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The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, part 9

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The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage - Holland America Amsterdam, September 19-November 23, 2008

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Nine

(Remember to click "read more" if you're looking at this from the main medary.com page to get the whole article!)

October 1 (Wednesday, Day 15, Miyako, Japan) -

A female Taiko drum group, a Taiko drum group made up of 2nd graders and a bunch of city officials greeted us when we docked at Miyako.

The welcome ceremony

Taiko drum girls

Taiko drum kids

Miyako is a much smaller town than the previous two so a cruise ship docking was a big deal. The port had lots and lots of timber (logs) stacked up since Miyako imports lumber to be used in the local paper mills.


The dock was on our side of the ship so we sat on our verandah and listened to the exceedingly long speech by the mayor and then enjoyed the drum groups. We also noticed cars driving down the street by the dock and then making a U-turn at the dead end and driving away. We realized that those cars were full of local people that wanted to drive by to see the ship. This was a HUGE deal for Miyako.

We opted not to do the 40-minute walk to town due to Filbert's heel hurting him. We also decided not to take the free shuttle for the disabled. So, we jumped in a cab with another couple and got to "town" about 10 minutes (and $12 total) later. We saw the train station which was a very small one and didn't even consist of a building but rather was just a bunch of canopies over the tracks. Train stations are very important in Japan and the size of one will indicate the size of the town. This was a small town!

Miyako Station

We walked around and found "The True Drug Store" and went in. It was Japan's version of a Walgreen's and even accepted coupons. Otherwise, it was a very small town. We saw two fish stores, a clothing store, two electronics stores, a pachinko parlor, a grocery store (very small), one convenience store, one Mos burger (Japan's version of McDonald's), four or five restaurants, a few bars and that was about it. All of these stores, with the exception of the drug store, were very tiny.

The True Drug Store

Snookums thought she saw a sign (in Japanese) for a 100 yen store on the 4th floor of a building and she found a Chamber of Commerce-type person to verify and was told "yes". Snookums thought she remembered some basic Kanji and this proved it!

Filbert decided to rest his heel and do some Japanese-watching so he sat on a bench outside the train station while Snookums went shopping in the 4-story department store with the 100 yen store on the top floor. Snookums bought a clothes dryer hanger thing with 8 clips to use to dry wet clothes.

The Japanese were commemorating something today since there were two or three adults at various places around Miyako with donation kettles. When you donated, you received a red feather. Maybe it was like the United States' red poppies for veterans???

We took a cab back to the ship and Snookums went to the 3:00 Fit Ball class. But, only two people showed up and you have to have three for a class so she had to work out on her own. After she got all sweaty, she took a shower in preparation for the 4:45 sail away party. Filbert, meanwhile, sat on the verandah and watched various preschool groups and nursing home groups (in wheelchairs and walkers) come to look at the ship. He was the official waver since the Japanese would wave and wave and wave (and take pictures and pictures and pictures).

A Taiko drum group had been setting up but then it started to rain so tarps were put over the drums. Snookums was afraid it was going to rain on our parade. Our hot and cold appetizers, ice and glasses were delivered and our friends started showing up around 4:45. They oohed and aahed over the suite and couldn't believe our luck (and we still can't, either).

It DID rain, but the drumming started and our covered verandah (with an overhang) was filled with music, food, fun and friends. The sun was starting to set over the mountains behind the Taiko drummers and it was picture perfect. Everyone on the verandah took lots and lots of pictures. Yvan, a world traveler, even remarked that it was the most beautiful scenery he had ever seen and this is a man that has swam in a river in Laos (probably not the healthiest thing to do) and was almost arrested in Cameroon while on a cruise. "Auld Lang Syne" was played after the Taiko drummers were done. Someone must have told the Japanese about that song since it was played at our last two ports as we were leaving.

The sailaway party:

Charlotte and Snookums

The girls

Enjoying the lumberyard view

The potato chips never got opened, but the Japanese snacks and "sweatrag" party favors were a hit. Gary and Charlotte left around 6 and that somehow managed to divide the group. The women stayed out on the verandah (where it was getting chilly since the sun was down) and the men ended up sitting inside. Finally we realized it was almost 8:00 and we all went to our table together from our cabin. (Well, we almost all went together. The dress code was casual and Jae just didn't feel right wearing tennis shoes and he insisted on changing. His wife and several others wore tennis shoes, though!) It was a great time and we all agreed it would have to be done again and again and again. (And it will be.) Yvan even decided to wear his Japanese headband gift during dinner and looked very "Japanesey" in it!

Author's note: This is being written by Snookums around 2 PM on Thursday from the chaise lounge on the verandah while gazing at the calm seas and sighting a Japanese island or outcropping of rocks every now and then. Filbert is sitting on the verandah with his headphones on listening to Radio Australia on short-wave radio while writing his science fiction book. A beautiful day, indeed!

Miyako sunset