Monthly Archives: November 2019

20191123 – Bye, Bye Cruise, Hello Tokyo


Saturday

First stop the Apple Store.

Goodbye Celebrity; goodbye food; goodbye free drinks. Catch the shuttle bus to Yokohama station into Tokyo and then onto some unpronounceable station near the luxurious 5 star New Otani Hotel. Arrive wet and dishevelled only to be wiped down on arrival. Drop our luggage off and go get a really expensive coffee in the hotel – I suppose we’d better get used to it. All this luxury, bowing and scraping comes at a price.

Then as we’ve a few hour to pass before check in we catch the subway to the Apple store. By now I think we’ve mastered the subway.

Lounge area in our suite.

Apple store is heaving, even more so than in America. Find a red shirt that speaks excellent English and check out the new iPhone 11Pro. I can save nearly £300 on the UK price and to top it all they can deal with the tax refund. Walk out the proud owner of another new toy – us nerds have to keep up with the latest technology. Have to admit if Apple were to come out with a new cardboard box I think I’d be there queuing overnight for it.

Back to the hotel to check in, again much bowing and scraping. It turns out that our deluxe room also gives us Otani Club lounge membership, whatever that is. Luggage is carried up to our room by a tiny tot of a Japanese girl in smart uniform, complete with pillbox hat, very smart. I fear she will collapse under the load, but no she makes it. More bowing and scraping as we’re shown into our lovely suite. The bathroom alone is bigger than some hotel rooms I’ve stayed in.

Bedroom area.

After settling in we venture across the river and down a side street for dinner. Too much choice and most of it we haven’t a clue what it is. Settle on some skewers of under cooked chicken, grilled rice ball, sushi for me and various other offerings too numerous to remember. Will I wake up dead tomorrow?

Back to the hotel to enjoy our suite with a beer and to start watching The Crown. Thankfully no mediocre Celebrity showtime tonight.
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Towel wipe down when you arrive out of the rain into our hotel.

Dinner

Approach information desk and they both stand up to attention and even bow. How neat is that.

Elderly Gentlemen offers his seat to Wendy while two young whipper snappers continue to sit engrossed on their iPhone.

Easy travel with the pasmo card. Just a pity you have to reload with cash only.

Music on on zebra crossings.

The Otani Lounge club is great. We pop in any time and get a choice of tea, coffee or fruit juices and always served with a delicious chocolate cake and daily newspapers. Very relaxing.


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I hope not.


Sunday

View from our breakfast table.

Go down to breakfast in our white slippers from another hotel and we’re accosted by one of the staff of a 1,000 saying that hotel slippers are only for use in the room. Then they realised they were from another hotel, oh so that’s ok, you can pass.

Another important temple.

Start with an expensive breakfast but with an awesome view over the Japanese garden. The view alone was worth it. Then we have a stroll around this awesome Japanese garden in our hotel. It’s amazing.

Catch the metro to Shibuya to visit the Meiji-jingu Shrine. Shibuya station is unbelievable. Never seen so many people in one place. Walk up to the shrine. Impressive. Weddings galore. They seem to be marrying them off at the rate of one every 10 minutes. Each one led by some priest and entourage, they must be minting it. All very interesting with kids dressed in their beautifull kimonos for their 3rd, 5th and 7th inauguration of some sort.

Main temple entrance.

Then we try and visit the Nintendo store. Can you believe they are even queuing to go in the shopping Mall and then when you finally get to the Nintendo store admittance is only via ticket and no more are being issued that day – too busy, too easy money.

Wend our way back through the Sunday crowds to the station and the hotel.

Venture out again in the evening and finally find a buffet all you can eat restaurant. A tad expensive but you get such an amazing selection of different Japanese foods – well worth it.

If the Japanese are so clever how come they didn’t invent the knife and fork?

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Yet another wedding.

I see the pope wants to stop spending on nuclear weapons and spend it on the poor. All very laudable. Yet we have a conclave of about 10 cardinals, red skull cap geezers, staying in this luxury 5 star gin palace of a hotel. Surely if they’re serious about the poor they could stay with local parishioners who would no doubt be delighted to put them up for the night.


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Stupidity (Baka) Today

KIds getting blessed in their Kimonos.

Metro signs – it seems that the subway don’t want to admit that the JR line exists and vice versa. Stuff the poor unsuspecting customer. If you’re in the subway looking for a train line and it happens to be a JR line then there’s no mention of it and vice versa. Moral to that story is either vote with your feet at such poor customer care and walk, or if you can’t see the line in the subway then head for JR lines, while if you can’t see the line in the JR section head for subway or metro.


Monday

Nintendo store.

After a leisurely breakfast overlooking that awesome Japanese garden in our hotel, we set off to Tokyo station to pick up the hop on off bus tour. Not very impressive. Wendy rated it as the most boring bus tour this century.

Have a stroll down to the Bic Camera store, an amazing 7 floors of technology.

Lunch is a sandwich and drink from Starbucks before we catch the blue bus route. Slightly better than the red route.

I think Wendy expected them to drive into each famous land mark. She’s being a bit harsh, miraculously I don’t think either is that bad. Just gave us an overview of a big city, mainly full of high rise buildings. What can you expect.

Can’t believe I walked past an Apple store without noticing it.

Get to Shinjuku station and this Japanese geezer comes up to us and starts rattling away in Japanese and shakes a box under my nose. I ask him “do I look like I speak Japanese”. The clues in my Caucasian looks. Looks like he’s collecting for animals. Not one of my favourite charities.

Finally find a cafe for afternoon tea. Amazing how you can never find one when you need one. Anyway excellent choice as they even do Assam tea, and with boiling water. Best cuppa we’ve had since arriving in Tokyo.

Dinner Sunday night.

Find the Zauo Fish restaurant hidden away in a hotel.

