The base is called halagi and they are normally capped by a tasa. Tasas are natural coral and are laid atop the pillars in notch-and-groove fashion. Latte Stone Park is on Plaza de Espana’s southern side. Nothing remains of the original Fort Santa Agueda ramparts, but the view from the small hill near Governor’s Mansion is excellent.

In 1941, invading Japanese forces captured the port, approaching the fort in the face of a small group of brave members of the Guam Insular Guard. The soldiers were victorious, but in 1944, Allied bombs nearly obliterated the plaza. The largest island in the north-western Pacific region, Guam covers 212 square miles. Still, it is not huge. The longest north-south distance is less than 12 miles. The southern half is comprised of volcanic hills.

Practically Speaking - Currency: US dollar Shop: Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5 pm Info: 401 Pales San Vitores Road (Tumon) or PO: Opposite Skinner Plaza Browse: At Hangatna Shopping Centre, Chamorro Village Market. Guam is a duty-free island

Arrival Information: The ship docked at the Port of Hagatna. Just south of town near Apra Harbour (a deep-water port on the western side), three 140 mm Japanese cannons are still perched atop the hill near the village of Piti. US on WWII Monuments: On July 21, 1944, more than 50,000 Allied troops landed simultaneously at Asan and Agat as a military pincer to cut off the naval supply station at Apra Harbour.

The Japanese population actively resisted the invasion, even though they were decidedly outnumbered and held inferior armaments. Fighting was fierce at times and when the battle was finally over, there were nearly 25,000 bodies (on both sides).

Very few Japanese soldiers were captured and many were able to hide in the jungle for years - some even remaining there years after the war had ended. The War in the Pacific National Historical Park and Visitors Centre honours those who fought and died. A series of photographs and slides tell the story.

The Asian memorial is open weekdays until 3:30 pm and weekends until 2 pm. When the war was winding down in 1944, Japanese forces could see defeat was imminent. Still they resisted. General Hideyoshi Obata dug into a series of underground tunnels at Yigo for a last stand.

The Allies discovered the entrances and tossed phosphorous grenades into the openings to blast them shut. Four days later, they exhumed 60 bodies - the general was never found. A memorial marks the site and several of the tunnels can still be seen at the base of the nearby hill.

Maila Halom A Guahan! (Welcome to Guam!) Guam is an island in the western Pacific Ocean and is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States. It is one of the five US territories with an established civilian government. The island’s capital is Hagatna (formerly Agana). Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands. The Chamorros, Guam’s indigenous people, first populated the island approximately 4000 years ago.

This is the area where the rich and famous (James Cameron director of Titanic and Avatar and Google CEO Eric Schmidt) have projects to explore the earth’s last frontier. Cameron plans at the time of this writing to dive seven miles in the Mariana Trench about 200 miles southwest of Guam.

We wonder why Cameron would not dive at the Puerto Rico Trench which we crossed on January 16 where the depths of the water was in excess of 8000 meters. Neither did he plan to dive the deep waters of the South Atlantic where we were on February 2 and where the waters run as deep as 4000 to 5000 meters but it runs deeper in some places. Maybe he chose Mariana because it’s warmer there?

We don’t understand anyway why they would do this because Andy Bowen said it’s the most hostile place in the planet but that it’s intoxicating to dive that deep. Not for us, no sir, for the pressure there would be like having three Sport Utility Vehicles standing on our toes. No, this world cruise is intoxicating enough for us.

Anyway sorry to digress, back to Guam which has a long history of European colonialism beginning on March 6, 1521, with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and again in 1668, when the first Spanish colony was established following the arrival of settlers including Padre San Vitores, a Catholic missionary.

The island was controlled by Spain until 1898, when it was surrendered to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris following the Spanish-American War. As the largest island in Macronesia, it’s the only American-held island in the region before World War II.

