For a Winter Vacation, Why Not Cruise Away to Japan?

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For a Winter Vacation, Why Not Cruise Away to Japan?

Sipping a cocktail while gazing out at the ocean or dressing up for a banquet sounds like something from a romantic novel or movie. Not any more. A taste of the high life is available for a reasonable price aboard the "Love Boat" cruise from Korea to Japan. The five-day, four-night trip that departs from Pusan, stopping at Kobe, Kochi and Kagoshima, Japan, before returning to Pusan may be short, but it's enough to leave you feeling pampered and refreshed.

The ship leaves Pusan in the afternoon and moves through the moonlit darkness. At dawn, Kobe appears behind the thick ocean fog.

In Kobe, it is hard to trace any remains of the earthquake that hit the city in 1995, causing up to 6,000 deaths. The city has many new buildings and is characteristically neat and tidy. It is well known for its shopping and entertainment districts, Sannomiya and Motomachi. Sannomiya has an underground mall with stores that follow the latest trends. Motomachi is crowded with shoppers. If you're feeling peckish, Kobe's Chinatown offers cheap eats.

The last stop in Kobe is Port Tower, a futuristic building 181 meters high. The tower and the Akashi Kaiyo, the world's longest suspension bridge, are some of the most popular attractions in the city.

The history of Japan is also a history of war.

Japanese women are revered for their traditional devotion during wartime and a statue in front of the Kochi Castle, built in 1601, is proof of such allegiance. The statue, of a woman who sold all her belongings to buy a good horse for her husband to go to war, stands high as if to remind later generations of the unquestioning support of women in times past.

The city also boasts many interesting markets, and the Saturday market in particular is busy with people who come to enjoy an atmosphere of old times . The market is very clean, unlike many traditional markets in Korea.

Kagoshima, in southernmost Japan, is where Korean potters were brought during the Choson Dynasty.

The city's private Shim Soo Kwan Pottery Studio produces satsuma-yaki pottery, a style developed in the southern part of Japan about 400 years ago. The studio is named after a Korean potter whose art was highly esteemed by the Japanese in the past.

Shiroyama Park boasts a magnificent view of Mount Sakurajima, a volcano that looks like an angry giant about to explode. Of Mount Sakurajima's three peaks, Minamitake, located to the south, is still active.

These port cities in Japan may not be the world's most exciting destinations, but they still have a certain refinement and elegance that make them worth the visit.

Passengers on this cruise can also enjoy family events offered daily as well as various facilities on board, including a casino, movie theater, snack bar, gymnasium and Italian restaurant.

It's a good idea to exchange some currency before you board as there is no currency exchange on board and all payments must be made with a card provided by the cruise company on boarding. The final tally is converted into dollars or yen and has to be paid at the end of the voyage.

The cruise costs 550,000 won (about $437) a person for a closed cabin or 710,000 won for a cabin with an ocean view.

For more information, visit www.starcruises.com or contact Kim Eun-hee at 02-757-7776 (English service available).

by Park Yong-suk

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