Issued with a fishing rod and then a rather rotund Japanese young man puts some scrawny bait on my hook and point to the sea bream and away I go. Soon catch one, even if it is a tad on the scrawny side. Decide on having it cooked 50% boiled and 50% fried – not sure if there is really enough of it to do half and half. Then spend a good 10 minutes trying to find someone who speaks a modicum of English – no chance. So no idea what comes with our freshly cooked fish – answer when it turns up is not much. I order a portion of Sushi raw fish, 6 different types, whilst Wendy goes for sea bream kamameshi – get it cheaper because we have to cook it ourselves.

Bic Camera store.

Finally get back to the hotel after a long day and there’s 13 bods, 7 with red light sabres and 6 meeter and greeters on the entrance to the hotel. Bloody hell just sack half of them and Room rates could be slashed. This country really is the ultimate in job creation.

After fishing and scoffing raw fish we get back to our room after another exhausting day. There’s a note from housekeeping apologising for a problem and asking us to ring housekeeping. Ring them and they’re most apologetic but one of the two sinks is blocked and can’t be fixed today. Want to move us to another room. Most apologetic. Tell them we’ll struggle by and manage with just one sink.

Google maps is amazing. Tells you train station, time, platform, least crowded car and map guidance for walking. Only downside is that initial direction orientation can be awkward.
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Catching our tea – Sea Bream.

People walk on the left consistently. Apparently this is because the samurai usually would wear a sword on their left side because it makes drawing it with the right hand easier. It’s said that the streets were way more narrow than they are today, so when the samurai walked on the right side with their swords tied on the inside, they would collide against one another.

Well the one good thing about chop sticks is that you won’t get fat with them. Then of course the raw fish just helps with the starvation.

Amazed how smartly dressed the Japanese tend to be, men in suits, complete with a tie, and women in dresses or skirts. But there really is an opportunity for a tie tying school, they are hopeless at getting a good knot.


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Waiting patiently for her tea to cook.

I really want to buy some of these surgical masks, especially one of the bad ass black ones, and go into the Nat West with one on. Then when challenged I’ll claim I’m a member of a fundamentalist sect of the religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and this is my daily wear.

Catch of the day.


Tuesday

Bullet train to Kyoto.

But the blocked sink saga didn’t end last night. On check out I’m told the housekeeping manager would like to see me. OMG what have we done? Don’t tell me he’s found out we used one of the sinks with our shoes on! He comes up to me, bows not just any old bow, but a deep one and apologised profusely for the problem. I tell you at any moment I think he’s going to bring a sword out and commit hari-kiri.

Another deep bow and away he goes. Then he returns and hovers waiting for me to finish check out, then another deep bow and hands over a carrier bag with a gift wrapped box of cakes in as an apology. How neat is that.

On board bullet train.

Find our Shinkansen (bullet train), with reserved seats in the green car (first class). Immaculate and 6MB Wi-Fi, I don’t think I’ll ever get off.

Two hours to Kyoto. Amazing they seem to run about every 20 minutes and of course they are fastidious in there timeliness.

Check into grand prince hotel in Kyoto. All very nice but not quite up to the new otani standards. We have access to the royal floor lounge, similar to the access we had to the Otani lounge, only this one has free booze and cakes all day and evening.

As the countryside flashes by.

In the evening we check into the royal floor lounge for beer, prosecco and bourbon. Then tonight’s feast is beer and a selection of bento boxes from the local supermarket. Cost us all of £10 and we even got free chopsticks.

Then some more of The Crown. Well the pillows may not be bricks but the bed is rock hard – I suppose if you sleep on a Japanese floor you would find it quite soft.

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Even the toilet on the bullet train requires the skills of a high priest of technology to operate. Just love this sign that tries to stop 7th century rag heads from squatting on the seat.


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Hotel bedroom.

A Populous Poll from 2006 showed that 12 percent of Muslims in Britain believe that suicide attacks against civilians in Britain can be justified and 1 in 4 support suicide attacks against British troops.

In 2007, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll which found that 26 percent of younger Muslims in America believe suicide bombings are justified. 42 percent in France.

Hotel garden.

With these figures it’s hard to settle for the common quip of “Islam is peaceful.”

Looking at just the United States, which has an estimated Muslim population of five to 12 million according to Frontline, that’s still over a million Muslims (even taken from 26 percent of the lower estimate of five million) who statistically believe suicide bombings are justified. Granted, this number is taken from the 2007 percentages and I’m highly skeptical of such a high number, but it’s still quite telling.


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Stupidity (Baka) Today

Free bar.

Slippery trays in the restaurant so your glass and cup slide all over them.

Japanese, English and German QR codes too close together, so it is virtually impossible to select the one you want. If the numpty who positioned them had only tried using them he or she would have realised what a plonker he was.

Bento box feast for dinner.

Delicate chocolate cake sealed in a wrapper you need a chainsaw to open, by which time it’s just mush. Does no one ever try out their creations to realise how stupid they are.

Hotel garden at night.

20191119 – Hairy Crabs, Gate Crash A Food Exhibition, Tea Ceremony And Cupanoodles Museum

Blog 1911 to 2211


Tuesday

Hakodate

Hairy crabs.

Well today we’re in Hakodate on yet another tour.

First we go to a fish market to ogle the hairy crabs and some not so hairy but live giant ones.

Then it’s the red brick warehouse, full of shops selling things you probably don’t want and certainly don’t need, where we’re told we’ve an hour to “enjoy the shopping”. Seems an oxymoron to have the word shopping and enjoy in the same sentence.

Then its lunch. Very Japanese stye with fish, fish and fish. They obviously know were coming as well as chopsticks they provide knifes, forks and even spoons, along with a box full of extra forks. Lunch was ok, not something you’d get fat on.

What a monster. Only £140 to buy.

