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Japan

Golden Week 2008 - Okinawa IV

The return to Naha - Onna to Naha


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We got up a little later, around 8:30, ate, packed, checked out and hit the road on our way back to Naha. We decided to do some touristy stuff and stuff regarding WWII, so we plugged the Underground Naval Base into our Navi and headed out on the highway. About an hour later we missed the turn off for the Naval Base, but, of course, our Navi didn't tell us the new route to go, and instead of resorting to maps to get us there, we decided to follow the signs and go somewhere else. We followed the signs for another 45 minutes to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.

When we arrived, there were a lot of students relaxing and playing in the park, on a class trip I suppose. We were also offered some flowers that we could buy and place on the graves, but we decided not to. We went in the museum, which focussed mainly on the battle for Okinawa and the resultant occupation had on the Okinawan people. The battle lasted about 90 days and the Okinawan people referred to the American attack as the "Typhoon of Steel". Basically everything was destroyed and people were forced to hide in caves and for some people, forced to commit mass suicide by the Japanese army. There is also a cemetery on site that is kind of controversial because they buried Americans, Japanese, Okinawan, anyone that was involved in the battle.

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We finished up at the museum, and ate some more ice cream. Courtney had the sugar cane ice cream, and it was very reminiscent of Grampy Mac's maple walnut. We then went on our way to find something less depressing: swimming! We drove to a small island down the road which had a couple beaches. We stopped at one, I got out and took a quick dip. It was nice and refreshing. I got out and we sat in the sun for a bit so I could dry off, then we drove back down to the Family Mart and I got changed.

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It was around 2:00 so we thought we should go back to Naha and check in to the Okinawa Oriental Hotel. It was cheap, but it looked like it was built in the 70's and never updated. But, it had everything that we needed from a hotel. We got check in then headed up to Kokusai-dori for some tacos. They usually deep fry the shell, which makes them even better. We wandered the street and then went back to the hotel for a bit. Around 6:00 pm we started to walk to the nearby beach to see the sunset. We walked through a few parks, past a baseball practice and along a street, but we didn't quite get there. We ended up on a bridge that was in front of the the beach, but we still got a good view of the sunset.

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Once the sun went down we got a cab back up to Kokusai-dori to hunt for a restaurant. We passed on Cowboy's Steakhouse and went to 88 Steakhouse simply because there were more Japanese people at 88 Steakhouse. There were also signs inside that said it is an establishment approved by the military. I got a nice steak for not a ridiculous price and Courtney got fish soup. It turned out to be a lot more food than she expected. She expected just a bowl of soup; instead she got a bowl of rice, vegetables and a large bowl of soup complete with a full fish (head and all).

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After the meal we called it a night.

Posted by agc_cwm 10:57 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Golden Week 2008 - Okinawa III

Onna and then back to Onna


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We woke up around 7:30, ate breakfast, got ready and were on the road by around 8:30. We were on our way to the Marine Expo Park, which is where the aquarium is. It's located in the northwest part of the main island. Court was very happy about heading there. We also had to stop and pick up our glassware on our way by. It took us about two hours to get up north. We drove through some nice countryside and saw some mountains, jungle, and the ocean. It was a good drive.

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We got to the aquarium just in time to see the dolphin show. I enjoyed the show, but Court was not a big fan of the show because of the hypocrisy of the Japanese people and culture regarding whale and dolphin hunting. If you haven't heard anything about this check this out. The gist: in Taiji, Wakayama, about three hours away from where we live, in the spring the fishermen go out and disorient the dolphins and drive them into a small cove. Once the dolphins are in there they pick the nicest looking dolphins and sell them to the aquariums in Japan. Then they proceed to slaughter the remaining dolphins. The fishermen put tarps up around the bay to block prying eyes and the cameras of foreign media. So basically instead of stopping what they're doing, they hide it. This way the media can't see the dolphins dying. All you do see is the bay red with blood after they've finished. Then the fishermen turn around and sell the dolphin meat to the local schools to feed at lunch. Oh yeah, and don't forget that the dolphin meat tests way above any safe mercury level. I read an article a month ago, about some people who came to make a documentary about this. The film crew set up blinds and sat there all day silently so the fishermen couldn't see them. They also snuck in during the night and set up two underwater cameras. Then every night after dark, two freedivers had to go replace the tapes and batteries. This fiasco, plus the whole "scientific whaling" thing, make it really difficult for Courtney to happily live in Japan. This again just reinforces my rule that if you are doing something that you don't want any one else to know you are doing, then it's probably something bad. The point of this is, tell people about it. And now back to our vacation.

