Exploring Kushiro

Got up at our usual time of 8.00am to find the Quest docked in the port of Kushiro.  Going out onto our balcony and looking down at the quayside, we could see several stalls set out below, and a shuttle bus waiting nearby.  We didn’t have any excursions booked today, instead preferring to do our own thing and look around at leisure.  Once again, the weather was fairly cloudy but at least it was dry; in fact, we’d seen no rain since leaving home.

We ate breakfast in the Windows Café, then collected our money, camera, shipboard pass etc and went down to Deck 3 to disembark.

As we walked along the quayside, several children in school uniform came up to us, asking us where we were from and giving us little information sheets about some of the stalls we could see; also shuttle bus timetables and small street maps of the area.  The children and teenagers were spending time in the port mixing with and speaking with the passengers from the Quest, both to help their English and for them to let us see some of their culture and traditions.

The stalls contained local handicrafts, clothes, street food items and the usual souvenir ‘tat’ such as fridge magnets and plastic toys.

We decided to go into the town, so we waited for about 10 minutes for the next shuttle bus, which only took about a short while (maybe 10 minutes) to drop us off at the Washo Market.  This was a large indoor market selling flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables and meats, but mainly fish; rows and rows of stalls of fresh fish.  We saw tanks containing crabs and lobsters, as well as those giant King Crabs.  There were also squid and octopus, scallops, and loads of smoked and fresh fish, gleaming on their beds of crushed ice.  The Japanese are very big consumers of fish, and this no doubt contributes to their healthy lifestyles and the fact that they have the longest life expectancy of any other nation in the world.

Leaving the market behind, we slowly walked along the streets, browsing in any shop windows and just soaking up the atmosphere.  We went down some steps into a subway crossing, and it was amazing because the walls were adorned with artwork.  Apparently, all the paintings had been created by artists with disabilities, and they were superb.  We took our time browsing the art, taking several photos.

We continued on our way, going through a park which had some interesting sculptures; one of them was a large brass globe of the World, which was cut open transversely showing rows of blocks inside.  I wanted to know who the artist was, because there is an almost-identical sculpture in the lobby of the ship Balmoral, on which we’ve already cruised three times and are booked to do two more.  I couldn’t see any plaque saying who the artist was (in any case it all would have been in Japanese!) but I will endeavour to find out.

EDIT: I have since found out the sculpture is called Sphere Within Sphere by Anoldo Pomodoro.

Sphere Within Sphere by Arnoldo Pomodoro

As the sky had got duller and the wind a bit more brisk, we decided to take a walk back to the ship rather than take the bus, particularly since we could see the Quest’s funnel and she obviously wasn’t far away.

As we walked past the stalls again, we stopped for a free cup of hot milk with sweet sake (the fermented rice wine) which was quite pleasant.

Back on board again we enjoyed a late lunch, and looking out of the windows we could see that a dense fog was slowly coming in, obscuring our elevated view of the town and the distant hills.

After our lunch, we had to go to the Cabaret Lounge with our shipboard cards and passports for the Japanese departure immigration inspection, as today we would be leaving Japanese waters on our way to Russia.

We then had a half-hour power nap before looking out on our balcony to a grey wall of fog.  We pottered around for a bit, then went to The Den to take part in the first of the quizzes, called “Famous Faces”.  While we were there, we joined up with another couple who were from Darwin, Australia, and introduced themselves as Raleen and David.  We were given a picture sheet with famous faces on it, such as Neil Armstrong, Bill Gates, William Shakespeare, Charles de Gaulle etc.  We only got 15/20, not enough to win.

The next quiz was called “Disco Fever” and featured music from the 1970s and ‘80s, which is my best era.  There were 20 questions and you had to give the song title and the name of the artiste.  We scored 38/40 in total (there was one title and one artiste I couldn’t get) and we were wondering who could beat that, but the team next to us scored 40/40!!  Amazing.

At 5.00pm a loud blast from the ship’s foghorn indicated we were underway again; in fact the blasts continued, one every two minutes, because of the dense fog and poor visibility outside.

After the quiz, we stayed talking in The Den for a while afterwards, then we decided to go to the Mosaic Café, where they were holding a Japanese Art Expo as well as whisky and sake tasting.  There is a Japanese artist on board the ship who is unique in that she uses coffee as her painting medium and sits on the floor to complete her canvases.  We had seen her in action earlier on today, and now some of her completed paintings were being displayed for purchase, and we could enjoy some free sake and/or Japanese whisky (Suntory!!) while we browsed.

We enjoyed several samples of the free booze, then returned to 6009 to get washed and changed for dinner.  This time we decided we’d go to the Discoveries restaurant and while we were waiting to be allocated a table, Dale and Susie, who’d shared our table the first evening, arrived, so we decided we’d all sit together.

We were given a table right at the stern of the ship, where we could see faintly see the wake of the Quest stretching out behind us.  It was still foggy, but not as bad as it had been, and we hoped it would soon dissipate because the air was damp and cold outside.

We enjoyed a great, tasty meal in excellent company; there was certainly no shortage of conversation. Afterwards we thanked each other for their company, and realised we’d been in the restaurant a couple of hours.  We therefore went back to The Den for a couple of drinks before going along to the Cabaret Lounge in time for the show at 9.30pm.

Tonight’s performance was called “Piano Man” and featured a British performer called Tom Seals.  He was excellent, playing the piano and singing a number of Elton John songs as well as Billy Joel and other piano greats.  In fact, we’ve been impressed with the calibre of the shows we’ve seen so far on this voyage.

We decided to finish the evening up in the Living Room, where we listened to the disco music and watched the dancers from our bar stools.  We had to put our clocks and watches one hour ahead tonight so, when we left the bar well after midnight, it was really after 1.00am.  We were now nine hours ahead of British time and would lose an hour in bed, but it didn’t really matter because we had a sea day to look forward to tomorrow and could do what we liked, when we liked.

And so we settled down in bed as the Azamara Quest continued her placid way through the calm waters of the Pacific Ocean, en route to our next exciting destination.

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