Karate in Tropical Japan (Flashback)
Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
257Trip End Jan 31, 2012
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Decided to do the tour to the northern part of the island to visit the aquarium rather than public transport. Besides being easier to organise (for only a small extra cost) it also allowed me to do some of the sites along the way that I wouldnt have been able to do otherwise.
First stop was Ryukyu village. From what I could tell this place aimed to give a view of Okinawa's cultural heritage. In other words it was basically a Japanese theme park with people dressed in costume and doing historically relevant performances or activities.
The village was basically a reconstruction of a number of houses that had been collected from around the island
Also within the village found a place where a water buffalo was being used to drive a machine to ground rice and a traditional kitchen which was being used for cooking. Also included was a large studio where you could see people making the clay statues that could be bought in the shops.
After this stop the next one was Mazamo. This place is basically a place where you have some limestone cliffs by the sea that have been worn away by the waves hitting them to make some interesting rock formations. Seemed like a nice enough place for a walk and out in the bay you could see where two rocks had been joined together by a rope though the reason for doing this (beyond it being religious) escapes me at the moment.
Continued onto the place which produces Taro sweets and while I tried a few on offer I didnt buy any. Definitely to expensive for my taste. Here was also stopped off for a box lunch with a view of the sea
After a few more hours of driving we arrived at what I consider the main destination of the tour which was the aquarium. This had a number of large tanks to start you off which held mounds of coral with fish swimming all around. Very much like doing a dive given the number of large fish around. Unlike diving though seeing a ray, turtle, moray eel or shark isnt such a rare encounter since these animals cant really leave the tank that they are in.
Spent some time watching these larger tanks before continuing on to some of the smaller ones which held limit species within a tank. For example on tank had nothing but lobster and other similar crustateans while another had a couple of moray eels. Yet other tanks were full of jellyfish, squids, garden eels, nudibanks, sea horses or clams. While these exhibits were interesting I dont think I would want to be one of the animals trapped in the tank. Unlike goldfish, I am sure they have more then a couple of seconds of long term memory.
After walking past a number of smaller tanks it was time for the main attraction which was a very large tank with 3 whale sharks in it. This tank also had lots of different rays, sharks and fish along with these whale sharks
Sorry about all the attached photos but at the time I uploaded them I was having trouble cutting down on the number I had taken even though they get a bit repetitive.
After a bit more time watching the tank it was time to head back to the tour group bus though I did take a short side trip to the coast and the nearby turtle tanks.
From the aquarium the tour headed to it final stop which was Nago Pineapple fields. Here we all jumped on a train that took us through the pineapple fields where we could see pineapples growing. These included both editable and non-editable (decorative) varieties. Was told how many different types there were (more than I expected) but forget now. Vaguely remember the number 3 for the main types that can be found.
Once at the end of the tour we ended up in a shop as occurs in all good tours where we could taste pineapple cakes and pineapple wine with different degrees of alcohol levels
This was the last stop of the tour and from here it was a long drive back to Naha where we arrived after dark. Had to walk from the bus drop off point back to the hostel so went for a short wander around the streets before heading back and calling it a night.
Day 6 - Hostel Rooftop, Karate
Still feeling shitty so pretty much didnt do anything during the day but bum around the hostel or the nearby city streets.
In the afternoon got picked up once more for a 2-3hr training session after which we all headed out for some ramen. Was told the next training session would be Saturday but that I could join some of his students at training on one of the following two days though they would have to let me know when. Seems that a number of his students go to the training hall to train on most days of the week.
Day 7 - Naminoue Beach and Shrine, Gokouji Temple, Matsuyama Park
Had been thinking of getting a ferry out to an island but given the weather had decided to leave it until the following day. In the end this had been a bad idea since I wouldnt have the opportunity to do it on the following day.
After a quite morning decided to walk around the town a bit with a trip down to Naminoue beach which was a small strip of sand in the nearby port
After the walk headed back to the hostel and once again didnt really do much. Had been feeling a bit crook with a cold and had decided to just have a few quite days in Naha with the only exception to this being any Karate training that I could get in while here.
