I spent some more time in the Ryukyu glass village, the idea being to get something nicer for my cocktail endeavors than the standard glasses I used so far. The martini glass was the biggest challenge since it is not among the Ryukyu glass standard but I think I found a nice solution with this one. They have some very fine stuff in the Ryukyu glass village! It’s a formidable place and I hope it stays in business during these rough times when there are so much fewer tourists than in the past.
On my last day I rode my bicycle to my favorite beach of Kita-Nashiro and along some more coastline, then went to sell the bicycle. I had hoped for 4000 yen for it, since it was used only for ten days after all, but they gave me only 3000 yen for it. I am not the negotiating type and left it at that. Had I rented a bicycle I would have paid around a thousand yen a day so that’s what I paid for the new bicycle also. The investment was completely worth it and I wouldn’t have had the holidays I enjoyed without it.
There is one story left to tell and that’s about the feral cats of Itoman. The Minamihama park at the sea, which was a few hundred meters down the road from my hotel, was crawling with feral cats. Some of them looked quite well and healthy, but around half of them had chipped ears, presumably from fighting with each other. Some run away when you come too close, but some, especially this one was very people friendly and allowed you to pet her.
Several people were distributing cat food, but I wonder if they do it regularly and if it’s enough for all the cats around. I would have liked to take one of the cats with me. It makes me sad that they are not having homes. I counted some twenty cats, but I’m sure there were even more. Well, at least some people are feeding them from time to time and play with them.
All in all Itoman is a hot candidate for my retirement plans 🙂 It’s close enough to some nature and also close enough to civilization. I’m far from done exploring though! Apart from remote islands, I also want to explore more of Okinawa’s main island’s middle and north. So until next time, which I hope will be for Golden Week 2021? Let’s see what corona will say… stay healthy, folks
Another “must” when you are in the south of Okinawa’s main island is to go to the peace park next to Mabuni hill in the very south.
I went there on first of January in again brilliant sunny weather. Unfortunately the peace museum was closed for new year, but I made new friends when another metalhead noticed my Be’lakor t-shirt. He’s from Australia and Be’lakor are an Australian band 😉 We chatted for half an hour 🙂 He and another Australian lady are teachers in the JET program and were posted to the remote Okinawan islands of Yonaguni and Aguni. I have been to neither island yet, so that’s a nice opportunity for future trips 🙂 Lessons learned is: always wear your metal shirts, they can be highly communicative! Lol. I rode on to the Mabuni hill and (from the outside) checked out the cave riddled rock, where the locals and also soldiers sought refuge in the last stages of WW2.
Between downtown Itoman and the peace park is another peace museum, which had open. It was telling the story of the Himeyuri girl-student corps who were working as nurses and also forced to bury the dead during WW2. Many of them were killed and the museum commemorates them.
The whole south of Okinawa is riddled with caves and in many locals sought refuge in them from the bombing during the WW2 battle for Okinawa. One notable cave is the Todoroki cavern.
I had intended to go inside, but man that cave was scary and spooky! I’m really amazed they just let it sit there and people can enter it if they want to. I mean it’s hella dangerous, if you fall and break a leg, you have to wait for the odd chance of another idiot stumbling into the cave. It’s apparently huge also. Very interesting but no thanks for going into the pitch black dark. Lol. After the almost cave visit, I rode my bicycle further south again to the rugged but beautiful coastline of Odo.
Due to not so great weather I went to Naha twice by regular bus. On the first trip I did my round of shops that I like and also went pottery shopping in the pottery street, which has become kind of a ritual for me when I’m in Naha. I bought a rice bowl, a plate and two small “plates” where you put your cutlery on (like a chopsticks holder, but for fork and knife), all in Okinawa blue 🙂 I also went to Shuri castle. I was surprised they actually let you onto the castle grounds. The main hall of the castle and several other buildings unfortunately burned to the ground on October 31st 2019. You can walk past where the main hall stood. So sad and I’m very glad I visited the castle when it still stood. I think they plan to rebuild it by 2026… sigh… It’s a nice way to get a bit of money though that they let you in. It’s only 400 yen mind, but better than nothing and there were some people around too, not overly many, but a few.