Next we’re supposed to be catching a cable car up to an observation deck. But high winds mean it’s cancelled. So we’re off to a park and an observation tower. Should add a reminder that it’s freezing cold and we even get snow flurries. Neither the park nor the 300 metre high observation tower, complete with shops and cafe, are that stimulating. At least we manage to relax and have a coffee.

Not one of the better tours. Apart from the fish market which I found fascinating the whole tour was a tad disappointing.

Port in Hakodate.

This evening we’re thinking of going up to the cafe for dinner, but first check the main restaurant menu. Amazed that we find quite a good choice so stick with the main restaurant. In general we’ve found the menu choice to be rather bland but have to say whatever we’ve had has been excellent.

See Phil and Kim and do one of the game shows with them. Then it’s bourbon, coffee and brandy (this free drinks package is a nightmare – all that free booze). Watch the Elton John show, it’s not the really him.

Then early to bed as we have a 08:00 start tomorrow.

The last Samurai.


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Still in awe of how civilised Japan is. They’re all so friendly and so many speak English.

On the downside they do seem to have a bit of an issue with personal space.

A great place to visit if they just sort the language and writing to English they’ll have it made.


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It is not a “war on terror”—it is a war against an ideology that employs terror as one of many tools to advance itself. Second, the leaders and their foot soldiers who actually plan and perpetrate the terror are only one element of the enemy.


Wednesday

Aomori

Didn’t expect this.

A tad windy, force 7 / 40 knots, so we can’t dock. Spend all morning waiting for the wind to drop. Snow flurries and they’ve even built a snowman on deck.

Finally allowed to dock about 12:00. Decide to cancel our tour, don’t fancy 3 hours on a coach. Sadly will miss the pottery, sounded interesting.

Float museum, they were awesome.

Wendy has lunch In the cafe. Then we set off in a snowstorm to the museum of the Nebuta Matsuri parade, with all the amazingly colourful paper floats. It’s only a 20 minute walk. Costs us $5 each so we’ve saved $94 each on the ships tour. The museum is amazing, see pictures. Hands on opportunity to play the drum s and symbols. Really enjoyed it.

Wendy tries her hand at music – don’t give up the day job.

Called in at the tourist info centre, full of shops. Gate crashed a food exhibition. We do stand out a bit as we’re the only Caucasians and looks like it was a wholesale buy invite only. Like Costco on steroids, just so many samples. Nobody seemed to mind that we didn’t really belong, even sat and had a free coffee.

Then we pop upstairs have our photos taken with some Samurai, followed by watching a samurai sword dance. Followed by yet more photos. They’re all so friendly.

Stroll back to ship. It’s still freezing cold but at least the wind and snow have stopped.

Samurai dance.

What a great afternoon. Really reminds us that we should do our own thing rather than ships tours.

Evening meal is downstairs. Have to do a fly pass on our usual table as Groucho and good Russian internet brides are there. End up on a table with 4 Canadians and 3 Americans. They all hate trump apart from one American. Another American asks about BREXIT and trumps up that the problem was the Brexiters didn’t understand what they were voting for. Well that was like a red rag to a bull. Needless to say I ripped him another ahole and enlightened him on how rude and arrogant that was. Told him, somewhat brutally (he deserved it), we knew exactly what we were voting for, very similar to a lot of things you guys voted for in 1776.

Coffee and brandy in the lounge and then early to bed before I nod off and spill me brandy.


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Snowflakes transport.


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A rather boring park and it’s freezing.

Grateful to all the blobbies on board, they’re as numerous as dandruff ridden tea towels in Afghanistan, for constantly reminding me that I need to keep on top of my weight. All this food is just a constant temptation.

I know it’s a tad cruel to say it and totally non PC, so makes it all the better.


Thursday

Archery, not quite as I know it.

Lazy start to our second sea day as we don’t get up until 09:00. Breakfast is a tad crowded, but we cope.

No really a lot to do. Have a go at the indoor archery.

Wendy did some knitting whilst I played on the Internet. Then had afternoon tea, not to forget some wine, with our LA friends in their luxurious suite.

Dinner was flexible dinning with not the most stimulating of company.

Friday

Tea ceremony.

Meet up with the only Republican Tesla drivers in LA for a free day in Yokohama. No tour guide; no serenading; no being treat like a 6 year old. Sadly it’s raining all day . Catch the free shuttle to the main train station and then are escalated along to the Park Royal Hotel, highest in Yokohama and fastest lift in the World. Start our day by doing a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony on the 65th floor. No Typhoo quick brew tea bags here. All very formal, sedate and proper. Green tea is not too bad, a tad fishy for my liking, but quite an experience – see pictures. Mind you us geriatrics can’t sit cross legged or on our knees too good.

All bow.

Then we make our way to the Cupanoodles museum. Just can’t believe that such a big building can be dedicated to cup noodles. Along with mainly Japanese children, hardly and an adult or caucasian in site, we get to colour own cup noodle cup and then get to fill it with fillings of our choice. Sadly the make your own noodles activity was all booked up. What a laugh we all had.

Then we have a chinese lunch. Seemed a bit bizarre to me going for a Chinese in Japan but that was the majority decision.

Cupanoodle making.

Swiftly followed by a shopping expedition to the Red Brick Warehouse. Phil and I cop out and go for a coffee.

Then back to the ship. Where Wendy gets the packing done while I while away my time on the Internet.

Dinner tonight is with 2 Brits and 2 Americans who we’ve encountered before. Typical the Brits a Southern soft and of course voted remain. We have an interesting, yet sensible and well mannered, discussion on the merits of leaving and project fear.

Finally meet up for drinks with our LA friends. Wendy gets to sample too many Martini’s. She’ll pay for it tomorrow no doubt. Say our final goodbyes and look forward to them visiting us in Park City and us going to LA.

