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World Cruise 2010 - Part 5
This chart shows the routing at the time of printing of the brochure.
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Unlike our last visit when the QE2 was moored in the center of Kowloon at the Ocean Terminal, this time we had a long shuttle bus ride from a remote container terminal. It did mean we could enjoy the entry into Hong Kong harbour for the first time. Although the weather was bad we still had a good view of the south and west side of Hong Kong island, passing next to Lamma Island and getting good views of the beach resorts and the fishing boats in Aberdeen. We arrived late morning and were greeted by a magnificent show of the classical Dragon Dances as we moored - it went on for about twenty minutes and Pete has much of it on video as we had a grandstand view right over it from our balcony. We got some more video later as it was continued as we left.
Our shuttle bus dropped us where we should have been moored, and Costa Classica was sitting at the prime mooring. The Costa cruisers are frequent visitors so presumably get priority. It was after 1400 when we were into the Harbour City Complex adjacent to the Ocean Terminal, and went looking for a quick lunch. The bus actually stopped outside the Pacific Club, which has reciprocal arrangements with the Oxford and Cambridge Club, but we were not dressed to suit their formal dress code.
The central areas of Hong Kong and Kowloon are laid out as a network of multiple levels of walkways and shopping centres above and below ground which, for the most part, mean you are separated from the traffic and the elements. When one gets outside the Harbour City complex one can see that it consisted of three levels of malls and walkways interlinking the piers for shipping and a number of towering office buildings - more outside walkways bridged the roads to the nearby park etc. We eventually found the CitySuper we remembered from previous visits on level 3 providing quick food for the workers and locals much like the underground Food Courts we had enjoyed in Singapore. One orders from one of a number of fast service outlets around central seating and paid at common tills whilst the food was being prepared. The food is good with huge portions at silly prices. We ate there for lunch and in the evening and averaged 60$HK (£3.50) for 'sets' (meals with drink, starter and sometimes a sweet) including a valentine's day special.
After our lunch we worked our way across to Kowloon Park with it's sculpture park, lakes and Chinese gardens and exited the other side onto Nathan Road which was a little like the Tottenham Court road and full of cheap electronics shops. It is known as the Golden Mile and has more than just electronics shops. As one walks up it there are blocks offering rooms by the hour to the week mixed in with apartments and workshops. It is an experience and very busy - the pedestrian crossings are up to 30 feet wide and even then one has to fight ones way across. We hoped there would be some stalls open at the Temple Street Night market but we were too early. We did look into the Tin Hau Temple, on the corner of the market. Tin Hau is the Goddess of Seafarers, and in the centre of the temple is an altar to Tin Hau. The earliest temple dated from the 1800s and was enlarged and moved to the present site in 1876; it was extended in the 1890s and then taken over by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1929.
After a short ride, just two stops, on the MTR from Yau Ma Te to Prince Edward, we reached more markets. There are many markets off to the side of the Golden Mile and this time we worked our way up to see the Flower market which we expected to be busy as the Chinese New Year was imminent. We had not anticipated how busy it would be - it must have taken half an hour to fight our way through the crowd from one end to the other, a distance of under 500 metres. It was not only the number of people; they were each carrying enormous bunches of flowers. Some of the red gladioli which were especially prized must have been over 2 metres long. We then went up into the Bird market which was much quieter and also allowed us to take some pictures down into the Flower market and watch the ebb and flow. Birds of many types were for sale, mostly in their cages and hidden from sight with a cloth. Some parrots and parroqueets were out on view. Food stalls were coming to life and we passed a shop and could not resist the local specialities of Egg Tart and Coconut Milk Egg White Tart. They were quite expensive for Hong Kong, but delicious.
By now it was getting towards dusk and we walked down through other market streets selling cloithes and cheap matches towards the Ladies market and then on into the Temple Street Night market which was now coming to life. There were far fewer of the quality fake watches for sale and prices were higher than in Thailand but there were other bargains. Pete bought another LED torch (double AA and 8 LEDS) for HK$ 20 which was similar to the single cell one he bought three years ago which is still working well, and a cheap watch HK$ 25 again similar to the last one - as it was cheaper than getting a new battery. The market streets were heaving by now and prices rose steeply as we reached the areas the tour groups visit so we continued as quickly as we could fight our way against the flow. Pauline was disappointed there were no more silk bargains because she was still looking for a nice silk evening jacket, but not a standard Mandarin style. If she had still been size 8 there were bargains and an evening dress could be bought for less that 10. Some of the embroidered silk pictures from China were good value, and there were large oil paintings for sale at little more than the cost of the materials.
