Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Okinawa, Part II

We are finally back from our two-week trip to the island of Okinawa. Okinawa has its own culture that is different from mainland Japan, so it was a refreshing change. The weather is also completely gorgeous, and some of my best girlfriends live there too! I even had a chance to meet other military wives through my friends. This isn't a diary, so I won't get too sappy, but I was so happy to be around these wonderful people!

I do want to cover some of the awesome places we saw in Okinawa. Avril, Kara, and I went on a ladies' field trip to Ryukyu Mura about halfway through our time on the island. Ryukyu Mura is like a Japanese version of Henry Ford's Greenfield Village (shout out to my Detroiters!) complete with actors in period costume doing things like weaving and taking care of water buffalo for tourists to check out. I love Greenfield Village and have to say it covers a lot more territory than Ryukyu Mura. The up side was that we visited on a scorching hot day and I was happy to be out of the heat when we were done looking around. 

Check out some pics from our Ryukyu Mura visit:
Okinawan woman weaving while sitting on tatami mats
A precious little monster on a rooftop scaring away bad spirits
Visitors can tie a piece of paper on this tree while making a wish for good fortune. Bonus: Can you find Avril behind the tree?
We'd been outside for a while and decided to check out the main reception area/gift shop/cafeteria for some entertainment. There were two musicians singing, playing a banjo-like instrument, and keeping a beat on a small drum. There were also two dancers who went through a few costume changes and were very entertaining to watch.
Okinawan musicians
I love this colorful photo of one of the Okinawan dancers.
I also captured a short video of the performance on my iPhone! Check it out:

On our way home, we went to Cape Zampa to see the famous lighthouse and the dramatic landscapes. You can climb to the top for a fee, but we decided to enjoy the view from the ground. I later read that Cape Zampa is famous for being a place where the Japanese military forced Okinawans to jump off the cliffs to their deaths to "save" them from our "barbaric" American military. I get the chills knowing that I was in a place that saw history like that.
Cape Zampa Lighthouse
I guess you can tell I'm my mother's daughter. We weren't about to go home before I embarrassed everyone.
We then headed to one of the nine (NINE!) UNESCO World Heritage sites on Okinawa. The Zakimi Castle ruins are relics of the Ryukyuan Kingdom on Okinawa. It was built in the 15th century and we could feel the history oozing out of it. We were inspired by the beautiful scenery and took the opportunity to try out for Okinawa's Next Top Model:
Avril is showing Vogue how carefree her vacation is!

View from the cliffs
Kara doing some free jumps off the stone wall
Airing out a bit
Avril and Kara by a sign that reads "FALL ATTENTION"

The Zakimi Castle ruins
More of the Zakimi Ruins
On our way back to Kadena, we made a stop at a department store called Jusco. I always thought Coleman was a uniquely American brand and my sister even worked on an advertis8ing campaign for them in Detroit! It threw me off to see this beefy, rugged brand selling comparatively tiny equipment here in Japan.

Coleman camping goodies
Our next big adventure was to the northern tip of Okinawa! I joined the crew on the second day of their camping adventure at an Air Force resort on Okuma Beach. It was about an hour and a half from Kadena but well worth it! I rented snorkeling equipment and we hopped on a boat to check out the reef. I had no idea what to expect from Okinawa, but I can truly say the sea creatures are spectacular! I really need to brush up on my critter identification skills, but the colors and variety of fish I saw literally made my jaw drop (while snorkeling!) There might be some underwater pics in the future, but for now, I'll have to let your imagination do the work. 

We wanted to check out the very northernmost tip of Okinawa, so we piled into Kara's giant SUV and trekked around the grounds of Hedo Misaki:
Low tide exposed the tide pools through the turquoise water           

While in Okinawa, Joe and I took part in our very first Japanese karaoke session! My experience with karaoke was always thinking that it was dumb until I drank enough and started belting away my favorite jams in front of a huge group of strangers at a bar or bowling alley. Japanese karaoke is not nearly so haphazard. You must enter a specific establishment for karaoke, be assigned a room for your party, and then you can order drinks and put in song requests.

I'm so excited that I'm only a few hours away from paradise inhabited by great friends! I'll definitely be going back to see my girls, the amazing sites, and the scuba diving!

Have any of my readers gone scuba diving before? Give me the scoop on your experience! I've caught the bug and I'll be on the look out for more great diving!



  1. I love reading your blog and seeing all of the pictures of people and places! Keep blogging!