Mountain Monkey

There’s nothing quite like a sacred mountain by the sea to get the monkey’s juices flowing. Yesterday he spent the day hiking around Mt. Daisen in the southwestern part of the island of Honshu. Soaring about 5,400 feet above the Sea of Japan this is another volcanic mountain created over hundreds of thousands of years by several eruptions. Since about 70% of Japan is mountainous, it’s inevitable that you’re going to spend some time with them and every town seems to have its own sacred mountain. At one time there were at least 30 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines scattered…

Wow Kanazawa

Geishas, soft-serve ice cream covered in gold foil, beautiful parks, temples, and more. Kanazawa seems to have it all and then some. From the warm welcome on the pier to a farewell performance of local dancers waving goodbye to the ship the city of Kanazawa welcomes its visitors with sunshine and flair. Kanazawa is a castle town dating from the 16th century. The feudal lords who ruled here invested in culture through its many parks and temples. It has always been known as a rich town and that is probably what sparked the indulgence of eating ice cream covered in…

Cherry Blossom Monkey

It was the end of an era. Literally. On Tuesday Emperor Akihito abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne in favor of his son, 59-year old son, Naruhito. The new era, dedicated to peace and harmony, is cause for quite a celebration across Japan and pretty much the entire country is on a 10-day vacation. So getting into the spirit, Kongo joined tens of thousands on Tuesday to view the cherry blossoms at Hirosaki Castle located in the northern part of Honshu Island. The original castle and grounds date back to the early 1600s. It is one of a dozen remaining castles from…

Hey There, Hokkaido

After a day and night sail from Tokyo, Kongo arrived at Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, and docked at the port of Hakodate.  On the way to the dock the ship was welcomed by a boat spraying different colored streams of water.  Hokkaido is all about apples. In fact, Hokkaido in Japanese means apples. (Actually, that’s a monkey fib — Hokkaido means “northern sea circuit”) Regardless of the meaning of the name, Hokkaido has lots and lots of apples, which were introduced to the island in the 1800s. Mrs. Kongo came back with a couple of apples. The monkey agenda for…

Monkey on a Wine Dark Sea

After two days in Tokyo, Kongo is back at sea. Embarkation on the Amazara Quest was easy and painless. Kongo ate lunch while the stateroom with a veranda on deck seven was being readied and then sipped wine for a few hours while Mrs. Kongo scurried about making spa appointments and whatnot. The ship was underway from its berth in Yokohama at 6:30, just at sunset. First days at sea are always interesting. Everyone is still happy and the adventures ahead loom large in our minds. You tend to overlook the little things, like the little head (bathroom) in your stateroom…

Fog, Rain, and Shinto Temples

So how bad can weather be on an outing in Japan? Pretty bad if you’re hoping to take some cool photographs of Shinto temples, sacred lakes, and tall waterfalls. Kongo took off for an 11-hour trek to Nikko, Japan, about 150 Km north of the capitol but three hours away on the tour coach. The weather leaving Tokyo was dreary and overcast. It got worse as we traveled into the mountains. Kongo started thinking optimistically, like maybe there would be this cool, wispy mist cascading over the lush, cedar forested mountains with rays of sunshine streaking through clouds and highlighting…

Tokyo Monkey

Kongo is in Japan.  Kon’nichiwa! After an 11 hour flight from LAX the traveling simian and Mrs. Kongo arrived in Tokyo rather glazed but happy. It was a super smooth flight, all logistics were easy, the food and drinks were great, and the monkey even slept for a few hours in a nice “lay flat” seat suite. The only slightly scary part was a kidnapping attempt by a monkey loving purser who really liked Kongo’s wings. She sighed and waxed fondly about monkey encounters in Costa Rica, hugged the little guy, and took off down the aisle.  “Hey, wait!” Kongo’s…