We finally fought our way clear and watched the Symphony of Lights display at 2000. The sky scrapers are illuminated and project searchlights and laser beams on both sides of the harbour - it was very effective with the low hanging cloud and mist giving an eerie atmospheric effect. We were lucky as cloud base was now at least level with the building tops. We started off on the Avenue of Stars, a waterfront walk where there are many stars and handprints in the pavement representing the movie world and stopped at a corner where we got a good view across the harbour. The usual high viewing area was shut off in preparation for the New Year festivities and rehearsals were taking place, but there was an area below where there were many 'lantern' exhibits set up in preparation.
We then walked back into the Harbour City where we went to the CitySuper to purchase the wines and Saki we had identified earlier. We had discovered that they had a single bottle of Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc which we could not resist. In the case of the Saki and the slightly stronger spirit version we had no information to go on so bought a low/middle range bottle of each for experience. We were by now too late for dinner on the ship so we went into the food market and were tempted by a special Korean Valentine's day set for two with seaweed soups - a sizzling BBQ grilled eel, beef ribs and stir fried vegatables - a big mixed vegetable and exotic mushroom Kimchi Tofu soup with side dishes and enough rice to last for days - all for HK$ 128 (10.50). We had been told that shuttle buses would be every half hour all night, and we duly reported just before 2200 to find a shuttle bus was full, with a queue of waiting passengers, and rumours that the next shuttle bus (just one!) would be at 2300. This was not good enough and once it was clear there were a lot of passengers wanting to go back to the QM2 then an extra bus appeared. One of the problems of being berthed in a working container port is that it is impossible to walk around, and even if we had paid for a taxi we could still not get from the taxi station at the port gate to the QM2.
The original itinerary had proposed the second day would be a full day in Hong Kong, because we were departing at 1800. Unfortunately the arrival time at the next port, Shanghai, depends on the state of the tide and Chinese officials needed to close the channel to large ships in order that we enter. Commodore Warner had to bring forward our departure from Hong Kong to a new time of 1500 in order to report at the approved time. He then got off at Hong Kong and left Captain Bates to deal with the situation. It was a pity we had such a short time in Hong Kong but we were exchanging that for a full day in Shanghai.
The next morning we took an early shuttle bus and walked along the waterfront straight to the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and walked through the financial area with it's incredible sky scrapers – Hong Kong has some of the tallest in the world including the new International Finance Centre building built in 2003 on reclaimed land and the unusual Bank of China Tower which is 1209 feet tall which is surmounted by two antennae resembling a pair of chopsticks and has sharp corners pointing at other financial institutions and radiating bad feng shui onto them. One can walk on the central walkways well above ground level past and through the various buildings.
We walked past the HSBC tower to St John's cathedral and then to the
Peak Tramway, a funicular railway, which takes one to the favoured residential area which, on a clear day has spectacular views over the sky scrappers and out over the harbour and Kowloon and out to the sea. The tramway normally has queues as it only carries a hundred or so people in it's two cars and the trip takes ten minutes. We were early and the line was short. At the top is a building which spreads out into a viewing platform after one has threaded ones way up 5 stories of shops and elevators. Last time we had a some views and also took one of the walks round but this time we were in thick cloud and half a gale so it was unpleseant to be outside for more than a few minutes so we contented ourselves with a few photographs to show how bad it was! It was so early most of the shops were closed.
> We then went across to look at Government House which we hoped might be open as it was New Year. It dates from the 1850s although it was extensively remodeled by the Japanese during the occupation in WWII. It only opens a couple of days each year so it was too much to expect a second opportunity to visit. When we had seen it in 2007 they had been set up with barriers for long queues but the weather had been so atrocious we were able to walk straight in and follow a long line through beautiful gardens and eventually the house where we could walk through the ground floor and take pictures. It is set in an island of greenery between the office sky scrapers below in the financial district and the tower blocks of mid levels above and around it. It is not clear what the future is for Government House but in the meantime the grounds and house seem to be being maintained to the standards that Chris Patten would have set.
We then worked our way up to the botanical gardens and zoo which is nearby. This visit it was not pouring with rain and the avaries were once more open after the avian flu panics have receded and we must have spent most of an hour in the gardens and zoo which are separated by an underpass. We watched through the bars the monkeys watch the people through the bars watching the monkeys - it reminded us a bit of Berlin where one never used to be sure of who was in the zoo.
