The Lady at the Sushi Restaurant

September 19, 2016
I’m sitting in an airline lounge at Narita International Airport outside Tokyo, and I was reflecting on my recent stops here in Japan. I just disembarked from a 15-day trans-Pacific cruise that started in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and ten of those days were sea days. Our five days in port were in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, USA, and then our four ports in Japan — Otaru and Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaido, and then Tokyo (proper) and Tokyo (Yokohama) where the cruise ended. I was one of the guest speakers on this cruise (you can visit my cruise speaking page by clicking here), and that is a pleasure that is still as exciting as the first time.

I’ve been to Japan many times, initially while I was working for a major Fortune 25 company, and then many times after taking the early retirement so I could travel and write and have fun! While I’ve been to many exciting places and seen so many wonderful sights in the 55 countries and over 125 cruise ports I’ve been to, it’s the people who are memorable and who make the trips so enjoyable.
There was the tour guide on our 21-day journey through six countries in Europe; we heard her speak the five languages (Dutch, German, Italian, French, English) fluently and with ease every place we went. And then on that tour we met many nice couples, including one with whom we’ve since cruised a couple times as well as vacationed together. There was the chap in the pub in Glasgow who told us about the “contest” with the Germans on who could make the strongest beer. (Who won? It wasn’t the Germans.) And there was a whole group of Australians that we had a great time with on a six-week cruise from New York to Sydney (they were finishing a 100+ day world cruise).
And there have been so many more.

And then on this recent trip, there was a lady at the sushi restaurant in Hakodate. I don’t know her name; I don’t know where she lives, or if she’s married or single, or if she has any children or grandchildren — I really know nothing about her. Except. Except I do know that she made such an impression on me because she wanted me to feel comfortable where I was in a situation that could have been very UNcomfortable.
You see, I purposely went in to a sushi place that didn’t cater to tourists. Why? I eat with tourists all the time; I wanted to eat with locals. And when you’re in another country and you’re not fluent in their language, it can get tricky. I was given a place at “the bar” right next to her; sushi plates were coming by on a conveyor belt, but there was also a menu from which you could order. I wrote down a couple items (the hostess gave me a menu with English), and then I sat there waiting for them to arrive. The lady had instincts (as do most women) and I’m sure she knew that I didn’t know what to do.
She took a new tea glass and gently pushed it my way. Then she opened a nearby container, scooped two small helpings of green tea powder into the glass (ceramic actually), and then showed me how to operate the hot water faucet to make tea. She handed me the tea and smiled. ‘Arigato,’ I said as I smiled back at her. I now had some hot tea (and it was HOT!) and I had something to do while waiting for my food to arrive.
I ate the sushi that I’d ordered, but I wanted more. Nothing on that conveyor belt appealed to me, nor did anything else in the menu. But I did see something that I thought I’d like that was on a banner hanging from the ceiling. One problem — it was only in Japanese. At least in France or Italy I can write down the words even if I don’t know what they mean. But there is no way that I can write Kanji without unintentionally insulting someone or ordering 50 pounds of broiled sea cucumber! I took a piece of paper and a pen; looked over at her, and pointed to the banner. “Ah,” she said as she smiled again. She took the pen and paper and wrote down the item that I wanted. She handed the paper to the waiter, and my new plate was soon on its way to me. Once again I said ‘Arigato’; one of the ten words (okay, maybe seven or eight) in Japanese that I know.
She smiled; finished her lunch, and left.

Her kindness was special; special to me. I’ve always felt comfortable in Asia, even when I can’t speak, read, or understand the language. The locals are such warm and caring people who want visitors to feel welcomed in a land where many might feel intimidated or scared. But I don’t feel that way.

The lady at the sushi restaurant didn’t go out of her way to make me feel comfortable; she offered me the assistance and kindness that I’m sure she shares with everyone, and it’s that kindness that I see in everyone in Asia. I can’t wait for my next trip — eight weeks of Southeast Asia in early 2017!

Syonara!


Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/

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All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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Otaru, Japan; in Sapporo’s Shadow

September 14, 2016 — Otaru, Japan
One of the [many] interesting benefits of being on a re-positioning cruise is that you will often stop in ports that most cruise ships never visit. The port of Otaru, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, is a lovely area that many people use just as a way to get to Sapporo — yes, they make the beer there! There’s nothing wrong with going to Sapporo, but Otaru deserves a visit all on its own. That’s what I did today, and here is my story.

