Sunday 28 May 2017 Kyoto, Osaka

This morning, we were picked up from our hotel and were taken to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, featured in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha”. The Shrine is famous for its 3000+ vibrant orange Torii gates that wind their way up the hill behind the shrine. This intriguing shrine was built in honour of the god of rice & sake by the Hata clan in the 8th century. As the role of agriculture diminished, deities were worshiped to ensure prosperity in business enterprises.
The magical, seemingly unending path of the Torii gates, makes it one of the most popular shrines in Japan. This shrine also features dozens of statues of foxes. The fox is seen as the messenger of the god of grain foods, Inari, and the stone foxes are often known by the same name. The keys that are often depicted in the fox mouths are keys to granaries. This shrine is the central location for some 40,000 Inari shrines throughout the entirety of Japan.
We enjoyed our walk up to the first station – there were hundreds of people walking up through the Torii gates too. Apparently it would take just under 2 hours to walk up to the top.
From there, we were taken to the Sake Brewery Museum, where we learnt how sake was made and we were able to sample different types of sake, as well as soaking up the atmosphere in the old brewery. This museum about sake making is run by the Gekkeikan Sake Company, one of Japan’s leading sake companies. Opened in 1982, it is housed in an old sake brewery that was built in 1909, and presents the history of sake in Japan and sake production in Fushimi in an easy-to-understand manner. We saw exhibitions of some sake-producing items, which show each stage of the process and also displays of period materials dating back to Gekkeikan’s founding. Traditional chants of sake makers were played throughout the museum, recreating the atmosphere of the old brewery. Historically the waters of Fushimi also made this area an important hub of transport and trade. Here the confluence of three rivers, the Uji, Katsura and Kamo, and an intricate network of canals were put to good use, transporting rice, sake and other goods between the cities of Kyoto and Osaka.
Following our visit to the museum, we were able to taste three different sakes: The Old Style Okura Museum Exclusive Retro Bottle Sake; Tama no Izumi (Jewel of the Fountain) Daiginjo Sake; and Gekkeikan Plum Wine.
We then made our way to Osaka, known as the Western Business Capital and the largest city in the area. Here, we enjoyed an Okonomiyaki lunch at Chibo. There was a bbq plate in the middle of each table and we were given some scallops, Benito fish, octopus and pork belly to cook on the BBQ plate ourselves. This was followed by a pancake that was a cross between a pizza and a pancake – on it was soy sauce, seaweed, mayonnaise and Benito flakes or pork which we had to heat up on the BBQ plate. Just when we thought we had eaten as much as we could manage, they brought out some noodles and beef for us to fry on the BBQ plate. We all thought that it was quite different and quite tasty.
After our lunch, we did a walking tour of the Dotonbori District, which is one of the main tourist destinations in Osaka. Dotonbori is a popular nightlife and entertainment area with its huge illuminated signboards. The most famous billboard, which is seen as an icon of Osaka, is for a confectionary company, Glico, which displays the image of a runner crossing the finishing line. Both sides of the canal are lined with advertisements and neon signs and entire buildings are decorated with neon lamps. Interestingly, Dotonbori is apparently often chosen as a scene in Japanese and foreign movies as the symbol of Osaka.
There were hundreds and hundreds of people everywhere walking along the pedestrian streets shoulder to shoulder, happily wandering along enjoying the atmosphere and looking at the shops and the incredible advertising signs everywhere. We were given some free time to take photos and met at the end of the street, where the bus was able to pull in and pick us up quickly.
We then made our way to the port of Osaka to board the MS Caledonian Sky, the sister ship to MS Island Sky that we sailed in down the coast of Norway and also around the Baltic capitals, St Petersburg and the Scandinavian countries in August 2015. It was exciting, but also relaxing, settling into a familiar environment. Our cabin is almost the same as the one we had for our trip around the Baltic. e were delighted to find that some of the staff we knew from our previous cruises were onboard and they remembered us and greeted us like long lost friends. After a lovely welcome afternoon tea, we came to our cabin to find that there was a bottle of Moet Chapmpagne and a plate of strawberries dipped in chocolate. After settling into our cabin, we had the mandatory safety drill and then it was time for sail away at 6.00pm, meeting the crew at 7.00 with pre-dinner drinks, a short briefing about tomorrow’s activities and then it was time for a lovely dinner, which was delicious.

Some details of the MS Caledonian Sky:
Length: 90.6m
Width: 15.3m
Max. Cruising Speed: 12 knots
Tonnage: 4,200
Total Refurbishment: 2012
Guest Capacity: 114 (57 suites)
Crew: 75

We are looking forward to spending the next 12 days onboard the MS Caledonian Sky adventuring around Japan.

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