What bunch of nerds.



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How to gate crash a food exhibition.

If any bleeding heart remainer out there says it’s us geriatrics that are ruining their future then think on this.

We’re rapidly decomposing – as we wake every morning we’re reminded of this – yet the benefits of BREXIT are greater for the future of my kids and grandkids. Because we ain’t go so long before we kick the bucket we’d probably be vastly better off remaining. With our gypsy lifestyle currency fluctuations under BREXIT will probably make us worse off. But it’s the long term, probably when we’re pushing up daisies, that we’re thinking about with our decision.

20191115 – Volcanoes, Gardens, Sea Day And Korea (South That Is)


Friday

Kagoshima

That Pompei moment. That’s no backdrop. It’s real, spewing out hot ash.

Well today’s sharabang takes us to an Arimura observation platform of an active volcano on Sakurajima. I thought we were going to an observatory at the rim. Turns out we go to an observation platform in the lava field. At least it’s active and get some spectacular photos and video of giant ash clouds spewing out. Sadly no hot lava spewing forth. Every where Is covered in dust.

On the ferry to the volcano.

If our squeaky pigeon English tour guide mentions the word samurai or shogun any more I will not be responsible for my actions. Thankfully she is not giggling and so far has resisted serenading us. 

Well worth the visit to the volcano just to experience close up the giant ash cloud spewing up.

Volcano again.

Then we’re off to the Shoko Shuseikan Museum. Quick wander round avoiding the mind numbing detail from our tour guide. Amazing to see some sort of press made by Platt’s in Oldham. Not really worth a visit.

Escape to Sengan-en garden, designed by a Samurai Lord. Now this is more up my street. Quite impressive but alas no Zen garden. Have a coffee and tea in the cafe along with some stoggy rice cake on a stick and some other fried rice cake with black bits in it. Browsing the store is a bit like Costco. Loads of free samples.

In the evening we get landed yet again on a table with the rude bores from Michigan, Groucho and his Russian wife, internet bride I think. Groucho is so boring his mindless monotone monologue will grind you into a coma before he reaches his first full stop.She has all the charm and interpersonal skills of a wild boar with toothache, while he just interrupts and chunners on about nothing in particular. If we encounter them again we’re leaving.

Meet up with our new found friends from LA for drinks and the show. We thought it was a full blown Cirque du Solei. Turns out it’s Duo de Solei, a couple of acrobats. Very agile and impressive. She’s certainly fit, can bend like a pretzel, and is just wearing a provocative costume to help keep the men awake. Any minute now there could be a costume failure. Not quite what we were expecting though.
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Our first Japanese garden. First of many I hope. Sad!

More delights of the Japanese way of life:

Hotel wifi is 90MB, sort of place you’d have to prize me out of.

Interesting but all our female tour, irrespective of age, seem obsessed with good looking males. Every one of them has weaved some saga on handsome males, into their spiel.

Today’s Japanese trivia – the colour red drives away evil spirits.

Very aware you’re in a minority, but the Japanese all seem very helpful and don’t resent you. Amazed how many speak English.

A lot of Japanese women seem to shuffle along flat footed. Then you have the pretty youngsters dressed in trendy clothes yet wearing high black Doc Martin style clod hoppers – bizarre.

Haven’t seen any perambulating bin liners with slits in them roving around like Daleks. But you do get the white surgical masks – “what pretty eyes”. The black surgical masks can be a bit more intimidating..

Job creation in Japan beats the USA. For example a car park with hardly any cars yet 7 directing non existent traffic. Lollipop men everywhere waving you to safety with their red light sabres.


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Green New Deal Aims to ‘Fully Get Rid of Farting Cows and Airplanes’ — Eventually


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More garden.

Every time Europeans accommodate Islamic demands to conform to Islamic law, culture, or tradition, a chip of European culture is eroded—there is a bit less democracy, freedom, enlightenment, and Judeo-Christian values.

An old Arabian proverb says: “If the camel gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”

Europeans are waking up to the new reality. They no longer live in Europe. They live in Eurabia where Muslims are getting the upper hand:


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I know it’s a first World problem but why in the name of the FSM have we been inflicted with this need to constantly accept cookie policies every time we go to a web page? Does anyone ever stop and read the inane T&C’s?


Saturday

Fukuoka

Remember him? Seems he emigrated to Japan. Probably was politically incorrect and offended a bunch of snowflakes.

Try pronouncing that after a few beers.

Yeah, no tours booked today in Fukuoka, so no squeaky pigeon English; no being serenaded by a failed Karaoke entrant; no mention of Samurai or Shoguns; no temples; no shrines.

Lazy morning doing blogs and battling with the internet. My Internet been restored to full LTE capacity. Amazing a few days ago I couldn’t get my iCloud photos to synch and today, because I don’t want to risk busting my so-called UNLIMITED data limit, I just can’t stop the photo’s from synching.

No we’re not in Australia.

Ship docks at lunch time so we meet up with the only Republicans in LA for a ferry ride to Uminonakamichi Seaside Park. It’s like a poor mans Disney, really unspoilt, plenty of open spaces, a small zoo and gardens. After 6 days of Wallace Arnold geriatric tours I’d settle for anything under our own steam. Even a trip to the local re-cycling plant would be welcomed, so low expectations for todays jaunt.

Really pleasant 4 hours just strolling around, enjoying the lovely sunshine and good company. Had a great time. Amazed how relatively easy it all was and how many spoke English. We really should have done more of our own thing, but we’ve got that to look forward to in Tokyo and Kyoto.

He looks friendly.

Then it’s the ferry back to the ship and off to dinner, hopefully not with Groucho and his Internet Russian bride. Yeah, no Groucho or rabid plastic recycling greens. And for a perfect end to a great day our Sommelier has finally summoned up a bottle of Carmenera for me. I have to say her and all service is excellent, my glass is never empty. Must have drank the whole bottle.