Guam was captured by the Japanese on December 8, 1941, hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbour and was occupied for two and a half years. During the occupation, the people of Guam suffered terrible atrocities including torture and beheadings, and were forced to adopt the Japanese culture.

Guam was subject to fierce fighting when American troops recaptured the island on July 21, 1944, commemorated every year as Liberation Day, in a celebration that lasts one month. Today, Guam’s economy is supported by its principal industry, tourism, which is primarily composed of visitors from Japan.

Guam’s second largest source of income is the United States military. In the native language of Guam, Chamorro, a common phrase of greeting or welcome is “Hafa Adai”, similar in meaning and usage to “Aloha” in Hawaii.

Guam, Northern Mariana IslandsAfter cruising the South Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Ocean on March 1 - 6 where in the middle of it, we crossed the equator again, we reached the American Island of Guam on March 7. It is now known for its white sand beaches and flora but let’s not forget its important role during World War II.

Armed with the above information that Queen Mary 2 provided us, we went to the Queens Room for the Guam Immigration Inspection which is mandatory regardless of nationalities and whether going ashore or not. We were instructed to bring our Ship’s Identification Cards, passports, custom declarations and the completed 1 - 94 white form.

While waiting for our turn, we read about the flag of Guam which was designed by Helen L. Paul, the wife of an American Naval officer and was officially adopted on February 9, 1948. The background of the flag is deep blue which represents the ocean. This is accented by a red border to represent the blood of the people of Guam.

There’s an oval figure in the centre in the shape of a slingstone used by the ancient Chamorros. The flying proa, swift sea-going canoe sailing in Hagana Bay near Hagatna characterizes the courage of the first inhabitants and the coconut tree show the determination of the earliest settlers to overcome whatever calamities confronted them. The landform in the back shows the Punta dos Amantes cliff on Guam.

After the immigration cleared us, we went downtown, a 40-minute ride to Hyatt and from there we asked question on internet accessibility. A nice Hyatt employee said that we could get it at Café Expresso and all we had to do was walk for about ten minutes back to the road, turn right and on the left side, we would find it.

We did that and there was only one computer there but we didn’t even have to pay for the hour we used it. We walked back to Hyatt where we found the bus that took us back to Queen Mary 2. After a hurried lunch on Deck 7 where we requested for a pizza with anchovies. They forgot the pepperoni but we loved it just the same.

Then we went to the Royal Court theatre to meet with our tour group. The driver is Caster and the tour guide is Masako, who was not really ready to be a good source of information for the area. But we enjoyed the tour just the same.

We saw coconut, banana and mango trees along the way. This interesting tour retraced the footsteps of the War in the Pacific. Our first stop was the Asan Bay Overlook This site contains a memorial park in honour of indigenous Chamorros and Americans who died in Guam during the war years.

The names of those who died are inscribed on the memorial walls. Sculptured bronze panels illustrate scenes of the invasion, occupation and liberation of the Island. A panoramic view of the landing beach can be seen from this site. From the view we could see left to right the Orote Peninsula, Apra Harbour and Cabras Island.

There’s the monument-like structure we saw there. It says National Historical Park Asan Bay Overlook Unit Guam 1941 -1944 In remembrance of all who sacrificed for liberty. May peace and understanding prevail so that no future generations will ever be compelled to repeat this sacrifice. Our next stop was at the Asan Beach Park which is a small memorial park dedicated to US soldiers who recaptured Guam from Japanese control in August 1944.

Prior to the landing, four battleships, three cruisers and three destroyers stood offshore pummelling the landing zones with one of the lengthiest bombardments of World War II in the Pacific. A leisurely stroll through park grounds uncovered a number of historical treasures. This is also a National Historical Park where there were two monuments of the sublime paralytic, Apolinario Mabini, (one of the beloved national heroes of the Philippines) behind which is the Philippine Sea.

