Voyage Log: Through the Heart of Japan | Tokyo to Fukuoka
Tokyo to Fukuoka | 23 September 2023 – 7 October 2023
Auther: Guest Lecturers Reed Knappe & Mike Sugden
Day 1: Tokyo
23 September 2023
The expeditioners began arriving at 1415. After checking through immigration, we boarded the waiting Coral Adventurer. Once aboard we had a chance to meet some of our fellow travellers in the dining room before we headed off to our rooms to unpack and prepare for our next fifteen days aboard ship. At 1730 we met our purser Sara who helped through the safety briefing and use of the lifejackets at our muster point. We also met Dawn who introduced the Expedition Team before outlining the programme planned for the following day in Shimizu. Soon after we were called down to the Dining Room for our first delicious dinner aboard ship.
Day 2: Shimizu
24 September 2023
Strong winds buffeted us as we approached Shimizu on a clear morning. With the clear skies, we could clearly see the massive outline of Mount Fuji off our starboard bow, dominating the skyline. Soon after breakfast, Dawn continued the presentation from the Expedition Team outlining our planned programme for the next few days. One of our fellow expeditioners, Pat then gave a presentation and demonstration on “How to Make Paper Cranes”. Many paper cranes were subsequently made. Reed followed with a very stimulating presentation on
“Japan Old and New; An Introduction to its History- Ancient to Modern”.
An early lunch followed as we docked in Shimizu Harbour. Four buses awaited us to take us to three destinations, allowing us to all rotate through these destinations. We visited a tea plantation where we had the opportunity to taste some of its green tea and view the rows of tea bushes. The Kunosan Viewpoint gave us exceptional 360-degree views over Shimizan, Mount Fuji and the surrounding coastline.
We also visited the Miho-no Matsubara with its shines and heard the story of the beautiful girl who had to perform a dance to regain her special cloth before going to heaven. We had the opportunity to walk 500 metres along a board walk to the next shrine and a beach. We heard also about the spiritual significance of Mount Fuji and why women were not allowed to climb the Mountain because of the jealous princes who represented the mountain. We returned to ship in time to view an excellent dance presentation put on by the local university. Later Dawn gave a recap and outlined the planned activities for the following day. We then enjoyed Captain’s Welcome Drinks and Canapes in the Bridge Deck Lounge. Here we had a chance to meet the captain before he officially welcomed us aboard. A delicious dinner was then enjoyed in the Dining Room.
Day 3: Shingu
25 September 2023
We steamed towards Shingu Port with a fairly strong following sea and wind and the threat of rain. After breakfast, Dawn gave a briefing on our coming expeditions and had sign-up sheets to be completed. Not long after, Mike gave a presentation on the geology of Japan, or “Japan in the Ring of Fire”. Formal welcomes occurred on the dock as we enjoyed an early brunch to prepare us for our long afternoon expedition. By 1230 we were in busses heading up to Nachi Shrine and Sengantoji Temple. Some of the more adventurous expeditions took the Daimonzaka trail, a 600m steep uphill trail through the Cedar Forest and then 470 steps up to the temple. Others skipped the trail and were dropped at the bottom of the 470 steps so that they could climb from there to the Shrine and Temple. The final group were taken up to the Shrine and Temple by taxi. All had the chance to explore these spectacular spiritually important centres perched on steeply sloped hillsides. The rain continued to fall as we explored these beautiful buildings and artwork. From the Buddhist Temple, we could also see a waterfall plunging into the valley below.
A steep walk down the road and then a stairway took us to the base of this magnificent waterfall. Care had to be taken moving down the wet stairway, but the effort was well worth it to get excellent views of the highest continuous waterfall in Japan. We returned to the waiting busses wet and exhausted from our explorations of the area. We returned to the ship and had time to prepare for our farewell ceremony from the very friendly locals as the Coral Adventurer slipped its lines had headed out to sea. We had a briefing and recap in the Bridge Deck Lounge as we enjoyed some drinks before dinner.
Day 4: Kobe, Osaka & Kyoto
26 September 2023
A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we made our way into Kobe Harbour. Breakfast was enjoyed as we were tied up to our birth. At 0800 the first two buses left for the excursion to Kyoto. After a two-hour ride, they would explore Sanjusangendo Temple, famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. This was followed by a visit to the Nijo Temple. Free time was then available to explore and enjoy lunch. After lunch, the visit to Kyoto was concluded with a visit to Kinkakuji Zen Temple with its three tiers covered in gold leaf.
