True to expectations, the wake-up call happened right at 6 A.M. Oh well, it won’t be an every day occurance.
Time to get dressed and have a quick bite before it’s down to deck 7 to meet up with the rest of our tour. As per normal, we’re not the only group leaving at this time, but as luck would have it, we’re almost the first one down to deck 5 and out the door. Immediate physical weather update confirms both much cooler and rain. yippee.
Off to the tour bus and we settle in for about a 30 minute ride. Yuko, our guide, gives us a little insight to both Kushiro and the Red-Crested Cranes we are hoping to see.
The island of Hokkaido is the 5th largest in the groups of islands that form Japan but has only about 12% of the population. Real commercial development of the land started only 150 years ago. Since then it has become mostly famous for fishing, as it is surrounded by 4 major waterways being the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk and the East China Sea. Paper and coal mining have also become significant industries however, with the changeover to oil, coal mining has been on the decline.
The island also has the largest wetlands area in Japan (and today wet skies as well). It is here the Red-Crested Crane calls home. Early land development affected them so badly by 1924 their numbers were down to 20. Fortunately the people of Kushiro recognized their plight and worked diligently to bring them back. Today they number approximately 1,800.
They are a very beautiful bird, standing about 1.4 meters tall with a 2 meter wingspan. In winter their mating dance has become a major tourist attraction unto itself and when completed, the birds are joined for life. This, along with their longevity of 30 to 40 years, has made them symbolic in Japan for long life and a happy marriage. Young appear almost full grown by 6 months, but it takes about a year before the full red crest becomes apparent. As well, they are forced to leave their parents by 10 months to make way for the new chicks that will arrive.
There are deer, brown bear, beautiful black striped snow white owls and at least 15 other types of birds on Hokkaido. These were not willing to show themselves today but it makes sense that only humans would be out and about in the cold and wet rather than being warm and comfortable at home.
Our next stop down the road is an observatory and nature walk. Wellll…the nature walk we did a quarter of, given it’s overall length. It was nice enough and a fairly easy pathway. But, again, it was not ideal weather for walking through the forest. Be that as it may, seeing trees whose branches wrapped around their own trunks like vines did present a rather unique sight.
Back to the ship once more in time for a small lunch. Given that we will be leaving Japan and entering Russian territory within the next couple of days, certain rules must be followed. The next opportunity to get off the ship, if desired, will be Korsokov, Russia. Whether one is going to get off the ship or not, immigration forms must be filled out by everyone and filed with the ship before the ship can even depart Kushiro. And guess what…we’re waiting for some people who can’t seem to understand the ‘can’t leave Kushiro until’ part. Finally, after many over-the-intercom deck-wide requests, all forms are in and we slowly leave.
Tonight, rather than going to our assigned dining lounge we decide it would be a good day to try the Kai Sushi restaurant. It became a very delectable choice, each individual dish small in stature but very appetizing to both the eye and the palate. Waddling out an hour later, we remembered it was also the night for the Captain’s Circle event. This is a gathering of Princess Cruisers who have reached a certain number of days cruised with Princess. Small canapes (oh sure, right after dinner!) as well as numerous free beverages, both alcoholic and non and recognition to the top 3 cruisers on board at this time. Couple number 1 had over 1,900 days cruised through 215 separate cruises. I should live so long.
Done for the day. With a little luck the weather will improve for sightseeing the penninsula tomorrow.