The third stop is the Latte Stone Park. A latte is sometimes 1.5 to 2 meters long and is the symbol of Chamorro culture. Each latte is composed of two stones: the haligi and the tasa. In this park we found a monument of Angelo Leon Guerrero Santos who is the champion for the cause of the Chamorros.

It is here where we almost left two co-travelers of ours, a testament to the inefficiency of our tour guide who did not tell us where to find the bus when it was time to leave. It was a good thing when we were leaving, another fellow-traveller sitting across from us, spotted them from afar and we happily picked them up. The man was not happy though and rightfully so.

The seat of the government for the Spanish, American and Japanese administrations, Plaza de Espana is probably the most visited site of the island. With plenty of room to roam around, the Plaza offers visitors an opportunity to learn much about the island’s colonial past.

Vendors dot the landscape offering a variety of trinkets, and souvenirs, and a monument to Guam’s Insular Guard, who defended the island against the Japanese attack, sits close to the road opposite the statue of John Paul II who visited Guam in 1981.

We visited the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica and their gift shop where we bought my birth stone rosary which a priest who happens to be there blessed and saturated with holy water. We were not quite surprised that the priest was a Filipino.

On the way to the next stop, we passed by the Naval Hospital, also the government house, and the Judicial Centre. Philippine Sea is in the left side while the Pacific Ocean is on the right. We also stopped at the Fort Santa Agueda and at the small version of the Statue of Liberty which was donated by the Boy Scouts to Guam.

The tour guide said that the village we are passing by has a cultural dance show every Wednesday and Friday. We were tired out but went to the formal dinner after which we saw the movie Social Network but it was not interesting so we left and went to see the double bill of violin virtuoso Hanna Starosta and Ireland’s ambassador of comedy named Adrian Walsh.

Waking up, we thought of the tour we had and of Guam’s role during World War II while we were on tour that took us to monuments to remind us of the strategic role Guam played. But where had all the hours gone for now it’s 2:00 pm in Toronto and it’s the next day here at 6:00 am? That’s now 16 hours ahead instead of the 18 when we were in Auckland.

Roger prepared our embarkation, disembarkation cards and customs for the Japanese Immigration authorities. We were advised to get processed with inward clearance into Japan to make it easy when we arrive in Osaka and Nagasaki.

We were also advised that the Japanese yen was available at the currency machines but that the Chinese yuan is available at the Purser‘s Desk as it would not be available at the foreign currency machines. The exchange rate for buying Chinese yuan is 6.06 yuans for every US dollar. And the smallest denomination available is 50 yuans. Only US dollars can be accepted for this exchange.

By late last night and all day on March 8, we followed a North Westerly heading as we made our way to Osaka. After breakfast, we picked up two tickets to the Illumination‘s Show on the Planetariums, Cosmic Collision. Roger went to Tap Dancing after which we both went to the samba lesson.

The immigration clearance was simple due to the excellent QM2 instructions. We just had to present our ship’s ID, passport, the completed embarkation and disembarkation cards and the completed customs declaration. They then took our passport and in exchange we were issued a temporary landing permit. They would be returning our passports which we would be needing in Nagasaki.

Roger decided we should not go to the Planetariums, Cosmic Collision because we received an invitation from the commodore to join him for cocktails at 7:30 which we did. Afterwards, we went to see the movie called Angel and the double bill at the Royal Court Theatre on the Dulcimer virtuoso PingXin XU and song and dance duo Two on Tap.

After the tap dancing lesson Roger attended on March 9, he wanted to also go to Oceanographer Dr. Denny Whitford’s talk on Who Owns the Oceans but he ran out of time. It was too bad because the Nova Scotian couple said he’s a dynamic lecturer and when he is on, all seats are taken the same way that Maxtone guy does.

We went to the ballroom dancing though where Artsiom showed us another step to do the promenade and change or reverse step by giving the partner the signal. Then at 5 pm we went to the Illumination Deck 3 for the planetarium show called Infinity Express.