We walked back down the hill into an area known as the lanes which is a complete contrast to the elevated walkways and polished marble. It consistes of narrow alleyways joining Queens Road and Des Voeux Road, between the old buildings so packed with stalls selling clothing, fabrics and various counterfeit goods that it was difficult to pass another person. It was then finally time to board the Star Ferry and cross back to Kowloon and our shuttle bus. We travelled upper class this time - there are two decks and the Upper Deck has more protection from the elements and cost an extra 50 HK cents ( about 4 pence extra on a 20p fare). There are separate gangways for Upper and Lower.
As we left in the afternoon the Dragon Dancers returned and gave another stunning show as we edged sideways away from the mooring. The weather had been unsuitable for taking photos, and better views of the places we visited are in our 2007 pre-cruise QE2 notes at www.pcurtis.com/hk07.htm
Unfortunately there was bad news about our arrival time in Shanghai. Having embarked in Hong Kong the Chinese Immigration officials were very careful about our arrival and every passenger had to be seen by the officials on board and a camera was used to check our temperature. We had not been able to go fast enough from Hong Kong in the weather conditions to meet the latest requirements for entry into the port despite leaving Hong Kong so early - it had been decided that the Queen Mary 2 was so large all other traffic had to be stopped for her passage and Shanghai is one of the busiest ports in the world. We were now going to arrive on the next tide, at 1330, but the good news was we were staying until 23.30. We had booked an organised tour in the morning, but when that was cancelled we decided to visit independently. We wondered how good the shuttle bus service was going to be, but no problem. It was much better organised than in Hong Kong. When we got to gangway we found they had 24 buses lined up for a Le Mans start. At the tannoy announcement the ship was cleared the passengers rushed down the gangplank and sprinted to the buses - we chose front seats on bus two for a quick exit at the far end. Our driver held close to the first bus through the chicanes in the port but could not get past until we were out of the port and then we slipped past in the traffic. We held onto the lead position until the long straights when buses one and three powered past but once we got into the traffic our drivers skill came into play and after much weaving left and right we were past first bus three then one and eventually they were left far behind. A quick dash from the bus after he had taken the flag and we were second into the the Julong Silk and Craft Exhibition hall heading for the exchange where we changed all our odd notes from previous countries into local currency and then added 10 for luck. The change only had one desk and we envisaged there might be a queue when the remaining 23 buses arrived. Anyway we were clear - a short cut through the toilets avoided a tortuous route laid out to take one past all the items for sale and we were free and away.
It was cold and wet and everywhere looked grey. Fortunately it was just a few minutes to walk to Huangpi Road and the Peoples Square. We planned to go to the Huangpi River and walk along the Bund, and it was all within easy walking distance. The Bund is a showcase of monumental colonial-era architecture flanked by a wide pedestrian promenade; from our guidebook the buildings would have looked equally good in London or Liverpool and walking along the banks of the river had a lot of appeal. Peoples Square is located on the site of an English racecourse, and is the political and cultural centre of Shanghai with the Grand Theatre, the Shanghai Museum, the City Hall and Urban Planning Exhibition Centre in Peoples Park. Shanghai No 1 Dept Store is on the corner of the pedestrian Nanjing Road (East) along which is an easy walk to the Bund. Mainly a wide pedestrian road, it is a mixture of McDonalds and Pizza Hut, posh shops, Department stores and shopping malls. Europeans are definitely in a minority here.
The row of sturdy Western banks and trading centres that lines the river date from the 1920s and 1930s, when Shanghai was known throughout the world. 'Bund' is supposed to translate as an embankment on a muddy shore. The Peace Hotel (former Cathay Hotel) at No 20, and the Peace Hotel South (former Palace Hotel) at No 19 which are at the end of the Nanjing Road were both deserted, except for a Citibank currency exchange. The two historic buildings looked sadly derelict and we turned north hoping to find better buildings. The original plans were that the area would all be restored in time for the 2010 World Exposition, but that target seems unlikely to be achieved. We past closed banks until at No 32 we found the new Peninsula Hotel, which looked elegant and welcoming. Indeed we were just in time to join the queue for a proper afternoon tea, but we decide to continue our walk. It was a very nice hotel, and was one of the few we have seen on this cruise where we would like to stay in future. Prices are not expensive in Shanghai compared with London. There is extensive building work going on between the Bund and the river, all protected by boarding, so it was difficult to get to the waterfront promenade. Even the Monument to the Peoples Heros, looking like a granite pair of chopsticks, was isolated. The Bund History Museum is in its basement but it was just too difficult to reach it.
