Spotlight on North Asia

It almost sounds cheesy to say “prepare to be amazed”, but there’s no other way to describe North Asia. 

Spellbinding Culture in Shikoku

Spellbinding Culture in Shikoku
Travel Spotlight

It’s no secret that Japan’s ‘main’ island of Honshu gets all the love. But while Hokkaido has a huge contingent of ski season loyalists and Kyushu has seen an increasing amount of time in the spotlight, poor Shikoku continues to be overlooked. There are literally hundreds of reasons why this shouldn’t be the case, and Shikoku’s unique cultural tapestry is first among. Here are six spellbinding cultural experiences you can only enjoy in Shikoku.

Japan’s Pre-Eminent Pilgrimage Route

Among Japanese people, Shikoku’s most famous attraction is its 88 temple, 1,200km loop around the island that can take as long as two months to complete. Although just as many exercise or photography enthusiasts as faithful Buddhists come to Shikoku to undertake the task of hiking this route, which is perhaps the most famous one in all of Japan, chances are you don’t have that kind of time on your hands.

That doesn’t mean you can’t partake in this important part of Shikoku culture. Whether you visit towering Chikurin-ji Pagoda in the increasingly popular city of Kochi, or make a day trip from Tokushima to Naruto City’s Ryozen-ji, the official first temple of the trail, you can get a taste of this timeless cultural heritage without devoting months of your life to it.

The Last Indigo Farmers

Speaking of Tokushima, it’s within this prefecture that you find a tradition that is unique not only to Shikoku, but sadly Japan in general. Specifically, you’ll want to head to the town of Aizumi (which is a joy to walk through on its own) and visit the Ai No Yakata Museum, where you can not only see the process of making indigo dye from leaves, but can dye your own textile and take it home with you.

Though visiting an indigo farm is not possible (or at least, not well publicized), you may have a chance to speak with Japan’s last indigo farmers as you enjoy the museum. Among other interesting anecdotes, they’ll explain how the ecological cycles of the Yoshino River makes Shikoku the perfect place to grow indigo, which can only be cultivated outside of Japan’s typhoon season.

A Dance Party for the Dead

Another important cultural activity in Tokushima prefecture, this one in the heart of the city, is a dance known as Awa-Odori. Dating back to at least the 16th century, and notorious ever since then for how raucous and energetic it is, the Awa-Odori Festival takes over the streets of Tokushima for three days every August in order to honor spirits of dead relatives, who are believed to come and visit during that time.

If you can’t be in Tokushima in August (and there are some reasons not to, among them the aforementioned typhoon season), you can still see the captivating Awa-Odori dance itself, another unique feature of which is triangular-shaped woven hats. Simply visit Awa-Odori Kaikan, a performance hall located just 10-minutes from JR Tokushima Station. In addition to the performance, whose profundity will strike you even harder given how quotidian the venue is, you can shop a wide range of festival-themed merchandise.

Inside the Castle’s Keep

By some counts, as few as 12 original castles from Japan’s feudal area remain intact, and several of them are in Shikoku. Probably the best example of this is Kochi Castle, which is located in the heart of Kochi city on the southern coast of Shikoku, and opened in 1601 during the Tokugawa period. From the castle’s keep, one of few in Japan open to the public, you can enjoy a panorama of the city and the mountains that surround it.

The view from Matsuyama Castle, located in northwestern Shikoku a few hours away by train, is likewise stunning, though here you can get a bird’s eye view of the Seto Inland Sea moreso than the Matsuyama cityscape. Both castles position you for other cultural discoveries as well. After you finish at Kochi Castle, walk to nearby Hirome Night Market and sample Bonito Tataki, a tender fish filet seared on the outside but cool to the touch inside. In Matsuyama, meanwhile, you can take a relaxing bath at what might be Japan’s oldest public onsen.

Origin of the Onsen

Of course, it’s difficult to prove whether Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama city is in fact that oldest public bath house in Japan, though it’s certainly Shikoku’s most ancient example. Having been in basically continuous use since its inauguration at least 1,000 years ago, Dogo Onsen attracts hundreds of local Japanese people per day, as well as a number of open-minded foreigners – perhaps you will be among them!

Too shy to take the plunge? It’s understandable – though ordinary to the Japanese, the idea of soaking in volcano-fed hot springs totally nude in the company of strangers can seem, well, strange to Westerners. You can take a tour of the portion of the building where visiting emperors used to bathe when they would come to Matsuyama (though, for obvious reasons, this portion of the Honkan is no longer in use).

Shikoku’s Brightest Son

When you think of Japanese art, you likely think of ancient Imperial pieces (or, at least, pre-war ones) that tend to be on prominent display in the art museums of Osaka and Tokyo. In Shikoku’s northern coastal city of Marugame, the Marugame Genchiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art (usually shortened to MIMOCA) spotlights provocative works of visual art that mirror and comment on Japan’s struggle to find a new identity after the defeat of the Japanese Empire by the Allies.

