Our guide today, while quite knowledgeable, was also quite difficult to understand. His command of English was fairly good, but his accent was more than a little challenging. The facts he presented were interesting but the market area, and restaurant we had lunch at, proved to be the highlight of our tour today. Taking a ship tour once again proves to be not always a great choice. Not bad, just not great. However, in fairness, when the language difference is all but insurmountable and street signs (if and when they exist) are illegible, a ship tour allows a certain comfort level.
Snow crab and Yellow Tail tuna are 2 of the prime commodities of this area. Bear in mind, however, that in recent years, snow crab has become a huge favorite both of locals and tourists. One sizable crab can go for $200 USD and if you want it in a restaurant, double that. Also they are only caught between December and March. So, limited supply.
Snow is plentiful in this area and can reach 60 cm or more. Doesn’t sound like much to us, but here it keeps rice crops to only 1 per year.
Our first stop is at Kehi-Jingu Temple (locally referred to as Kei-San) which was built in the early 700’s. Regrettably the 11 meter tall Torii Gate (one of the 3 greatest wooden Torri Gates in Japan) was undergoing repair and completely covered. The grounds cover some 100 acres with trees that, in some cases, are over 200 years old. Both the temple and the pine grove are maintained by volunteers. Before approaching the actual temple to make a wish, one must be purified. This is a fairly simple procedure of using water to rinse your hands and lips (refrain from drinking please). Walk up to the rope and ring the large bell at the top 2 – 3 times, bow 2 times, clap 2 times, make your wish, then bow once more. If I get to retire soon…
Just outside the shrine is the pine grove with some trees in excess of 200 years old. A pleasant walk and right beside it is a 1.5 km beach. People fish during the day, but only small fish are caught. Deeper waters are necessary to catch the bigger fish. The small ones, however, are quite good especially when done Tempura style.
Our next stop was at The Port Of Humanity Tsuruga Museum. The opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway made travel between European cities much simpler. In addition, the International Europe-Asia connecting trains helped include Japan in those travels. The port of Tsuruga, being an ‘open’ port, made it the port of choice for Polish orphans in 1920 after losing their families during turmoil in Siberia. Later, in 1940, it also saw the arrival of some 6,000 Jewish refugees. Most of their personal belongings were seized during the travel on the Trans-Siberian. One watch managed to survive and was given as a token of deep appreciation for the treatment given by the people of Tsuruga.
Across the street was another Red Brick Warehouse. This one has been transformed now displaying a diorama depicting the townscape of Tsuruga of the early 1900’s. It measures about 27 meters long and 7.5 meters wide (at its widest point). Ships, cars and trains all move about, day follows night with appropriate lighting and the scenic detail presented is all done on an impressive scale.
Back to the bus and more information gathering. Longevity here seems somewhat more than home with males living about 80 years and females about 87 years. Possible reason for that notable difference is that about 25% of males smoke and only 9% of females do. Mobile devices are certainly prevalent in Japan with about 1.68 devices per person (on average). Makes sense if you think of tablets coupled with smartphones. There are almost 5 million vending machines of which half are beverage related. In a recent 5 year span, tourism has increased from 10 million to 24 million. So far this year, that is up again to 27 million. The Olympics in 2020 expect to draw 40 million.
Our last stop is at another fish market. Ok…I didn’t make note of the name, shame on me. Once again, however, it showed itself to be different from others we had been to. We didn’t spend a lot of time wandering about because we were immediately drawn to a very large Yellow Tail tuna on display. As luck would have it, this fish was also about to be drawn, quartered and carved down to various bits and chunks. Directly behind this display of fish-cutting mastery was one of several lucky recipients of the finished product. This was a restaurant to please almost any sushi-lover. Sit at the counter and pick plates of fresh sushi as they pass you by, 2 pieces per plate. In front of you is a box filled with plastic chopsticks, another filled with ginger slices. A little container of packages of hot, tasty wasabi beside a bottle of soy sauce. Cups that can be filled from the hot water tap in front of you to be mixed with matcha tea powder squeezed from a container that looks more suited to ketchup. It is way too easy to eat way too much. Every bite different because with so many choices, why choose the same thing twice? The most and the best sushi that has ever pleased my taste buds and filled my stomach.
As mentioned earlier, maybe not the best tour, but easily one of the tastiest.