We were determined to get to the riverside and saw an underpass, which also enabled us to go along the Bund Tourist Tunnel under the river, but at a price. Our jouney was also an experience, with audio and visual effects, travelling in a small tram capsule on a track. We disembarked in the riverside park close to the Oriental Pearl Tower, where for an additional sum it is possible to go up the tower for a spectacular view. The weather was so bad we decided it was not worthwhile. At 1,500 feet it is the world's third tallest broadcasting tower. The base of the tower is supported by three slanting stancions each 7 metres wide, and surrounding the 11 steel spheres which represent pearls and are 'strung' vertically through the centre of the tower are three 9 metre wide columns. There are three large spheres, including the top sphere known as the space module. The Shanghai Municipal History Museum is in the pedestal. It was a very popular area with tourists and there were lots of stalls and hawkers, and many people were buying little blue mascots; the forthcoming World Expo Performing Arts had that as its symbol.
Having returned on the Bund Tourist Tunnel we walked along the rest of the Bund, passing more old historic shuttered commercial buildings, and only Cartier seemed to be open and lit. No 2 on the Bund, the former Shanghai Club, looked very sad. Just opposite was the Meteorological Signal Tower
The other interesting site for tourists is to visit the Yu Gardens and the adjacent Old Town. It was now approaching 17.00 and we knew the Yu Gardens would be closed, but the Old Town was just starting to get ready for the evening. We turned inland at the end of the Bund and ahead there was a garden. It was not the famous Yu Yuan Garden, but very pleasant although it was getting too dark to explore. We suddenly saw a narrow shopping street, the start of the Old Town. The first purchase was a kite; we had been looking for a kite shop and this was the first we had seen. Then we went looking for a fan, but the nice ones were too expensive and at tourist prices. There were no bargains here. Looking at the shops, stalls and buildings it seemed that everything looked old, but was probably very new. Later we found it had been restored in 1991 to serve as a pedestrian shopping street: the Yuyuan Bazaar. We did not have enough time to explore it properly, but it was very crowded.
We did some last minute shopping on the way back to the shuttle bus to use up the remainder of our yuan. This included some Chinese wine. We had previously bought Chinese red wine in Hong Kong on our visit in 2007, a 1999 Great Wall Dry Red Wine which is made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It was described as presenting a clear ruby colour, with elegant and rich aroma and harmonious, mellow and heavy wine bouquet, pleasant and lingering aftertaste. The label said it was produced by the Chinese National Cereals Oils and Foodstuffs Corp. It did not have the strong blackcurrant taste of Australian or South African cabernet sauvignon, and there was no obvious sign of having been matured in oak barrels. It was, however, very pleasant. There are 165,000 hectares of vineyards in China, with many of the best grape growing areas found in the cooler coastal provinces of Shandong, Hebei and Tianjin and the Huaxia Winery in Changli, Hebei, is responsible for Great Wall Red. We had made a good choice then and now we purchased Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon and Great Wall White Wine 2006, which we expect is Riesling from the shape of the bottle and that it is only 12% alcohol. Only Chardonnay and Riesling wine grapes are grown here. The description of the wine on both our bottles is all in Chinese so we will report later on what it is like.
Our route back to People's Square took us along Fuzhou Road. In the evening the hazy grey buildings were transformed. We had to face a line of persistent hawkers as we drew near to the Julong Silk and Craft Exhibition hall, and as prices fell and we found some local coins in our pockets we bought a purse. They were still trying to sell watches at silly prices as we drove off.
We were sailing late in the evening and this enables a local show to perform. Here it was a group of young acrobat/gymnasts who put on a almost unbelievable performance of elegance, strength and coordination.
We were looking forward very much to our first visit to Japan, and on this cruise there were two Japanese ports of which the first was Nagasaki. On Cunard ships the only foreign exchange facility is a machine, and it is usually programmed to exchange from sterling or euros into US dollars. Today it was programmed to take dollars and produce Japanese yen, and for the first time we used it, because there was a risk of no banking facilities on shore at the New Year. The process is simple; US dollar notes up to a maximum of 10 items are pushed into the machine, and the amount of yen is shown on the screen. A simple OK delivers the money and US change. We knew that putting in lots of notes was difficult so we used one $50 note, and to our surprise received three 1000 yen notes and $10.50 in change. The machine only contained 1000 yen notes, and we discovered later that our rate of 83.33 was not good and in addition there was $3.50 per transaction commission. On shore there was a temporary exchange under canvas and there we received 85 yen per US$, no commission, and it was exactly the same rate in the local tourist shops if purchasing goods.
