Matsue Castle and the Adachi Museum of Art

We were only on land for a few hours today; our first stop was Matsue Castle, built in 1611 by Horio Yoshiharu as a stronghold for feudal lords, not as a gracious residence.

Horio Yoshiharu

Today, it is a National Treasure and a popular tourist spot, complete with gardens, trees, and a Shinto shrine.

Chionanthus retusus Lindley et Paxton
Shinto Shrine at Matsue Castle
Shrine sign

Of course, they also have the necessities for tourists.

Our second stop was the Adachi Museum of Art, which has a great collection of modern Japanese art and a truly awe-inspiring set of gardens. The building is designed to let you enjoy the gardens along with the art. The art was nice, but the gardens were spectacular, so I’m glad they allow photography of the gardens!

Garden at Adachi Museum of Art

The Moss Garden at Adachi Museum of Art
Dry Landscape Garden at Adachi Museum of Art
The Pond Garden at Adachi Museum of Art
Living Hanging Scroll

We returned to the ship, cleared passport control, and are sailing to Busan, South Korea for tomorrow’s visit.


We anchored at [Hagi], a small city in Yamaguchi Prefecture, during breakfast. They don’t get a lot of Western tourism; the mayor greeted our tender! He was carrying a sign saying “I am Fumio Tanaka, the Mayor of Hagi. Ask to have your picture taken with me.” How could we refuse?

We made three stops in Hagi, each focused on a different aspect of the city’s culture and history. The first stop was the Tokoji Temple, which was constructed for the Mori clan, one of the leading samurai clans – and unfortunately for them, on the losing side of the civil war which ended with the consolidation of power under the Tokugawa shogunate. They were “relocated” to Hagi after the war.

Tokoji Outer Gate (Somon)
Tokoji Temple Bell Tower
Tokoji Main Hall (Daiohoden)
Detail of roof with fish and swastika
Shakyammi-Buddha flanked by two disciples, Ananda and Kasyapa.
Some of the 500 stone lanterns on the route leading to the tombs of odd-numbered Mori lords
Tombs of Mori Lords
Kaipan – wooden fish struck to announce meals and services

Our second stop was the Kikuya Residence, which was the home of the Kikuyas, the official merchant family to the Mori clan.

Roof detail at Kikuya Residence
Musical Instruments
Home telephone booth
Garden with intentionally dry creek
House from Garden

Our final stop in Hagi was the Hagi Uragami Museum, which focuses on ukiyo-e prints and East Asian ceramics (especially Hagi pottery). Unfortunately, the ukiyo-e print galleries wwere closed today, but there was a special exhibition of all the prints from Utagawa Hiroshige’s “Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji”, as well as beautiful pottery.

Horio Takuji – Inkstone from Akama stone, “Beautiful”
A Nobel Lady and Her Attendant on a Raft amidst Falling Cherry Blossoms
Blue and Whie Ming Dynasty Vase
Otukai Plain in Kai Province (Hiroshige)

And then it was back to the ship to sail away towards tomorrow’s adventures.


We sailed into Hiroshima during breakfast and set out for our excursion to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park a few minutes before 8am. The park sits on both sides of the Motoyasu River, atop what had been the city’s busiest commercial and residential district – until 8:15am on August 6, 1945.

The closest building to the hypocenter of the bomb to partially survive was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall; today, it’s known as the A-Bomb Dome. There is a Shinto shrine just outside the dome; unlike most Shinto shrines, one of the post popular offerings is water – because many of those who died of radiation poisoning in the immediate aftermath of the bombing were denied water under the belief that it might harm them.

The park is filled with other memorials to victims of the bombing and the war. More than three million Japanese middle- and high-school students were mobilized during the war to provide labor for war production; more than 10,000 of those students died in the process, including more than 7,000 who were killed by the A-bomb in Hiroshima. The Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students depicts the Goddess of Peace.

The Children’s Peace Monument commemorates the thousands of children who died as a result of the bombing, especially Sadako Sasaki who developed leukemia and folded cranes in the hope that they would preseerve her life. There are tens of thousands of folded cranes displayed around the monument, sent in from around the world.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound contains the cremated remains of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.

The Cenotaph for Korean Victims memorializes the tens of thousands of Koreans who were killed or injured by the bombing. Most of them were in Japan involuntarily as forced laborers.

The park is also home to trees, flowers, and wildlife.

We went to the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims to hear from Toshiaki NAKAGAWA, whose mother was 15 years old on the day of the bombing. Fortunately for her, she was outside the circle of complete destruction and lived; her younger brother was one of the mobilized students and died of radiation poisoning a few days after the bombing. She still feels guilty for depriving him of water during his last days, even though that was the best advice available at the time.

His presentation was amazing – he retold his mother’s story without histrionics or exaggeration, and the audience was completely silent for the entire time he spoke. His mother is still alive and will turn 94 next month!