On my second trip to Naha a few days later, I went to a shrine I had not been to before and also a bunker south of Naha where the Japanese navy made their last stand. They hacked a significant tunnel system into the hill and it’s an interesting site.
The weather turned even worse with pretty much of a winter storm, but despite it I went by bicycle to a large shopping mall which sports a new aquarium. It’s in the town of Tomigusuku between Naha and Itoman where I stayed. I almost got blown away and froze my hands off to get there and got pretty wet. Winds were at 50 to 70 km per hour or 15 to 20 meters per second. I almost gave up but then pushed through. The aquarium is super modern. There are no explanatory signs around, instead they make you download an app and there are sensor pads instead of signs, which then load the information about the animals into the app. The aquarium isn’t big but quite nice and you could get astonishingly close to most animals. The sloth and the toucans were just behind a line! So you could even take a selfie with the super cute sloth.
Cape Kyan at the southern end of Okinawa’s main island is one hell of a beautiful place. It also comes along with a peace memorial. During WW2 much of Okinawa was bombed to bits, but the south was especially affected. Ever smaller and lonelier roads lead to the cape, through sleepy fishing villages and then fields. It was a beautiful bicycle ride. At the cape were four people and it was a quite lonely affair.
Then I discovered a great natural beach called Nashiro or Kita-Nashiro (its northern section). Three islands stretch out into the sea, during low tide you can walk to two of them but the third is separated from the others by a quite deep looking canal. It’s an utterly beautiful beach and I especially liked this rock with trees clinging to it. I went to this beach on about every second day of my stay.
My longest bicycle trip was to the Gyoku Sendo cave and the tourist park they created around it. The cave is fantastic! It’s one of the most impressive stalactite and stalagmite caves I have ever seen. The cave is very wet and comes along with underground waterfalls and an underground river.
It’s also lit up nicely. Another bonus point was that there were very few tourists. Of course there are still no overseas tourists and also the number of domestic tourists was quite moderate. I thoroughly enjoyed that cave, even if the bicycle ride there was not so nice with trucks thundered past me half the time. I actually visited the cave on my very first trip to Okinawa in the 90ties, but it was only one stop on a bus tour around the entire island and we were rushed through. It also was probably drier than it was now since it was at the end of summer when I visited back then. I don’t remember it being so jaw dropping. If you ever go to Okinawa’s main island, make sure you visit that cave. Around the cave they built the “Okinawa World” theme park with dozens of huts in which all local crafts are displayed and you can try out a lot of them yourself. Further, they have a small zoo centered around the Habu snake, which is a famous, highly venomous snake living around the Ryukyu islands. But the cave remains the main attraction of this park.
Originally I had wanted to spend Japan’s Golden Week in early May 2020 in Okinawa. State of emergency made me stay home and cancel everything way in advance. In summer I wanted to make the next try but canceled everything 36 hours before departure, as Okinawa declared a stand alone prefectural state of emergency in our second corona wave. Then I waited anxiously for the end of the year and whether the third attempt to get to Okinawa would be successful. It didn’t look good, since we got into the third wave and the new infections per day were higher than ever.
I booked a hotel a week in advance and a flight 48 hours before departure. I debated extensively with myself and others whether it was okay to fly to Okinawa or not. There were no official domestic travel restrictions in Japan at that moment. I booked an apartment with kitchen, so if I go to a supermarket in Yokohama or the city of Itoman it makes no difference. If I ride around with a bicycle in Yokohama or Okinawa, it makes no difference. I didn’t plan on going to any party or even a restaurant in the evening.
So in the end I headed for Haneda airport after all and it was actually pretty crowded. Also the flight was 80 % full. Wow! I was lucky and there was no one next to me, but there were many rows without a free seat… masks were of course mandatory. The flight to Okinawa takes around three hours, since it’s against the jet stream, back it’s only two hours. They break out no food on these flights, but only some soft drinks. Hardly anyone was eating anything so as to not have to take the mask down in contrast to previous flights were people broke out their bento boxes as soon as it was allowed.