Our approach into Nagasaki took us past Japanese Navy moorings and then we had a multi-colour welcome from the fireboat. Nagasaki is a pretty town, and it was wonderful to be moored directly on their waterfront promenade, instead of in a container port in the middle of nowhere. It is also a strategically important town because culture and science from Asia and Europe entered Japan through Nagasaki. Indeed Nagasaki harbour was the only port open to exchange with Western Europe between 1641 and 1858. There are numerous places of historical interest filled with a multitude of cultural treasures. Looking towards the town we could see the Glover Garden, in Nagasaki's foreign settlement and home to a number of historic buildings. As soon as we were allowed to disembark we rushed out, and our first stop was the Tourist Information team in a tent on the quayside. They were very helpful, with lots of prepared information, including a map of the Matsugai port area, instructions on how to catch a street car, and a good Visitors Map. The Nagasaki International Ships Welcoming Committee had done an excellent job in preparing the material and it answered all our questions. We were pleased we had decided to visit independently, because it was all so easy and so close to the port.
The short walk over the footbridge and up the hill towards the Glover Garden passed the Picture Book Museum and then the Oura Catholic Church dedicated to the 26 Martyrs. These were 26 Christians who came from Kyoto and Osaka and were forced to walk through the snow to Nagasaki where they were publicly crucified, on 5 February 1597. It was part of a policy by the Mikado to reduce foreign influence and christianity was banned outright shortly afterwards. There is a separate Memorial monument near the Railway Station.
The entrance to the Glover Garden is close to the church, and we knew it was going to cost 600 yen to enter, or 300 yen for old folks. There are two escalators up to the ticket office, where we were welcomed and given information about the special events they had organised for the QM2 passengers. Two moving sidewalks climb up to the event square, but we stopped half way, at the Tea House. This is the former Jiyu-Tei restaurant, which was originally in front of the Irabayashi Shrine as Japan's first western style restaurant. There is a pleasant water feature with lots of plump fish opposite. Walking down to the Glover House, there were Japanese, British and Scottish flags flying; Thomas Blake Glover was born in Scotland in 1838 and came to Japan in 1859. Married to Tsuru, he had three children and died in 1911. Glover made a major contribution to the modernisation of Japan through shipbuilding, coalmining and tea manufacturing and trade. He was involved with founding the Japan Brewing Company and the moustache on the Kirin beer mascot is Glover's. His house, the Glover House, was built in 1863 and is the oldest example of western wooden architecture in Japan.
The next historic house to visit was the Ringer House. Outside we heard music, and local musicians were playing. The beautifully inlaid horizontal string instruments were played with long fingernail plectrums, and the sliding bridges defined the note for each of the 13 strings. We were invited to sit down and a plate of sweets arrived, followed by green tea, matcha, served by ladies dressed in traditional kimonos. Frederick Ringer was born in Britain and came to Japan in 1864, working at Glover & Co and then establishing Holme, Ringer & Co in 1868. He was engaged in foreign trade for more than 70 years, including construction of the waterworks, international trade, import agency, tea plantations, milling and electric power generation. The Nagasaki Hotel which he built in 1898 was one of the top hotels in Asia at that time. He died in 1907. Thomas Blake Glover's son joined Holme, Ringer & Co introducing steam trawlers into Japan and promoting the fisheries industry; he produced the Glover Atlas which was a significant fish atlas.
The next house to visit was the magnificent Alt House, the largest of the stone buildings left in Nagasaki. William Alt was born in Ireland in 1840, and was one of the first to arrive in Nagasaki, in 1859. He promoted Japanese green tea through his trading. In 1864 he built Alt House after amassing a considerable fortune. It was in a house like this where Puccini's Madame Butterfly reputedly waited for Lieutenant Pinkerton; the opera was set in Nagasaki in 1904. In brief the story is about the American Lieutenant Pinkerton, who marries a young Japanese girl, then returns to America where he marries again. Butterfly bears him a son, and waits his return, but his new wife arrives first and agrees to take the child with them when they go back to America permanently; Butterfly then commits suicide as Pinkerton arrives to greet her. In the garden there are statues of Puccini and of Tamaki Miura who became famous for her role as Madame Butterfly. Her story is expanded in the Alt House, which also contains her wig and other memorabilia. As far as we can understand the japanese text, her husband came from Poland and was awarded a medal during WWII in France.
