upstairs for a mandatory safety briefing and introduction to the cruise from Expedition Leader Cara. A chat over drinks was followed by the first of many superb dinnersand an opportunity to get to know each other a little better. We headed for bed excited about our first excursion to Sorol Atoll tomorrow.
Day 2: Sorol Atoll
8 September 2023
We woke to find ourselves approaching Sorol Atoll which is a part of Yap State. The atoll encloses a 700-ha lagoon some 45 metres deep. After a water activities briefing from Cai, we set off in the Xplorer and a zodiac to look for a suitable snorkel and divesites. Unfortunately, the weather had its own ideas and the only group which made it into the water were the divers.
They returned elated having had wonderful conditions for their dive including calm waters and 40-metre visibility. Among the many fascinating creatures found were Eagle Rays; Barracuda; Giant Trevally; a large school of Rainbow Runners; Reef Sharks; and schools of juvenile Trigger Fish. To cap it all off, they then saw a turtle. What a morning they had!
After watching the weather change, change and then change again,the first excursion for the non-divers was to Sorol Island. After lunch, we anchored the Xplorer off shore from the island, which is the largest in the atoll group. It looked like something from one of the castaway books we read as kids! A beautiful white sand beach was backed by lush, palm-filled vegetation, coral reefs decorated the shore, and seabirds were everywhere.
We took to the beautifully warm and clear ocean kitted out in our snorkelling gear and set off in water which was 5 to 10 metres deep. It was a spectacular scene and there were so many fish, it was like swimming in an aquarium. We saw Coral Trout; Butterfly Fish; and several species of Surgeon Fish and Angel Fish. The bottom was covered in corals and in no time,we knew that it had been worth the wait. There were smiles all round as we headed back to the mother ship.
After frocking up, we headed for the Bridge Deck Lounge for Captain Matt’s welcome drinks. It was good to have a chance to relive our experiences from the day and the drinks tasted particularly good… after all, Matt was buying! The captain officially welcomed us all aboard, Mike gave a review of the day, and Thomas and Cara ran through the program for tomorrow. All that remained was another delicious dinner and we were ready to call it a day.
Day 3: Ulithi Atoll
9 September 2023
We woke to find ourselves approaching Ulithi Atoll, another of the island groups in Yap State. This comprises a series of low islands around one of the largest coral lagoons on earth. It encloses an enormous body of water some 50,000 ha in size, though the total land area ofthe islands is only 4,500 ha. During WWII, most of the US Navy’s fleet was based here for some of the final battles of the war, with an incredible 722 ships moored within Ulithi’s protected waters at one time.
Our first destination was the island of Mogmog, home to the Paramount Chief of the Ulithi Islands with whom we were to meet. Captain Matt and Thomas went ashore to speak with the chief and seek permission for our group to visit the island. The Chief was happy for us to come ashore, so we set off in the Xplorer, landing on a white sand beach. We were greeted by our local guides (and quite a few children who came down to the beach too!) and taken to the front of the Men’s House, where the Chief was seated. He welcomed us to the island, and he and Thomas explained some of the customs on the island which we were required to follow.
Beside us was the turtle platform where all turtles caught in the Ulithi islands are slaughtered. The meat is then divided up according to customary rules. As it is a sacred space, we were not permitted to step onto the platform.
Throughout the morning we were treated to a tour of the village during which we saw a traditional weaving demonstration, visited the local church, and saw the cemetery with its mix of traditional crypts and Christian crosses. Everywhere we went, an entourage of children followed in our wake, obviously as interested in us as we were in their village. We watched in fascination as a traditional headband was skilfully woven out of leaves and flowers. These are apparently presented to people who are leaving the island for a while. We also visited a solar array and battery store donated to the Mogmog islanders by the Australian government.
Stopping at the Women’s House, we were told that men are not permitted to stray too close to this structure. It is a menstruation refuge for women, who rest there for a week or so and do not become involved in broader village activities during this time. There seemed to be clearly defined customary roles for men and women in the society. Thomas put it well, saying that men and women are like a canoe and an outrigger: each needs the other to succeed but they perform quite different functions. Adjacent to the Women’s House was the infirmary which has a doctor in attendance.