I took a taxi from the airport, because my target, the city of Itoman is only 10 km south of it. I was even prepared for something like, we don’t take passengers who arrived from Tokyo, but luckily there was no such thing. My taxi driver was about 80 years old and basically just happy that I could speak Japanese, lol. He didn’t ask where I come from today, or which country either. He only told me proudly about a highway they started to build south (so far there is only a highway to the north) and that some military area has been taken over by the Japanese navy instead of the Americans, those are now only up north. The driver didn’t mention corona in any form.
While there are a few apartment hotels around in Itoman, it’s basically a “normal” town. Checking around in the internet revealed no bicycle rental anywhere. I only found a bicycle shop on the internet about 2km away and walked there first thing in the morning. As I already expected the bicycle shop only sold but did not rent out bicycles. But then again, if I rent a bicycle for a 1000 yen for ten days it’ll be 10,000 yen. The cheapest bicycle that they had was 13,000 yen. I asked them if they would take it back on the 4th of January if I bought it now, the answer was no, but they also told me about a recycle shop around the corner. So I went there and asked if they’d buy it off of me and they said yes and thus I bought the thing.
I promptly rode to the Ryukyu glass village, which was one of my targets and it was only three km away from my hotel. They have a fantastic shop with works of art and of course also usable glassware. They also offer a make-your-own-glass experience. Usually they let you do more process steps by yourself, but due to corona they cannot let people blow glass anymore. They blow it for you and you only do one step of finishing it up yourself. I also checked out the beach 500 meters down the road and enjoyed a fantastic sunset. All that would not have been possible without some means of transportation = my lovely new bicycle!
So, I thought there’d be no more “would have” about my summer holiday, but now there is. Originally I would have gone to Europe this summer, but that was cancelled quite a while ago. Then I booked two weeks in my beloved Okinawa… I would have flown to Naha today, but… on the 31st of July the governor of Okinawa declared a prefecture wide state of emergency, asking people to stay at home as much as possible. And that for at least the period of August 1st to August 15. My plan was to go to Okinawa (main island this time) from August 2nd to August 15th. Aaaaahhhhh!!!! Okinawa has currently 300 active cases (adding 200 in the last four days…) with 1.4 Mio inhabitants, while the prefecture where I live, Kanagawa, has 400 active cases with 9 Mio inhabitants, and that despite being right next to Tokyo with its now 3200 active cases.
It’s not forbidden to fly to Okinawa, but I’d just feel so awkward to be frolicking about during a state of emergency and the request to stay home. So yesterday I spent the morning with cancelling everything and luckily my hotel was super nice and let me cancel for free and it also looks like I’ll get most of the money back for the flight.
So what to do with my precious two weeks off in this very volatile atmosphere? I’ve booked an apartment now for 4 days in Kanazawa on the Japanese sea side where I’ve never been to before and will probably, hopefully go there tomorrow. Let’s see what happens! Stay safe everyone! And wear masks please!
The best way to know what people are made of is to see how they behave in a crisis. The current Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, showed us what he was made of during a press conference the morning after the wonderful Shuri Castle of Naha, Okinawa burned down for yet unknown reasons. You could see the shock, anguish, sorrow and distress on his face, but he kept it together, chose the right words, gave the facts that were known and the conviction to do whatever possible to rebuild this icon of his prefecture. There was a lot of dignity, integrity and decency that could be felt even through the TV. I knew about him, but never really “bothered” before. But his speech left a very strong and positive impression on me. His name is Yasuhiro (Denny) Tamaki and there is a lot special about him. First of all, he is a “ha-fu” = a “half”, the Japanese expression for a mixed race person. He was born in 1959 on Okinawa Main Island. During that time Okinawa was under US rule. The US only gave back Okinawa to Japan in 1972. According to Wikipedia he never met his US marine dad who left Okinawa before Mr. Tamaki was born. His Japanese mom raised him as a single mom. As an adult, he apparently tried to locate his father, but was not successful.
