Once we were allowed to enter it was great. But immigration in Japan was even worse than China. Disclosure forms, passports, plus they took our photos, fingerprints, and temperatures (via some thermal camera). Still better than Carnival where they take your temperature rectally.
After two weeks in Mao Tse-Tungland, it was a pleasure to be in a country where the people were warm, friendly, and relatively happy, Pink Lady still performed, and you could use a bathroom without having to be deloused.
First stop was Kagoshima, home of many cows. And I’m told an active volcano. Couldn’t see it through the rain and fog. The cruise director was calling out buses for the tours and instead of Kagoshima said, “Bus four ready for Highlights of Iwo Jima.”
And when we arrived in Kobe there was another band to greet us. But they kept playing “It’s a Small World” so I don’t know if they were being hospitable or just passive-aggressive.
Went to Osaka Castle, first erected 4,000 years ago. Then it was destroyed in a war and rebuilt, then it was hit by lightening and burned down, then I think Godzilla stepped on it, and now it’s been rebuilt yet again. This was a pattern on the trip – going to ancient castles and temples that were reconstructed in 1975.
We ducked into a place for some sake and maybe some genuine Japanese sushi. But that meant large intestine, first stomach, third stomach, fourth stomach, and aorta. Besides, how authentic could they be if they didn’t serve California Rolls?
Kobe beef is not allowed to be exported. So don’t believe it when the Sizzler serves “Kobe” beef.
Dined in one of the ships fancy specialty restaurants, Signatures. This was also my muster station in case we hit an iceberg. Jackets were required – either sports or life. We had a table of nine. Entrees are delivered with a flare. Nine waiters arrive with dishes under silver covers and they all remove them at once. I set it up so that when the domes were proudly lifted everybody said, “Wait, I didn’t order that,” “I think you have my order,” “Does anyone have my scallops?” The poor waiters were totally confused. I’ll probably never be allowed back on the ship.
Kobe oddities: The Mafia headquarters is around the corner from the police station. There are cat cafes where you can dine and pet kittens, there is a KISS-FM (like every other city in the world), skulls are very popular as is Audrey Hepburn (there is a ROMAN HOLIDAY fortune machine in the mall), they have a Costco, and the former governor of California was also the spokesman for Cup of Noodles (I hope the Japanese could understand him better than we could).
Arrived in Tokyo on the 70th anniversary of the day we bombed them. No welcoming brass band at that port.
I absolutely fell in love with Tokyo. It’s everything a major city should be. Actually it’s everything six major cities all jammed into one should be. 12,000,000 people live there (practically on top of each other) and I’m relieved to report not one of them dressed as idiotically as Ichiro. Fortunately, the ‘Pee Wee Herman in Scotch-plaid with pork pie hat’ look did not catch on. (Of course, now that he’s in Miami he’ll blend right in.)
I couldn’t believe how clean Tokyo was. The streets were spotless. If they did a Japanese version of THE ODD COUPLE it would be Felix and Felix.
Rain, wind, cold, and even sleet our first day in Tokyo. Day two (our last), was glorious however. The sun came out and it was a perfect day. Overslept and missed the tuna auction at the Fish Market, even though I still needed souvenirs to bring back home.
Our tour guide that final day was awesome. Masashi knew the city, the history, the customs, and spoke very good English (having graduated from Oklahoma State).
God knows what we had for lunch but it was good and I’m still alive. I wanted to get to the Maid Café. The gimmick here is that the waitresses all dress in cute little maid outfits and say things like “Nice to have you back my master.” Way better greeting than “Welcome to Subway!”
The Akihabara district must be nerd paradise. Shops sell electronics, figurines, comic books, retro video games, and anime costumes. And the front of every skyscraper has an opaque mural of an anime Japanese girl with giant bazooms. There’s an actual name for these cartoon women. I think it’s “girlfriends.”
Here’s a fun game to play with the kiddies in Tokyo – see how many Fords they can spot.
There are so many active volcanoes in Japan that Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland has been known to erupt.
Flew home on American Airlines. In Business Class they hand out little cloth bags of toiletries. On the inside flap it said TWA. My first thought was I hope the plane engine doesn’t say Braniff.
All in all, this was an amazing trip that will leave me with cherished memories and respiratory problems for years. Thanks again to Regent cruise lines, Artful Travelers, and the Little Cherries. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sleep for four days.
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