At the end of our fascinating visit, we were given a wheel barrow load of fresh coconuts, kindly husked by our hosts and we looked forward to seeing what our chefs can produce from them! As we left the island in the Xplorer, we all felt that we had experienced something very special on Mogmog Island.
Following another wonderful lunch, a group of hardy divers and snorkellers headed out in the Xplorer for another look at the local marine life. The wind was up a bit and there was some swell, but we were undaunted! The divers had a fantastic circuit around a large bommie while the snorkellers explored its surface. There were many wonderful corals observed as well as lots of animal life.
The dive was ably led by Anne as part of a dive course which required her to lead a“navigational specialty dive”. All divers returned safely, so we assume she passed! Highlights for the divers included a Marble Ray and a Painted Crayfish and several varieties of anemone. Meanwhile the snorkellers saw a moray eel, a beautiful blue clam, several sea cucumbers, and a beautiful but venomous fish called a fanged blenny.
Meanwhile, back on the ship, Guest Lecturer Mike gave the first presentation for the cruise.Entitled “Colourful marine bottom dwellers of the North Western Pacific”,this explored the lives and habits ofa range of marine organisms found in this part of the Pacific Ocean. The day was completed in fine style with drinks and then a superb barbecue cooked to perfection by our wonderful chefs. Expeditioning really does give us a bit of everything!
Day 4: Fais Island
10 September 2023
Today, we were to visit the last of the Yap Island group for this trip. Fais Island is composed of limestone and is ringed by coral reefs. Only 260 ha in area, it’s home to a community of around 250 people. Unlike most other islands in the region, it once hosted a productive guano mine, this product being the only available source of phosphate fertiliser at the time.
For the morning excursion, we split into 2 groups. One group went snorkelling and diving, while the other went for an informative cruise around the island. The cruisers learnt that the first Europeans to find Fais Island (and others in the area) were the Spanish in the 1500s. Over time, the islands came under the control of Germany, Japan and the US, before becoming fully independent in 1986 as part of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Fais Island is unusual in this part of the world as it is neither a volcanic island nor an atoll. It is described as a limestone platform island, being composed of limestone formed from the skeletons of marine animals, most recently corals. The island has been uplifted since the corals from which the rocks are made were alive, forming an impressive line of cliffs along which we travelled.
We were on our way back to the Coral Adventurer, when a group of people began swimming towards us from the shore. For a minute, we weren’t sure what was going on, until we recognised Captain Matt and Thomas among the group. Matt boarded the nearby zodiac, while Thomas swam to the Xplorer, giving us the chance to experience what it is like to be boarded by a pirate!
Meanwhile, the divers and snorkellers had found a promising area of reef near the ship. They dropped into the clearest of clear blue water with outstanding visibility. Among the many exciting finds were an octopus, a moray eel, and throughout the area, many colourful corals. As it was the last time we would be diving and snorkelling for this trip, it was lovely to go out on a high note.
Our afternoon excursion was to Fais Island itself where we had the opportunity to meet some of the residents. Getting onto the island turned out to be an adventure in itself! There was a reasonable swell running so the Xplorer could not make a beach landing. Instead, we transferred in groups to a zodiac which was expertly taken into a landing area cut through the fringing reef. From here, we waded across the reef platform to the beach. We were promised adventure, and we got it.
There were three villages, each of which had a Chief, though they are built adjacent to each other. We were welcomed by the current senior Chief who said he was very pleased that we had come to visit. We were then presented with beautiful floral leis and headbands created for us by the local people… and didn’t we just look fine with them on!
We were then taken for a tour of the island during which we first saw the dispensary, which is operated by a resident health worker, there being no full-time doctor on the island. Next, we saw the elementary school which takes children through to age 15-16, at which time students must move to Ulithi or Yap to continue their studies. We ambled our way around the village, waving to the locals, especially the kids, who seemed fascinated by us.
At the conclusion of our visit, we browsed items which had been laid out on a table and some of us made purchases. Then it was a walk back though the jungle to our landing beach, where we repeated the adventure involved in transferring back to the ship. What a fantastic day!