I can guarantee you that he was bullied, especially as a child, being teased for having an American dad, who left his mom after an adventure, affair, or whatever they had. I guarantee you that also as an adult he has faced scorn and discrimination. But now he is the Governor of his home island. That is quite a remarkable career to make. In our mad times of clowns, madmen, narcissist and assholes as politicians, it is very refreshing to see that there seem to be some decent guys around still somewhere. Tamaki-san is, needless to say, the first and so far only “half” who is a prefectural governor in Japan. I hope he remains the great guy he seems to be and that he does good by his home island. And I hope that the Shuri Castle can be rebuild quickly and I’ll surely visit it again.
On the next day on Kume island, I headed to the west coast, which promised another great beach. The promise was correct and the Aara beach turned out to be equally lonely as the east side beach of the island. It looked especially lovely from a higher vantage point when you can see the sea converging between the coral reef banks.
I drove through the main town in search for some decent souvenir and food shops, but was disappointed. While there were two, three souvenir shops, the whole “Main Street” area was run down and had definitely seen better days. I rode on towards the airport past the baseball ground where the Rakuten team usually holds its winter camp and to the only real “resort” hotel of the island. It’s at an interesting boulder cluttered beach, but also right next to the airport. Not that there are many planes, but nevertheless the fortification concrete slabs of the runway are disturbing the boulder beach.
My last full day on Kume island brought bad weather unfortunately and it rained quite heavily for most of the day. I went only for a short bicycle ride to another look out, then walked on the beach for a while in the rain.
The next morning, the Kume trip was already done. I have explored most of the island though apart from a forest stretch to the south and the north-western corner. The four hour boat ride back to Naha was nice, even though the boat swayed quite a bit despite better weather than on the way to the island.
In Naha I did some shopping and then headed to a shopping mall in order to catch Avengers Endgame. I must admit that the city girl in me highly enjoyed the shopping mall and some modern touch. While Kume has beautiful nature, the man made stuff on the island is old and run down and a bit depressing. It’s a shame actually, since the island itself is so beautiful. But then again, there are many beautiful islands in Okinawa 😉
There was a fat thunderstorm during the night and tons of rain, but luckily it cleared up in the morning and ever more so during the day and I made best use of the fine weather with the longest bicycle tour that I had planned out. The eventual aim of the day was the northern shore of the island with a big rock formation. But the first stop was the magnificent Hiyajo Banta cliff with great views over the northern east side of the island.
From there I headed into the clouds to the Uegusuku castle ruins, which lie on the top of one of the highest hills of the island. While it was a shame that the view wasn’t so good, it was also kinda cool and mystic to be standing in the clouds.
Then I rode down to sea level again for the Mifugaa rock, which is indeed quite am impressive formation, also the grim rocks next to it, which I called the castle of the Witch King of Angmar were equally Impressive.
The long rides up the hill to the Hiyajo Banta cliff were quite hard, but luckily my bicycle had power assist. The Mifugaa rock was the furthest point away from home and I was pretty tired and hot and had a headache and feared for a while to have a sunstroke by the end of the trip. Without hat I surely would have gotten a sun stroke. As soon as the sun is out it’s quite brutal in Okinawa. After all, the island is on the same latitude as the Sahara desert… But after some rest and cooling down everything turned out to be fine. 🙂
For the first full day on Kume island they predicted rain starting from noon. Nevertheless I rented a power assist bicycle from the rental shop when it opened at 10:00. Goal was the southern tip of the island. It started raining twenty minutes into having rented the bicycle and I thought, oh man, this is not gonna be nice. But luckily that rain lasted only for half an hour and there was no rain again until 18:00. Yeah! Clouds hung fat and dark the whole time, but as long as it wasn’t raining, I was fine with that. Very beautiful rock formations and nature at the southern tip of the island awaited and also a bunch of wild flowers.
