♪Remebering 2013♪ - In Naha, Okinawa

3:41 AM

So, not quite too long ago, but literally last year, Shota and I took a bit of an impulsive trip to Okinawa. It was really a combination of good timing (Peach LLC was doing a time sale for 1500yen one way tickets), my stress levels reaching a boiling point, AND my birthday. It's kind of like how in movies, when the planets line up and all hell breaks loose.

Hell didn't break loose, but we had a good time. :)

Now, I'll try to keep this short since it isn't about Kansai in the slightest, but it's now probably my second most favorite place in Japan. I completely envy the residents of those gorgeous islands. Except for the jellyfish. I hate jellyfish.

 Our flight from KIX (Kansai International) was an early morning flight around 9am. And because the carrier was Peach LLC, it was in a completely different, very far away terminal. Thank goodness the airport bus went directly to the terminal (they do have shuttle buses that run between the main and Terminal 2, but I'm not sure about the wait time).

We ended up in Okinawa a little after 12 maybe. I don't rightly remember anymore, but such are the downsides of blogging about events months after they have occurred. Lesson learned.
 We stayed for a total of 3 days, so for the first day, we spent most of our time in the capital city of Naha. Naha is where the main airport is located and also the location of Okinawa's most famous castle.

←This building is the city hall building for Naha, which completely blows the city hall building in Osaka out of the water. Plus there's a Shiisa.
 And then how can you not take a photo of a really old-looking tree. There was a sign located near it, but I forgot what it said. Probably something about it being a really old tree.

I had a very strong urge to climb it, but I fought against temptation and won. Barely.
 After walking about Naha and Kokusai Street (International Street), we decided to get a bite to eat. It's really difficult choosing a spot to eat on Kokusai Street because they're all catering to visitors, so they all look GOOD.

In the end, we settled for a fairly nondescript place that served agu, which is an Okinawan pork steak. It was so soft, juicy and delicious! I might have to scour Osaka's Taisho area for a place with agu steaks.
With lunch, I had a glass of Awamori, which is similar to shochu and native to Okinawa. I would say the flavor is quite similar to shochu, but it's probably stronger alcohol-content wise. I couldn't finish this tiny glass alone (Shota couldn't drink since he was driving later).

I miss you now awamori...
 Here's the interior of the restaurant we ate at. Very simple, nothing particularly Okinawan about it, but the food was good!
 Then there was this hand coming out of a building. That was different, but I didn't bother to see what they were selling (probably more souvenirs).
 A HUUUGE shashin, which similar to a shamisen, but is native to Okinawa. Supposedly most Okinawan households have one, but I wouldn't know since I didn't bother to invade anyone's home.

I did buy one though. I WILL learn how to play 'Nada Sou Sou.' And I will sing it in Uchina-guchi.
 I also thoroughly enjoyed Okinawa's Christmas decorations in the monorail stations. Every station I went to had it's own tree and trappings. A+ for effort.

 Then we were off to Shuri Castle (ALSO, my first UNESCO World Heritage Site I think... I've kind of been to Mt. Fuji before...), which was the seat of Ryukyu Kingdom (the name of Okinawa before it was subjugated by the mainland Japanese government).

I couldn't help but feel a bit of sadness while walking through the reconstructed grounds (most of it had been destroyed by previous wars and WWII). Not only had the Ryukyuu Kingdom been taken over by the mainland Japanese government, had their people sent to schools to help 'rid' them of their language (Uchina-guchi), but then they had to suffer through the horrors of war about a generation later. I also learned about how Japanese soldiers told Okinawans that they would tortured by American soldiers when they landed, so they convinced them to commit suicide (this, along with the general discrimination many Okinawans faced from mainland Japanese just makes me.. ugh, sad beyond words). Siiiigh, I know it's uber depressing, but I think we missed out what could have been a  truly wonderful culture. That being said, I did try to absorb as much of the Ryukyu culture as I could. :)
 The path leading to Shuri has a series of gates, similar to most other Japanese castles, but I like to think the Chinese influence is much stronger here than on the mainland.
 One of the several water sprouts that provided water to the inhabitants of the castle. I don't think it's drinkable by today's standards.
 This was the main courtyard where official ceremonies took place. So we took the most official poses we could think of.
Shota did an Ultraman pose.

And I did the GLICO man pose.

5pts. for originality! I suppose I wanted to bring a little Osaka to Okinawa. :)
 Then we made it around to the reconstructed tea room for some traditional Ryukyu snacks and Sanpincha (Jasmine tea). I'm now a maniac for sanpincha and very much regret not buying a crap-ton of Okinawan sweets...
 Beneath the reconstructed ceremonial building was the foundation of the original castle. I thought was was neat since Osaka has no such exhibit (I believe Osaka castle was completely burnt down then reconstructed... the foundation might still be there though).

The following are more photos from inside the Seiden (State Hall) where the Ryukyu King would conduct his diplomatic business as well as ceremonies with family.

 After walking what felt like the length of Naha, we got our rent-a-car and headed to Mid-Okinawa, where we stayed at the Rizzan Sea Park Tancha Bay. It was about an 1.5hr drive through mostly small towns, and because it was near 9pm, we couldn't really see anything!

So we stopped at the grocery store for a quick dinner and drinks. I opted for the Habushu (Okinawan Snake Wine) while Shota got some Okinawan beer. Although habushu is an alcoholic beverage, it is thought to have medicinal *cough* properties. But you can check out the Wiki article for more information on that. :P
And as luck would have it, on the evening of our first day in Okinawa, my favorite vacation movie came on TV!

I subsequently listened to the soundtrack all through the night (which is ama-za-zing btw).

That's all for part 1 I guess? I have more photos (some on my now uncharged DSLR), so look forward to another post or two about Okinawa, with a little Kansai in between ;)


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