Time to Board!
We boarded the Windstar Star Breeze, an all-suite cruise ship, on a lovely Saturday afternoon. After three days of frantic sightseeing in Tokyo (See Japan Part I), entering the recently redecorated ship with its welcoming staff armed with champagne was an absolute delight. Our cruise was "Kyoto and the Zen of Japan" and our first stops were Shimizu, Shingu, and Karatsu.
First stops, Shimizu and Shingu
We were one of the first tourists these small seaside towns had seen since before Covid. Both welcomed us like royalty with locals greeting us at the pier, volunteer guides in town, and departure performances worthy of the movies. We had the only day of rain in the entire trip in Shimizu, and it was pouring buckets. We raced from one covered area to another, trying valiantly to stay dry to no avail. ! I covered my camera with a leftover Ziplock bag and hoped for the best. I felt especially sorry for the ladies in their traditional tabi, split-toed socks, and zoris.
We were welcomed in Shingu with locals at the pier. So etheral!
The group then split up, most heading to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Oniga-jo Rocks while I took a stroll through town up to the hongu Taisha Shrine.
hongu TAISHA SHRINE
I wandered through town in the quiet morning air, no one about and shops closed (but one had Diet Coke!). I trudged uphill for a mile or two in search of the shrine which, honestly, appeared to be the most interesting thing in town.
I mentioned the departure performances, did I not?
Shingu pulled out all the stops to see the Star Breeze off to our next stop, with speeches that included the Mayor, and multiple Taiko Drum performances.
Third stop - Karatsu
We cruised into Karatsu Bay during breakfast, the morning light catching the lovely Karatsu Castle. Following a tour of the castle and a visit to a viewpoint overlooking Karatsu Bay, we visited the Karatasu Kunchi Festival floats dating back over two hundred years. The photo does not tell the story as the floats are HUGE!
Karatsu bids farewell with a youth group of taiko drummers
Watch the mascot (every town had a mascot). He/she rocks! We watched him/her before and after, bending down to say hello to small children and encouraging the young musicians. Great cheerleader and coach.
A fabulous dinner, then we crashed.
I was so impressed with the artistry of the chefs on the ship! So very clever.