I just wanted to tell you all that Okinawa is one of the most amazing places in all of Japan. Maybe I think that just because it was a warm and Americanized place that is so unlike my current cold and American-less Yunomae, but I LOVED it. This will probably take a few blogs to tell you the whole story, but here goes!
When I last blogged, I wrote about our horrible problem with the hot water heater. Someone came and fixed it on Friday, but then we didn’t have hot water. Ian said that he thought whoever probably switched the hot water off to fix it. Regardless, when we turned the hot water on, nothing came out. (It was okay, though. We weren’t here over the weekend, and when we got back, there was hot water.) Friday after work was a rush-rush-go-go affair. Ian had mostly packed, but there were still last minute things we had to do before heading out the door. We picked up Justine (who also woke up to frozen pipes) and headed to Melissa B.’s for dinner. Melissa is a fabulous cook and even better hostess! She had prepared us a FEAST of pasta, garlic bread, and salad, and we ate until we were stuffed silly. Ian and I had brought dessert, but we didn’t eat our custard cakes until later since we were so full. The rest of the night was spent hanging out. Melissa still had to pack, but Ian, Justine, and I played on her Nintendo DS. There was a game that allowed us to be the characters, and we really had a good time playing that. We each had to take pictures of ourselves punching, ducking and covering, throwing fire balls, and other movements, and then the DS put the pictures of us into the game.
Melissa made blueberry and chocolate pancakes for us on Saturday morning, and that was the perfect way to start our day! Like I said, Melissa is a fabulous cook! Amanda picked us up and took us all to the bus stop in Hitoyoshi, which is where we met Mary. We caught the bus at 8:30 and 2.5 hours later arrived in Hakata, which is only two quick subway stops from the Fukuoka airport. We really didn’t have a lot of wiggle room in between arriving at the airport and departure. Once we got through security, we only had twenty minutes until our plane left! Luckily, we made it to our gate without an issue and headed to Okinawa!
Flying into Naha is amazing because the water is quite shallow and clear right before the main island, so we could see shoals (above right). The picture really doesn’t do it justice, but please trust me when I say that it was BEAUTIFUL to see. I thought about my dad because anytime we’d go on vacation to the beach or a really nice river, he’d say, “Look at how clear that water is.” Miss you, Daddy! Once we landed, we were greeted at the gate with rows and rows of colorful orchids, and whenever we got outside, it was like being in Heaven. We quickly peeled off our winter wear and enjoyed the balmy beachy temperatures. Our first order of business was to check into our hostel. It was a short monorail ride and then walk away. My first impression of Okinawa after we got off the monorail was that it smelled like fried foods. It was like you could automatically tell that Americans had been there just from the way it smelled, ha ha. Okinawa is so unlike the rest of Japan. People are MUCH more laid back, there is gum and litter on the street, and foreigners are common. It was actually incredible to see so many foreigners and to NOT stick out like a sore thumb!
Our hostel was decent. Like our hostel in Osaka, it was actually part of an apartment, and there were residents living there. We had our rooms to ourselves, but we shared the bathroom, shower, kitchen, and living area with the residents. It was a little awkward, and I did feel like we were intruding on their space. Since we didn’t have much of a lunch, we set out to find something and ended up grabbing snacks from a conbini and eating on a bench while people watching. There were several touristy shops along the street, so we walked to those. Okinawa is known for many cool things, but one thing that I absolutely, positively think is DISGUSTING and really creeps me out is the alcohol with a rattlesnake in it. That’s right. They take a LIVE rattlesnake, jam it into a glass jar, and fill the jar with booze until the snake dies. You’re supposed to drink a little bit each day to gain strength or something. I would have taken a picture of it, but it CREEPED. ME. OUT. *shudder*
Justine did a student exchange program in Okinawa when she was in high school, so we met up with her host brother and sister on Saturday night. They were really nice and picked us up from our hostel and drove us about an hour north to Chatan, where the military base and American Village (below right) is. The host sister even made us leis to welcome us to Okinawa (below left).
I said that I’d love to live in Okinawa, but I think the biggest thing that I couldn’t stand would be the traffic. Since it’s an island, there isn’t a good public transportation system, and EVERYONE has a car. There are CONSTANT traffic jams, and no matter how close or far you go, you’re going to to wait in traffic for a while. I’m not sure how far Naha is from Chatan, but it took nearly an hour to get there, AND it was bummer-to-bummer traffic the whole time. The restaurant that we went to was so-so, but after eating, we walked around the shopping area. It was beautifully lit up with lights, and it was so refreshing to see people wearing shorts and flip-flops as they strolled along!
I’ve barely even started our adventure, but I feel like I need to end here to avoid having too long of a blog. Stay tuned for part two when I talk about the beach (left) and the aquarium (right)……