Monday 5 June Hagi (Japan)

This morning, because we were re-entering Japan, we needed to go to an international port and the closest one to our destination of Hagi was Shimonoseki Port. We disembarked the ship in groups and boarded our bus that drove slowly along the pier, approximately 500 metres because the Port Authority would not allow us to walk along the pier. We got off the bus and entered the Cruise Terminal and were processed again – photo recognition, finger-prints taken etc and then we re-boarded out bus for the 2 hour drive to Hagi.
Hagi, a National Historic Site, is a beautiful historical castle town with many old streets and residences that have survived untouched to the present day. We were amazed by the city’s earthen walls and black tiles, which added to its original atmosphere. Hagi features samurai and merchants’ residences , most of which have been preserved in their original 17th century style.
We enjoyed our journey along the main expressway while Junko, who has been travelling with us on the ship, gave us more interesting information about Japan, including that at Japanese schools, the students are responsible to clean the school – every day for 45 minutes after lunch, they take turns in sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets etc – a great system because the students learn not to be messy and to always put their rubbish in the bin. About 3 – 5 times a year the cleaners come in to the schools to do the more difficult tasks.
After an hour of travelling, we stopped for a comfort stop just beside the Expressway – it consisted of several parking spots for cars and buses, a male toilet block, a female toilet block and 3 vending machines with hot and cold drinks in them. That was it!
Shortly after that we left the Expressway and headed west to the coast. Our first stop was at Shikuzi Park to see the Hagi Castle, which traced back to the Samurai era. Hagi Castle was built in 1604 on both flat ground and mountainous areas and included a fortress on top of Mount Shizuki. The main keep was situated at the foot of the mountain but was dismantled in 1874. Today, only the stone walls and one part of the moat remain. The ruins are designated as a National Hisotirical Site. We walked through Shizuki Park where we saw the ruins of the castle and climbed up the uneven stone steps to the base. We also saw Shizukiyama Shinto Shrine, the Tashiba-ke Chashitusu Teahouse and a hiking path leading up to the peak of Mt Shizuki.
We had another traditional Japanese lunch at the Sensyunraku Hotel at Kikugahama Beach. After lunch we went for a walk down to the beach and Sandy took off her shoes and socks and had a paddle in the beautiful Sea of Japan.
After lunch we went to the Tokoji Temple, beautiful wooden temple buildings that stand within the woods near Hagi. Tokoji had a wooden entrance gate, Somon that led us to an even larger wooden gate, the Sanmon Gate and then past Shoro, an old bell tower built in 1694. We continued our walk to the back of the complex where there were 500 moss-covered stone lanterns. Behind the temple buildings was the graveyard of the odd-numbered Mori Daimyo (feudal lords). The burial site was quite impressive in its location in the woods. Interestingly, the first daimyo (feudal lord) and the even-numbered daimyo in the succession of the Mori Clan were buried at Daisho Temple. The whole temple complex had a peaceful atmosphere, with nightingales singing and there was no-one else there except our tour group.
From there we went back into Hagi Town and visited the Old Samurai residential quarter. We went on a walking tour of the area with Junko giving us information about the houses and who used to live in them. We were taken into one of the Samurai homes, which belonged to the Kikuya Family and is 400 years old and has 500 pieces of art. We took off our shoes at the Oshikidai Main Entrance and were shown through the main residential building, the treasure house, the kitchen area and the office before visiting the garden. We saw two workers trimming the trees by hand, almost one leaf at a time
After some free time to wander around, we were driven to the Hagi Marina where the Caledonian Sky was waiting for us – she had sailed from Shimonoseki while we visited Hagi town.
Tonight we had a BBQ up on the Lido deck, which was a bit chilly but lots of fun. The food was delicious and the crew had gone to so much trouble in their preparation of it. While we were eating our delicious BBQ dinner, we could see about 20 or more bright lights a little distance away and we were told that these were squid fishing boats and the lights attract the squid making them easy to catch. After dinner we were treated to performances by several of the crew, who all had beautiful voices and then it was party time with Fran and Gus singing and playing and us joining in and dancing. A Good night was had by all.

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