The second pair of buses departed at 0830 to visit Osaka. In the morning we explored the Osaka Castle with its massive walls. Time was then spent at the Kuromon Markets where we experienced the variety of Japanese food. Many took the opportunity to explore the area and enjoy lunch Dotombori was also available to explore, providing even more options for our lunch. The buses then took us to the Umeda Sky Building where we could experience the spectacular views of the city and beyond.
After returning to ship Sara our purser and the hospitality crew put on a wine tasting in the Bridge Deck Lounge. The chefs provided some tasty canapes to accompany the wines. Following the tasting there was the option of heading into Kobe for further exploration or staying aboard the ship for dinner.
Day 5: Tokushima & Shikoku
27 September 2023
By breakfast time we were docked in Tokushima on a warm and sunny morning. A band began playing to welcome us before the end of breakfast. The drummers were particularly energetic. They continued playing as we began boarding the buses for our morning excursions. We had three destinations to visit in the morning. The first stop was the Naruto Whirlpools viewpoint, with its spectacular views of the waterway connecting the Pacific Ocean with Japan’s Inland Sea. The narrow and mostly shallow channel connecting these two large bodies of water was very turbulent as the water built up on one side with tidal movement. The next stop was the Otsuka Museum of Art with its vast collection of remarkable replicas of the world’s top artwork. Even the Sistine Chappel was replicated. The collection was vast and many tired legs resulted from exploring over four kilometres of galleries. We returned to ship for a well-earned lunch.
Soon after lunch, we began leaving on the buses for further exploration. Two interesting destinations were explored. A sake distillery allowed us to learn of the finer points of sake production and also provided some excellent samples of their craft. We also visited the Ryozenji Temple, the number one temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. We had the option of walking in the footsteps of the pilgrims who had walked all 88 temples, sometimes many times before. Today we just walked the kilometre to temple number two. We finally made our way back to the ship. At 1800 Mike gave a recap of the last two days of exploration before Dawn gave a recap on the planned activities for the following day. Another delicious dinner awaited us in the Dining Room before we were invited to a special dance presentation on the docks by the ship. We were also invited to join in the last dance. A very memorable way to finish another very full day of exploration.
Day 6: Shodoshima
28 September 2023
We enjoyed breakfast within sight of Shodoshima on a lovely sunny day. We were now well and truly in the Inland Sea of Japan. We were about to explore Shodoshima, the second largest island in this inland sea, part of the Kagawa Prefecture. Once ashore we visited Kankakei Gorge, either by walking up the steep gorge or by taking the ropeway to the viewpoint. The views were excellent and we could not only see the rugged terrain of the gorge but also the inland sea and surrounding ports. We also visited the Yamaroku Soy Sauce Distillery, with an opportunity to try their famous soy sauce ice cream. We also had a lesson in noodle making at the Somen Noodle School. We had time to explore some of the soy sauce district, Hishio no Sato.
During this busy day, the Xplorer was kept busy transferring the expeditions to and from the ship to shore and back again for lunch. We finally returned to the ship for some refreshments before Dawn gave a rec and preview of the activities planned for the following day. Reed then gave a stimulating talk on “Nature and Society in Japan”. A delicious dinner followed in the Dining Room.
Day 7: Miyajima Is & Hiroshima
29 September 2023
During the night we passed under the Seto Bridge, 13.1 km long, and one of the longest in the world. By breakfast, we were at anchor off the beautiful Miyajima Island. The day was sunny and calm as we made our way in the Xplorers to the landing on Miyajima Island. We enjoyed the scenic walk to Itukushima Shrine. This was a very famous and beautiful shrine and we were there at high tide, so that it was surrounded by salt water. We also passed through a shopping centre with many selling delicious-looking local food. A number of deer also joined us for part of the tour. Eventually, after a full morning of exploration, we returned to the ship for a well-earned lunch. Dawn gave a briefing on the plans for the following day before we moved down to lunch. During this time the Coral Adventurer pulled anchor and moved to the docks at Hiroshima. On the last part of this voyage, we were accompanied by a boat with a full set of water cannons giving us a lovely display.