Cafe for after dinner espresso and then early to bed. So tired I didn’t even manage to finish my Brandy.

How romantic!



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They get everywhere.


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Brexit: Why Britain Left the European Union


Sunday

Busan – South Korea

South Korea.

Wot no Rocket Man.

Up and out at the crack of sparrows on a tour to the Orukdo Skywalk. A tad disappointing. Not that long, not that high, so not that scary, and not that spectacular. Some picturesque little islands though.

Supposedly a Sky Walk – not very terrifying or impressive.

Then it’s a 50 minute drive to the Tongdosa Budhist Temple. Quite impressive and worth a visit, but very busy.

Buddhism just another one of those wacky religion, but seems relatively harmless. Has some really good common sense beliefs:

 Don’t be stupid – well that rules out any politicians
Don’t be angry – does that still apply when dealing with computers or web sites?
Don’t be greedy – again excludes politicians

No Wi-Fi today. How will I survive. Well at least on the coach we’re not serenaded by the tour guide, instead we have our ears battered by the repetitive chants of Buddhist monks.

Another Buddhist temple. At least this ones in Korea.

Just have a few minutes on our Lightning schedule for a coffee, plum tea – soo sweet – and Korean walnut cake – with a walnut filling that hot that it clings to the roof of your mouth like napalm.

Back on board ship for lunch. Then around mid afternoon we go to the only Republicans in LA suite for wine and champagne. Sweets are very light and roomy. Now Wendy thinks that is how we should always travel – another great way to fritters away the kids inheritance.

Cheerful folk.

For dinner we manage to avoid Groucho and have a reasonably convivial table of 6.

We were going to go to the show for a snooze but ended up retiring early after a couple of excellent brandies.

A grave yard.



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“We want our priorities funded and one of the biggest priorities during the campaign was border security, keeping Americans safe, and part of that was a border wall,” he said.
“We still don’t understand why the Democrats are so wholeheartedly against it. They voted for it in 2006. Then-Sen. Obama voted for it. Sen. Schumer voted for it. Sen. Clinton voted for it. So we don’t understand why Democrats are now playing politics just because Donald Trump is in office.”


Monday

Sea Day

Islands in Busan.

Yeah, our first sea day. A lie in. A lazy day.

Navigation deck tour.

Captains makes his daily 10:00 announcement. I think it’s full of useless information such as precise longitude and latitude, problem is understanding a worda thisa mana saysa. I’m sure we all look forward to his daily pronunciations. He should share a dinner table with Groucho.

Well we’ve not seen any news from the Times or the Wall Street Journal for days now. It’s a bit like being on the dark side of the moon, but I’m certainly not fretting over the news blackout. It’s quite refreshing, although I miss the Internet for fact finding etc.

They don’t let you steer.

Lazy day around the ship, no internet and very little in the way of stimulating things to do or lectures.

End up going on a free Bridge tour courtesy of Phil as they have two free tours but Kim is not interested. Very interesting. That desperate we even end up going to a Trivia quiz.

In the evening we go with Phil and Kim to the Tuscany restaurant, one of the speciality, empty my wallet restaurants. Have to say the meal was excellent, Parmiani, lobster and superb steak. I’d certainly do that again

Then for entertainment we all do a His and Hers quiz. The men win.

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Just remember The glass is neither half-full nor half-empty: it’s twice as big as it needs to be.

20191111 – Cruise Japan


Monday

Osaka
Lazy start to the day as we don’t dock until 11:00. Mind you still up at the crack of sparrows in time for breakfast at 07:00. Still sleeping fitfully due to the jet lag.

First of many castles.

Sumptuous breakfast, with fruit – yes me eating healthy stuff – and Becher Museli.

Then it’s coffee on our balcony and blog time. My data SIM seems to work pretty well as we follow the coastline I have pretty good speed even on board at sea. Mind you as we approach Kobe and I could do with it, we loose connection.

Stairs inside were steep and high, don’t know how the little Japs managed them.

I think Apple must have declared bankruptcy as much to my excitement there’s even a small Apple store on board, mind you they’re never open, but at least I can peer in like a child outside a candy store.

Today we’re sampling the highlights of Osaka. First of many castles and shrines. I’m sure by the end of this trip we’ll be shrined out.

And now a shrine.

Castle is ok. More impressive from the outside than inside. At least the climb up 8 flights of stairs gets us some exercise.

Manage time for a rushed coffee and sandwich for Wendy, then it’s back on the coach off to a shrine.

These kids seemed to be Christened or whatever passes for it in Shinto.

The shrine is much more pleasant. Looks like there is a family christening with kids dressed to the nines in beautiful kimonos and costume. Volunteer to take family group photo for proud parents and doting grand parents. Never ceases to amaze what weird things people believe in but if it gives them solace what the hell, at least the Shinto religion don’t want to kill me, stone me to death or conquer the world. For me I’ll stick with a devotion to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

And some boys also.

It seems that not all toilets in Japan are high tech bottom scrubbers, there are some holes in the ground – obviously installed by the French.

To finish a busy day it’s afternoon tea in the lounge, entertained by a mini chamber orchestra. For me it’s a dirty chai, all convered by the drinks package.

Table for 6 tonight with two other geriatric couples. Wine flows and after dinner I try one of the Bourbons, not bad.

Talk about boring and confusing dinner guests. Couple A are talking about their trip to yet another castle whilst couple B were talking about there trip up a mountain. Nothing wrong with that other than each thought they were talking about the same thing. Confusing, but hilarious, after about 5 minutes they finally realise they’re both talking about different things. Get me out of here, beam me up, I’m too young, mind off a 16 year old it’s just that my bodies decomposing.

Japanese bridge with style.

