An Interesting Way to Say Goodbye
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Yeah, this was me. Goooood times.
seasons of change
Meeting Ryukyusan: OkinawaFrom Shikoku I flew to Okinawa: the southernmost group of islands comprising Japan. Okinawa is a tropical getaway for Japanese people, though it wasn't so tropical in early December. Had it not been cloudy for my whole vacation, I probably would have swam; the white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue water were breathtaking. Still, I enjoyed the mild 20+C weather and took full advantage with my T-shirts and capris.
Day One found me in Naha city. I biked from my hostel to the vibrant Kokusai Dori, where there were tourists and shopping aplenty. Every shop carried some variation of the legendary Ryukyu dragon. Later, I took the new skytrain to Shuri where I visited Shurijo, or castle. But finding Naha a little boring, I spent the later part of Day One shopping for a rental car. I found such a great deal that I decided to rent for TWO days!
With my peppy Mazda rental, I headed North for Day Two, stopping off at picturesque beaches and sprawling resorts along they way. By early afternoon I made it to Okinawa World, a beautiful Flower Park and Aquarium. I was most taken by the manatees, which are said to be the subject of early mermaid legends.
South for Day Three, to a 1.5km-long stalgamite cave and traditional Okinawan village (which, predictably, doubled as an arts & crafts market). After hiking through the cave and touring the shops, I followed the coastline to a small marina where I boarded a small glass-bottomed boat for a cruise through the coral reef. Grillions of brightly-coloured fish meandered below me and the couple that rounded-out our tour group, but the unanimous favourite were the Nemos who cuddled up to the anenome.
Finally, I ended my site-seeing with a sky-high ride on a ferris wheel in Kadena. Kadena is the location of the oppressive American military base that has overtaken much of Okinawa honto since WWII; it was interesting to view lengths of barbed wire and busy security gates next to modern day Japan and white sand.
After a crazy mini-vacation and a whirlwind Christmas shopping trip in Tokyo, I arrived back at Tressa's apartment in Chikusei in one, very tired, piece. What a great way to end my Japan experience!
Get CheckedA note to everyone who's been around my coughy self in the last couple months:
If you're feeling sick (cough, sore throat, sore muscles, fever...) go to the doctor and ask for tests; I have meningitis, which is extremely contagious and sometimes fatal. Sorry if I passed it on.
Oh, don't worry, I think we caught it early and I'm okay. :)
Whirlwind Adventures in ShikokuImmediately after packing up my apartment and finishing my last day of work, I was off on a mini-adventure to the South of Japan! My long-time private student, Yoshiko, invited me for a weekend in her hometown of Matsuyama, Shikoku where we stayed with her very hospitable family. From the minute we entered the Arrivals Lounge at mini Matsuyama Airport to the minute I found myself back at that airport for departure we were GO-GO-GO!
First we drove for 1.5 hours to a small island connected to Shikoku (the southmost of the four main islands comprising Japan) by a long bridge. Lunch was a very scary affair consisting of picnic tables in a fish market. You know that's gonna be KAWAI!! Though my food was literally walking off my plate, I ate everything given to me with a smile, only my sense of adventure preventing me from ralphing.
After a panoramic viewpoint and a pirate museum, we headed back to the main island and perused a lacquerware shop, where pieces of this Japanese artform were priced in the hundred-thousands (of Yen). Back at the Imada homestead, Mrs. Imada, or Imada-san, presented us with a feast she spent the day preparing. It consisted of a traditional Shikokan nabe (soup) and various types of tempura; Oishi! After dinner, Yoshiko and I tried out a local, partially outdoor, onsen: this was my first and only onsen experience - something I had been dreading for a while due to the public nudity factor. Actually, with only Japanese people in site, it wasn't that bad.
Early to bed, early to rise: Mr. Imada, or Imada-san, Yoshiko and I first headed to number 55 of the 88 Shikokan Shrines; constructed centuries ago by a single monk, people now travel from all over the globe to do pilgrimages to all of the shrines. Fortunately earth from all 88 was located at number 55, so we managed to save ourselves some time.
Next we headed to newly refurbished Matsuyamajo, or castle. None of us knew that the opening ceremonies for the castle were that day, so we felt very lucky to chairlift-up to a parade and festival. Many locals had dressed in traditional garb, and there was plenty of music and authentic Japanese festival-food.
Unfortunately, my early flight prevented us from staying at the castle long, so we left early and made a quick stop at the Dogo Onsen, which is the oldest public bathhouse/hot spring in Japan. A delicious U-don lunch and it was back to the airport for a thanks-filled farewell.