Soon after lunch, we boarded the buses for a trip to the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. We had a couple of hours to explore this memorial to the people who died as a result of the first atomic bomb being dropped on Japan. The loss of life was horrific and the effect on the lives of the survivors was graphically displayed in the Memorial Museum. We walked through from ground zero to the museum and were very moved by the historic collection of stories associated with this terrible time engraved in history. Some chose to stay and enjoy some free time in Hiroshima while the remainder returned to ship for a delicious evening meal.
Day 8: Matsuyama
30 September 2023
We enjoyed an early breakfast in anticipation of a full day’s activities in Matsuyama, one of Shikoku’s largest and most historic cities. After a short bus ride, guests made their way up to the extraordinary views of Mount Katsuyama, the site of one of the most celebrated and best-preserved among Japan’s dozen remaining large medieval castles. While some guests made their way up the winding 250-step stairway approach, others availed themselves of a comfortable and scenic ropeway ride.
After touring a museum inside of the castle, which included a fine selection of samurai armour and weaponry, we reboarded the buses and made our way to Ishiteji Temple, a sprawling complex of holy structures founded by Kobo Daishi, Japan’s greatest Buddhist saint. Number 51 on Shikoku’s 88 temple pilgrimage, Ishiteji features a long pedestrian tunnel with bats and ancient statuary, a treasure hall packed with stunning art and relics, and bags of prayer sand from each of the pilgrimage’s other 87 stops. After the temple, we proceeded to the famous shopping and onsen district of Dogo, where some of the guests elected to experience Japanese-style hot spring bathing, while others sampled local food specialties or shopped for souvenirs. Returning to the ship for a late lunch under sunny conditions, after some relaxation and a recap of the day’s events we were treated to a sake and wine talk and tasting, hosted by Mike, introducing a variety of delicious Japanese beverages. After a very full day indeed, guests had dinner as the ship sailed under calm conditions for our next destination.
Day 9: Karatsu
1 October 2023
After a pleasant continental breakfast, guests had the option of joining guest lecturer Reed for a morning presentation on the history of Postwar Japan, highlighting how the country had rebuilt itself after the destruction of war to become a major world economic power. After an update on activities from Dawn, followed by brunch, guests departed in the early afternoon for the city of Karatsu. First up was the Hikiyama Exhibition Hall, where the famous parade floats of Karatsu’s annual Kunchi festival are stored on display. These huge, two-hundred-year-old mobile masterpieces are crafted from wood, metal and lacquer, and have been lovingly restored with bright colours and gilding up to the present day; they are wheeled out into a boisterous procession every November to be enjoyed by many generations of Karatsu residents.
The exhibition viewing was followed by a stroll into the surrounding ceramics district, passing down a road paved with beautiful shades of yellow, amber and rose ceramic tiles in the local style. Guests then visited several ceramic shops and a museum containing kilns used to fire the celebrated local products. Reboarding the buses, we then took a short drive to nearby Karatsu Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the bay and clad in pristine white plaster walls. Built-in 1608, this picturesque structure was originally constructed using materials taken from the disassembled Nagoya Castle and floated hundreds of kilometres by ship. To cap off the day, passengers headed to the Kagamiyama Observation Deck above the city, which offered sweeping views of the town, coastline and outlying islands. The weather was perfect, with clear skies affording beautiful vistas out to the distant horizon. After returning to the ship, and just before departure, guests were treated to an energetic pre-dinner performance from a local folk music group, featuring traditional instruments.
Day 10: Tsushima
2 October 2023
The next morning found the Coral Adventurer in Tsushima, for many centuries the only entrepot between Korea and Japan, and the domain of the opulent lords who controlled that trade. The weather was again clear and warm, and the day promised a stimulating selection of outdoor activities and unique cultural sites. But first, guest lecturer Mike delivered a highly informative post-breakfast talk on Japan’s marine ecosystems, based on his long experience studying the country’s seas and littorals. After disembarking the vessel, guests had the option of enjoying either a longer or more moderate hike on Mount Shimizu, soaring majestically above the port. Winding up through ancient evergreen oak forests, the trail stopped along the way at several stone lookouts where locals had once kept watch for invaders, traders and pirates in the Japan Sea.
