Land Cruising in Japan 2














Just to prove that the warmth of early February had been an aberration, there was promptly a cold snap and a couple of good falls of snow, rarely seen in the Osaka area. Vicky had determined that she would visit Koyasan in the mountainous centre of the Kinki Peninsula. This is an area especially venerated by Buddhists as the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, one of the most important figures in Japanese Buddhism. Though the snow made the trip something of a challenge, it also made the landscape and buildings even more beautiful and emphasised the spiritual qualities of the area.


On a more mundane level, Tom spent the day repairing the galley sink drain, which had threatened to sink the ship the previous evening!










Though we knew that it would still be a couple of weeks until our departure from Tannowa, Inge’s impending visit meant that it was time to say farewell to our friends at the Tannowa Osaka Bay Yacht Club. Naturally there was a well attended party. The members had been incredibly kind and hospitable during our stay, kindness we will always remember. As we cruise through Japan we will continue to benefit from Kakihara San’s kindness and hard work through the cruising notes which he has compiled both from his own and other’s experience.










Our final local excursion before Inge arrived was a 60 kilometre bike ride with Nobi San through the countryside to Wakayama City. Though energetic and quite cold through the last of the snow, the ride was also a cultural experience, as we took in Wakayama Castle and several shrines. One of the most interesting was the Dolls’ Shrine, where dolls are collected all year and then on 3 March they are placed in boats and sent to sea, taking their original owners problems with them.






On  18 February, Tom’s sister, Inge, flew in from New York for one of her visits to ‘Sunstone’ in far flung places. The very next day we headed for Tokyo on the Shinkansen or Bullet Train to visit Setsuko and her husband Si. Some 40 years ago Setsuko was a PhD student of Tom’s father Bill Jackson at Columbia University. While studying in New York she met Si who was on a diplomatic posting with the UN. They wished to marry, but Si had not been ‘vetted’ by Setsuko’s parents, so Tom’s parents, Bill and Erika were deputed to confirm that Si was indeed a suitable husband. When we told Erika that we were due to visit Japan she urged that we contact Setsuko. We tried in vain for several months until Vicky persuaded Kakihara San to write in kanji on an envelope that we wished the letter forwarded from the last address we had. Thus we finally managed to make contact with Setsuko, who immediately invited us to visit her in Tokyo and at their cabin at Karuizawa, in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture.









Setsuko and Si’s cabin is in the outskirts of Karuizawa in the shadow of Asama, a gently smoking volcano covered in snow during the winter months. We had a delightful couple of days there while Inge recovered from her flight and an exhausting month of January caring for Erika in her final days.








On the way back to Tokyo we visited the castle at Matsumoto. Unusually among Japanese castle’s it is original, dating back four centuries and still in its pristine, if warlike state. With the snow-capped mountains in the background its simplicity was particularly attractive.


On the trip from Osaka to Tokyo we had missed seeing Mount Fuji in the poor visibility of that day, but made up for it on the return trip to Tokyo from Matsumoto with an evening glimpse of the famous and beautiful peak.



Tokyo could hardly have been a greater contrast to these rural splendours. We walked through the Ginza and other fashionable shopping streets, with eccentric and distinctive architecture. More to our taste were the beautiful gardens around the Imperial Palace where the plum blossoms were just beginning to bloom.


Setsuko also showed us the park where her grandfather’s house had been before it was commandeered by the occupation forces after the war and then confiscated by the government. Nearby was the starkly attractive Roman Catholic Cathedral, whose shining exterior was belied by the gloom of its interior and the quiet of which was in marked contrast to the bustling crowds around the Asakusa Senso-ji shrine in central Tokyo.







It was wonderful to get to know Setsuko again after so many years. It was also a blessing for us to be able to travel in Japan with two fluent English-speakers who were able to tell us so much about the country. Si had been a very senior civil servant, responsible for many of the major infrastructure projects developed by Japan in the post-war years and so he was particularly knowledgeable and informative. On top of this they were the kindest and most patient of hosts.





Though most of the state schools in Japan have no uniform or relatively informal ones, the private schools have very rigid and traditional uniforms, so that it is quite common to see teenage boys walking around in what look like Prussian uniforms of the 19th century or little girls in sailor frocks and pleated skirts.





On our return to Tannowa, Kondo and Hiroko San once again invited us to one of Hiroko’s wonderful dinners, at which Inge got to sample some of the variety of her excellent Japanese cooking. It was during the time around the annual Dolls’ Day and so Hiroko had set up the traditional stage for the various social levels of the dolls up to and including the Emperor and Empress.





Having reconnoitred Nara and Kyoto with Ichikawa and Junko San, we were able to give Inge a pretty good tour of both cities with a few new sights thrown in for good measure.


Naturally during our visit to Todai-ji, Inge had to prove her degree of enlightenment and came up smiling – no surprises there!








One of the members of Tannowa Yacht Club, Ochi San, kindly offered to take us on a tour of Osaka castle. Though the castle itself is a reconstruction, it contains a museum with many original artefacts as well as models and accounts of its original development and the part it played in the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which dominated Japan for so long. These enormous castles are remarkable pieces of engineering and were huge projects involving the labour of thousands for many years. Some of the stones were colossal and had been transported for great distances from quarries on the islands in Seto Naikai, the Inland Sea.









To round off our visit we had lunch at a wonderful one-table ‘okonomiyaki’ restaurant with its central hotplate. This Japanese dish, vaguely resembling a pizza/omlette/filled pancake, has many versions in different parts of the country, all of course claiming to be best. We particularly liked the Osaka version.




Though we had rain and cloud for the last few days of Inge’s time with us, much of this was spent in gardens, which seemed almost more attractive under shadowless cloud than they might have been in bright sun. We particularly liked the Zen garden at Daisen-in, a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji. It was small but beautifully laid out in a quiet monastic setting, with a helpful guide book in English which explained the significance of each feature. Sadly Vicky could take no photos, but the jolly Abbot did autograph her book of photos of the garden. In addition we finally confirmed just which were our Chinese/Japanese year animals – Tom, the dog and Vicky, the dragon, very appropriate!












On 3 March Inge flew back to New York city and we spent a day in final preparations for our departure from Tannowa to begin our proper sea-borne cruise of Japan.