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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Japan - Kagoshima and Kobe

Dear Family and Friends,

One thing you might be interested in is that our temperatures were taken every time we entered a country. We had our temps taken when our plane landed in Korea and again in China.
Everywhere our ship docked, we had our temps taken as we got off the ship. When we were arriving by air our temps were taken before we got off the plane as in the first picture

and when we got off the ship it was taken as we exited the boat as in the second picture.


Actually the ship took Chuck and I to Japan twice. Once on our way to see the eclipse and then again on our return to China after seeing the eclipse.


KAGOSHIMA
Our first stop was in Kagoshima. As you see on the map Kagoshima is in the southern most part of Japan.

The weather in Kagoshima was very hot and humid. Again, Chuck and I decided to tour Kagoshima on our own as we were only there a few hours. Our ship docked at 8:30 am and we had to be back by 1:30 pm.

We took a taxi downtown. Chuck asked the taxi driver to take him to an ATM machine so that he could get some Yen (Japanese money) to pay him. The driver took us to three different locations and at each location the ATM machines were not working. It seems we had arrived in Kagoshima on some sort of a Japanese holiday.

The taxi had a meter and we could see the cost of the ride was increasing pretty fast so when we got downtown Chuck offered to pay the driver in dollars. The driver accepted the dollars and since it was so early we found all the stores were still closed.

Chuck remembered from our earlier trips to Japan that he could go to the post office and use the ATM machine there. He located one nearby on the map and went and got some Yen.

By then things were beginning to open downtown. We found a 100 Yen store. A 100 Yen store is equivalent to our Dollar store in the USA. We shopped around in there for awhile and then went to a huge downtown high end shopping area.


After shopping in the nice shopping area, we found an internet cafe. We checked our email. No matter where we went the air conditioning was a little shy on keeping up with the heat.

It was about this time that I pooped out and took a taxi back to the ship. Chuck elected to stay downtown to explore so he gave me 2000 Yen (that's about $20) for the taxi. When he returned to the ship he told me about all the great shops he found. I told him about how he had not given me enough money for the taxi and how the taxi driver brought me to the ship anyway.

KOBE

After viewing the eclipse our ship headed back to China. On the way back we stopped in Kobe. This was a great stop because we arrived in Kobe at 8:00 am on Friday and stayed in port overnight and did not leave Kobe until 6:00 pm on Saturday. We had two full days to explore Kobe, not just a few hours.

A really neat thing about Kobe is that there was a light rail train to take us from the port terminal to the central train station downtown (just about a 10 minute ride.) The trains ran about 5 or 6 minutes apart.

Chuck and I had breakfast on the ship and then headed into town using the light rail. We spent the morning shopping. In the main part of downtown, Kobe has closed some streets to cars and covered them making a them pedestrian only. They reminded me of Freemont street in Las Vegas.


Japan has some really neat department stores. They remind me of how the department stores used to be in the USA over 50 years ago. It is not unusual at all to have an attendant operating the elevator. Notice the white gloves, this is quite common even with the taxi drivers.


The basement of the huge department stores are devoted to huge deli's and the very top floors have restaurants. In one department store, as we stepped off the escalator, we saw there was a big glass wall with people inside taking a cooking class.


Another thing I found of interest is that in Japan people cue up to wait for the bus. There is no bunching, when someone arrives to wait for the bus they stand behind the person who arrived just before.


In Kobe, as in China, we were able to find a Starbucks. In Kobe they have renovated an old house and turned it into a Starbucks.


And for all you Seattle folks, you might be interested to know that Tully's is alive and well in Japan too. Here is Chuck taking a coffee break.


Kobe had a city tour bus that looked at lot like a trolley. It had about 15 stops around Kobe and you could buy a day pass to get on and off anywhere you liked. We did this on our second day. The weather was rainy all day, but we found some real interesting things to do.

At one stop there was an old school. The classrooms had been converted into shops but on the third floor there was a big open area - once the school's auditorium. We heard drumming coming from upstairs and went up to find a big circle of special needs people drumming away. This was a happy crowd and they were having a grand time. We really enjoyed it.


In the afternoon we did more shopping and we had lunch at a sushi diner. I made this video because I loved how everything worked. The sushi came around on a moving belt and we could take which ones we wanted. We ate till we were finished and then someone tallied our bill by counting our empty plates. Just click on the triangle button to watch.

video

We enjoyed our stay in Kobe very much.

I've saved the most exciting part of our trip to share with you on the next post. It is of the solar eclipse.

Nancy

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