We maintained the North Westerly heading towards Japan and this reminded us of our homework to read the material on Osaka in preparation for our stay there. Here’s what we learned:

When the Mikado (emperor) waved his ceremonial sword from Osaka-jo, his will demanded swift action. Later known as the Tenno (the term used for the emperor meaning “heavenly sovereign“), his presence elicited both respect and fear. After all, the feudal lord owned everything.

The first Japanese people likely migrated from the Korean peninsula but it is quite likely subsequent migrating groups eventually reached the islands. Written Japanese language ‘borrowed’ Chinese characters (kanji) until a distinct Japanese alphabet (hiragana used to write native words) developed. Kanji is still part of everyday language and in order to read a newspaper, a person must recognize some 2000 symbols! Japanese and Chinese Kanji look similar but they are different.

Tradition and strong work ethic define life in Osaka. Known for their shrewd business acumen, residents generally greet each other with the pleasantry ‘How’s business?’ Proud Osakans point to Yokohama and Tokyo, calling them a single metropolis in support for their claim to live in Japan’s second city (Yokohama is truly the second largest city).

WWII bombs targeted the port, and when General Douglas MacArthur occupied post-war Japan, little remained. Of the few undamaged structures, Osaka-jo (Osaka castle) was already a replica of Hideyoshi Toyatomi’s 16th century stronghold.

In the aftermath of WWII, Osaka citizens rolled up their sleeves and rebuilt their city. Although the modern mass is seldom referred to for its architectural cohesion and beauty, it fuels one of Japan’s most powerful economic engines.

Ultra-modern towers (Umeda Sky Building and Osaka Dome) may not be admired for aesthetics, but they have to be seen for their impressive and daring design features. The Umeda Sky Building has on its rooftop the Floating Garden Observatory which is especially interesting. Visit the excellent Museum of Oriental Ceramics in nearby Nakanoshima.

“People with high ideals don’t necessarily make good politicians. If clean politics is so important, we should leave the job to scientists and the clergy.” - Michio Watanabe (b.1923), Japanese politician. Quoted in Newsweek (New York, June 12, 1989)

The landmark replica of Hideyoshi Toyatomi imposing 16th -century castle marks a hilltop adjacent to Nishinomaru Garden which is bordered with greenery and famous for its 600 cherry trees that bloom magnificently every spring. The original Osaka-jo fortress was built in the late 1500s - more than 100,000 labourers, architects, and artisans helped finish it.

The thick walls were fashioned partially from stones donated by the provincial lords. Each landowner contributed one block as a demonstration of loyalty to Lord Hideyoshi. The showpiece stronghold symbolized unified Japan.

Unfortunately, the main tower was struck by lightning and burned down in 1665 and the succeeding Tokugawa renovation burned down in 1868 (along with the Tokugawa Shogunate) in the civil battle during the Meiji Restoration. The concrete replica well represents the elegant form of the original.

The unique International Peace Center examines the pain and horror of war. Focusing on WWII carnage, the distressing exhibits include a look at the firebombing of Osaka. The display (closed Monday) highlights acts of brutality caused by Japanese aggressions and the invasion of US and the atomic bombings.

Dotonbori Canal is one of main tourist destinations for it marks the center of Osaka’s nightlife district. Dotonbori demonstrates the showiness of Osaka. Amidst the fashionable district, the National Bunraku Puppet Theatre celebrates a unique and traditional form of Japanese puppet theatre. Originated much earlier, this has been a traditional activity for hundreds of years and enjoyed a popular revival in 17th-century Osaka.

There are periodic performances at this national icon of a theatre. The stories are usually dramatic, and the puppets are skilfully painted and costumed. They are typically a little more than half life-size and the whole country knows the classical subject matter. Foreign language script notes are made available.

Dedicated to the Guardians of the Four Directions (Shi-Tenno) Japan’s oldest state-run Buddhist temple is also known as Tenno-ji. It predates all of the temples in Nara although Shitenno-ji Temple has been rebuilt several times for the original was built in the 16th century.