I rode back past my hotel to the north until a shrine and scouted out the route for the next day.
Then I went back to the tatami rocks and the sun even came out for a few moments. Next to the tatami rocks is a small sea turtle aquarium which I visited. So, all in all it was a much more successful day than expected thanks to the rain being delayed and I enjoyed the bicycle tour and the lookouts.
My search for the perfect Japanese island continued already five months after the last trip :-). Over New Year I was in Zamami, this time, over Golden Week, I decided to go to Kume island. Kume island is actually the fifth biggest Okinawa island, after Okinawa Hontou (main island), Iriomote, Ishigaki, and Miyako. (I’ve been on all of them). You can take a short flight from Naha or go four hours by ship. Since I love boats, I of course took the ship version (which is also much cheaper than flying). Because of the sailing times, and having learned from the Zamami trip, I booked two nights in Naha before and after the journey to Kume island. After a short afternoon in Naha wandering around the International Street, I had to get up at 6:30 to catch the boat to Kume island at 8:30. I was on board at around 8:00 and due to Golden Week the ship was full, which did not concern me too much though, since I stayed on deck the entire time anyway. The sea was a bit rough and the weather not so nice, but I thoroughly enjoyed the four hours on the boat, getting soaked from spray a few times, lol.
Arrived on Kume island I took a taxi (yes, they even have taxis) and a Stone Age old guy in a Stone Age old taxi brought me across the island to my hotel close to the so called Eef beach, which is apparently one of the one hundred best beaches of Japan. The hotel was very simple, but had everything and was twenty meters from the beach and right next to it was a Family Mart convenience store. Nothing else needed to survive!
I wandered around the beach, before they let me check in and then found a bicycle rental too, another twenty meters from the hotel. Perfect! For the afternoon I rented a normal bicycle and squeaked with it to the “tatami” rocks, a volcanic rock formation not unlike the hexagons of the Giants Causeway in Ireland. I kinda want to see this once in bright sunshine with blue skies, but… I walked up the entire beach beyond the tatami rocks and had the beach to myself.
The houses of Kume island are mostly all a bit old and there are no high rise hotels, which of course also has its charm. But my hotel was at the main road on the east side of the island and due to the Eef beach also a major “tourist” spot, there were restaurants and bars around. Some youngsters sang karaoke somewhere until three in the morning, unlucky me that I like to sleep with open window and no air conditioning on. There are also apartment houses nearby and hm… not a good spot to have an apartment with loud tourist night life every day.
On day three I did the lookout route and burned through two bicycle batteries on the up and down course through the island (I got a second one as a spare from the hotel staff as a service ;-)). One of the open sea side lookouts comes with a mini tower for the whale watching season. A local sits in the tower and looks out for whales and radios their position to the whale watching boats. Some humpback whales usually come to breed around Zamami. They are around from January to April. Since it was only the first of January, it didn’t look like they had arrived yet.
On the bay side lookout I met a lady from the U.K. who is a teacher in Yamagata prefecture in the north and who escaped the snow there for some days of sunshine, only that there was no sunshine. But at least it was warmer than in Yamagata, which is drowning in snow this time of year. The lady was a muslim and wore a black veil. I wonder how the people in Yamagata react to her. I’m sure it’s not exactly easy for her to live in Japan.
After the lookout tour I had been to everywhere on the island and it is very beautiful indeed.
Is it a candidate for retirement? I haven’t ruled it out yet, despite only 600 people in the island. I “interviewed” some of the hotel personnel. Two are from Yokohama originally, one lady is from Iwate. One of the Yokohama guys is on the island for six years now and his family is still in Yokohama. Interesting. The lady from Iwate left her husband there. I don’t know for how many years. They were working over New Year, which is kind of holy for the Japanese as a family get together event, but… interesting. The guy from Yokohama who is there for six years said there is a doctor on the island on weekdays and if there is something serious, they fly you over to Naha with the “doctor heli” helicopter service. If the ferries don’t go but you must get off the island, you can charter a helicopter as well, it costs usually 90,000 yen, but depending on the circumstances they let you charter it for 30,000 yen. If five people board that’s only 6000 yen per person. The ferries don’t run on average once a month due to bad weather. Of course no helicopter flies during a typhoon either, but no planes from Naha also, so what. Hm! The island is still a candidate for retirement 😉
On my last full day I went to the pirate beach once more and to town for lunch, but then escaped back to the hotel due to rain becoming more constant. Despite the far from ideal weather and the difficulties in getting to the island, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Naha and Zamami. The latter is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.
