Monday, September 28 - Kushiro Japan

The process of Japanese immigration was very slow. We lined up for about an hour before being fingerprinted and having all our documents examined. Eventually, though, we were cleared to go ashore, and board busses. It was a nice, cool day, just right for walking. Our first stop was the Kushiro Wetland, about a 40-minute drive out of the city.
The two-lane roads are narrow, and have downward pointing arrows above the outside edge. Our guide explained that in winter, the snow blocks all signs of the edges of the road, and this is how drivers know where it is. There are also very elaborate snow fences along the highways, which apparently can be closed to entirely block blowing snow. At the wetland park, we climbed down many steps to the paths through the park. It is huge, and at this time of year, not very colourful. We saw many dragonflies and a few birds, but for the most part the flat grassland and woods were still. Larry and I did the biggest loop, while the rest of the busload of people contented themselves with a much shorter walk. Some people even objected to walking at all and stayed at the visitors’ centre. We had to really hoof it to get back to the bus in time, so were very warm and damp by the time we got there. We proceeded to the Tacho Japanese Crane Reserve,

where Red-Crested Cranes are raised.  The population had sunk to almost zero, but there have been great efforts to bring them back and now there are about 1000 of these cranes in the area. We actually spotted 2 pairs in the fields near the highway. At the reserve we saw several pairs, including one where the male was extremely protective. Because he was agitated, his red crest was large and bright. On most of the others it was barely visible.

Our third stop of the day was the beautiful, and wonderfully informative, Kushiro City Museum. Its design represents a crane with outstretched wings. Inside, the displays are imaginative and very attractive. We enjoyed displays representing the natural and cultural history of the area. Our guide and the museum’s director gave us a tour, and we were free to wander with sheets giving English translations of explanations. It really is one of the best smallish museums I’ve ever seen, well worth the visit. By the time we left the museum, a few drops of rain had begun to fall and the sky was darkening. Many people on the bus wished to skip the visit to the market, so we were dropped at the ship while the rest went on there. There was a beautiful rainbow across the harbour, and by the time we’d eaten and rested a bit, the sun was out again. Our trivia round didn’t go very well, so we’ve dropped to third place again, 6 points out of first. Just a few more rounds to redeem ourselves! There’s certainly lots of laughter involved, though. Before dinner, we enjoyed a lecture on the life and work of Cole Porter. He certainly lived a wild and crazy life, and created some of the best music of his time. Dinner was, as always, delicious and beautifully served. Our server, Alex, is kept very busy with all our special requirements, and does a great job. The eight of us are really enjoying this trip together. During the day we usually go in several directions, then at dinner, we have adventures to share. After dinner was a second magic show. This magician is pretty good and entertaining, but the first show was more fun than this one. Fortunately we’re done with time changes until we head back toward home, but unfortunately we’re without internet connections for much of the time we are in and around Japan on the ship so these posts will go up whenever we can connect.
Click for other photos of the day

Click forward to Hakodate, Japan