The torii which is the ceremonial entry gate is the oldest part of the compound because it dates from the late 13th century. It is unusual in that such elements are not often present in Buddhist temples. Don’t miss the extravagant treasure house in the rear.

Practically Speaking: Currency: Japanese yen PO: Osaka Chuo Yubinkyoku Info: Osaka JR Station or browse to: Shop: 9 to 7 pm Browse Hinsaibashi, Umeda Chica Centre Buy: Art, paper, electronics Transport: Metro, taxi Arrival Information: The ship docked at Tempozan Village near Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan Marketplace. Metro Osaka-ko Station near the Chou Line.

Osaka Museums - The Osaka Shiritsu Tokyo Jiki Bijutsukan (Museum of Oriental Ceramics) has the best oriental ceramics collection in the world and was from a donation from Sumitomo Group. The collection has 2000 items including national treasures.

The Nakanoshima Island museum is an island of art museums and public art and is near Yodoyabashi Station. On the other side of Osaka Station, the Umeda Sky Building is interesting. There is a highly regarded collection of displays that looks at the difficult topics in modern Japanese Society at the Liberty Osaka also known as the Human Rights Museum.

Topics include the once “untouchable” Burakumin people, the place of women and the disturbing effects of careless environmental stewardship. These give visitors something to reflect on. Many themes reach beyond national boundaries and give any visitor something pretty weighty to contemplate. The museum is in a ward south of the city centre.

Kaiyukan (Osaka Aquarium) they say is the biggest and one of the world’s best that anyone interested in marine life should go and see 15 water tanks on a single gigantic tank holding 5400 tons of water. It is home to 30,000 marine animals including sea otters, jelly fish, penguins, dolphins and even a pair of the largest fish on earth - giant whale sharks.

All that studying done and after the formal dinner at 6, we went to the Royal Court Theatre to see and hear West End star vocalist David Shannon and master guitarist Matthew Fagan before going to see the movie called “Eat, Pray Love” starring Julia Roberts which was disappointing to say the least.

Osaka, JapanIt was Ash Wednesday so we went to mass before finding ourselves in Osaka, Japan on March 10 where we were greeted with more information on Osaka after a hearty Osaka E Yokoso! In 645, Emperor Kotoku built his palace, the Naniwa Nagara-Toyosaki Palace, in Osaka, making this area the capital.

At that time it was called Naniwa, and was based on the Chinese capital city. In some district of Central Osaka, they still use the names Naniwa and Namba. Naniwa still remains a vital link between Yamato, Korea and China.

Modern Osaka is a city in the Kansai region of Japan’s main island of Honshu, which is the largest island in Japan. Osaka is a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law and is the biggest part of Keihanshin Area which is represented by three major cities of Japan: Kobe. Kyoto, and Osaka.

Located at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, Osaka is the third largest city by population after Tokyo and Yokohama. “Osaka” literally means large slope or “large hill”. It is unclear when this name gained status over Naniwa, but Osaka dates back to a 1496 text.

Osaka functions as one of the command centers for the Japanese economy. The ratio between daytime and night time population is 141%, the highest in Japan, highlighting its status as an economic centre. Osaka used to be referred to as the “nation’s kitchen” in the feudal Edo period because it was the centre of trading for rice, creating the first modern future exchange market in the world.

The devastation during World War II was enormous, heavy bombing from American B-29s led people to flee and many of the industrial districts were severely damaged. The city quickly rebuilt its infrastructure in peacetime and regained its status as a major industrial and cultural centre.

Osaka is still known for its food, as supported by the saying “Dress (in kimonos) till you drop in Kyoto, eat till you drop in Osaka”. Regional cuisine includes okonomiyaki (savoury pan-fried batter cake), takoyaki (octopus dumplings), udon (a noodle dish) as well as the traditional battera sushi, which is a type of box sushi.