I admit that the ferry ride to Zamami was a bit scary, the boat was swaying nicely and bumping hard against the currents and the swell. But nothing happened and I got to Zamami all right. Hotel staff picked up not only me but another ten guests or so and brought us the two kilometers to the hotel by car.
Zamami belongs to the Kerama island group, a collection of three inhabited islands and countless smaller and bigger rocks in between. Around 600 people live on Zamami, fewer on the other islands around it. I quickly borrowed a bicycle with battery assist and started exploring the island. There is one traffic light on the island at the port and also that one is not really needed 😉 The things to do on Zamami are diving, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, whale watching and riding around with a bicycle.
There is one general store in the main settlement with food and shampoo and the like, plus t-shirts and beach sandals and that’s basically it.
I read about Pope Francis’s Christmas address, in which he said people should live simpler lives without accumulating mundane things. Come to a small island, there you can enjoy simpler life.
I bicycled around the island for four days and did just that 😉
On my first full day on the island I headed north of the last settlement where I was staying, and there is “nothing” anymore but “wilderness”. The wilderness is still very civilized with a well maintained road that leads first to another lookout over a cliff to the north. Then a long and windy road leads to the north-eastern end of the island and on the map it promised a beach. I’ve seen quite a couple of beaches in my life already, but this one is one of the best for sure. It has just the right size, a fantastic view to uninhabited islands and rocks in the distance, great sand and a very rare feature, a small fresh water booklet that comes down from the mountain behind it. Now where do you have a fresh water booklet coming onto a perfect beach?
The whole atmosphere just shouted pirate beach to me. If I was a pirate I’d made that place my lair 😉
On top of that there is the much quieter inner bay of the island just a fifty meter walk above a ledge. If enemies come looking for you, off you go over the ridge and into a second boat in the inner bay and they’ll never catch you. What a perfect place 🙂
On the way back I rode down another path to the inner bay and came out at a cottage place, which probably only operates in summer, very nice getaway as well. Then off to another pirate cove over the wider ridge behind my hotel, a north-west facing small beach. Zamami is a truly beautiful island with lonely beaches that I suppose are not full even in high season.
On I rode to town and had lunch at a cozy little eatery, then rode again to the lookout point from the day before. There is another look out point further out, but my assist battery was running low, so kept this one for the next day. Hiding from the afternoon rain at the harbor, I finally rode home to the hotel but spotted an elderly couple nearby the hotel at a pier attempting to fish and chatted with them for a while. They were staying in the same hotel as I did and share the same hobby, they also have been to plenty of small islands already and live in Tokyo ;-). Like me they like places which are remote and lonely, I guess that’s because we live in a megalopolis of 20 million people 😉
I got up at seven in the morning to be ready for the ferry, but… at eight came the announcement that also that day all ferries to Zamami were cancelled due to the bad weather and rough seas. Hmmmmm… since I liked my room and it’s price, I prolonged my stay for another night, despite the fire alarm disaster.
So, what to do? Well, when it comes to sightseeing in Naha, the castle is a must. Of course I had been there also in the 1990ties, but it was so long ago it was worth going again. When I was in Naha in 1994 there had been only buses and lots of traffic jams. There are still traffic jams, but meanwhile Naha got a tiny monorail line that starts at the airport, goes through the middle of the city and stops at the rear of the castle.
I rode the cute monorail and wandered through the castle garden to its front in a stop and go of showers. The castle is very Chinese, since the Ryukyu kingdom was, if independent, always intertwined with China as well as Japan. Ryukyu only became Okinawa around 1870.
