April 12th, 2016 - Day 10 - Docked at Kobe, (Kyoto), Japan

We woke up sailing into Kobe and went under a large bridge.  We just had a fire boat spray water like a big fountain near our ship but I was not quick enough to get a picture.  I think it was their way of saying welcome to Kobe.

Kobe is the fifth largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshu and is about 19 miles west of Osaka.

We ate breakfast at the Terrace Cafe.

We are on a tour of Nara and Osaka today.  Our guide's names is Michiko or nickname Micki.  Our driver is Mr Hiashi.

The Emperors wife is Michiko she was the first commoner.  She turned 80.

There are 47 Prefectures and 6 regions. It is densely populated because Japan lives on 30% of their country as there are many islands.

New school semester starts in April.  40 days is their summer vacation which starts inJuly.

April 1st new workers begin their jobs.

Financial year begins in April. April-June, July Sept, Oct- Dec & Jan-March.

Schooling is compulsory from age 6 to 15.  At age 10 they begin learning English.  High school is optional but 98% go but have to pay.  52% go on to college.

1/4 population is over 65 years old. Problem is aging and not a lot of new births.  1.26 birth rate in 2014. Now it is 1.41.

The Japan economy is not good right now.  Consumption tax use to be 5%.  Last year was raised  to  8% and next year will be 10%.  They want to put consumption tax into the pension fund which is failing.

We went through the Hanna tunnel which is about 4 miles long.  Han means Osaka and Na means Nara.  We were under a mountain that connects both places. Out of the tunnel we enter Nara.  The birthplace of Japan as a nation.

There are 1200 deer in Nara.  Deer is the city symbol.

Our first stop is Nara Park where we strolled the grounds that is full of deer so also referred to as Deer Park.

We visited the Todaiji Temple,  founded in 752 and is best known for its Daibutsu, which was a colossal statue sitting 49 feet tall.

The Great Buddha Hall holds the Vairocana Buddha ("Buddha that shines throughout the world like the sun"), a magnificent temple was built to reflect this importance.  The statue is made from cast bronze, which was then plated with gold leaf, but has now worn off.

The great Buddha Hall was burned in the fires of 1180 and 1567, and the current building is actually the third generation structure, which was built in the Edo period.

Todaiji Temple serves both as a place of prayer for peace and affluence on earth, as well as a center of Buddhist doctoral research.  Over the centuries, Todaiji has produced many famous scholar priests.

Our next stop was at a restaurant near the park for a local Japanese lunch. There were bento boxes on the table and we got to pick our beverage of choice which we chose to try a Japanese beer, Asahi.  We are with chopsticks and tried the kcal food.  Lots of things we had never had before.  I recognized rice.  Ha!  It was enjoyable and the waiters were super friendly.

We then drove about an hour to Osaka to visit the city's landmark, Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century.  There was a moat all around the castle.  The Tower's ornamental roof tiles and bas-reliefs are carved in the shape of crouching tigers and are all gilded with gold.  We walked up 8 flights of stairs to the top of the keep to the Observation Deck to get a beautiful view of Osaka City.

The Cherry Blossoms trees were in bloom and they were so beautiful.  There are 300 different varieties of cherry blossoms and some of these had the bright pink flowers.  Because Nara is a cooler climate  the blooms were still out.

It took 45 minutes to drive back to the pier.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had for his appetizer Warm Petit Pate of Chanterelles in pastry crust with robust port wine and shallot sauce.  He had a Caesar salad and for his main course he had 72 hour slow braised beef short rib Perigourdine with Gnocchi, mashed potatoes and summer vegetables. They seem to have a way with words describing entrees.

Pat had a salad of baby greens with grapes, walnuts and crumbled Danish bleu cheese in a tangy mustard vinaigrette.  For her main course she had Dover sole with lemon sauce and rigatoni with tomato sauce.

We both enjoyed our meals and shared a dessert of meringue with raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream. It was one of the best desserts we have had so far.

At 9:10 PM our boat left Kobe, Japan on our way to Naha, Japan.