That afternoon got an email saying that training would happening during the following morning if I wanted to go. I said yes but since I had been expecting it to be in the afternoon I had decided not to take the ferry out to the island today (had hoped the weather would be better on the following day). Unfortunately with training in the morning this was no longer going to be possible and I guess I should have done the trip today while I had had the chance. Oh well. Guess its something to do the next time I am in this part of the world.
Day 8 - Shikina Cemetary Park, Shikinaen Royal Garden, Hanatagawa Park, Kinjo dam towards Shurijo Castle
Spent the morning going through the training exercises we had previously been doing with some of Yamashiro's students before getting dropped back off near my hostel
Given I hadnt been doing much around the town decided that even though it was to late to head out to the island I should still spend the day doing something other than just bumming around. Decided on heading back out to the Shuri castle area which had a nearby royal garden and cemetery.
From the monorail station wandered along the main road and managed to eventually find my way to the cemetery but completely missed the park. Along the way had some nice views towards different parts of the city which basically looked like one great big slab of concrete.
Note that I had decided the cemetery would be interesting since it gave some nice views from the hillside above part of the city and you usually find the kind of monuments people leave behind in these kind of places interesting. For example in this particular cemetery it seems that a tomb is the way to go for burial and the whole hillside was filled with rows of them.
Walked around here for a bit and rather than since I had a better idea where I was made my way back to the Royal Garden
From here rather then head back the way I had come I decided to try and cut through the cemetery (which was huge) and do a loop back to the castle. While doing this I wandered through some of the local suburbs which was interesting and made my way to another park where I had some nice views of the valley. Unfortunately here I couldn't make my way straight down and across and was confident enough about my map to continue wandering around in the hop of making it back to the castle.
If it hadnt been as late in the day, I had a better map or could see a landmark to use as reference I would have continued on and taken my chances. As it was I decided to head back though when the main road showed a sign to the nearby dam I decided to take it.
Here I found that I was in the bottom of the valley by the river I had seen from the park. While previously I had no reference points to use, from my new location I had at least a rough idea of my bearings and a sketch map giving me a rough indication (very rough) of where I was
Made my way once again through the backstreets of a local suburb. Had a nice walk through the streets that had locals going about their daily lives and managed to find my way back to the castle along a couple of interesting trails. Managed to also get back to the monorail before dark which was a good thing. I guess if worst came to worse I would have had to start looking for a taxi and hope I could get them to get me to either the monorail station or back to the hostel.
Pretty much called it a day and spent the rest of the evening in the hostel before heading off to bed.
Day 9 - Kokusai-dori, Tsuboya Pottery district, Ruined site of First Okinawan Castle
Since training wasnt until later in the afternoon I decided to wander around some of the streets near Kokusai-dori and visit the pottery district that was located there.
Started out going down the main shopping arcade which seems to be a popular concept in Japan
At one end of the arcade found a street that was basically full of shops where pottery was made and sold. Lots of okinawan lions around the place. Should be noted that no matter where around the island you go, you'll find at least one of these on most roofs though many had two. Am guessing it must have something to do with protecting the house but not really sure.
In addition to the lions also found lots of other interesting pieces including dragons, pot and vases. After wandering around here for a while and visiting a local supermarket I headed back to the hostel.
That afternoon got picked up one more time for a final training session similar to the ones I had had earlier. After the session got taken on a little site seeing trip with a few of the guys. Ended up heading down south to the site of the first castle on Okinawa (forget name). While the castle ws pretty much in ruins it was a nice enough area for a walk and can image wandering around the nearby forest/jungle if I could find a map with the local trails shown.
After the walk headed back for a final meal and said bye to sensei and the guys.
That night decided to wander back out to the main strip to check the place out at night. As always in Japan found the street to be brightly lit with lots of neon signs. After a short walk headed back to the hostel and called it a night since I had an early flight the next morning.