Cruising in the Far East with Holland America Line: Sakaiminato & Nagasaki

Share and Enjoy!

Special by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – Further Exploring Today’s Japan

The first of our two ports to visit on Japan’s main islands of Honshu and Kyushu is at Sakaiminato. A small city on the Sea of Japan mostly known for its fishing industry, it played a historically significant role in ending Japan’s international isolation in the nineteenth century. An Imperial decree in July 1899, established it as an open port for trading with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Sakaiminato is notably the home to Shigeru Mizuki, the creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro, a character seen in many forms throughout Japan. The character’s spirit of Kitaro can be found in Sakaiminato, on Kitaro Road, a street lined with one hundred bronze statues of the characters that appear in Mizuki’s stories.

Jialin and I generally prefer to go on our own at ports unless an excursion offers something particularly appealing that would be difficult to do independently. One that includes a panoramic drive, an art museum, a traditional garden, a castle, a scenic cruise, and the museum of a famous journalist seemed like a no-brainer to me, but not to her, so we split up for the day.

Matsue Castle

Following a panoramic drive by motorcoach southwest of Sakaiminato, my group arrived at the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, a museum founded in 1970 by Zenko Adachi to combine his passions for Japanese art and garden design. Ceramic works by such masters as Rosanjin Kitaoji and Kanjiro Kawai, 1,000 items of pottery, wood carvings, and Japanese paintings dating from as early as 1912 are featured in his museum’s collection. But the museum’s gardens, ranked best in the traditional Japanese Garden category since 2003, was the highlight for me. Pines and stones here were collected from all over the country, creating a garden of great beauty, especially so in autumn.

The next destination was Matsue, a city of canals located on an isthmus between Lakes Shinji and Nakaumi. It is the site of Matsue Castle, completed in 1611, a few years after the last decisive battle of feudal Japan. All the buildings that functioned as a castle were soon demolished in 1638 leaving just the donjon (the castle keep) and the castle’s stone wall. The five-tiered 98-foot tall donjon is designated one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties.

In the afternoon, Matsue’s many canals, 16 bridges, and city sights were viewed by boat on a scenic cruise, followed by a visit to the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum. A journalist who arrived in Japan in 1890 and never left, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn taught school in Matsue, married the daughter of a samurai, and adopted the name Koizumi Yakumo. His best-known work is Kwaidan — a collection of ghost stories. Located next to Hearn’s house, a small museum displays manuscripts such as best-known work, Kwaidan, a collection of ghost stories, and his personal effects, including his desk, letters, clothes and Japanese pipes.
Views of Lake Shinji were enjoyed along the way back to the Westerdam.

Following an overnight cruise we reached our second Japanese port, Nagasaki. The name Nagasaki immediately conjures up in my mind the vision of an atomic bomb exploding. The object of the first of two nuclear attacks intended to end the Second World War in Japan, Nagasaki now memorializes that tragic event in August 1945 at the city’s Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park.

Located on the northwest coast of the island of Kyushu, Nagasaki is set on a large natural harbor, with buildings set on terraces around the surrounding hills. It was one of the few ports in Japan open to foreigners — although constrained to Portuguese residents followed by a Dutch trading post on man-made Dejima Island — during the self-isolation of the Edo period. While the atomic bomb destroyed much of the city in 1945, many historical sites were saved. These can be readily seen on organized walking tours or on self-directed walks to attractions including Uragami Cathedral, once the largest cathedral in the East, the Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture, Kyushu Ceramic Museum, Megane Bridge, Glover Garden with its “Madame Butterfly House,” Oura Catholic Church, Chinatown with its Confucius Shrine, and the Mt. Inasa observation platform accessible by gondola on the Nagasaki Ropeway. Information and unlimited one-day passes for rides on the city streetcar are available at the Tourism Information Center at the JR Nagasaki Station or at hotels in the city.

Share and Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial