Konnichiwa Muroran

Got up at 8.00am to find ourselves docked in the port of Muroran, the gateway to Sapporo, Japan.  This was a new port of call to us, as are all of them on this voyage, even though we’ve been to the countries before. The weather was dry but the skies were cloudy, and we hoped that it would brighten up as the day went on.

While Trevor went for breakfast in the Windows Café, I just enjoyed an apple and an orange from the fruit bowl in our stateroom; we then wandered around on deck and looked at our immediate surroundings.  We seemed to be in quite an industrial/commercial area and, as we didn’t have any excursions booked today, we just decided to take a walk out and explore on foot. Even just wandering around the town and the area, it’s possible to experience the culture and the differences between Japan and home.  😊

We disembarked the ship and walked along the dockside, getting some good pictures of the Azamara Quest moored up.  Then we just took our time strolling along, with no particular destination in mind, just exploring and looking around and seeing what we could find.  For a working day, the streets were surprisingly devoid of traffic and people, and everywhere was incredibly clean and well-maintained; there was no litter or graffiti or overflowing bins.

We walked along the street until we came across a Pachinko Parlour.  Pachinko is everywhere in Japan; the locals are mad on it.  For anyone who’s doesn’t know what pachinko is, it is an arcade game played with ball-bearings similar to pinball, but vertical.  The idea is to keep the balls in the air for as long as possible without letting them drop down the holes in the bottom.  When you walk into a pachinko parlour the first thing to hit your senses in the noise; the din is tremendous, with thousands of steel ball-bearings banging off the players’ paddles as rows and rows of people sit at stools in front of their machines.  It was surprising to see so many people playing, on what was a working day.

Pachinko parlour in Muroran – they are very popular all over Japan

We didn’t join in, just walked about marvelling at this typically-Japanese phenomenon, and when we went outside again the usual street sounds seemed blissfully quiet!

As we were further north than Tokyo we found that the cherry blossom, for which Japan is famous (the cherry is their national tree) was still out on the trees, and we got some good photos of the trees with their gorgeous pink blossoms.  One of the photos I took had a Toyota car in the foreground for some more Japanese culture! 😊

We then decided to go into a large department store, and have a coffee in their little café and snack bar.  Then we had a wander around the supermarket, looking at the different things they have in Japanese shops from the ones back at home.  There were a lot of snacks of dried fish and dried octopus, as well as nameless snacks that just had Japanese writing on them and we didn’t know what they were, until a small photo of a dog on the packet showed that it must have been pet food; we laughed at the idea of bringing back some sweets and snacks for our colleagues only to find we’d inadvertently given them dog food!!  😊

Instead, I bought packets of what were undoubtedly sweets and, because I’d only had some fruit for breakfast and was feeling a bit hungry now, I bought a packet of cheese and chive flavoured crinkle-cut crisps (it had the description in English on the packet!) which were very tasty.  We then went to use the restrooms which had the usual control panel containing the usual array of water sprays/pressure, blow-dryers and perfume sprayers, as well as a comfortably-heated seat.  You could bring a book into the toilet and sit there for ages!  😊

Back outside, we wandered around the streets and the shops and were amazed to find that there were speakers intermittently placed on the lamp-posts, from which gentle music was playing.

We continued exploring and, by the time we arrived back at the ship in time for lunch, we saw on our phones that we’d done about 3 miles of walking.

Back on board the Quest we went up to the Windows Café again, where I enjoyed a plate of cold meats and fresh salad vegetables, washed down with a glass of chilled rosé wine.  Then we wandered around on deck for a while before returning to our cabin for a 30-minute power nap.

At four o’clock it was time for the quiz once more; today’s theme was Broadway musicals.  The music quiz (which was based on Michael Jackson hits) was due to start afterwards, but a voice came over the loudspeaker to say that there was a group of Japanese children dockside who had come to perform some singing and dancing for us, prior to the ship’s departure at five.

We therefore went outside and took up a good vantage point from Deck 5.  There were two large groups of children; one dressed in yellow kimonos and the other in red.  They did a variety of songs, chants and dances, some using hand-held percussion instruments.  It was a charming and colourful show, and I got some good photos and video footage.

Local children perform for us in Muroran

Just after 5.00pm the Azamara Quest gave three loud blasts of her foghorn as the ship slowly pulled away from the dockside, and sailed off into the Sea of Japan once more, next stop Kushiro.

We pottered around the ship for a short time afterwards before returning to our cabin and getting showered and blow-drying my hair before changing for dinner.  Tonight I wore a green, navy and white dress with a matching green shawl crocheted in an intricate pattern in a fine alpaca wool.  We didn’t go to the Discoveries Restaurant for dinner tonight, but instead to the self-service buffet in the Windows Café, where a selection of Asian dishes was on offer.  While we were in there, we got talking to a Danish guy from Copenhagen who, inevitably, asked us what we thought about Brexit!

We then hot-footed it along to the Cabaret Lounge in good time for the first show at 8.15pm, which featured a really entertaining comedy magician called Greg Moreland.  He was very, very good as well as being quite hilarious, and we really enjoyed his show.

Afterwards we went up to the Living Room at the top of the ship as the dance-music group Riviera Trio were playing some Latin beats and teaching the cha cha cha.  As we’ve been learning this one at our dance classes at home, we already knew how to do the basic steps, but we still enjoyed doing the cha cha cha to the infectious Latin rhythm, and it helped work up a thirst for several cocktails at the bar, where we chatted to the Indonesian barmaid and the Gypsy barman.  Well, that was how he introduced himself; when we asked him where he was from, he said “I’m a Gypsy, I don’t have one particular place I live”.  Apparently he was born in Belarus but now lives anywhere from the Ukraine or Russia or on the cruise ships, only returning to Belarus to see his mother.

It was well after midnight when we left the bar (in fact I think we were the last ones out!) and returned to stateroom 6009, where we settled down and slept very well, looking forward to what tomorrow had to bring.

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