If you are in Naha, the castle is a must and it was bigger and prettier than I remembered 😉
After the castle visit I wandered back towards the Kokusai Douri, but the march was too long and I caught a bus back to shopping paradise.
Parallel to Kokusai Douri is also a pottery street with dozens of rather up-end pottery shops where you can get beautiful stuff, but for a price. I managed to not succumb to pottery, but I did get a bit carried away and bought more hotaru jewelry. That’s Okinawa glass art with metal inlays that looks very shiny and pretty 😉 It’s more or less the only jewelry I like, apart from silver with heavy metal motives 😉 I went hunting for the best and affordable items and indeed found some at a shop with an astonishingly friendly grandma selling the stuff. I say astonishingly because I think these sales people have to put up with a lot of shit from not so super friendly foreigners every day, but she warmed up to me when I talked to her in Japanese 😉
Next I wandered on to the Fukushuen garden, a Chinese garden close to the sea and it’s very much worth the visit as well.
Finally, I went on to the main shrine of Naha by the ocean. It was already under preparation for the big queue and festival mode of the New Year shrine visit ritual, and it was interesting to see the little booths with food being installed everywhere. Finally, another march home and I guess I walked about 15 km that day and was pretty tired back in the hotel.
Luckily no more fire alarms and at eight the next morning the good news, the ferry is going!
It’s small island time at least once per year for me. So this time I wanted to go to the island of Zamami, about 50 km west of Okinawa’s biggest city of Naha, which is on Okinawa main island.
There are three possibilities per day to get to the island, twice with a speed ferry, once with a slow ferry. The only same day possibility was to take an early flight to Naha, then move to the port and take the afternoon speed ferry to Zamami.
I arrived in clouds and rain and went by taxi to the port, but the taxi driver was already saying, probably the ferries don’t go, it’s too choppy out there.
He was right, there was a sign at the ticket booth at the port saying, none of the ships had been going that day. Ugh… I quickly checked booking dot com and found a good priced hotel close to the port and the taxi driver brought me there.
The hotel turned out to be quite new or renovated and the room was astonishingly nice for the last minute deal price.
I had been in Naha once during my student times in Fukuoka a staggering 24 years ago. The other times I’ve been to Okinawa I only passed through Naha. Of course I hardly remembered the place. But the one place to go to is the Kokusai Douri, the International Street. It’s a pretty long shopping street and off it branch several shopping arcades as well.
The one thing I remembered about Kokusai Douri was that there were dozens of what was then called “army surplus” stores. These shops sold old military uniforms and whatever other kind of military stuff. There is a large US army base in Okinawa, which the locals hate. The US gave back Okinawa to Japan only in 1972 by the way.
These army surplus stores have all but disappeared. I found only one single lonely shop selling military clothes and gas masks and stuff like that. All the military shops were replaced with harmless souvenir shops selling tinker and food specialties. Well, I surely prefer that to the military crap.
At 2:30 in the morning that night I was woken up by a nasty alarm on endless repeat: attention, a fire has broken out in the fifth floor, please evacuate the building immediately. The recording was in Japanese and English with teeth grinding alarm sounds in between that were blasting your ears off. Since I saw nothing and smelled nothing, I was not very freaked out and took the time to put on socks, pants and two jackets before leaving the building with my purse and computer. Some hotel guests had been more freaked out than me and stood there in their pajamas freezing. It was raining again and windy at around fifteen Celsius. Three fire trucks and the police came in one mighty commotion.
At 3:30 they called the alarm off. The very nervous night manager stood in the breakfast room and thanked the guests for their cooperation and that thanks to us the fire brigade could check everything so quickly and efficiently and sent everyone except for floor five back to bed. I was on floor four of the ten story building, luckily. No clue when the fifth floor was allowed to return.
In the morning the front desk showed signs around that a guest had tampered with a fire extinguisher and the case was now investigated by the police. Oops 😉 seems like a drunken dude will not enjoy the rest of his stay in Naha.