Devote at least a few hours to exploring this compact but rich museum, which is home to several thousand pieces by Genchiro Inokuma. After taking your time with the paintings and sculptures, many of which reflect the influence of Shikoku-born Inokuma’s famous mentor Henri Matisse, ascend nearby Marugame Castle to get a panoramic view of the ocean (and, on clear days, mainland Honshu) or savor hearty beef udon noodles at the uber-local Mentokoro Wataya eatery.

The best part? This is only the beginning of what Shikoku has to offer. Come first for culture, then return to see some of Japan’s most underrated spots for cherry blossoms viewing, out-of-this-world ecotourism activities and more. A whole world you never knew existed, just two hours by bus from Osaka, and right over the Seto Inland Sea from Okayama, one of the busiest Shinkansen hubs in Japan. Shikoku is truly spellbinding!

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Navigating Korea’s Cultural Capital

Navigating Korea’s Cultural Capital
Travel Style

More than half the South Korean population lives within an hour of Seoul, which makes it easy to forget all the country’s other treasures as you plan your trip. If it’s understated – and underrated – cultural experiences you’re after, board a KTX bullet train bound for Busan, the glistening pearl of Korea’s southern coast. From kaleidoscopic cuisine, to surprising structures, to world-class celebrations of the written word and motion picture, Busan beckons.

Taste the Seafood Spectrum

If you aren’t an early riser, you’ll want to change that before you arrive in Busan. Not only is the crack of dawn the best time to watch fishermen deliver their fresh catch to the colorful stalls of Jagalchi Market, but heading out around the time the sun rises allows you to see a truly rare sight: The streets of Jung-gu all but deserted, their neon signs dark and dormant after a long night shift.

Though a trip to Jagalchi Market is a decidedly local experience, tourists can get a taste of the action – literally. Sit down at one of many pop-up restaurants within the market, and dine on the fresh mackerel, eel and abalone that’s made it famous throughout South Korea. Come to Busan in October, when the Jagalchi Cultural Tourism Festival gives you an even deeper look into the market’s importance.

Ride a Spiritual Wave

Another great way to spend a morning in Busan is with a trip to Haedong Yonggungsa, a 14th-Century temple not far from the city’s famous Hyundae Beach. The soft light and minimal crowds you enjoy before about 10 am allow you to get lost in the lush pathways that snake through this sprawling oceanside house of worship, and to drown your thoughts in the waves the lap beneath it.

Looking for a postcard-perfect shot? After entering the grounds of the temple, but before crossing the bridge that leads to the main building, hang a left and walk down onto the rocks you see before you. This is the ideal vantage point to capture Haedong Yonggungsa, which was founded by the famous Goryeo-dynasty Buddhist Master Naong, in all its coast-hugging glory.

Climb Through Color

Have you ever heard Busan described as the ‘Santorini of the East’? This might not be apparent upon disembarking your train, but will be once you make your way to Gamcheon Culture Village, which is accessible via bus from Toseong subway station. On the other hand, the colorful patchwork of houses and shops you see as you make your way into this increasingly famous district exudes a beauty that transcends comparisons.

Opportunities for photography notwithstanding, the narrow alleyways and hillside lanes of Gamcheon more than live up to the culture their moniker foreshadows. The aptly-named ‘Small’ Museum gives you an authentic glimpse into the daily lives of local people who called this unique neighborhood home before it became a bonafide tourist attraction, while dozens of street stalls serve up hot, sweet Ssiat Hotteok pancakes. Make sure to stop at Haneulmaru viewpoint to take in the most complete panorama of Gamcheon Culture Village!

Get the Whole Story

Many visitors to Busan assume they’ll be unable to enjoy Bosu-dong Book Street, since the shops there primarily sell Korean books. Not only is this not entirely true (as the streets – there are a few of them – become more popular with foreign tourists, you’re more and more likely to see foreign books), but it misses the point. The attraction of Book Street is not only the books you can buy, but the unique atmosphere thousands of curious people thumbing through tomes creates.

The story of Bosu Dong Book Street, which you should visit around mid-day when it’s at its busiest to get the full effect, is also rather interesting. It was originally the main thoroughfare of a residential district created at the end of the Russo-Japanese occupation of Korea in 1948, but book shops opened in rapid succession (and, seemingly, without coordination) during the subsequent years, which lends the area a vibe that can seem almost magical.

Preview Coming Attractions

The city’s most high-profile annual event, Busan International Film Festival isn’t as easy to visit as the rest of the places in this article. If you aren’t here during the first or second week of October, you won’t catch any of its Korean and international films, an increasing number of which are world premieres. That’s the somewhat bad news.

