Ago Bay, the largest bay on Mie Prefectures’ Shima Peninsula, is a beautiful stretch of coastline sprinkled with numerous pine dotted islands and inlets, where small fishing vessels and pearl rafts rock slowly in the gentle waves created by….a Spanish Galleon?
That’s right, plying the pristine waters of Ago Bay, is a cruise ship, the “Esperanza”, modeled to resemble a 16th Century Spanish galleon. It sticks out like a sore thumb in the otherwise Japanese seascape, but it’s a sight that excites everyone who sees it plowing through the waves.
The Kashikojima Espana Cruise aboard the “Esperanza” leaves from Shinmei Kashikojima Port at Shima City year round, and is an ideal way to enjoy the unique scenery and suck in some fresh sea air. You can stand at the front on the upper deck and recreate the “I am the king of the world” scene with Jack and Rose from Titanic, or put on your best Jack Sparrow voice and play Pirates of the …er,…Ago Bay, or just be content to snap off shots of the picturesque shoreline and deep blue bay. Sometimes wild dolphins accompany the ship as it tours the calm waters.
The enjoyable 50 minute cruise operates year round, although the warmer months are recommended. The Esparanza will take you around Ago Bay, home of Japan’s cultured pearl industry and the trip includes a stop at a pearl factory, where visitors can learn about cultivated pearls and see the oyster nucleus embedding process developed by Mikimoto Pearl Company founder, Mikimoto Kokichi, in 1905.
So why a Spanish Galleon off the coast of the Shima Peninsula? Mie Prefecture and the Spanish region of Valencia share a Sister State relationship, and the first ships to arrive from far off lands looked something like this. The Esparanza was created to invoke the romance of the sister state, and the seafaring days of old. The kids will love it! For couples, it is indeed a romantic ride, and speaking of romance, at the end of the day, Ago Bay offers some magnificent sunsets! Don’t miss the boat or the sunsets!