Well, here we are in our last Japanese port. Sasebo is the second largest city in the Nagasaki prefecture, Nagasaki is the largest. Although it was spared an atomic bomb, Sasebo was one of the original 17 possible targets and suffered heavy damage during World War II.
Here are some shots of our sail in and arrival this morning. This is a big naval port – 80% of the port is a US Navy base and there is a Japanese base tool Note the sailors on the deck of the ship. We were again welcomed by a band.
The amusing sign says “do not leave door open” and it is on an open door.
Our guide today was Maijumi. She was excellent as all of our Japanese guides have been. She talked about the bowing that is done out of respect and how the angle of the bow indicates the depth of the respect. The bow is 90 degrees for the emperor but just a slight bow as we greet people here. We do bow as we greet people and they seem to really appreciate the gesture. She explained the origin of the bow – in feudal days, the idea that you would bow before another person means that you trust that they won’t kill you. She said it is like the origin of the handshake in the US, it shows that you don’t have a weapon.
She also stressed how much of a problem the aging population is for Japan. Of the 126 million people in Japan, 28% are over 65 and only 12% under 15.
Our first stop was at the Ohashi Kannon, a beautiful Buddhist temple surrounded by forest. The temple is one of many in Japan dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy and compassion. According to legend, the priest Gyoki founded Ohashi Kannon in the 8th century. The surroundings were really gorgeous, with forest and many cherry trees. This is the peak week here for the blossoms and we feel so lucky to be in the presence of all this beauty. Daffodils are in full bloom too. We walked up some steep and slippery steps to get to the natural area with many old statues. So serene and wonderous.
The last statue in this group is said to be about preventing senility. We bought a little trinket with a picture of this statue in it – we can only hope it works!
The ancient figures in the woodlands are really a sight to see.
We could take pictures in this temple so here are a few of the inside of the building.
After leaving this area, we went to the Yamashita house, a traditional Japanese style guest house constructed in the 19th century. It was constructed without a single nail! The result is that the house has stood the test of time as a testament to the highly skilled craftsmen that built it. We were taken on a tour through the house by the owner of both the house and the sake brewery next door. More on the brewery later. Maijima needed to translate as he spoke only Japanese.
Back in the days of the feudal lords, the Shogun wanted to be sure to keep power, so the lords were commanded to return to Edo (now Tokyo) to pay homage to the central ruler. This journey took 40 days of walking. They then needed to live there for 1 year before returning. This house that we visited served as a guest house along the way.
The hat is a metal rain hat!
This folding divider depicts the four seasons in intricate drawings.
There was a small but beautiful garden where tea ceremonies are held.
The sake shop was across the street and we enjoyed a tour of the brewery (which has only 10 employees) before going across for a tasting. The round piece hanging from the ceiling was the sign that the sake was ready in early years. Most people couldn’t read then so the branches started out green (early sake) and when it turned brown the more fermented sake was available! Sake is made from rice, and we heard about the whole process during this visit. We also got a brochure explaining it all.
The back of the jacket is the crest of the family that owns the brewery.
We enjoyed a tasting and bought a small container to take home.
Our last stop on the tour was the Funakoshi Lookout where we had almost an hour to stroll around the grounds and observe the beautiful Kujuku islands. Although Kujuku means 99, there are actually more than 200 islands in the group, most of them uninhabited because the area has been designated a national park. The islands are so undeveloped and photogenic that they were shown in the opening scenes of the movie The Last Samurai which was set in 1876.
On our way back to the ship, Maijumi taught us some Japanese words and also how to count in Japanese! She also gave us each one of the green tea Kit Kat bars. She told us that they are very popular here because Kitto Katto means “surely you will win”. So lots of students eat them before exams.
She also showed us the symbols that have to be on cars. The first is for a student driver and the second is for a senior citizen.
They have a new one for seniors now.
She showed us pictures of her wedding, too.
The license plates here are interesting.
White is for cars less than 600 cc, they pay only 7000 yen/year tax. The yellow if for larger cars and they can pay 36-58,000 yen/year ( 322-519 US). The green is for commercial vehicles like buses and taxis.
We returned to the port and headed out to walk to the shopping area. The specialty here is the Sasebo Burger. It’s a beef burger topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and a sunny side up egg. It was created in the 1950s when the local eateries tried to catered to the appetites of American servicemen. It is very popular and people line up to taste them. The egg is a stopper for me, though! I had an ice cream cone for lunch.
But we had a good time, I found a couple of items that I wanted to buy and we were back in time to line up for immigration before departing Japan. Looking forward to our next visit.