Then we’re off to the evening show, yes even me, in fact I’m quite keen. it’s a performance by the World famous Kobe Taiko Drummers – see video. We’re sat on a front balcony row. 9 people in all but can you believe it that 5 of them are asleep, even through all that drumming. For once I manage to stay awake.
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More things to like in Japan:

All our tour guides (female) like to sing to us, it must be the karaoke in them. Whilst their voices are not necessarily going to win them a place on X Factor, you have to respect them for trying to entertain us.

I just love the way they hand anything over to you Double Handed. It just oozes respect and seems filled with a happy politeness.

Even though they have awesome dexterity with chop sticks, able to pick up a single grain of rice, they’re also capable of using knife and fork simultaneously.

Again so clean, orderly and civilised nobody would even dream of jaywalking. Apart that is from a half-witted American couple who nearly get themselves impaled on a shiny Toyota symbol in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

You don’t see any blobby Japanese, must be all that raw fish. The only blobbies are foreigners.


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Is this the idea of a pillow in Japan, slightly more comfortable than a brick.


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Another day another castle.

Remember the piggy bank? For most children in Western cultures, the piggy bank is their first savings plan. Scratch that for the children of England, thanks to Salim Mulla, secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques. “Muslims do not eat pork, as Islamic culture deems the pig to be an impure animal.” 20 In an effort not to offend Muslims the Bank of Halifax and NatWest were the first to ban piggy banks from their premises. Mulla went on to say, “This is a sensitive issue and I think the banks are simply being courteous to their customers.”


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And there’s more.

UNI professors have been told to avoid saying “as you know” in lectures over fears “snowflake” students could feel inadequate, it was revealed today.

At a meeting of Bath University’s equality and diversity network, members were warned it might cause some students to feel dimmer than others if they did not realise what was being referred to.


Tuesday

Kobe

Family portrait. Note my smile.


Another Wallace Arnold tour. What the he’ll are we doing on this Wallace Arnold tour for geriatrics, treated like a simpering simpleton; I’m too young; I can’t cope; let me out.

This time we set off for a ride on a funicular up to the observatory overlooking Kobe. Well they keep calling it an observatory but it’s more like an observation platform. Great views over Kobe and the sea though.

Overlooking the sea.

Then we’re off down to a Sake museum. Interesting video on Sake making on days gone by. My was it labour intensive. Enough to put you off drinking for life. Lots of interesting exhibits and of course a shop at the end of it all. Although to be fair to them you could escape without being forced through the shop. Wendy couldn’t resist buying the plum Liquid sugar.

The first process in Sake making is to polish the rice. Now I know the Japanese are small but where the hell do they get people small enough to polish rice?

Then it’s back to the ship for Wendy’s lunch.

Just resting a the observatory.

Thankfully a restful afternoon sat on balcony doing my blog, minding my own business and Wendy’s doing some knitting. Along sails a boat full of Japanese tourist’s, all gawking in at our floating gin palace. The Victor Meldrew in me is not amused and refuses to wave back or smile for all the clicking Nikons.

In the evening we meet up with our new found American friends, the only Republican’s in LA, well I assume they’re of that inclination from our conversations.

Sake museum. Of course Wendy had to buy some Plum Sake.

We have dinner at the Le Petit Chef an animation themed restaurant where you see the cartoon chef make your meal on the plate – see video, it’s easier than trying to explain it. It’s really awesome. What a creative idea, the kids would really love it. Amazing wealth creating idea.

At last I find a bottle of Carmenera, pretty good it is too and they keep it flowing.

Then it’s to the Yes / No game, where Kim chances her luck. Finally down to the theatre for an illusionists show, which in time honoured fashion I nod off through.

A great evening with our new found friends Phil and Kim.

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Is this what your kids do with you?


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Waving us goodbye.

Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. Islam doesn’t look for a nation to be in a better condition than another nation. Islam doesn’t care about the land or who owns the land. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is jihad.”


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The problem with socialism is that you always run out of other people’s money.


Wednesday

Kochi

Our first and I’m sure not our last Budhist temple.

First tour today is to a Buddhist temple. All very interesting, even have Shinto shrines in the ground. Two for the price off one. Steps are steep and rocky. I’m sure the hospital and ambulance must pay them to keep them that way, helps drum up trade.

Wendy starts taking her shoes off to go into one of the inner sanctums, within a second, and out of nowhere, a women descends on her shouting ticket, ticket. That’s what happens when your signs are only in Japanese.

A lantern. There are millions of them.

Shinto believes every thing has a spirit in it, including rocks, trees and any thing. The bigger the object the bigger the spirit. I’ll stick with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, seems equally implausible, but at least there’s a beer volcano and a stripper factory in FSM heaven.

Oh just up Wendy’s street we go to an indoor market for a browse around and a lunch opportunity. Wendy tries the save option when it comes to food, pork noodles but then again was it pork, after all there was a picture of a cat on the front!

Wendy trying to get in the Temple. They’re having none of it.

Then it’s off to get another castle. More steps than jihadis in Syria and some of those steps are so tall. No idea how those little Japanese ever managed them.

Toilets are a major trek away, hidden down the bottom of a hill. At least they don’t call them conveniences. I bet the gift shop more easy to get to.

Wendy tries chop sticks. Not very successful, she’ll probably starve over the last two weeks.

Final destination is some beach to see a statue of a prominent war lord geezer. Beach is oh so grey but has the advantage of yet another small shrine – joy.

By the time we get back to the ship we’ve done 5 miles and over my magic 640 calorie limit – so that’s enough for a whole bottle of red wine tonight.

Yet another bridge.

Well I always thought the Japanese were experts at copying other countries products, but it seems when it comes to handrails they just couldn’t crack that idea. Certainly the castle and the Buddhist temple could do with some handrails to assist the less sure footed escapee’s from the Wallace Arnold bus tours.