After the presentation, we toured the museum; it was very very crowded and there was no chance to stop and look at the exhibits in any detail, much less reflect on them. One exhibit which did connect with me was this set of stairs with a black area in the shape of a human body – someone was sitting there when the bomb went off, and their body kept the stone under it from being bleached by the fireball.

I wish the idiots who talk glibly about “nuking Gaza” and “small nuclear wars” would spend a day at the Peace Memorial Pqrk.

Sake, Castle, and Ship

We left Kyoto around 9 this morning on our way to Le Soleal, which will be our home for the next seven nights.

Our first stop was the Sawanotsuru Sake Museum and Brewery in Kobe. We watched a short video on sake-making in olden times (today, they use modern industrial techniques) and got to taste some of their sake and plum wine. Diane and I splurged 500 yen (about $3.30) to taste their premium sake (4400 yen for 720 ml); it was much nicer than the basic sake that was included in the visit.

We didn’t have time to visit their museum, but we did look around the grounds a bit and saw this Shinto shrine just outside the tasting room.

We continued on to Himeji for lunch and a visit to Himeji Castle, which is a beautiful place. We didn’t go into the castle itself (our guides said the interior was pretty bare and visitors spend most of their time trudging up and down stairs); instead, we saw lots of views of the castle. It’s the peak of peony season, so there was a special exhibition of peonies, too.

Le Soleal was waiting for us at the port of Himeji. We were met by a couple of interesting characters who were associated with a taiko drum group who serenaded us as we sailed away.

Le Soleal is a lovely ship, like all the Ponant ships we’ve been on. The food is great, the service attentive, and the Internet connectivity free and very limited. Expect short posts with just a few photos during the voyage.

We’re sailing the Inland Sea; the captain said that we should expect smooth sailing.

Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo-ji, and a couple of interesting restaurants

One of the best things about traveling with John Meffert on National Trust Tours is going on walkabouts with him; he finds interesting things to go see which wouldn’t be worth a full tour. Today, John took us through the area around the Kyoto Okura Hotel, beginning with the statues of Matakichi Maeda (founder of the hotel) and Hirobumi Ito (first Prime Minister of Japan, serving the Meiji Emperor). The Government of Japan wanted a large hotel in Kyoto to accommodate visitors to the then-capital, and Matakichi provided it. In addition to the statues, there are memorial stones to both men.

John then took us to the remains of the Takase-gawa canal, which had been used to bring goods into the area; there were nine sites on the canal where cargo was loaded or unloaded. This one was preserved as a National Historic site after canal traffic ended in 1920.

We walked a bit further and admired a defensive wall that had been erected during the feudal period to protect the property of a Very Rich Person.

And then we walked the five minutes back to the hotel to join our first official tour of the day, which brought us to Kiyomizu-dera Temple (“-dera” means temple, so the name is somewhat redundant!), which is a Buddhist temple complex dating back to 778 CE. Many of the current buildings were constructed in 1633; they were built without any nails.

The complex is dedicated to Kannon, the bodhisattva of peace and mercy – and this dragon is one of Kannon’s incarnations.

We took off our shoes to enter the main hall and look around.

The main pavilion includes a stage which was used for performances centuries ago; today, it’s where you stand to get a great view.

The name “Kiyomizu” means “pure clear water” and refers to the waterfall which runs through the complex; people drink from it for good fortune even today.

As is typical in Japan, there are also Shinto shrines on the grounds (and lots of shops and restaurants, too).

We left Kiyomizu-dera to return to the hotel; we had ninety minutes before our next tour, so Diane and I went to Sushino Musashi, about a seven minute walk from the hotel. It’s a conveyor sushi restaurant, with clear English and Japanese signage for the dishes on the belt. There was a wide selection, but we chose to skip the raw horsemeat sushi in favor of the tuna and salmon. Lunch was excellent, fast, and inexpensive (lunch was under $25 for the two of us), and we were back at the hotel with plenty of time before our afternoon tour.

Sushino Musashi

Nijo-ji (Nijo Castle) was built in the early 17th Century to serve as the Kyoto residence of the Shogun; in 1867, the last Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, declared the end of the Shogunate and the return of authority to the Emperor while in residence at Nijo-ji.

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the palace, but it was impressive. So were the rest of the grounds.

John had hoped to take some of us on a walkabout back to the hotel, but it was hot and everyone was tired, so we rode the bus back instead and went up to our room to rest for a bit.

We decided to look for a place to eat in the Teramachi Arcade. We ended up at Hyakusai Beef Noodles and had their most popular item, the Lanzhou beef noodle soup. It was quite tasty, but a little tricky to eat with chopsticks.

After dinner, we explored the arcade until the stores started closing but left without buying anything.