Day 5: Challenger Deep
11 September 2023
This morning, we found ourselves in one of the most extraordinary places on the planet. The Coral Adventure was not anchored for a very simple reason… beneath us was almost 11,000 metres of water. We were sitting over the Mariana Trench, the deepest place in the ocean. Specifically, we were located above the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the deepest ocean trench! Formed by titanic geological forces, the trench was created as one of the earth’s tectonic plates (the Pacific Plate) slid beneath another (the Philippine Sea Plate) and dragged the ocean floor down with it. It is a place of total darkness, stupendous pressures, and some very strange creatures.
The Expedition crew had planned a ceremony to mark this momentous occasion. All passengers and crew had signed a document which had then been encased in a steel cylinder. After saying a few words, Captain Matt dropped this over the side to begin its 11 km descent to the ocean depths. It was estimated that this journey would take some 3 hours and the cylinder would finally come to rest under a water pressure in excess of 1 tonne per cm2. Our names would rest at the bottom of the trench for many years to come. It was an eerie feeling to contemplate that descent, which has been made by only 3 people in human history.
After this, we boarded the Xplorer for a swim in the deepest “pool” on the planet. There was a fair swell running and without the expertise of our incredible crew, we would not have had this opportunity. We entered the water in several groups, and all paused to consider the unimaginable depth of the waters below us as we floated among the swells. It was all smiles as we re-joined the Xplorer after a truly significant event, realising we were now among the few people who have had this experience.
Guest Lecturer Ian then gave us his first presentation of the cruise. Titled “Deep, Dark and Dangerous: life in the Mariana Trench”, the presentation began by explaining the geological background to the trench. We then covered the history of deep-sea exploration of the area and finished by looking at some of the marine life which call this extreme environment home.
Next, in case we might have tensed up at the thought of what was beneath us during our swim, Cara ran a morning stretch and mindfulness meditation session. Those who attended no doubt felt more relaxed after this than they had been during our early morning adventure.
After another superb lunch, it was time to limber up with Nigel and Luke’s “High Seas Tai Chi” class. A small but dedicated group of guests thoroughly enjoyed this workout… or at least they said they did! And to round out an exciting day at sea, Guest Lecturer Mike gave us the first in a series of sessions on wine appreciation. Today, Mike’s topic was “Tasting, the marriage of food and wine and the role of the aperitif”. We learnt lots about the business of scoring wines, had fun, and tasted some lovely wine, and you can’t ask much more than that.
Day 6: At Sea
12 September 2023
The day showed promise as we woke with lots of blue sky and light conditions. For a small group of enthusiasts, the day began with Cara’s morning stretch and mindful meditation session before breakfast. For the rest of us, breakfast itself was the first item on the agenda!
Next up was a presentation from Guest Lecturer Mike titled “Sea Turtles: the great oceanic wanderers of the Pacific”. Mike drew on his extensive experience of turtles and their behaviour and his own photographs from throughout the Pacific Ocean to profile the 7 species of sea turtles. He covered the threats to these ancient animals and outlined some of the strategies being employed to help preserve them.
Guest Lecturer Ian then gave a presentation entitled “Hot Rocks and Exploding Mountains: understanding volcanoes”. In this, he explained what volcanoes are, how they form in relationship to plate tectonic processes and their different types. With such good subject matter of course, there were some spectacular photos and videos. He went on to look at volcanic rocks and finished with some volcanic curiosities.
After lunch, it was Luke’s turn to educate and entertain us with his “Crash course in photography”. Lavishly illustrated with his astounding images, this session took us through the basics of the Exposure Triangle and went on to consider composition and the art of capturing that special something in your photos.
Showing us his incredible versatility, Luke went straight into session of “Salsa at Sea” with 2nd Officer Alex. While the participants learned about this popular dance form, they also had lots of fun!
To wrap up another varied day at sea, Mike conducted the second session in his Wine Appreciation course. Today, we focussed on white wines, assessing four different varieties. It was interesting how much variation there was in individual scores, personal taste clearly being a big factor.