Osaka has a large number of wholesalers and retail shops. Many of them are concentrated in the wards of Chua and Kita. Types of shops varies from malls to conventional shotengai shopping arcades that usually run along a narrow street that a residential neighbourhood can reach. Visitors to Osaka will find a busy city, home to a wealth of culture and all the wonders that modern Japan has to offer.

On our tour, we visited a Shinto Shrine and the impressive Osaka Castle. It was built in the 16th century by a feudal lord and we had to climb to the 8th floor. They have an elevator but we preferred to walk up the steps. We left Osaka at 12 midnight. But wait, it’s already 10:00 am in Toronto which makes us 14 hours ahead.

Just outside Queen Mary 2 is the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel which is one of the World’s largest. It is 112.5 m with 60 see-through cabins completely transparent each for 8 people which means a 480-person capacity, air-conditioned equipped and two barrier-free cabins are equipped. It shows weather forecast displayed by colours.

We explored the area just around the ship and the shops around where we bought postcards and pins. Since we couldn’t use the shuttle bus because of the afternoon tour we booked, we just explored the area in the port. We ended up making straw sandals.

There was a group of nice Japanese people who guided us in making them. The straw sandals are called Waraji, a kind of straw sandals used for long journey or mountain walking until the 1940s in Japan. People offer them to a shrine or carry them wishing for safe travel.

Then we tried to look for souvenirs and postcards but it was difficult because nobody could speak English. We returned to the ship just enough time to have lunch and go to Royal Court Theatre to meet with our tour leader.

Masako is the name of our tour guide who said that Osaka is right in the middle of Japan. The Osaka Harbour has the Giant Ferris Wheel. Masako said that behind the Osaka Bay is a lake the water of which go to factories and houses.

She said we were going to the Shinto Shrine. Shinto is based on nature worship and imperial worship. All Japanese people were shintos but by the 6th century Buddhism was introduced from Korea. Since then the Japanese people were both shintos and Buddhists but they’re not really religious but use them for ceremonies.

By the 16th century, Christianity was introduced. Catholicism was also introduced and 150,000 people became Christians. Before, the Japanese were ruled by shoguns who prohibited the people from becoming Christians but they hid them.

Then Makaso told us a story on how Japan came about. She said it was hot and muddy, so the documents say as compiled by the emperor. By the 8th century people memorized the history and then they first used Chinese characters. The Imperial history was beautified by the emperors. Before World War II, we knew the true history but really it was fiction.

The ocean was muddy and a couple of gods saw a drop of mud. That fell into the ocean and became Japan. The wife had a baby and the couple had many children who became gods of Japan but she went away and he chased and went after her. He found her ugly so he went back to Japan and purified himself.

Then three gods came out and are enshrined in the Shinto Shrine. The daughter became the sun goddess and the younger brother was violent. He killed with a sword the dragon who had eight heads and eight tails and this was supposed to unify the country. So the sun goddess gave him a holy mirror, a sword and a jade necklace. Japan borrowed cultural show from China and Korea.

In the 12th century, the Samurai people came and gained power. Shogun is general officer while the emperor is head of Japan. The emperor is only a puppet. By the 16th century, Christians hid their belief and pretended to be Buddhists.

In 1549, Jesuit Francis Xavier introduced Christianity but then someone was guilty of committing murder and left to go to Malaysia and then to Japan and India where he died. Because he ate very little, his body became a mummy. In 1549, the missionaries came but in 1543 a Portuguese ship was wrecked by a storm and this was when the gun was introduced.

Here we were welcomed to Osaka Sumiyoshi where the Taisha Shrine is - just a 10-minute train ride away from Osaka Minami. Minami is Osaka’s entertainment district. The shrine’s symbol, the gracefully-arched red Taiko-bashi bridge, spans the pond in front of the shrine. Crossing over the bridge, you come to the uniquely-positioned sacred main shrine, designated as one of Japan’s national treasures.