After descending from the top of Mt. Shimizu, our tour groups showed guests around the unique cultural property of the Banshoin Temple, which contained relics and funerary tablets from the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan for 260 years, followed by a visit to the adjacent tomb complex of the Tsushima lords, whose vast wealth and prestige had allowed them to construct one of the three largest and most spectacular funerary monuments in all Japan. Also on these premises were three enormous, thousand-year-old cedar trees, overlooking the tombs. After the lengthy perambulation, many of the guests availed themselves of some free time in Izuhara Township, where Tsushima’s unique local products and delicacies were on offer. Returning to the ship at 1400, guests enjoyed a late lunch, followed by the second talk of the day, this time delivered by guest lecturer Reed, on the topic of Japan’s relationship with the West, from isolation to globalization. After a recap of the full day’s activities, at 1830 guests enjoyed another delicious meal from our chefs, as the ship pulled away from the ancient port under calm conditions
Day 11: Jeju
3 October 2023
Under initially cloudy skies, the morning of Day 11 found the Coral Adventurer at Jeju Island, the renowned and highly scenic honeymoon island of South Korea. After some immigration rigamarole, as guests and crew formally exited Japan into its neighbouring country and former colony, we boarded buses to embark on yet another action-packed day, assisted by local Korean guides. Our first stop was Seongeup Folk Village, a carefully preserved and still inhabited traditional village showcasing Jeju Island’s remarkable material culture, which is highly distinct from mainland Korea’s. Of particular interest were the ondol, chimneys built under the clay floors to utilize cooking fires for heating, the houses’ sturdy straw roofs, held on by an elaborate lattice of rope, and the wooden gates which were manipulated to display whether the occupants were home and/or receiving guests.
After this fascinating cultural site, our next stop was a location famed for its natural beauty: Seongsan Sunrise Peak, a towering volcanic precipice jutting out from the Jeju coastline. Some guests enjoyed a long hike up and around the rim, while others took in the sights located around the base of the mountain, including local women sea divers selling products freshly gathered from the surrounding tide pools. Several guests took advantage of this chance to try freshly caught abalone, turban snail and sea squirt. After the brisk exercise, and with weather holding only a hint of spattering rain, our buses made their way to a large and bustling Korean restaurant, where according to their preferences visitors enjoyed either a traditional pork barbecue over coals (sam gyup sal) or Korea’s famed mixed rice, bibimbap. After the meal, we headed to our last stop on Jeju: Asia’s longest lava tube, at Manjanggul Cave. Observing the stratified layers of lava flows which had created the cave thousands of years ago, guests made their way deep into the earth and along almost a kilometer of this very atmospheric and geologically intriguing tunnel. All in all, it made for a very interesting day of Korean experiences, before returning to ship, enjoying a hearty meal, and sailing back towards southern Japan in the evening.
Day 12: Sasebo
4 October 2023
The morning of day twelve found the ship once again on the coast of Kyushu, this time in Nagasaki Prefecture’s Sasebo Port. Once part of medieval Hirado Domoain, this region is still famed for its diverse styles of pottery, shaped over the centuries by Chinese and European trade and aesthetic influences. The first stop on the day’s tour, beginning just after lunch, was the Arita Ceramic Museum. A charming and atmospheric town, Arita has reigned as the heartland of Japanese porcelain for over three hundred years, and this history is reflected in its great variety of shops, small manufactures, and art studios lining old-fashioned streets. Even classically constructed samurai residences and fortified storehouses were in evidence.
After exploring the museum and adjacent pottery stores, guests hiked up a winding staircase to take in views of the town from Tozan Shrine, a charming locale featuring an unusual shrine gate (Torii) and spirit lanterns crafted from the town’s famously intricate porcelain. After the shrine, we were treated to a tour of one of Arita’s largest and longest-running porcelain factories, which displayed many works specially commissioned by Japan’s Imperial Family. Some of our passengers even purchased artworks from the factory show floor to take home with them. After leaving Arita, guests had some free time perusing the wares available in downtown Sasebo’s central Sankacho shopping street, before heading back to the ship. Upon their return, our passengers enjoyed a special al fresco barbecue dinner on the vista deck, as local drummers serenaded the departing ship from the colourfully illuminated portside park.