Amazing isn’t it, I buy a 30 day unlimited data SIM for japan and it even works out at sea as we’re relatively close to the shoreline. My Photo Library gets corrupted so I have to rebuild it from iCloud. 10 gigabytes later and it’s rebuilt, sadly without the album structure, but worse still I’ve now been throttled back on speed to a blistering dial up modem speed of 256K.

So it’s a series of emails to Sakura pointing out that their web site says “No limitation whatsoever”.

Oh it’s probably because the telecom company have detected runaway usage. Normal service should be resumed Saturday. Needless to say they haven’t heard the last of this. Every dog has his day when it comes to review time.

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Politically incorrect 1970s TV series such as Love Thy Neighbour and Till Death Us Do Part have been left off the new BBC-ITV rival to Netflix because they are deemed unsuitable for modern audiences.


Thursday

Hiroshima

The famous gate shrouded in plastic and scaffolding.

Start our Wallace Arnold Geriatric Experience with a bus and then ferry ride to Miyajima. This tour has to be one of the most expensive and at 7 hours I wonder whether we’ll have the endurance to last that long, but it was the only one that did the Atomic Bomb Dome and Miyajima. A certain Anna had told us that we absolutely shouldn’t miss Miyajima so here we are. She’d better be right.

Shrine.

Well it’s yet another shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage site) with the Torii Gates appearing to float in the sea. One of the most iconic pictures of Japan. Just our luck the gateway is covered in scaffolding and plastic as it’s being repainted. The rest of the place is interesting though but sadly we’re frog marched through so don’t have time to linger and enjoy it. A great pity. But at least Anna was right.

Then it’s back to ferry and bus to head to the restaurant for a Western (sadly) lunch in a 5 star hotel. Ideally we wouldn’t want to eat on one of these meals for the masses, but again it was this the only way to do these places.

Meal was very good and not too big.

Bridge to shrine.

After lunch we set off for the Atomic Bomb Dome, followed by the Peace Memorial Park and the Museum. Our guide speaks excellent English, we can even understand him and gives us very informative and relevant commentary on all the places. Quite a sad place really. Then we go to the museum. It’s an awful place. Packed like sardines, carried along at a snail pace, through the rug rat infested narrow corridors of exhibits. Just so glad to get out. A real shame as there was some interesting exhibits and we could have leisurely lingered longer had it been less crowded.

Guardian of the shrine.

Back to the boat / ship, never know what to call it, for a quick turnaround and down to dinner. Risk what we now call the geriatrics from hell table one more time. At least one American couple are vibrant and interesting, unlike the other mind numbingly boring American couple who can’t even be bothered to wait for everyone to be seated before ordering.

Try the show. It’s a Motown singer so Wendy should enjoy it. I put myself to sleep to avoid the agony. Even Wendy gives up after 10 minutes and wants to go to bed rather than listen to this.

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“We are all born ignorant, but one must
work hard to remain stupid”  Ben Franklin


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Pagoda.

Tax office send me an email telling me my estimated income tax has changed. This is just yet another insult to common sense.

Firstly have to log in and can I find this revised estimate.

They send a confirmation code to my phone see below:

60886
Your Government Gateway access code is 999545. Your code expires in 15 minutes.

I wonder how many people use 60886. What is the point of it, just begs for confusion.

Wendy rings the bell.

Never mind I’ll check what my tax code is now. Seems fairly fundamental. Can I find my current tax code anywhere.

Finally find the estimate summary. My tax codes not changed so my payment won’t change. And to top it all there’s no estimate anyway. Beggars believe.

If I thought there was anyone with a skerrick of common sense I’d complain.

Hiroshima.


Hiroshima.


Hiroshima


Shadow of a women burnt into stone by the blast.

20191107 – Japan


Wednesday

Drive to Brett’s
Set off down to Ascot to stay at Bretts overnight.

Only an 8 minute delay, no real hold up. Have I been teleported into some alternate parallel universe? Am I still in Britain?

I suffered with the squitters and was shouting for Huey and Ruth last night, but bizarrely saw no diced carrots. Today is 24 hours starvation. This is what happen when you have little grandchildren milling around. They’re just walking germ factories. Mind you 3 days with no alcohol is probably also a major factor.

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Oh yes please. Let’s have a grand clear out. Guy Fawkes had the right idea.


Thursday

Heathrow off to the Land of the Rising Sun
After a good nights sleep I’m feeling better, but still going to keep off food and alcohol for another 24 hours.

Brett runs us to the airport.

We’re flying from Heathrow terminal 5 and I have to say the check in and security screening is some of the slickest I’ve experienced, even though they had to pat me down.

BA flight in Premium Economy is pretty comfortable but 11 hours with no food or booze is purgatory. To make it even more dire the choice of films has obviously been made by an escaped Chinese paedophile. Fortunately manage to get some sleep.

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Stupidity Today – I decide to be a paragon of high tech devotion by checking in online, even using the boarding card via my iPhone and thereby do my bit for the planet, saving a whole oak tree. Guess what the idiot machine doesn’t work. Common problem says the very helpful assistant “you just have to enlarge the bar code”.

I’m sure by now you know my retort “well why don’t they send it ready enlarged one the email?”.


Friday

Yokohama

I’m ashamed. All this awesome looking food and I resort to this. Not my usual approach to foreign travel.
I’ll try anything once, but my head in a toilet bowl has temporarily limited my horizons.

Arrive at Haneda airport in Tokyo 20 minutes in early. Despite having split our clothes across two suitcases in case BA loose a bag – they do tend to excel at loosing bags – both bags arrive. Customs and immigration is one of the slickest ever accounted. So fast that then we have to wait nearly 20 minutes for our luggage.

Our hotel. It’s the tallest one.