Various ancient gods are enshrined here, particularly those ensuring safe travel, good fortune in matchmaking and marriage, safe childbirth, prosperity and business, welfare of the family, military valour, skilful entertainment and beauty. It’s like a housing complex for gods!

One advantage of visiting Sumiyoshi Taisha to pray is that it saves you the long trip to Kyoto. Why not stop by the old town of Sumiyoshi, home to this multitude of deities, when you tire of crowded Osaka Minami? The shrine precincts are usually quiet, but on New Year’s Day, two million people visit. It’s one of Japan’s most popular shrines.

We crossed the beautiful red Taiko-bashi Bridge. We think it is also called Soribashi bridge (it is steep so we had to watch our step). Many call this bridge Taiko-bashi but Soribashi is its real name. They didn‘t use nails in building this and we had to learn how to pray at a Shinto shrine:

First, purify your body at the ”Temizosha” (hand-washing) basin before worshipping.” 1. Bow once. 2. Scoop water with a dipper. Rinse your left and then right hand in that order to purify yourself. 3. Pour water into the palm of your left hand, then use the water to purify your mouth. (Please note that you should never touch the dipper with your lips. Do not drink water directly from the dipper). 4. Rinse your left hand again and put back the dipper. “Now you are purified and can pray to the gods.”

1. Proceed to the alter; stand straight. 2. Bow twice, bending to a 90-degree angle. 3. Join your palms in front of your chest. 4. Then clap your hands twice. 5. Pray earnestly for your wish to come true. 6. Lower your hands, and bow once again. “May Japanese Gods protect you!”

Traditional Shinto-style wedding ceremony = Sumiyoshi Taisha, where gods related to matchmaking, successful marriage, safe child-birth (these are states of grace. You can write your name on a Girl’s festival clay and the Omoto doll and dedicate them to the shrine. It is also famous for its Shinto-style wedding ceremonies.

On weekends you may be fortunate enough to witness the procession of a bride in gorgeous kimono, led by a Shinto shrine maiden. One of Japan’s most famous stages, together with those at Shitennoji Temple and the Itsukushima Shrine it is also a valuable cultural asset. The emperor had a concubine and donated it. Hideyori Toyotomi donated it to Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine.

Some pebbles within the stone fence are marked with five, big, and power. Collect them all for a personal charm blessed by the gods. Difficult to find but worth searching for. We found one and kept it as a souvenir. The main shrine is a priceless cultural asset. According to legend, the Shiomitsu-tama, which controls the tides, was placed in the Tamanoi well in front of the shrine. There are a lot of Ishitoto (shrine lantern).

Then we came to the Kaku-torii gateway which symbolizes Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine which people have to pass under it when entering the shrine to worship. Kakutorii refers to one of the stone torii which is really traditional Japanese gate. The tour guide pointed to the rice paddies and the paper hangings to ward off the evil.

She also pointed to the 1000 year old for prosperity and 800 year old trees. The lion guards are supposed to be messengers. The trams used to come here but afterwards, only subways and JR or Japan railroad, which has a bullet train, come.

In 1543 each domain is led by the lord who wanted to buy guns but once it is fired you can no longer use it for it takes time to put the gun powder. In 17th century, Toyotomi was destroyed by the shoguns who prohibited the feudal lords to have guns.

The shoguns were afraid of the missionaries who would come. So no one was allowed except the Dutch and the Chinese because goods were imported from them. Toyotomi had two official wives and a concubine (some say he has more) but they committed suicide when Toyotomi was killed.

Toyotomi built the invincible castle. When enemies came, they closed the door. They ate miso and rice which was said to make one live long. When Toyotomi was destroyed he and his mother committed suicide. Samurais killed each other and cut the head off. Bringing the head to the emperor got them a promotion.