It had been five days at sea since we’d left Dutch Harbor, Alaska (and that was our first port after four sea days out of Vancouver, B.C., Canada). We even crossed the International Date Line so the calendar looks as if we’ve been at sea for six, but it was only five nights and lots of changing our clocks and watches. The passengers were eager to step on solid ground, but we first had go through the mandatory immigration procedures as this was our first stop in Japan.


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I’d made my list of places I wanted to go and activities I wanted to do. This was my first time in Otaru so naturally I wanted to do some “tourist” things — visit the Otaru Canal; see the Music Box shops; visit the aquarium and museums; sample sushi at various places. The big question is, Will I have enough time to do it all and be back on the ship by 6:30 tonight?

Given that I did a lot of walking, went into a lot of shops and museums, I can’t list everything in this posting. If you want more detailed information on Otaru, contact me via the CONTACT page and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Below are some of the places and sights of Otaru on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island.

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Similar to the “Dollar stores” in parts of t world, Japan has its “100 Yen” stores, although the items actually 108 Yen. I found a pair of earbuds to replace the ones I brought with me — one of the wires must have come loose. But now I have a good set; perhaps I’ll stop in another store (Daiso is one of the big players) and pick up spares!



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It’s not the right time of year for cherry blossoms, but there were still some pretty flowers to enjoy.



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Music boxes are very popular in Otaru; the first picture is the Music Box Museum and the other two are one of the many music box stores in town along the famous Sakaimachi Shopping District Street.

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Steam powered clock in front of the Music Box Museum.



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Otaru Canal — an awesome place for a relaxing ride or just a place to stroll or sit and watch people.



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The Otaru Beer Hall on the Otaru Canal in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan, is — of course — a German Beer Hall!!!



Yes; I have many more photos but I don’t want to bore you. I found Otaru to be a very vibrant city that was originally a fishing village in a protected bay. The people were friendly and we had great weather! If you have the chance to go on a cruise that has a stop in Otaru, I hope you’ll consider taking it.


Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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A Crazy Travel Schedule

I head out on Friday for my first cruise of 2016 — that is shocking to some people who know me and how I love to travel. But this summer was dedicated to working in the yards as we are doing a lot of re-landscaping. I built new redwood planter boxes for the back yard, adding artistic flair to them along the way, and the front yards are being done with flower “islands” and buffalo grass (think wild prairies). With other cruises (and other travels) already lined up for 2017, I thought I would write out my schedule as it is for now. If you’re going to be in any of these places at the same time, let’s get together!


    2016:

  • 2 Sep Seattle-Tacoma Airport; En route to Vancouver
  • 2 Sep Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Boarding the Celebrity MILLENNIUM for a cruise across the Pacific
  • 7 Sep Dutch Harbor, Alaska; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 14 Sep Otaru, Japan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 15 Sep Hakodate, Japan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 17 Sep Tokyo, Japan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 18 Sep Tokyo (Yokohama), Japan; depart cruise and fly home
  • 5 Oct to 20 Oct San Jose del Cabo, BCS, MEXICO; 2 weeks along Playa Azul in Los Cabos. Relaxing at Bel Air Vacation Club — available for interviews, articles, etc.
  • 8 Nov Las Vegas, NV; on way to San Diego
  • 9 Nov to 16 Nov Oceanside, California; Staying at WorldMark Oceanside while attending a beautiful wedding
  • 23 Dec to 30 Dec McCall, Idaho; Christmas time at WorldMark McCall
    2017:

  • 29 Jan to 12 Feb Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico; We’ll be staying at Playa Grande Resort or Grand Solmar Resort (or both)
  • 23 Feb to 25 Feb Singapore; Visiting prior to joining cruise ship
  • 25 Feb to 26 Feb Singapore; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 1 Mar to 2 Mar Bangkok, Thailand; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 4 Mar Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 6 Mar Danang, Vietnam; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 7 Mar Halong Bay, Vietnam; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 7 Mar to 8 Mar Hanoi, Vietnam; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 10 Mar to 11 Mar Hong Kong, China; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 11 Mar Hong Kong, China; Turnaround day for cruises on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 13 Mar 13 Mar Keelung, Taiwan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 15 Mar Nagasaki, Japan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 16 Mar Busan, South Korea; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 17 Mar Jeju Island, South Korea; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 18 Mar Incheon, South Korea; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 20 Mar to 22 Mar Beijing, China; Three days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 20 Mar to 22 Tianjin, China; Three days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 25 Mar Shanghai, China; Turnaround day for cruises on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 28 Mar to 30 Mar Tianjin, China; Three days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 28 Mar to 30 Mar Beijing, China; Three days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 1 Apr Incheon, South Korea; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 2 Apr Jeju Island, South Korea; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 3 Apr Nagasaki, Japan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 5 Apr Keelung, Taiwan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 7 Apr to 8 Apr Hong Kong, China; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 8 Apr to 9 Apr Hong Kong, China; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 11 Apr to 12 Apr Taipei, Taiwan; Two days in port (Keelung) while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 13 Apr Okinawa, Japan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 15 Apr Shanghai, China; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 17 Apr Nagasaki, Japan; Full day in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 19 Apr to 20 Apr Kobe, Japan; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 21 Apr Mt. Fuji, Japan; Full day in port (Shimizu) while cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 22 Apr Tokyo, Japan; End of cruise (Yokohama) on Celebrity MILLENNIUM
  • 7 Jul to 8 Jul Providence, RI; preparing for “Great American Waterways” cruise on Blount Small Ship Adventures
  • 10 Jul Kingston, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 11 Jul Troy, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 12 Jul Amsterdam, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 13 Jul Sylvan Beach, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 14 Jul Oswego, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 15 Jul Rochester, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 16 Jul Buffalo, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 18 Jul Cleveland, OH; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 19 Jul Wyandotte, MI; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 21 Jul Mackinac Island, MI; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 22 Jul Manitowoc, WI; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 23 Jul Chicago, IL; Ending of “Great American Waterways” cruise on Blount
  • 23 Jul to 25 Jul Chicago, IL; between Blount cruises; taking in some art and other scenery
  • 26 Jul Manitowoc, WI; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 27 Jul Mackinac Island, MI; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 29 Jul Wyandotte, MI; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 30 Jul Cleveland, OH; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 31 Jul Erie, PA; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 1 Aug Buffalo, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 2 Aug Rochester, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 3 Aug Oswego, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 4 Aug Sylvan Beach, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 5 Aug Amsterdam, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 6 Aug Troy, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 7 Aug Kingston, NY; Day in port while cruising on Blount GRANDE CARIBE
  • 9 Aug Warren, RI; end of Blount cruise
  • 25 Aug to 28 Aug Venice, Italy; Before heading out on cruise on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 30 Aug Katakolon, Greece; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 31 Aug Santorini, Greece; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION on what would have been Mom’s 100th birthday!
  • 1 Sep to 2 Sep Athens, Greece; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 3 Sep Mykonos, Greece; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 5 Sep Corfu, Greece; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 7 Sep Venice, Italy; Turnaround day for cruises on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 8 Sep Ravenna, Italy; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 9 Sep to 10 Sep Dubrovnik, Croatia; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 11 Sep Kotor, Montenegro; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 13 Sep Catania, Sicily, Italy; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 15 Sep Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 16 Sep Ibiza, Spain; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 17 Sep Valencia, Spain; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 18 Sep Barcelona, Spain; Turnaround day for cruises on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 19 Sep Sete, France; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 20 Sep Toulon, France; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 21 Sep Villefranche, France; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION; perhaps a day trip to Monte Carlo!
  • 22 Sep Civitavecchia, Italy; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 23 Sep Naples, Italy; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 25 Sep to 26 Sep Valletta, Malta; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION; hoping to visit friend while there
  • 28 Sep Venice, Italy; Turnaround day for cruises on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 29 Sep Ravenna, Italy; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 30 Sep to 1 Oct Dubrovnik, Croatia; Two days in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 2 Oct Kotor, Montenegro; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 4 Oct Catania, Sicily, Italy; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 6 Oct Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 7 Oct Ibiza, Spain; Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 8 Oct Valencia, Spain;Day in port while cruising on Celebrity CONSTELLATION
  • 9 Oct to 13 Oct Barcelona, Spain; End of cruises; celebrate anniversary 43; explore the city, more Gaudi art to see; stroll La Rambla one more time!

Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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