The fourth time's charm, right? In May of 2023 we finally got to go on our Windstar cruise! We were delighted to finally "hit the road" (make that the ocean) given we had originally booked the Windstar for the Virgin Islands in March of 2020. You can guess what happened, Covid, so cancelled. Then booked Bali, cancelled, then Tahiti, cancelled. Finally, a 12 day cruise of Japan and South Korea with an added a three-day land tour of Tokyo and a two-day land tour of Kyoto.

Touring Tokyo

Before the cruise we booked a three-day private land tour with Rediscover Tours and owner/guide, Kevin. Kevin kept us on our toes (literally) trying to keep up with him as he power walked through the city, sometimes no more than a distant red head in the crowd. Underground mazes of subways with cars whooshing in every two minutes and carrying million upon million riders, gnarled city streets and alleyways, trains and busses. We hit well over 15,000 steps a day and were thankful that no one got lost.

You've may have heard it before, but I'll say it again. You cannot fathom how clean this city is! Not a speck of litter or graffiti anywhere. Subway train floors gleam and the public bathrooms are spotless, some with bidets. No trashcans anywhere. And I mean anywhere. You're to carry your trash with you until you're back home or to your hotel.

Entrance Gate to Old Tokyo, relatively intact following the bombings of WWII. it was a visual and audial cacophony. Japanese etiquette - You carry your trash with you until you're back home/hotel. No trashcans anywhere.

The Trusty Travelers: Back - Rick, Steve, and Amy, Front - Kevin (guide), Roberta, and Mark. One of the best lunches we had the entire trip! Japanese etiquette - food is to be eaten at the shop where purchased, even if it's a standing only "to go" shop. No eating/drinking while walking.

On our way to lunch.

Street scenes

Mt. Fuji - the only sighting

The clouds weren't cooperating that

day. So here's a very overprocessed image to prove Mt. Fuji was there as you sure couldn't see it with your naked eye.

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Shinto Shrine, Museum, and Park dedicated to Emporer Meiji. Luckiest day ever as we saw a wedding!

Shibuya crossing

The world's busiest crosswalk, as seen from Starbucks. As many as 3,000 people cross at a single time, and up to 3 million in one day.

Will Your Wish Come True?

At shrines and temples you can make a small offering at an Omikuji, then make a wish. Tip a tall box to receive a chopstick like rod with a number. Open the drawer with that number and you'll receive a prediction of whether or not your wish will come true. And if you don't like the answer, tie up your wish and try again!


Rick getting his rod with the drawer number.

Roberta hoping her drawer confirms her wish.

Dinner with a Geisha (two, actually!)

HIghtlight of our entire trip - dinner with a geisha!! Getting to meet a geisha in Japan is an exceedingly are opportunity as it's not an event or activity that you can simply sign up for. Our travel agent put his company's reputation on the line for us, and made it happen. Domo Arrigato!! And it was totally worth all the effort. We were entertained by not one, but two geishas, Hina and Emi. Both were in their early to mid-twenties and had trained to be geishas since they were teens. The danced, sang, and taught us a drinking game, all with much merriment and laughter. Below are their business cards.

Geishas, Emi and Hina, entertaining us with music and dance

Ending the Night with a Geisha Drinking Game

Harder than it looks! As the music plays you go back and forth tapping, taking, or knocking the table. If you misstep, you have to take a shot of sake.

Sayonara, Tokyo

Impressively clean and safe with a calm, gentle, and well-mannered society. America could learn a lot from the Japanese!

Next - onto the cruise!