A Day in Kyoto

There are 1,600 temples in Kyoto and the monkey was doing his best to see some of them. After mooring in the port city of Kobe, Kongo climbed aboard the bullet train (Shinkansen), the  for a quick ride to Kyoto. Bullet trains travel at speeds up to 200 mph and they are smooth, quiet, really cool. There are even airline-like stewardesses to keep you nourished while you zip along. The stations at Kobe and Kyoto are filled with teeming throngs of travelers, groups of school children headed out on field trips, and businessmen and women heading to important meetings further down…

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…

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…