I've been sick since Thursday, and while it seems like I'm on the mend, I still don't feel so good. As a result, I've got plenty of time to write, so that's nice I guess, but I'm missing out on all of the New Year's 4-day weekend fun, so I'm not actually grateful. At all. Colds suck.
I wrote on Friday about going to Hualian. Right after that trip I and one friend of mine went to Okinawa. We stayed in Naha for five nights, and we had four days to run around and do stuff. The weather was really super nice on the first day, and the weather report was telling us it might rain later, so we decided to go to Tokashiki Island on the first day. (Originally, I had thought of doing a day trip to Kume Island, but one of the guys at the hostel told me that that was kind of unrealistic, so I changed the trip to Tokashiki, which is much closer to the main island of Okinawa.) Those of you who know me on the Facebook have already seen many of the photos in this post, but there will be a lot more historic, folkloric, and otherwise mentally stimulating background information in this blog post, so don't close your browser window quite yet!
We just about missed the boat to the island. They had already started folding up the bridge they use to get people on the boat when we showed up, still without tickets mind you. However, I immediately took out my mini-American flag that I carry with me at all times and waved it around while demanding special treatment as a citizen of AMERIKUH, OOH-RAH!
...Well, actually, I think because winter is off-season, they didn't mind holding up the boat for five minutes while they sold us tickets and set up the boarding bridge again.
Naha's port, Tomari.
The sun caught my camera off-guard and I got this awesome photo as a result. Speaking from a technical standpoint, I think my FP was too shutter-speeded based on the lens fracking quotient. I know a lot about cameras, you see.
We saw this Japanese Coast Guard boat on the way to the island. This boat is part of Japan's (totally not a) military force, which is constitutionally not allowed to exist unless the legislature really wants it. The coast guard has a lot of bases on the Okinawan islands, and they've stepped up patrols recently ever since China started causing problems over the Senkaku Islands.
The spray from the boat caused a rainbow.
When we got to Tokashiki, we originally thought we would save some money and rent bicycles, but the rental guy told us that we were better off not doing that. It turns out he wasn't just trying to increase his profits, the island really is quite hilly, and unless you show up and intend to do some serious exercise, I can't really recommend renting a bicycle on Tokashiki. We also thought about renting a scooter like we did in Hualian, but the enforcement of traffic rules is a lot stricter in Japan, so we were unable to rent a scooter. (Well, my friend could have rented a 50cc since she has a Japanese driver's license for cars, but 2 people aren't allowed to ride on a 50cc scooter.) We ended up going with a "Kei" car (a light car with a lawn mower engine in it).
The first place we went was this cliff overlooking the harbor we had just come in. The view is absolutely stunning, but it's kind of sad at the same time. Right next to me when I was taking these photos was a memorial to the people who had died during the invasion of the Kerama islands by the US military in WWII. In order to take the main island, the US had to first secure the Kerama islands since they lie just off to the west. Not only did a lot of people die from US bullets, but there were also a lot of civilian mass murder/suicides, the same kind that would be later seen on the main island. In some cases, these may have been actual suicides, but there is a lot of evidence that the Japanese military actively pushed people to kill themselves, and there are plenty of reports of the military killing its own civilians. It's a little chilling to look out over this beautiful view of the sea and to think that things like that happened here only about 70 years ago.
The next place we went is in the photo above and the 4 below. We were told that there was a lookout tower, but it turned out that there was no tower. However, the view was very nice.
While here at the lookout (no)tower, we ran into a couple on vacation. It turned out that they were from Hateruma Island, one of the islands I visited last March.
We stopped while driving and I got these two photos (above and below) of the sea in between Tokashiki (which is the easternmost of the Kerama islands) and the other nearby islands. The sea here is famous for being exceptionally clear and good for diving. I also read on Wikipedia that sometimes the Kerama Deer (a subspecies of the Japanese Deer, found only on these islands) swims from one island to another! It's reportedly not a very good swimmer though.
We got lunch at a cat-infested restaurant.
There was one old lady running the place by herself, and she was trying her best to chase out the cats, but it seemed like every time she would chase one out the front door, another two would come in the back. She gave us a flyswatter and asked us to chase off the cats with it if they bothered us.
Here's the cat reserve army, waiting across the street to invade the restaurant as soon as an opening is spotted.
This is a tiny hermit crab.
I thought this scene was kind of funny. (I just wish I could have gotten closer before it broke up.) It looks like the famous "Evolution of Man" picture, except with a crow, two cats, and two people all sitting in a line. The two people are actually the couple we met earlier in the day.
The "Habu" (spelled "Hub" here, which is non-standard, but makes sense pronunciation-wise) is a poisonous snake that lives on most of the Ryukyu islands. The English version of the sign sounds quite dire, but the Japanese is a little less so.
This is also a hermit crab. Unfortunately, he didn't want to come out after hiding in his shell from us.
This scene here reminded me of the Taoist Yin Yang symbol.
Going to Tokashiki reminded me of my trip to Ishigaki back in March. The small islands in Okinawa really are the most beautiful. Because they're inconvenient to live on, they aren't very built up compared to the main island of Okinawa, or even some of the other larger islands like Ishigaki.
Up next: Day two, where we traveled around the southern part of Okinawa and visited lots of Gusuku!