Day 7: At Sea
13 September 2023
As we lifted the blinds this morning, we were greeted by blue skies and a calm ocean. With the warm air outside, it really was the perfect morning to be at sea. For the energetic, the day began with a stretch and mindful meditation session with Cara and Marie. For those of us who didn’t attend, it certainly looked like a great idea… maybe tomorrow!
Following breakfast, Guest Lecturer Ian gave a presentation entitled “Tiny Island, Terrible Price: the battle for Iwo Jima”. Ian introduced the island, which is the southernmost in Japan’s Ogasawara Archipelago, and explained its strategic importance in WWII. A documentary detailed the progress of the battle fought by the US and Japanese troops, which ended with the US capturing the island. The presentation finished with a look at Iwo Jima today.
The next session was a “Wellness at Sea” presentation by Cara and Marie. The presentation looked at some of the things we can do to maintain our health and vitality whilst on the ship. Participants were treated to some home-made wellness products for trial during our journey and were given the recipes so they could make them once back home. The body scrub, lip balm and protein hair mask, were all well received.
With lunch over, it was time to dig out the dancing pumps again for more salsa fun in the Bridge Deck Lounge. We built on the basic skills we’d picked up in the first session, with Luke and Alexandra introducing some more complex moves this time. There was some definite talent being displayed before the session was over!
Guest Lecturer Mike then ran the 3rd session in his wine appreciation course. He drew quite a crowd for this one, as the focus was red wines, a favourite drop with many people. Today’s tastings featured a Tasmanian pinot noir, a Victorian merlot, a South Australian shiraz, and a Cab Sauv from Western Australia. Many complimentary comments were made about the selection.
Day 8: Iow Jima
14 September 2023
Our day began once again with a pre-breakfast stretch and mindful meditation with Cara and Marie. A variation in the menu for the day gave us a continental breakfast (as more was to follow shortly!).
Marie, meanwhile, had changed out of her exercise gear and reappeared as our first presenter for the day. She gave a presentation titled “No Bubbles” about one of her greatest loves, underwater modelling. Having started when she was 16 years old, Marie is still very much in demand as a model and gave us lots of tips on how to be successful in the field, including that there must be no bubbles, as they scare the fish and spoil the shot. It was a fascinating insight into the world of underwater modelling and was illustrated with some absolutely stunning images.
An Engine Room tour followed during which we learned about the ship’s engines, stabilisers, air conditioning units, fire suppression system, water desalinating equipment, waste systems and the other machinery required to keep the Coral Adventurer working smoothly.
Having reduced our normal calorie intake at breakfast, we were well and truly ready for the next item on the agenda: an “At Sea Brunch”. We enjoyed mimosas, Bloody Marys and other drinks with a range of delicious savoury treats, pastries and other sweet delights as well as fruit. What a treat!
While we were eating, we were approaching our first volcanic island for the trip. South Iwo Jima is a magnificent cone shaped island located 60 km south of its better-known neighbour, Iwo Jima. It displayed bedding formed when layers of ash and coarser material were ejected from the volcano and settled on its flanks, as well as “rivers” of rock running down its sides. It was the perfect accompaniment to our brunch!
Being so close to land of course, there were plenty of seabirds about. Many of us had fun trying to capture the perfect shot of a booby, preferably swooping on an unsuspecting flying fish. This activity occupied some of us for hours!
Guest Lecture Mike then gave a presentation entitled “The ocean’s warm-blooded wanderers”. The talk introduced us to a range of species of dolphins and whales and looked at their various individualities, once again illustrated with Mike’s own photos. The history of Japanese whaling industry was also covered.
A movie session had been planned next, however “due to unforeseen technical difficulties” the advertised film “Flags of our Fathers” (about the Battle of Iwo Jima) could not be played. Instead, some chose to watch “Hacksaw Ridge”. Importantly however, we still managed to enjoy our hot chips with sour cream and chilli sauce and our ice cream sundaes… every cloud does indeed have a silver lining!
