One thing that I found funny about Okinawa is that no matter where we went, shop owners and other locals always said things like “You’re not military, are you?” 95% of the foreigners in Okinawa are either soldiers or military families, so we asked how they could tell we weren’t. They said that since we could speak Japanese (me, more or less ) and said things like “please” and “thank you” in Japanese, they knew we weren’t military. Yeah……Okinawans don’t have the best views of the American military presence there.
Saturday night, we tried to research and find out the best way to get to the aquarium, which is pretty far away from Naha. Churaumi Aquarium is 90 km (about 55 miles) from Naha, so in theory it would only take about an hour to get there, right? WRONG! We left our hostel around 9:15 on Sunday morning and didn’t arrive at the aquarium until around 2:30. It was a debacle. We walked to the bus station but had to wait for the right bus for at least thirty minutes. Then, the bus had I don’t know how many stops and hit traffic several times. Granted, the views from the bus were great (pictures below), but it took a reallllllly long time. We took it until the end of the line and then switched buses. However, we had a layover for about an hour, so we walked to a little restaurant for lunch and returned. That bus finally took us to where we wanted to go, the aquarium! Before we went in, we made sure to check out when the last bus back was. We had two options. We could either take the shorter route back, which left at 4:00 (giving us barely any time) or the longer route back, which left at 6:30 but would take an extra hour. We opted for the longer one that would give us more time at the aquarium.
The aquarium was a ton of fun. One thing that I regret is not having enough time to see everything. The aquarium is just a part of a whole park there, and we barely saw anything. There were huge flower sculptures (below), which reminded me a lot of my mom and grandmother. They would have LOVED to see those!
The biggest attraction at the aquarium is the whale shark tank. When we were going into the aquarium, one of the workers told us that the whale shark feeding time was in fifteen minutes, so we bypassed several exhibits to go to that tank. THEY. ARE. HUGE. Please notice in the picture below just how big they are in comparison to the people standing below the tank. The glass on the tank is something like a foot thick. Whale sharks may seem scary, but they’re mostly harmless to humans. Granted, they could probably kill someone with a simple fling of the tail fin, but they are mostly peaceful creatures. To be able to watch feeding time was very cool. We could see the food go in, and then particles of food and air come out of their gills.
We went back to the exhibits that we passed by after feeding time, and I wish that I could post more pictures in this blog, but check out all of them on Ian’s facebook or mine once I post them. The picture above is one of the shark exhibits. Yep, we’re standing in the jaw of a great white. Outside of the aquarium are other tanks for animals. There were manatees (below left), sea turtles, and dolphins (below right). The manatee tank was fun to watch because one of the manatees would swim right up to the tank wall and twirl or smile its hairy lip at us. The sea turtles honestly looked to be about 400 years old, and the dolphins were quite active. We were able to go right up to the dolphin pool….as in close enough to be splashed on.
After the aquarium, we split up. Ian, Justine, Melissa B, and I wanted to go to the beach while Mary and Amanda grabbed a snack. To be able to stand on an Okinawan beach is one of the things I definitely wanted to do while I was in Japan, so I can safely cross that off of my list now! Despite the beaches being absolutely beautiful, Justine told us that the beaches on the main island are actually considered to be “dirty” by Okinawan standards, and if you want to see a REALLY beautiful beach, you go to the southern islands of Okinawa. I don’t know. You be the judge. Do you think this beach looks dirty?
Ian got some REALLY fantastic beach pictures, so please check them out on facebook! The four of us are really just a big bunch of goofballs, so we were taking really silly pictures. For one, Justine and I ran toward each other shouting each other’s name like the final scene of a bad romance movie (bottom left) (btw, Justine has the PERFECT name for running and shouting in this fashion). In another picture, Melissa B decided that it would be a good idea for the girls to try to pick up Ian, however, what she failed to realize is that I’m a weakling. I couldn’t support my half of Ian, so she crumbled under the weight, which made Ian crash down on her, which pulled me down on him. I rolled over and right into a wave, haha. What makes this even better is that Justine captured the whole thing on camera (bottom center). The whole side of my pants were soaked and covered in sand (bottom right). We laughed and laughed and laughed.
Unfortunately, we had to leave so that we could catch our bus back. As we were waiting, one of the cab drivers approached us with a deal. At first, we thought he was just trying to get our money. (Japanese cab drivers are notorious for taking the long way around for foreigners so that they’ll have to pay more.) However, he told us that he would take us all the way back to Naha for only 4,000 yen each. Since we paid about 3,200 for the buses to take us there, that really wasn’t too bad of a deal. Plus, it would shave an hour off of our commute, so we took the deal. Our cab driver was actually really nice. He didn’t speak much English, but Amanda was able to translate for us. He was seventy and had been a cab driver for at least forty years in Okinawa! He told us about his kids and grandkids. The traffic was completely and utterly ridiculous on the way back, so it took at least 2.5 hours to get back, but when we got back to Naha, we decided that tacos for dinner was the best option. Since there is such a huge American presence in Okinawa, there are foods there that we haven’t had since we left the States…..like Mexican. We all thought it was funny because we were in and out of the taco restaurant in about thirty minutes. All of us SCARFED down the delicious tacos in a matter of minutes (bottom left) and then decided to go out for ice cream at a funny named place call Lick Bit (bottom right). By the end of the night, we were all so fat and full. It felt great!
Okay, that’s all for this blog. I have one more to go, and then I’ll be all done with our Okinawan adventure! Stay tuned!