Day 13: Aokata (Goto Island)
5 Octobre 2023
Day 13 found the Coral Adventurer in the more serene and rural surroundings of Shinkamigoto, northernmost of the Goto islands off the shores of Nagasaki. A stronghold of Christianity after its introduction to Japan in the 16th century, for two hundred years the island’s inhabitants practiced their religion secretly, forced underground by the shogun’s strict prohibitions. Today, owing to the unique perseverance of these “Hidden Christians,” approximately one quarter of the residents of the Goto Islands are Catholic, which is by far the highest percentage found anywhere in Japan. Another legacy of this tradition are the island’s twenty-nine small churches, and the day’s activities included stops at two of them, as well as distant views of many others. After an energetic welcoming drum performance by local men, guests departed by bus for a short ride to Kashiragahama Village and its church, the oldest in the islands. Although small, with only ten parishioners, the chapel interior was decorated with gorgeous floral designs highlighting another island speciality: the tsubaki, or Camellia flower, from which residents have long crafted teas, medicines, and cosmetic oils. Next on the itinerary was the Yagatame Park and Salt Manufacture, where after taking in a stunning but windswept viewpoint, guests were able to observe the traditional process by which sea water was boiled and refined into a delicious condiment.
Returning briefly to the ship for an early lunch, in the afternoon guests enjoyed a tour of the southern area of the Northern Goto Islands. Stops included Wakamatsu Bridge, a beautiful, outsized public works spanning a large channel between two islands, Nakanoura Church, another small but charming chapel decorated with unique religious statues and iconography, and finally the grand shrine in Narao Town, at the island’s south end. This shrine is most famous for its enormous Sea Fig Tree (a kind of Banyan) which is the largest and oldest of its kind in the whole of Japan. The tree was adorned with beautiful epiphytic “bird’s nest” plants, which had been donated by a former Empress. The morning performance having not quite exhausted the locals’ skill and enthusiasm, our evening return to the ship was greeted by an astonishingly well-rehearsed and spirited drum performance, this time by the island’s junior high school students. As we pulled away from the wharf into the sunset, the children’s echoing farewells carried the ship towards its next destination, Shinkamigoto’s sister islands to the south.
Day 14: Fukue (Goto Island)
6 October 2023
Our last full day of the voyage brought Coral Adventurer to beautiful Fukue, southernmost of the main Goto Islands, and home to many churches and small Catholic communities. After a hearty breakfast, our day began with sightseeing and hiking at Mount Onidake, or “Ogre Mountain”: a beautifully symmetrical volcanic cone covered in bright green grass, which is maintained through burning by locals in a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Also present on the mountain were several locals flying the island’s unique samurai kites, for which these windy surroundings are famous. For the group who elected to take the shorter walk up to Onidake’s lower viewpoint, the extra time afforded a visit to the charming Dozaki Church, an intricate example of traditional brick architecture. After the hikes concluded, both groups reconvened at the nearby Abunze Coast Observation Deck, where we were able to view a dramatic and geologically unusual lava flow that had spilled into the sea from Onidake some centuries before.
At noon, all tour groups returned to the ship for lunch, as the crew prepared the ship to leave port. Although the long voyage to the terminus in Fukuoka necessitated an afternoon departure, our PM hours proved to be packed with onboard events. After lunch, Dawn gave a brief presentation highlighting several of the exciting future voyages planned by Coral Expeditions, followed by a fun-filled and informative cooking demonstration with Dylan, our Lead Chef. Not long after the culinary lesson, expedition team members Amber and Luke conducted the traditional Coral Lecturer Quiz in the Bridge Deck Lounge, with the winning team taking away some fabulous prizes. Accompanied by a digital slideshow of photos taken throughout the voyage, the evening wrapped up with the Captain’s Farewell Drinks & Canapes in the Bridge Deck Lounge, followed by a memorable final dinner over which guests reflected on the past two weeks’ journey through the heart of Japan.
Day 15: Fukuoka
7 October 2023
Having enjoyed a jam-packed two weeks of travel through the ancient lands and seas of the Japanese Archipelago, our guests finally disembarked Saturday morning in Fukuoka, largest city of Kyushu, concluding their voyage. Many wonderful new friendships and memories have been forged on this passage, and we at Coral Expeditions cordially hope to see all of you again very soon.