Our Fall 2023 cruise began with flights from Reno to Los Angeles, followed by a twelve-hour flight to Tokyo. Another hour van ride from the Narita Airport finally brought us to the Viking Orion. It would take several days for our disrupted day-night cycles to let us sleep through the night. On our first night, we woke up feeling great…happy to have slept through the night. Then we noticed that the time was four o’clock in the morning. Our bodies thought we should be awake, but the clock indicated that we should sleep a few more hours.
Japan consists of over fourteen thousand islands. Tokyo is one of the world’s largest cities, with fourteen million inhabitants. However, the population of “greater Tokyo” is forty-four million, more than a third of Japan’s total population of 125 million, the eleventh most populous country in the world. Overall, Japan is extremely mountainous. Only fifteen percent of its land is suitable for agriculture. Thus, Japanese cuisine is characterized by seafood/sushi. Additionally, Japan is subject to relatively frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis. Japan has 111 active volcanos, the most of any country. Thus, Japan is subject to frequent natural disasters. An earthquake in 1923 killed over 140,000 people. [source-Wikipedia]
Every Viking port offers an included tour, as well as longer specialty tours for an extra payment. We chose the included tour which consisted of a drive through downtown Tokyo with a stop at the site of the old imperial palace, which was totally destroyed during World War II. However, its moat and border wall survived and attested to the size and grandeur that the original palace represented. The emperor of Japan was assumed to have divine powers until Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II, at which point the defeated emperor Hirohito renounced his divine powers and submitted to the more democratic government imposed by the US.
The land encompassed by the ancient imperial moat includes a large park filled with “Black Pine” trees, a symbol of longevity. The descendants of the royal family, known as the House of Yamato, still reside in a newer building constructed near the ruins of the original palace. They perform no government duties beyond presiding over ceremonial events. The Japanese imperial family represents the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world. The imperial family claims to descend from a lineage of 126 monarchs, beginning with Emperor Jimmu, dating from 66o BC. There is no verifiable evidence for the first 25 monarchs. However, historians agree that there is sufficient evidence of an unbroken hereditary line since the early 6th century. [source-Wikipedia]