Next door is the former Steele Memorial Academy, a mission school which was built in 1887 on a nearby hill. The ground floor contains a nummber of beautiful model ships, but the real attraction was that it was here that QM2 passengers had a special treat; they could be dressed in kimonos. Pauline was quite enthusiastic about the idea, and was shown a selection of kimono wedding clothes, from which she chose her favourite colour - bright red. Pete was less enthusiastic but was gently steered towards the one garment suitable for tall men. A group of young women then dressed us in the many layers, taking photos with our camera as they did so.
There were still several important sites and buildings to visit. The fountain of prayers is symbolic. The waterfall symbolises the suffering and salvation of the secret Christians under persecution. The triangular block structures which appear over the whole surface signify the altar, with the small fountains rising from it representing candles. The stone at the lower right of the altar represents Christian women holding the wings of an angel, the stone in the centre is the Cross and the stone at the left the Lamb of God. The rough porcelain tiles on the lower part of the altar symbolise the harshness of the lives of the Christians in hiding underground. The fan-shaped fountain represents a gaily dressed woman of this world, and the water gushing from both sides of the fish-shaped stone symbolises culture being formed under Christian influence. The water falling between represents the process of being cleansed of such suffering and contradictions and being guided to salvation.
The house nearby was the former Walker house, which was originally built in 1915 next to the Oura Catholic Church, and brought to the Glover Garden in 1974. It was a small bungalow and the rooms were viewed from a central corridor. Members of the Walker family founded the Japan Brewing Company with Glover, and set up the first cold beverage company. Then we reached the former House of the President of the Nagasaki District Council. For 500 yen you could dress in old fashioned European clothes for 30 minutes, and take your own picture. Lots of young Japanese were having great fun with the long frocks. Finally we reached the former Mitsubishi No 1 Dock House. It was built in 1896 and was for ship crews to rest while their ship was at the Mitsubishi shipyard for repairs. Mitsubishi was founded by Yataro Iwasaki and then his younger brother became the second President. Glover was involved with both men, and contributed to the building of the Mitsubishi organisation. From the upstairs veranda there were amazing views of Nagasaki, dwarfed by the QM2.
Most people have only heard of Nagasaki because it was the next city after Hiroshima to be destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945, and this led to the Japanese surrender and the end of WWII. It was a major ship building and industrial site and the bomb was targeted on the Mitsubishi works and set to explode 600 metres above the ground. It was, in fact, the secondary target as the primary one was obscured by smoke. The site of the hypocentre, the Peace Memorial Park, and the Atomic Bomb Museum are all a short tram ride from town, and the nearest tram stop to the Glover Garden is at Oura Tenshudo-shita Station on line No 5. This is one stop north of Ourakaigan-dori Station, the nearest to the QM2. To use a tram the idea is to board at the back, then when you want to get off walk to the front and pay the conductor. It is not expensive, just 120 yen per journey, and the tram has a machine for changing a 1000 yen note into coins for exact payment. Payment on one tram can include a transfer to another tram line at Tsuki-machi only, by asking for a transfer ticket. There are four street car lines, numbered 1, 3, 4 and 5.
We did the transfer at Tsuki-machi onto line No 1, crossing the line so we were travelling in the correct direction. Stations are named and numbered; we were going from No 31 at Tsuki-Machi to No 19 at Matsuyama-Machi. It was easy although the street cars seemed always crowded. Descending from the tram at Matsuyama-Machi we were pleased to see everywhere was marked with signposts, and both in japanese and english. We first visited the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park, built on a low hill to the north of the hypocentre of the atomic bomb explosion of 9 August 1945. Hiroshima had been bombed by the Americans two days earlier, but the manufacture of the second bomb, named 'Fat Man', took time. The park has many important features; the first is the Peace Fountain. At night it is illuminated and there are lights in the water, one for each person who died as a consequence. and more lights are still being added. The epitaph inscribed on it is by Sachiko Yamaguchi who was 9 years old on the day: "I was very thirsty, and went out for water. I found the water with something like oil all over it. I wanted the water so much that I drank it as it was with oil over it". Many citizens died in the desperate search for water. The park also includes the bell, and the remains of the old prison, before finally reaching the two monuments to the Koreans who died, on either side of the Peace Statue itself. In Spring 1955 the sculptor Seibo Kitamura wrote the following:
"After experiencing that nightmarish war, that blood curdling carnage, that unendurable horror, Who could walk away without praying for peace? This statue was created as a signpost in the struggle for global harmony. Standing 10 metres tall, it conveys the profundity of knowledge and the beauty of health and virility. The right hand points to the atomic bomb, the left hand points to peace, and the face prays deeply for the victims of war. Transcending the barriers of race and evoking the qualities of both Buddha and God, it is a symbol of the greatest determination ever known in the history of Nagasaki and of the highest hope of all mankind".