A speck of land in the vast Pacific Ocean, the island of Iwo Jima greeted us as we continued north. The island was front and centre in the Pacific theatre of WWII. Iwo Jima had always been Japanese territory, but as the war progressed, it became strategically important to both the Japanese and the allies, and it was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Over a period of 36 days, US forces gradually prevailed, but not before horrendous casualties were inflicted on both sides with tens of thousands killed and wounded. Having captured the island, the US used it as a base from which to launch air attacks on Japan and thus help bring about the end of the war.
Coral Adventurer approached the island for a circumnavigation of this famous landmark in the Pacific. We could see the beach on which the US troops landed and established a beach head despite a barrage of shots and mortars from established Japanese positions. As we continued around the island, we heard about the desperate hand to hand encounters between the US and Japanese forces. At Mt Suribachi, a volcanic cone on the south-western end of the island, we heard of the capture of this strategically important high point by the US and the iconic photograph which recorded the moment the US troops erected the Stars and Stripes on the summit. The US forces then gradually took the rest of the island, making it available for allied bombing raids over Japan. Over the 36 days of intense battle, some 25,000 soldiers lost their lives.
Day 9: At Sea & Nishinoshima
15 September 2023
The sun rose to another breathtakingly calm day, with flying fish skimming across the surface and Brown and Red Footed Boobies chasing after. The boobies had now been around us for about 4 days, visiting from nearby islands. Cara ran another stretch and mindful meditation in the Bridge Deck lounge before breakfast. As we completed breakfast we began cruising by a distinctly active volcano, with steam and smoke venting from the large crater and from the sides of the cone. The yellow deposits of sulphur could be clearly seen around the sides of the crater and around active vents. At sea level we could see iron and magnesium rich deposits and slurry forming a surface layer away from the island. The basaltic flows could be seen where they had cooled on the slopes of the volcano.
At 0900 Cara called us to the Xplorer with our swimming gear for a chance to swim in the waters in front of the Volcano. This was a rare opportunity to experience the thrill of swimming next to an active volcano (Nishinoshima). We finally made it back aboard ship in time for a well-earned morning tea.
At 1030 Cai and Bronwyn put on a demonstration of Japanese cuisine and food etiquette, which was much enjoyed. Another delicious lunch awaited us in the Dining Room at 1300. Bridge tours were conducted at 1400, before Bronwyn gave a presentation on Origami in the Bridge Deck Lounge. This was followed by Mike’s fourth and final presentation of food and wine. Paul, the head chef also attended so that the now experienced food and wine tasters could discuss with Paul a possible evening meal. The food and wine planned to complement each other over four courses.
At 1815 Mike gave a recap of the day, before Cara outline the activities planned for the following day. After another delicious dinner we had the opportunity to finally watch “Flags of our Fathers” a Clint Eastward Production on the bloody conflict involved in the capture of Iwo Jima from the Japanese in 1945.
Day 10: At Sea
16 September 2023
On another calm and balmy morning Cara once again allowed an easy start to the day with a morning stretch and mindful meditation, finishing in time for breakfast. During breakfast we could again see the Boobies skimming over the water while hunting for flying fish. At 0900 Ian put on a stimulating presentation on “Protecting Paradise: Conservation of the Northwest Pacific Islands”. Morning tea was then enjoyed before Bronwyn put on a presentation on an introduction to the Japanese Language.
Lunch was then enjoyed in the Dining Room. The seas remained calm with a gently rolling swell. Soon after lunch Paul the Head Chef put on a cooking demonstration in the Bridge Deck Lounge, showing how to cook a Japanese inspired calamari dish with soba noodles.
Mike then put on a presentation on Japanese Culture and presented a Sake and Japanese whiskey to taste and enjoy, while Mike outlined the history and importance of these two drinks in Japanese society. At 1815 Ian gave an overview of the day’s activities before Cara outlined our programme for the following day.
After another delicious dinner we were able to view “Letters from Iwo Jima”, Clint Eastward’s second movie on Iwo Jima giving the Japanese perspective on this event of WW2 in 1945.
