Azamara Club Cruise Review – Japan

Kongo just completed an “intensive” 15-day cruise about the Japanese islands aboard the Azamara Quest. This review is an in-depth critique of that cruise and examines the good, okay, so-so, and downright awful aspects of this cruise line and the voyage in general. If you’re considering an Azamara cruise in the future, the monkey urges you to read on and he would be happy to answer any of your questions. In many ways this is a hard review for the monkey to write. He’s generally fairly forgiving and upbeat and takes life as it comes with a little grumbling now…

A Final Day in Tokyo

Kongo finally returned to the port city of Yokohama and had a final day of sight seeing in Tokyo before flying back to California. After cruising for fifteen days, it had been a long trip for the monkeys. Mrs. Kongo was complaining of blisters on her toes (after doing more than 17,000 steps one day in the wrong set of walking shoes), Kongo was getting blurry, and they were both tired of ship tours. So on this last day they took off on their own to see a slice of the capital city they hadn’t seen before. After a quick…

Monkey Mount Fuji

This time of year the locals say you can only expect to see Mt. Fuji about twenty percent of the time. Fogs and clouds usually obscure the famous peak but when Kongo came here the sun was out and it was a clear (ish) day that got hazy in the afternoon. From sea the snow-capped symbol of Japan is magnificent and awe inspiring. It’s one of those places you’ve seen pictures of your entire monkey life and there it was right there in front o you. Fuji’s almost perfect cone shape comes from volcanic activity and the mountain is the…

Takamatsu

While visiting Takamatsu, Kongo toured the famous Ritsurin Gardens. The garden literally means “chestnut grove garden” and there are plenty of chestnut trees here. It was started by a feudal lord in the early 1600s and it wasn’t finished for 100 years.  The garden is a major attraction of the city of Takamatsu and one of the most historic gardens in all of Japan. It’s a favorite outing for children and these primary school students warmly greeted the monkey with waves and chants of “hello! hello!” There are more than 1,200 pine trees in this garden and they are all…

Yashimaji-Ji Temple

High on a plateau overlooking the modern city of Takamatsu is the ancient temple known as Yahimaji-Ji. Founded in 754 by a Chinese monk named Ganjin. The bright red Torii gate reflects the Chinese influence on this mountain-top temple. Beautiful Buddhist icons and pagodas cover the mountain. The site also offers spectacular views of the city of Takamatsu and the Inland Sea. Legend has it that the Chinese monk who founded the temple was blind but was somehow led to this spot by a raccoon. So there are plenty of raccoon statues about to remind us of this happy hook-up…

Hiroshima Peace Park

It was a sobering afternoon. After visiting Miyajima, Kongo headed to downtown Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial Park. memorializing that day in August, 1945 that ushered in the Atomic Age.  Although the bomb hastened the end of World War II and may have saved millions of lives had the Allies had to invade the Japanese islands, hundreds of thousands were killed instantly in the explosion and by the effects of radiation in the following years. The iconic A-Bomb Dome used to be an industrial hall for the Hiroshima prefecture.  The shell of the building was only a few hundred…

Miyajima Monkey

The monkey has been waiting two years for yesterday. Ever since the Kongos booked this Japanese cruise, the simple simian has been wanting to see the floating gate at the sacred island of Miyajima. This small island in Hiroshima Bay known for its temples, virgin forests, deer, and the O-torii Gate. It was the O-torri gate that Kongo wanted to see but the rest of the island is pretty wowie-zowie too. The O-Torii Gate is a waterway entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. Visitors passing beneath the gate (like those in the boat above) are said to have all the sins…