The good news? Busan Cinema Center, where the festival takes place, is open year-round. A visit here, whether to see a film or to admire the Guinness-record holding architecture – longest cantilever roof in the world – of the building, guarantees a satisfying conclusion of your trip to Busan, and makes a sequel much more likely.

A Brief of Busan Basics

If visiting Busan during the Film Festival (or other notable events, such as May’s Lotus Lantern Festival or August’s Busan Sea Festival) isn’t a priority for you, there’s good news. Busan is a 365-day destination, with plentiful sunshine to warm you during its chilly winter, and reliable rain showers that cool its sweltering summers. Coming to Busan during spring or fall, meanwhile, allows you to experience Korea’s cherry blossoms (Japan’s aren’t the only game in town) and autumn colors, both within the city and in scenic locales just outside.

Don’t plan to pass through Seoul, but still want to see Busan? Take nonstop flights from Asia hubs like Tokyo, Beijing and even Bangkok. Or, if you’ll be in Japan and don’t mind taking the proverbial slow road, hop one of up to 10 daily ferries to Busan from the city of Fukuoka. Busan slowly comes into focus as coast northwestward through cobalt waters, like a diamond crystallizing in thin air.

International culinary delights

Tempting dishes from our featured destinations give you a taste of local culture. From succulent roasts to exotic spicy fare and some divine desserts, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious recipes to try at home.

Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

One World, Many Tastes. No other cruise line has so many award-winning chefs bringing their creativity and passion to the table. Our Culinary Council members oversee every menu of the 12 restaurants and cafés on board. Every sailing gives you the chance to experience a seemingly limitless selection of mouth-watering new tastes and culinary trends, along with classic dishes, expertly prepared. Thirsty? Our Master Mixologist and our internationally acclaimed Wine Curator will make sure your beverage choice perfectly pairs with your meal.



Ingredients

Gnocchi

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) all-
  • purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (approx. 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation

Preparing the Gnocchi
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Poke each potato 8 times with a paring knife over entire surface. Microwave potatoes until slightly softened at ends, about 10 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking. Transfer the potatoes directly to oven rack and bake until skewer glides easily through flesh and potatoes yield to gentle pressure, 18 to 20 minutes.

Holding each potato with a potholder or kitchen towel, peel with a paring knife. Process the peeled potatoes through a ricer or food mill onto a rimmed baking sheet. Gently spread the processed potatoes into even layer and let cool for 5 minutes. (After processing, you may have slightly more than the 3 cups (16 ounces) of potatoes required for this recipe. Discard any extra or set it aside for another use.)

Transfer 3 cups (16 ounces) of warm potatoes to a bowl. Sprinkle the flour and 1 teaspoon of salt over the potato mixture. (For the most accurate measurements, weigh the potatoes and flour.) Using a fork, gently stir in the egg until the ingredients are just combined. Stir gently until no pockets of dry flour remain. Press the potato-flour mixture into a rough ball, transfer to a lightly floured counter, and gently knead until the mixture is smooth but slightly sticky, about 1 minute. Lightly dust the counter with flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and dust liberally with flour. Cut dough into 8 pieces. Lightly dust counter with flour. Gently roll a piece of dough into 1/2-inch-thick rope, dusting with flour to prevent sticking. Cut the rope into 3/4-inch lengths. Holding the fork with tines facing down in one hand, press each dough piece cut side down against tines with thumb of other hand to create indentation. Then roll the dough down the tines to form ridges on the sides of each piece. If the dough sticks, dust your thumb or the fork with flour. Transfer the formed gnocchi to your prepared baking sheets and repeat with remaining dough.

Making the Sauce
Bring the cream and wine to a simmer in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, gradually add the Gorgonzola, and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chives and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm. (If the sauce seems too thick, you may adjust its consistency with up to 2 tablespoons of gnocchi cooking water before adding the dumplings.)

Finishing the Gnocchi
Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Using the parchment paper as a sling, gently lower the gnocchi from 1 baking sheet into the water and cook until firm and just cooked through, about 90 seconds. Gnocchi should float to surface after about 1 minute.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi to the skillet with the sauce. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi. Gently toss gnocchi with the sauce and serve.

Holland America Line is a proud sponsor of America’s Test Kitchen. For more recipes, visit: AmericasTestKitchen.com/onboard

Step aboard the world’s greatest ships

Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.

One-of-a-Kind, Award-Winning

Photo: Uniworld

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection—the world’s most luxurious, all-inclusive river cruise line—offers truly all-inclusive itineraries in Europe, Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, and Egypt.

Every Uniworld ship is a masterpiece. The moment you step onboard any of our 17 one-of-a-kind floating boutique hotels, you’ll see and feel the care that went into the thoughtful, beautiful design. With impeccable service that truly comes from the heart, exclusive excursions only available to Uniworld guests, delicious farm-to-table cuisine, local wines and a choice of inspiring destinations throughout world—every element is as unique and special as each guest.