Pick up my unlimited data SIM from the arrivals hall and went over to the desk to buy a No 8 bus ticket to the Hotel – all pretty efficient. Saves £60 on a taxi. Bus arrives on time and sets off at 08:40 precisely, not at 1 second before, not even 1 second late, but spot on 08:40. Just one of the many awesome features of Japan.

Daytime view from our 62nd floor bedroom.

Drive into Yokohama was interesting pass through all the new industries and then you pass the old rusty, decaying and obsolete smoke stack industries.

Bus arrives at the hotel ahead of time. It’s the Yokohama Royal park hotel 5 star, the tallest building in Yokohama. Fastest lift in the world.

More bedroom views.

I passed on the breakfast on the plane – full English no less, and it looked pretty good – as part of my starvation, but now it’s time for some food. I think perhaps I’m pregnant as I have a real yearning for a MacDonald Egg MacMuffin.

Not exactly a recommended light meal to recover from a failed attempt by Wendy to poison me, but it’s what I want.

Old dry dock in front of the hotel- now a feature.

Within 4 minutes from the hotel we’ve found a Macad’s. It goes down a treat and is served on a tasty sweet bun.

Night time view of the hotel. Bugger me we’ve left our bedroom light on!

By now it’s only 10:00 and the room’s not ready but for an extortionate fee they can somehow miraculously summon up a room for us. You’d think for the price that this hotel is extorting they could be a tad more accommodating. We’re pretty tired so stump up the extra – it’s just the kids inheritance anyway.

Have a well deserved 3 hour nap – I know a violation of my 3rd law of retirement.
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Impressions of Japan

Light flower display, constant changing colours.

Yokohama – awesome, rad, gnarly – civilisation on steroids, this is how it should be done. After this no chance I’ll ever go to some 3rd world cesspit.

Pictures give the awesome views day and night from our room. It’s the tallest tower in Yokohama and we’re on the 62nd floor. Needless to say Wendy overcame her fear of lifts. Fastest lift in the World apparently.

No litter, graffiti or dog muck, mind you not seen any dogs yet.

Laser light, music and public frolicking in the park.

Just love the smiling, bowing and politeness. Expected it to be obsequis and sickening, but no it’s pleasant and reminds you to smile. Really love the way they hand everything over to you with a slight bow and double handed.

Night time view from our bedroom window.

Realised that even in Japan in a 5 star we wouldn’t be sleeping on the floor but did expect a brick for a pillow. Instead it was the softest pillow – and I like soft pillows – I’d ever encountered, no need to drill a hole or channel to fit my ears in.

Oh so civilised just need to sort language, mind you to be fair most speak English, even in MacD’s.


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Saturday

Yokohama to board cruise

Oh no not another shopping mall and all ready for Christmas, don’t you know.

Good early breakfast. Mainly Western with some tempting tastes of the orient. See the Japanese Monks eating salted plums so give them a try. Must be some sort of punishment for their sins, the worst taste ever, I’d rather chomp on nettles.

Hotel Wi-fi was a blistering 90mb. I think I must have died and gone to Flying Spaghetti Monster

Old sail boat outside our hotel. Thank the FSM we’re not travelling on it.

Have a stroll to try and buy a few essential for the cruise. Then get a taxi to the Celebrity Millennium. Lightning quick and efficient check in. Amazed and impressed, a very rare occurrence for me these days.

Champagne to greet us. How am I going to cope with 24*7 free drinks?

Lazy afternoon.

Finally on board.



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Sunday

Shimizu for Mount Fuji and Mount Hakone

Mount Fuji from top of Mount Hanoken.

Dinner last night was on a table for 6. Ok but not really a very stimulating bunch. At least they all spoke English. Free drinks package was good though, the wine flowed freely, topped up regularly by the Eastern European surly sommelier. Even had to refuse the last top up.

After a great breakfast we dash off on our first Wallace Arnold tour for geraitrics, mentally infirm and weak bladdered moaners. Our tour guide is a giggly, squeaky and singing Japanese lady who is chronically suffering from a severe dose of verbal diarrhoea. Absolute nightmare would be waking up with her screeching away on your pillow. But to be fair she did keep us entertained and she did epitomise my expectations of Japanese womanhood.

Mount Fuji backdrop. Yes, it is the real Mount Fuji in the background.

Two hour coach tour; then a pirate ship across a lake; followed by 30 minute queue to catch a cable car up to the top of Mount Hakone to view Mount Fuji. Great photo opportunity. We were really lucky with gorgeous sunshine and a clear view of Fuji, it can be covered in clouds 50% of the time. Then a pewk invoking one hour drive across the mountains. Just about survived without calling out for Huey and Ruth again. Two hours later we’re we warily board our floating gin palace. Was it all worth it?

Wendy was quite disappointed on today’s tour, she thought we were going to the top of Mount Fuji and not the top of Mount Hakone to take a photo of Fuji.

Met an interesting American couple. Must be the only Republicans in Los Angeles, good to know there are at least two.

Greeted at the port by a Japanese drum band, big, big drums, followed by a brass band.

Back on board we have speciality afternoon tea in one of the lounges, serenaded by guitars and a singer.

Dinner is again on a table for 6. Not a really exciting menu but food was good. Company left a bit to be desired, spoilt by southern softie snobs from oxford – majestic centre of the known universe, don’t you know. Really do prefer avoiding Brits at dinner, American’s or Canadian’s are much better dinner companions. Sad isn’t it.

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Equity has passed a motion that the phrase ‘Ladies & Gentlemen ‘ should not be used in theatres so as not to offend those who do not see themselves as either.

Perhaps we should adopt another activity recommended by the students at Oxford University, just a bunch of PC snowflakes, and greet the end of a theatre performance with ‘Jazz Hands’. I wonder how the praise-needy egos of the average bunch of luvvies would cope with complete (non threatening) silence.