Naha and Kariyushi Aquarium

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.

Picture taken Dec. 2020
Picture taken Dec. 2018 (I wore masks very often also before the pandemic…)

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.

Keeping it Together

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.

Shuri Castle, Naha, Okinawa in Dec. 2018