Semester at Sea 2016
After 12 days aboard the MV World Odyssey, everyone was getting a little cabin fever. It was a thankful sight to see the shores of Japan. We first docked in the port of Yokohama. Then after two days in Yokohama, the ship sailed to the port of Kobe. When we first arrived in Yokohama we had a welcoming party of traditional Japanese drummers. Outside of my window on the ship there was a Ferris wheel that also doubles as the world’s largest clock.
Then when we arrived in Kobe, we were greeted by the Kobe Fire Departments fire boats that put on a water show for us as we entered into the Harbor. We were also greeted by a Japanese band, playing music. This wasn’t a rock band, but imagine a band playing in a Gazebo at the center of town in every old-timey movie.
We first got off the ship and explored the immediate area of Yokohama. I traveled with my friend Hannah, from the University of Virginia. We went to the Cup Noodles museum, explored the local life, ate some fantastic sushi, took an afternoon trip to Tokyo, and got horribly lost. According to Hannah’s fitbit, we walked 18 miles in one day. In a city that doesn’t speak English, and when you don’t speak Japanese, it is very hard to navigate the city streets that are all in Japanese characters. So, we got turned around and wound up in the red light district of Yokohama, unintentionally. When we returned to the ship, several hours later, we were exhausted and relaxed for a couple hours before preparing to go back out for the evening. We went out with several other friends for the evening and wound up meeting up with some other Semester at Seaers, affectionately known as SASERS. The next day we also took an adventure to the Cup Noodles Museum. It was very interesting to see the volume of cup noodles that is consumed annually across the world. Also, the number of different flavors produced covers an entire wall floor to ceiling. Over the two days in Yokohama we ate lots of sushi. In one restaurant we went to, it had a sushi conveyor belt and in the other, we played Russian roulette with the sushi menu. Once again not being able to speak any Japanese, but it turned out well. The most obscured things we ordered were the salted salmon roe and a whole baby squid atop the rice.
I opted to sail with the ship from Yokohama to Kobe, which saved me lots of money. This was a great decision. The crossing was a much needed break. Although we were only in country for four days with the crossing, it was still nice to have a break away from planning trips and doing homework, and not having to stress about the language barrier. We were also treated to a specialty dinner that was served to us in the traditional super fancy sit down dinner meal style. Menus, all the silver wear, people scraping the crumbs off your table. It was unbelievably fancy for the normal dining experience aboard the ship. The food was also fantastic.
When we got to Kobe, I traveled by myself, and took many different subway trains to finally make my way to Kyoto. I didn’t take the most direct and efficient way, because my Japanese is as good as their English. It took me three hours to get to Kyoto, a trip that should take no more than an hour. However, it was fantastic to get to see Kyoto and all of its history and temples. As soon as you walk outside of the Kyoto station, you are greeted by skyscrapers with temples tucked between them. I walked to the Nijo Castle, the Imperial Palace, several other Buddhist and Taoist temples, I also tried to make it in time to the Golden Temple but showed up ten minutes after it closed, the biggest let down of all of Japan.
I returned to Kobe, where I once again got lost. This time I had the voice of Colonel Snead yelling at me in my head, “Don’t travel alone”. This was also aided by the fact that it was dark and I couldn’t read the street signs. I thankfully found my way by looking at a map that was made for children and was full of pictures. The second day in Kobe, I stayed around the ship not wanting to get lost again. I went to the Sake Brewery Museum. This was interesting, and I learned a lot about Sake that I never knew, such as, it takes months to prepare a good sake. I did not try the Kobe beef, as it is 10,000 yen for a six oz. steak. That roughly converts to 100 dollars. This unfortunately was way out of my price range.
Now, it is off to our next adventure aboard the MV World Odyssey. Two more days at sea, then it is on to China. I have actual plans, not to just wander around and get lost. I will be adventuring to Shanghai, the Sichuan Province, and Hong Kong.