In 1857 Commodore Perry came with five ships to Tokyo Bay. The English and French came and then the Germans. All Japan is divided into two groups Shoguns then ruled before the treaty of Americas came. At this point, the tour guide said Midosuji is the primary main street in Osaka. When the mayor wanted to lengthen it the people didn’t want to because they thought it was not needed but now it is so busy it is only a one-way street.

Then we visited the Osaka Castle and learned of its turbulent history. Osaka Honganji Era = In 1496 a high-ranking monk of the Jodo Shinshu sect had a monastic residence built near the site of present day Osaka Castle. This eventually grew into the large temple known as the Osaka Honganji.

The temple boasted great power and influence until 1580 when it yielded to Nobunaga Oda during his campaign of national unification and it burned to the ground. Osaka Castle Under Toyotomi = After the death of Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Hashiba (Toyotomi) took control of political affairs and began construction of a castle on the site of Honganji Temple.

He built a castle befitting the permanent residence of the ruler of Japan. However, after his death, political control moved to Tokugawa and the castle fell during the Summer War in Osaka 1615. Reconstruction by the Tokugawa Shogun = By the command of the second shogun, Hidetada, reconstruction of Osaka Castle began in 1620.

It was a large scale reconstruction that took 10 years to complete. In 1665 the Main Tower was destroyed by lightning strike. However the castle played a major role as the base for the shogunate’s control of Western Japan. Many buildings were later destroyed by blaze during the turbulent transition to Imperial Restoration.

Reconstruction of the Main Tower in the Showa Period = After the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the Osaka Castle site was used by the army. During this time, in 1931, public effort and enthusiasm brought about the reconstruction of the Main Tower, which operates as a museum today. The area around the castle were damaged during the bombing raids of World War II, but were restored and turned into a historic site park after the war.

The Era of Glory = Hideyoshin Toyotomi built a huge impregnable castle as the base of his campaign of national unification and as a symbol of power and status. Its golden glittering form, glorious and magnificent was hailed unrivalled and peerless in the three realms of Japan, Ming (China) and Korea.

The exhibits in Tenshukaku (the Main tower) provided us with an insight into the rich history of the castle. With its 1250 Japanese plum trees and 4500 cherry trees, Osaka Castle Park is a famous spot for spring flower viewing festivities. The Osaka Castle Chrysanthemum Festival is held in the autumn.

The illuminated castle tower, shining golden in the night, is a must-see sight. On the first floor we saw the legend and mystery of Osaka Castle, the movie theatre that shows five programs concerning Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Osaka Castle with subtitles in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.

On the second floor, we saw display panels on facts and figures about the Osaka Castle, full scale replicas of the shachi (legendary dolphin-shaped fish) and fusetora (crouching tigers) currently in use in the Main Tower are on display as well as the Osaka Castle History at a Glance:

After the Tokugawa Regime and the Meiji Period. The 5th floor has Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Hideyoshi changed his name to Toyotomi meaning Bountiful Minister) and his Era = artifacts and records of Sengoku era (time of political trickery and social turmoil) are on display.

The 6th floor is closed to visitors but on the 5th floor we saw scenes from “The Summer War in Osaka” Folding Screen (war scenes are visualized with miniature figures showing the intense battle between Sanada and Matsudaira is represented. With Kimura’s forces in front of them and the deadly fire on their right from Sanada’s troops, Matsudaira’s line collapsed.) There is a panorama vision: “The Summer War in Osaka” The famous scenes of the folding screen of “The Summer War in Osaka” are presented in movies.

As we said sayonara to Osaka, the spiritual home of Kabuki which we had a chance to see a presentation long ago when we were young and foolish, we thought of this city’s position as the commercial centre of Japan which developed from an imperial capital to a castle and temple town.

After we got back from the tour, we had dinner at Britannia and then went to see the movie “Secretariat.” We left Osaka at 12 midnight. But wait, it’s already 10:00 am in Toronto which makes us 14 hours ahead. Anyway we safely cleared the Port of Osaka and set various South Westerly courses.