Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Part 2: Okinawa, Iriomote Island

so to catch you and I both up, i am finishing off the photos here from when i visited okinawa awhile back with my friends from Goto (the islands where I live.)  we left off in the beautiful garden in Naha, on the main island.

Naha is quite a touristy place and so there is a the gammet of people bouncing around the city and quite an array of things to see and do as well.  none of the folks i traveled with or i really call that kind of city our cup of tea when it comes to traveling, but we had to spend a day there in order to move onto the next island so we made the most of it!

a glorious little shop selling every kind of okinawan souvineir you could want.  this is japanese pink explosion. 

just your average liquor store in okinawa...

 unless you count the fact that they are selling barrels of snake shou chou.  thats right folks, a real snake inside the most obnoxious liquor that you have ever tried.  this is a big seller here and the popular thing to drink if you are in okinawa and looking for a real traditional experience.  i am happy to say that i avoided it entirely.  it is really expensive (about 100 or so US dollars for a jug of this) and it has a dead snake in it.  oh, and my dad always told me to stay away from snake oil.  thanks dad.

main tourist street in Naha.  touristy, eh?

another wall of snake spirits in another liquor store.

here we have one excellent example of japanese weirdness.  this is my friend brittany beside an ad for chocolate in the ishigaki airport.  right?!?

and here is a double rainbow welcoming us to iromote island.  this was the beginning of a lot of beautiful things to come.

iriomote island main harbor.  was really fantastic, but really made me think of how lucky i am to live in goto, where life is strangely similar to this.

the manegrove forest in iriomote that visitors frequent.  you can ride a ways back into it and then hike up to this gorgeous waterfall.  most people were not prepared for the hike and it was hilarious to see them hiking out in high heels and such. 

this is the water past the falls...on our way there.

one of the small falls on the way to the main event!

the falls look tiny in this picture, but when we finally got to them they were fantastical! 

some kanjis past visitors have carved into the stones you must climb over in order to get to the falls.

this is me and robin chan.

there are gaijin swimming in that water there!!!!  lets get in and freak out all of the japanese people!

okay...more in the next post!


i know i owe all of you out there who read this thing about fifteen posts and i will get to them soon.  it has been an uber busy couple of weeks, er, month here and i am just getting caught up with everything myself.  for the time being though, here was the high light of my day.

teaching 3rd graders this afternoon.  the homeroom teacher (who i teach the class with and also who plans the class, i just come in as an assistant) tells me and the kids that we will sing a new song today.  great.  no problem.  these songs are super easy to learn and i usually know them or can pull them from some deep memory store from childhood.  so she starts the CD and it is a super easy song as i thought.  basically they are saying words of foods in japanese and then asking for the kids to try and give the english word, but doing this all in a sort of musical way, more like a call and response form.  the song starts easily with fruits and foods like ham and bacon.  really essential if you are learning english as an 8 year old child in japan.  i mean who knows when you will be having breakfast with some foreigners next and they will want to know your favorite breakfast meat?  who knows??, it really is just smarter to be prepared.  :)  so next comes curry and some other various japanese favorites, followed by my favorite, biru.  thats right folks, that translates in english to beer.  really, really important for the youth on this island to know this word.  really.  so glad that we could include it in our english lesson this afternoon. 

i couldnt stop laughing on the inside or thinking about how strange this all was.  not only was this a song that the teacher has chosen, but a CD that some japanese company had made and then the japanese govt had chosen that specific CD to include in the elementary ciriculum here.  the kids and the teacher didnt even flinch or think it was weird.  i was the only one.  still am. 

japan is so strange some days.  i love it here. :)

hope you are loving life where you are today as well. 

catchin up soon,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Okinawa Part 1: Castle and garden on Naha

After spending most of my time on the Goto islands and in Nagasaki-ken i really, really wanted to get out and explore more of Japan this year.  Poof!  My wish was granted and my first big "seeing Japan" trip was fantastic!  I got to explore the many fabulous island of Okinawa with some great friends and just enjoy the leisure of travel. 

We headed for the islands on a Saturday morning and traveled most of the day; Fukue (my neighboring island, which HAS an airport!) to Fukuoka, and Fukuoka to Naha on Okinawa island.  We stayed the evening in Naha at this fantastic little hostel and spent the next day exploring the main island and enjoying the slow life of another island. 

Our first big sight seeing adventure was the Shuri castle ruins and former Ryukyu islands emperors home.  These grounds were very spread out and contained many old buildings and relics which helped us visitors to take a peek into what life might have been like back then.  This woman (yes, we think this is a woman after much debate though) was exhibiting a traditional Okinawan folk dance for the crowd of tourists.  It is quite possibly the s  l  o  w  e  s  t dance i have ever witnessed.  Painful and beautiful at the same time and she was accompanied by traditional shamisen players.  A nice peek into the past.

The castle itself was home to 10 or so emperors of the Okinawan islands, which were back then their own little entity and not technically part of Japan.  So while these people are proud Japanese people, their history is rich and separate from those of mainland people. Red was prevelent in the decor and since then has kind of taken on a regal quality in my mind.  Everything at this site was painted and draped in red.

This is the outside of the main house of the emperor.  The area where these folks are standing is where armies used to gather to get orders from the emperor himself. 

Living quarters and spaces where the emperor would recieve guests. 

we took the usual route, so as to not upset all of the castle guides who stood watching people file through.  this was a tight operation and something like 100,000 people come through this castle each year.  pretty awesome and pretty over the top.
the white girl is with me! surprise!

this is the emperor's throne.  Quite ornate seating and nice and glossy, just like the Japanese people like things!
Kanji above the throne.  Im really sorry, I dont know what this says.  Make something up that sounds good to you!

this is a model built to show what the area once looked like when armies gathered in the main courtyard.  (picture of the outside of the building above)

So after our sojourn in the ancient life of royalty we decided to get outside for awhile and see what other tresures Naha held.  We found this garden (Japanese style, of course) and got lost in its pleasures for awhile.  It was the perfect was to end a zenful day and enjoy sunset.  The little windows here were so fantastic and the details everywhere were just stunning. 

i will just let the scenery do the talking for a minute now.  this was really such a lovely way to spend some time and a great way to connect with Japan and its natural beauty.  these are for mr. bird and my mom.  you were both there with me while I wandered through here.

I followed this little old man through the garden for quite awhile.  He stopped to talk to me about the mosquitos and to remind me that the garden would close in twenty minutes.  I think he liked me, and I know I liked him.