Another important place to visit is the Urakami Cathedral. The original red-brick building was built between 1895 and 1925, and after the explosion only remnants of the building remained and much collapsed shortly afterwards. It was a similar shape to the new cathedral and had two bell towers; both collapsed and one remains on the ground where it fell. One piece of the structure was taken to the hypocentre to stand alongside the black monolith which marks the centre of the explosion. The bomb did not impact the ground but instead exploded some height above ground. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1959 and Pope John Paul II visited in 1981. We only had time to walk down to the Hypocentre Memorial before returning to the QM2 by Street Car. Next time we will visit the Atomic Bomb Museum and the one-legged Torii Gate, and the many temples and other museums. Nagasaki is a place we will surely visit again.
Visiting any port for the first time always brings special celebrations, and exchange of gifts. This afternoon the welcome ceremony to Nagasaki was to be held on board the QM2 and guests were all invited. It consisted of an exchange of gifts and plaques between the Captain and Senior Officers and the local Mayor and dignatories. Captain Bates had recently brought the Queen Victoria into Nagasaki on its maiden visit, and he had been involved with the building of two Princess ships which had been done in a Nagasaki shipyard. So the maiden for the QM2 was special for him, and for the local people who already knew him.
An exchange of gifts is all very usual, but the special part of this ceremony was a performance by the chiildren of the Oura Nursery School, typically aged 4 and 5 years, followed by highlights from Puccini's Madame Butterfly performed by local artists. At the end all of the children received a Queen Mary 2 teddy bear which they carried on the final curtain call. It was quite thought provoking that a group of Japanese children, none over five, could give an extended and flawless performance and all in English. Every child we saw in Japan was neat, mostly dressed in school uniform, polite and impeccably behaved whether in groups or small numbers on the street or in trams etc. Have we lost the plot in Britain in our education system or is it just the lack of parental control?
It was soon time for our final departure and thousands of people came out to wave goodbye, then there were many more who saw us pass under the bridge
Yokohama is Japan's second largest city close to the mouth of Tokyo Bay. The obvious place to visit from the Port of Yokohama is Tokyo. Cunard offer a number of different tours and the adventurous can catch the shuttle bus to the Railway Station and make their own way. While Tokyo is a busy and frantic city, and obviously the capital of Japan, we decided to explore closer to home. Our destination lecturer gave a lot of useful information about the history of the city of Yokohama, and we collected maps from the local information staff who came on board as soon as we docked. There was a good shuttle bus service, and after spending 10 minutes trying to understand how to buy a ticket for the subway we went to the Information Office. In stilted english we were told to push the button marked 'English' on the ticket machine, and that a Dayticket on the Minato Murai Line would cost 450 yen. Duh! This was perfect for us and included the main tourist sites. We knew from our shuttle bus journey that it was too far to walk. From the Railway Station it was two stops to Minato Murai, where we surfaced to view the famous Landmark Tower. This 296 metre prominent building is the tallest building in Japan, and it is possible to pay to go up to the 69th floor for views. The weather today was not clear, but on a good day it is said to be possible to see Mt Fuji. In the Landmark Plaza there was a glorious twisted tortured metal sculpture, and then the three Queen's Towers. This was the area of Dock No 2, which is now in use as cafes.
