Viking Orion berths at Yokohama Port which is the last stop of our cruise and we are on an excursion to Tokyo which is 45 km away. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan with a population of 3.6 million. It was once a fishing village but with the introduction of the port it grew enormously. We cross Yokohama Bay Bridge which is a long suspension bridge and see thousands and thousands of new cars and trucks waiting to be shipped offshore. Our guide tells us that in order to buy a car in Japan you need to prove you have off-street parking for the car. If you haven’t you would need to rent it so we have seen these “car shelves” where you drive onto a pad and your car is moved up into a space and parked. We pass through several tunnels (one was 18 km long) on our way to Tokyo and are in awe of the masses of skyscrapers of interesting designs that are across the skyline. Apparently one tunnel here is 55 km long – another reason I need to email Wayne and I am also going to let him know that you do not see the road cones lining up like red and white stick figures all over the place.
Tokyo is the birthplace of sushi which, here in Japan, is typically sticky rice mixed with a vinegar and a little piece of raw fish on top. Our guide, Sato, tells us about the traditional Japanese breakfast and the one in charge of the B’s and I are pleased we have had ours. Typically the Japanese have raw fish, a raw egg which is mixed with soy sauce, and fermented soybeans called Natto. This is all very good for your digestion which we have no hesitation in agreeing with – but not trying!
We arrive in Tokyo (once called Edo) and there is a large area of reclaimed land along the Tokyo waterfront which is beautifully designed with parks, attractive gardens, walkways, hotels, stadiums, apartments and corporations. 12.9 million live in this city which is just 2000 square kilometers in size and stretches just 50 km from east to west. We are off to the Meiji Shrine and pass Meiji Park which was the stadium for the Tokyo Olympics. This shrine is dedicated to the great great grandfather of the present emperor and is spread over 170 acres. We wander down a lovely wide walkway with lush trees on either side passing men sweeping the falling leaves. We pass under the torii gate and walk towards the shrine and are thrilled to see there is a bridal couple there having photos taken. This is interesting because we do not see any guests – the couple seem to be here by themselves – well not entirely because there are hundreds of people here who would love to go to the wedding actually and they are all here clicking their photos! We have been told quite a lot about the weddings and we know they are happy occasions so take place at Shinto Shrines but a large number of Japanese have a desire to have a Christian wedding in a church. Now this all sounds fine until you hear that a lot of these couples are married by men who just dress up to look like a pastor or priest – they are not religious ministers at all but the couple are happy because the bride is dressed as a traditional bride in white with a veil and the wedding took place in a church.
We are also told about the present Emperor Naruhito and his wife Masako. Masako was a Harvard graduate and married the present emperor in 1993 – they have one daughter 20 years old. Masako has been ill for some years and it is believed that she suffers from depression. The current law says that only a male can be emperor. Presently there is a debate taking place to determine if this law may change and many Japanese apparently would be happy with a female to be in the role. Conservatists, however, are against it. Our next stop is the Imperial Palace Plaza which has an attractive plaza and garden.
As I have mentioned before, everything is very clean and very tidy everywhere we go. Every park, sidewalk, road etc is spotlessly clean. There are hand sanitizers about every 50 m and on this trip our hands have honestly consumed more alcohol than our mouths! There are also vending machines everywhere – in fact one for every 30 people! There are so many drinks available you can almost die of thirst while you are trying to make the decision about what to choose! We haven’t used because we have no idea what they are. We have been here two weeks but still can’t read Japanese. In France I purchased sour milk thinking it was milk and kitchen paper when I thought it was toilet paper so I am forbidden to choose ze drink in case ze one in charge of ze beers blames me for ze bad choice!
After lunch on the top floor of the Asahi beer building our final stop for the day is to the Senso-ji temple built in 645 AD. The description of this was that it had a “lively temple precinct”. It should have read “expect to mingle with half the population of Tokyo while you squeeze past them to take ze photo and admire the magnificent grounds and meet hundreds of lovely young ladies who have rented kimonos from nearby rental shops to have photos taken at ze temple”. But it is still a lovely place to visit so we breathe in and squeeze past and get ze photos we want!
Tomorrow we get off this lovely ship and stay on another few days to go to Hakone National Park and Mt Fuji.