Day 11: Shimizu, Shizuoka Prefecture
17 September 2023
A slightly overcast day greeted as we cruised into the harbour of Shimizu. By the time we began breakfast we were along side the busy harbour of this city in the Prefecture of Shizuoka on the main island of Japan (Honshu). Soon after breakfast we were quickly put through customs and immigration, allowing us to begin our exploration of this populous island of Japan. A bus awaited us and took us through the surrounding hills to the Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre. Here we had the opportunity to experience the walk-up Mount Fuji inside the building, covering several days of walking in an hour. The features which have made this a spiritual, artistic and naturally significant part of Japanese life were on display.
We then walked to the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine which had been built over a thousand years ago and was the starting point for the traditional climbing of Mount Fuji. The carvings and graphics were on display in this beautiful set of buildings. We learnt how to cleanse ourselves before entry to the Shrine. The day was becoming hot and muggy as we made our way back to the bus for our trip back to the ship for lunch.
After a quick lunch we were once again boarding the bus for a shorter trip to Nihondaira to visit the Kunosan Tshogu Shrine. We had to use a cable car to reach this shrine set in a beautiful forest to celebrate the first Shogun (Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu) who unified Japan in 1603. The Tokugawa Shogunate brought peace to Japan for 265 years. This beautiful place was declared a national treasure in 2010. Despite being hot and crowed this was a spectacular place to visit and well worth the effort.
We returned to ship to enjoy some well-earned drinks before dinner and our briefing from today’s experiences and the expectations for the following day. After another delicious dinner we were able to view the second half of the Iwo Jima epic “Letters from Iwo Jima”.
Day 12: Oshima
18 September 2023
The sun was up as we made our way into the wharf on the Island of Oshima. The volcanic origins of the island were in evidence in the rugged coastline. Straight after breakfast we moved ashore, receiving a warm welcome from the locals. We were then taken by bus up to a staging point for our walk across to the crater of the active Oshima Volcano. Some of the hardier explorers took the longer summit hike, while others walked to the Crate West Lookout. Early rain quickly passed and the walkers continued on the trails swept by mists from low flying clouds. The wind and mist kept the temperature down, so we were able to enjoy the walk with occasional spectacular views of the surrounding sea and even Mount Fuji on the main island of Honshu. Once at the summit or lookout occasional breaks in the cloud allowed us to get some good views of the volcanic crater which had last been active in 1986. We could see remnants of lava from previous eruptions as we followed the trail. On the way back to the ship we were treated to some glass carving displays and a chance to have our own personal replica of Oshima carved with our name on it. A well earn lunch then followed back on ship.
Early in the afternoon we departed in the bus again to travel around the island visiting a number of special features. First stop was at Kiritoshi with its overgrown road cutting displaying massive roots, almost blocking the pathway to a primary school once used in this village. Next stop was the Habu Port Lookout where we had good views of a caldera which had been converted to a well sheltered port after a tsunami washed away one side of the caldera. Fishing boats then made good use of the port and a village community grew up around the port. We then went down to the secluded little village to explore the setting of Yasunari Kawabata’s iconic novel “The Dancing Girls of Izu”. We walked through the hotel showing some of the scenes from this period. On the walk through the village, we could see the well-preserved houses from the 1950’s and 60’s still being used. The final stop on our trip around the island was at a cutting where the road cutting had exposed a spectacular section of folding of volcanic scoria, where it had settled over the existing undulating countryside. By the time we returned to ship a crowd had gathered to wish us farewell. We were treated to some excellent dancing from the locals followed by an energetic drum performance as we began our preparations to leave. As we steamed out, we had a very warm farewell from the locals who had gathered to wave.
Drinks were enjoyed as we had our recap and pre cap in the Bridge Deck Lounge before heading down for our special wine and food meal planned by the wine tasters and Chef Paul. The matching food and wine were delicious and made for a great meal. Captain Matt presented the certificates to mark the end of formal proceedings. This turned out to be a memorable evening. The “Last Samuri” followed in the Bridge Deck Lounge.