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We discussed this after the show and decided that hopefully one of the many kids or junior high school students that were there would remember the dolphins and eventually question the events in Taiji. Then we hit the turtle house, which was cool, but not as impressive as scuba diving with them in Malaysia. Then we hit the manatee house. Courtney was a huge fan of this exhibit. And finally it was time for the aquarium.

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The aquarium was pretty great; maybe the same size as the aquarium in Osaka, but all aquaria. They had a touch pool at the start too, which most aquariums don't tend to have (it works in Japan, though). They had some great exhibits and you could pick up information pages as you go with the names of the animals on them. They had quite a few smaller exhibits of different animals of special interest, and a special exhibit with small reef life, and another with deeper sea animals. We ended up eating lunch in the middle of the aquarium next to the ginormous tank. It was ok food; no fish on the menu though. After this, we went to the shark research exhibit, where they displayed jaws, embryos, and lots of good shark information. We went back through the aquarium to fetch the information sheets that Courtney missed at the start, and luckily found her hat, which she didn't even realize she'd lost earlier in our travels. We finished up and went to the gift shop/mad house; Courtney bought a pin and was ready to get out of there.

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We got back in the car and headed on to our next hotel. We stopped at Fruits land to see if we could buy any reasonably priced fresh fruit. We couldn't, so we got some coconut ice cream instead. Aside: Courtney was expecting a whole lot more coconut in Okinawa, but there was not nearly enough for her liking. Lots of pineapple, but not enough coconut.

It was about a two hour drive to the other side of island. This was a gorgeous drive along the the ocean and next to the mountains and jungle. However, we did get tired of the jack-asses on the radio. Because of the American Military presence on the island, they have their own English radio station, which we guess has about three different mixed CDs they can choose music from. It was all the same: not very good pop rock. Plus, they tried to be a whole lot funnier than they actually are. Pretty sure none of them were trained to be radio personalities. We miss Q104.

We arrived in our next stop, Oku, which is in the middle of nowhere. We didn't even have cell phone reception, which is a HUGE deal in Japan. We got lost trying to find our minshuku (Japanese B&B) and ended up driving down a dirt road, while getting some weird looks from the locals. I asked at the post office and got directions to the minshuku. We had to turn off the main road, then take the next right down a dirt road and it was down there somewhere. We parked in the first spot we could find then we had to wander further down the dirt road. We found a building that could have been where we wanted to be, but there was no one there. We decided to go back to the park and wait for a bit and figure out what to do. May 5 is Children's Day in Japan and everyone displays carp streamers to celebrate this day. In the park, they were setting up for the festival and were displaying a lot of carp streamers.

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As we were waiting we realized we were in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing we wanted to do near there, and we were booked in for two nights. We also realized that they didn't have our credit card number or phone number, so we decided to head back down to the south part of the island. We had no hotel reservation or cell service, so we had to wait until we left the area to make a reservation.

We also saw some signs telling us to watch out for animals.
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Once we got some reception I called the hotel we stayed the previous night and made a reservation. We arrived back around 7:30, ate some dinner, hung out and called it a night.

We also realized that my mug was not designed to be used with hot water. Courtney tried to make tea in my mug but once she put the hot water in, the bottom popped off from the rest of the mug. Oh well, who knew?

Posted by agc_cwm 09:25 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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