We hoped to visit the Sail Training Ship the Nippon Maru, having seen her masts in the distance, but she was not open to visitors. The Nippon Maru was built in 1930 and retired in 1984 to be on display in the Yokohma Dock Company No 1 Dock. At 10.00 the Yokohama Port Museum opened and the first exhibit is a large aerial map on the floor and we asked to be shown the location of the QM2. The museum and the Nippon Maru were already marked. Yokohama was the arrival point for Captain Perry's famous black ships in 1853 and the next exhibit is a model of the fleet comprising three modern paddle wheelers and five older boats. The Port celebrated 150 years recently, having been established in 1859. The Museum explains how the piers were constructed, and the piling techniques involved. A cast iron screw pile was on display which had supported Osanbashi Pier for nearly 100 years since 1894. On 1 September 1923 Yokohama was destroyed by an earthwuake and the port had to be rebuilt, taking just six years. It was all rebuilt again after the bombing of WWII. It is Japan's largest port and the harbour is the heart of the city. Cruise ships are important too, and we bought the brochure in japanese for the exhibition '30 Years of QE2 in Port of Yokohama' which was held between 23 September and 23 November 2006. The QE2 visited 19 times between 1975 and 2004, usually staying overnight.
We planned to also visit the liner Hikawa Maru, berthed at Yamashita Park. But first there were other interesting historic sites.The Wheel at the Cosmo park is visible throughout the harbour, and is on an island, reached by the Kishamichi Promenade, a pedestrian footpath along a disused railway track. The same island has the two rows of red brick warehouses. These are mainly cafes and restaurants, and there is a good view from the top floor. A row of the local bicycle taxis was waiting to capture tired tourists.
The Customs House was originally next to the Red Brick Warehouses, but was destroyed in the 1923 earthquake. The new Customs House with its green dome is not on the island, but nearer to the Osanbashi International Cruise Terminal. QE2 used to moor at Osanbashi when she visited Yokohama, but we were told the QM2 was too large to fit. We found a large ferry there with lots of local people queueing to visit. The boat was called Natchan World, painted with colourful childrens images, and described as the Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry. Everywhere along the harbour there were trip boats offering cruises out to see the QM2. The roof area of Osanbashi is a popular place for a stroll, and there is a large sunken amphitheatre.
Views from the roof are good and we could just see the red funnel of the QM2 behind the bridge in the far distance. The other distinctive building on the skyline is the Marine Tower, 100 metres tall. It looks down on the place where the NYK Hikawa Maru is berthed. Like the Nippon Maru, Hikawa Maru was built in 1930, and like the Nippon Maru she is no longer able to cruise and is permanently based as a museum at the berth. She was open to visit. Hikawa Maru was a classic ocean liner of her time, and at the end of WWII was the only remaining Japanese passenger vessel able to cross the oceans. During WWII she had operated as a hospital ship. She began to cross the Pacific Ocean again but it was only several years later that she was allowed to carry the japanese flag. She is dsignated a cultural asset of the city, and is operated by the NYK Line.
After the entrance lobby there were many rooms to admire. Inside she reminded us so much of the Queen Mary, and we saw First Class rooms and public areas, including the De Luxe suite used by Charlie Chaplin and other famous people. The First Class Rooms started with the Childrens Room, then the Dining Saloon, the Reading Room, the Social Hall, the Smoking Room and one example of a First Class Cabin, then the De Luxe suits. After going upwards to the Wheelhouse and Captains Office the route descended into the depths of the Engine Room.
We now looked for the subway station at Chukagai, to go back to the Railway Station and then on the shuttle bus to the QM2. Yamashita Park is next to the NYK Hikawa Maru and the fountain at the end of the park caught our eye. We then crossed the road, on Paulines Bridge, which went to the Doll Museum. On the bridge there was a statue of a doll, and this was an example of the blue-eyed dolls. 13,000 such dolls arrived in the Port of Yokohama in 1927, just in time for the annual doll festival. Sent from America they represented a symbol of Japanese-US friendship and peace. The statue represents one of these dolls, called Pauline.
We followed the signs to the Subway station, and then noticed we were already on the edge of Chinatown. It is supposed to be the largest Chinatown in Japan, with more than 500 restaurants and shops, and this was still the week of celebrating the Chinese New Year. There were many people on the streets, and displays of festival hats and the festival animals. We still had some local coins and stopped at a stall to purchase pork dumplings; we had missed lunch and were now too late for afternoon tea so a snack was good. Chinatown should have four gates, and we saw the Tencho Mon Gate before walking back to the subway.
The subway worked well and we exitted the Railway Station by the East Exit, and straight onto a shuttle bus. There were a row of them waiting, with more lined up in nearby streets. It was all very efficient. Overall we enjoyed both ports in Japan and would like to come back here again.
| Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
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