Day 13: Hachijojima
19 September 2023
Breakfast was enjoyed as we steamed south towards the remote island of Hachijojima, 287km away from Tokyo. At 0830 Ian gave a presentation on “Shockwaves: The Story of Earthquakes and Tsunamis”. A stimulating presentation, very relevant to visiting Japan and its volcanic islands. Soon after we docked in the wharf on Hachijojima as the locals gave us a very warm welcome. Once again, a very energetic drum performance was included in the welcome. At 1030 we enjoyed a delicious Brunch on the Vista Deck before a departure at 1200 to explore this remote island. We travelled by bus out to the Hattori residence where we experienced some traditional Kashidate Dance and drum performance. Next stop was the Kihachiji Meyu Workshop where we were guided through the process of silk weaving and were able to observe the demanding and skilful process. Some of the expeditioners were able to buy some of the end products.
The Osaka Tunnel viewpoint gave us some great views of the island, before we travelled on to the famous Nambarra Rocks where larva flows had reached the ocean. Our final stop was the Hachijo Botanical Gardens. Here we enjoyed a relaxing hour in the gardens and in the Interpretation centre with its delicious ice-creams. Finally, we headed back to the ship for a refreshing swim at a nearby beach or back aboard for a chance to freshen up for the evening’s festivities. At 1815 we had our evening re-cap and pre-cap before Cara outlined the programme planned for the following day. We then headed down to the Dining Room for a delicious dinner.
Day 14: Miyakejima
20 September 2023
As we approached the harbour on the sheltered side of Miyakejima, we were still experiencing a swell, which made docking a difficult operation. A fine but overcast day with a gusting offshore breeze welcomed us to an early breakfast in preparation for an early start to our exploration of Miyakejima. As we stepped ashore and walked over to the waiting bus, the locals were already present to give us a warm welcome. Our first stop in the bus was the Shiittori Shrine which was nearly covered by scoria. We then visited a small crater, surrounded by ash and scoria. Our next stop was the Tairo-ike Pond where we walked down to the crater lake and caught some fleeting sightings of the local bird life. The area has a healthy population of bird life, but the thick covering of vegetation made it difficult to see the birds clearly. On the way back to the ship we were entertained by the locals with a display of local crafts, and consumables. The ship had to come along side the wharf to pick us up before heading back out to anchor just out from the harbour.
After another delicious lunch we were dropped ashore where we were picked up by the bus and taken to a larva field which had destroyed much of the town as it crept down from the crater. We walked on a board walk over the lava field and view the remains of the primary school destroyed by the lava. We then view a spectacular arch cut through the lava flow. We could also see the remains of a second arch which had been destroyed by a typhoon. Our final stop was a coastal feature carved out of the scoria by the sea, shaped into a nose. Back at the ship we were treated to a wonderful dance and drum performance put on by the locals in their farewell to us. Many turned out to wave farewell and provided a lovely end to our visit to Miyakejima.
Back aboard ship we had time to freshen up for drinks before dinner and our re-cap and pre-cap before Cara outlined the programme planned for the following day. After dinner Marie ran the Quiz night, always a lot of fun.
Day 15: Yokohama
21 September 2023
During breakfast we were able to observe busy Yokohama Port as we made our way into dock. An early start to breakfast allowed us a full day of exploration of this very populous part of Japan (Second largest city) with nearly four million people. A bus awaited us to take us to the Hase Temple where we could view the Goddess of Mercy, standing just over nine metres tall. This was one of the largest wooden Buddhist statues in Japan. The buildings and art work were spectacular. Next, we visited the Kotokuin Temple, with its 13-metre tall sitting Buddha, the largest in the world. We then travelled back to Kamachi Street for lunch and a chance explore the nearby shopping centre.
We gathered for a walk to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine at 1415. Once again we were awed by the architecture and art work on display at this magnificent shrine, built by Minamoto Yoritomo in 1191. The extraordinary detail in the carvings and statues on display continued to be an awesome aspect of these spiritual centres in Japan. We returned to ship to prepare for Captain Matt’s farewell drinks.
We were also treated to a viewing of some of the photos taken by the Expedition team and Guest Lecturers during the trip. We had a chance to talk with Captain Matt before he gave his farewell speech. This was followed by Cara’s briefing on the procedures for the following morning. We then moved down to the dining room for a delicious BBQ, our final dinner for the trip.
Ian and I would like to thank you all for making the trip such a pleasant one. Your interest and involvement in the interpretation programme made our trip very enjoyable.