One-of-a-Kind, Award-Winning Ships
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is modeled after our sister company, the five-star
Red Carnation Hotel Collection. A collection of boutique hotels known for their destination-specific interior décor, gracious service, and carefully selected amenities—all of which provide an intimate, elegant, and relaxed experience. Similarly, Uniworld’s boutique river cruises allow guests to travel aboard stylish floating hotels with inviting spaces, exquisite antiques, custom fabrics, and original works of art.

Outstanding Service
When it comes to service, we know the tiniest of details have the biggest impact. That’s why we take great pride in our long-lasting relationships with guests—for whom there is “No request too large, no detail too small.” With one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios in the river cruise industry, our professionally trained staff never tires of going above and beyond to create extraordinary experiences, both onboard and onshore.

The Most All-Inclusive
As the most all-inclusive cruise line on the rivers, Uniworld elevates all-inclusive luxury river cruising to an entirely new level. From an ample selection of premium spirits and fine wines, to every five-star meal onboard; from airport transfers and gratuities to a choice of several excursions per day; from ship-wide Wi-Fi to yoga and TRX fitness classes—Uniworld is the most all-inclusive river cruise line on the rivers.

Delicious Five-Star, Farm-to-Table Cuisine
We treat cooking as an art form—a very delicious art form. When dining onboard Uniworld, guests are treated to world-class cuisine made from fresh ingredients, sourced from local destinations.

Carefully Curated Experiences
The only thing more stunning than stepping aboard a Uniworld ship, is stepping off. The design of every Uniworld ship was inspired by the destination it visits. Excursions are curated exclusively for Uniworld, and are a gateway for our guests to immerse themselves in the authentic culture, sights and cuisine of the places we visit. Every cruise has an ample selection of included shore excursions for every traveler type, with more than 80 experiences completely exclusive to Uniworld guests.

The Ship

We are excited to introduce our newest Super Ship — S.S. Beatrice. The S.S. Beatrice boasts yacht-style light wood with blue and white finishes throughout, a renovated lobby featuring elegant mirrors, marble floors, a white Murano chandelier with blue shades, and a grand staircase made of nickel and black iron – a signature design element of Uniworld’s Super Ships. The ship’s redesigned lounge features sofas and chairs with hand-made upholstery, a parquet floor and upholstered ceiling panels, solar shades, and new USB ports allowing guests to charge anywhere they are sitting. The artwork throughout the ship includes pieces from Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Pino Signoretto.

S.S. Beatrice offers four dining options all inspired by famous Austrian composers, including Mozart’s, the ship’s main restaurant; Wolfgang’s bar and lounge and newly added Schubert’s and Max’s. For guests seeking an immersive culinary experience, Max’s restaurant offers intimate cooking classes where guests can create local European cuisines alongside the chef. Schubert’s, an 18-seat café located at the bow of the ship, offers guests shared plates from lunch through dinnertime. The cosy Austrian-styled eatery features menus reflecting the cuisine of the ship’s destinations.

The Ship
Uniworld

Accommodations

  • 7-night cruise in a riverview stateroom on the S.S. Beatrice, Uniworld’s newset ship.
  • Lavishly appointed riverview staterooms and suites have handcrafted Savoir® of England beds, high-thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and European duvets, and a menu of pillow options.
  • Free Internet and Wi-Fi access

Accommodations
Uniworld

Dining

  • All meals onboard, prepared using the finest and freshest ingredients.
  • Welcome and Farewell Gala Dinners.
  • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Receptions.
  • Unlimited beverages onboard, including fine wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks, specialty coffee and tea, and mineral water.

Dining
Uniworld

Activities

  • 6 days of excursions, including “Choice Is Yours” options, all fully hosted by English-speaking local experts.
  • Guided "Let’s Go" and "Do as the Locals Do" programs.
  • State-of-the-art Quietvox portable audio headset system on all excursions.
  • Use of bicycles and Nordic walking sticks throughout your cruise.

Activities
Uniworld

Family

  • 3 countries: Austria, Germany, Hungary
  • 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • All transfers on arrival and departure days
  • All gratuities, both onboard and onshore
  • Services of an experienced Uniworld Cruise Manager
  • Cultural enrichment, including a Signature Lecture: “Main-Danube Canal: History of an Engineering Milestone"
  • Exclusive Generations Family Programme on select summer departures

Family
Uniworld

Services

When it comes to service, we know the tiniest of details have the biggest impact. That’s why we take great pride in our long-lasting relationships with guests—for whom there is “No request too large, no detail too small.” With one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios in the river cruise industry, our professionally trained staff never tires of going above and beyond to create extraordinary experiences, both onboard and onshore.

Services
Uniworld