Monday, October 02, 2006


Life's a beach - at least, it was.

Now we're back in Autumnal Edinburgh, I really miss Okinawa, though, I must admit, there were fleeting moments, while there, when I thought I'd like to go. The humidity was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Leaving our air-conditioned room was always a shock. The hotel was basically lots of rooms surrounding a complicated courtyard. The hotel, strictly speaking, had no interior. Everything was open to the elements. Of course, not that this was a problem for the Okinawans. I don't suppose any of them owned a winter coat. I have three.

I don't think the Okinawans were very used to European or non-Japanese visitors. Unlike the rest of mainland Japan, next to nothing was signposted bilingually. Practically everything was in Japanese script alone. This meant the air conditioning was difficult to work out, but through trial and error, we got there. At least, Ian did.

We were stared at a lot and heard the Japanese word for foreigner whispered a lot, gai-jin.

Our first night there was not exactly fabulous. Tired, we might have been, but a good night sleep we were robbed of. Mostly because of our own ignorance, it must be said. Trying to be green, we switched the air conditioning off on going to bed. Big mistake. Waking up in a pool of sweat is disgraceful. Fumbling around in the dark, in the middle of the night, sweating, half asleep, trying to work out how to operate an air conditioning unit with instructions in a foreign language: not fun.

Ian dared me to upload this photograph. Can't imagine why. I was floating in the sea. It was beautifully warm.

Our first day on the beach, getting over an exhausting 24 hours + of travelling. Before settling on the sand, we popped down to Lawson's, a convenience store. It was so hot and humid, even at 08:00, the short, ten minute stroll was unpleasant and tiring. Oh, I'm such a Brit, complaining about the weather, whatever it is.

Minge's new-found muffin-top. And I put on a further six pounds in weight after that. Fat Minge!

Our hotel wanted to make sure we weren't going to die, so kindly set up a cordon in the sea to keep killer-jelly-fish and man-eating sharks out of our way.

Which was nice.

On our first night in the sub-tropics, we took a wee stroll along the main street, near the hotel, to find something to eat. Usually, I ignore people standing on corners hawking for business, flashing their menu (I wonder why htye have to go to such lengths to get a customer) but this time, we were drawn in, largely because we were so tired and desperately hungry. It turned out to be a blessing. We were taken by the hawker to a beautiful traditional Okinawan restaurant. I should have remembered the proceedure, but had forgotten, since last time and proceeded to order several things from the menu. Of course, it all came at once. Our table was cluttered with delicious dishes. The waiter gave us a funny look, I suppose, wondering why we were ordering so much, and all at once. Oh, and we forgot to order rice. Fools. It was a delicious experience. With no sake on offer, I had a Margarita. It went straight to my head. Although I swiftly followed it with another, I finished the evening experience with water and water alone.

We spent the next day on the beach once more, still recharging our batteries. Feeling fit and ready enough to begin exploring, Ray, Susan (pals we made through Fabulousness) and Connor came to pick us up at 19:00. We met them in the foyer of the hotel. I went via the internet desk to check the news websites. I was sure Tony Blair was going to resign. There's usually some major thing going on in the world whilst we're away. Tony Blair was still in power. I didn't know whether to be happy or sad.

Ray drove us to a shopping centre. We marvelled at Japanese electronica and their fabulous toilet seats (I still miss the bum-wash). I bought some kind of Japanese outfit and then we headed off to a sushi bar.

Minge - honorary Jap.

Connor - honorary Jock.

The food was delicious. We greedily ate about half a dozen plates each. Ray ate something which looked like crab guts. I'm always eager to try new things - but not that.

We then went back to the shopping centre. Everyone bar me went on the Feris Wheel. Those things are dangerous enough. You'd be hard pressed to get Minge in one at the best of times, you most certainly won't get me in one when it's perched on top of a tall building in an earthquake zone.

We're trying to be arty with the above photograph. It's a photo of the Ferris Wheel's reflection in the canal beside the shopping centre.

Not sure if it was because we both had nightmares, but Phyllis and I both over-slept the next day. We were to meet our pals outside the hotel at 10:00. We woke at 09:20, so it was a rushed shower and breakfast before meeting them. A maple syrup bun, I believe. Oh, and green tea.

Ray drove us north to the Okinawa Ocean Expo Park, taking in the beautiful scenery as we went.

It's a fabulous place. It has the world's second largest aquarium and was the world's largest when it was completed a few years back. Breathtaking.

It was a great place to visit on a drizzly day. The one day we could never have really sat on the beach. However much it rained, though, it was still warm and muggy. I'll never forget it and don't hink I could have ever got used to it.

There were lots of photo opportunities. Here we are with Susan.

And here I am with her dog.

After the Ocean Expo Park, we went back to Ray and Susan's house. Ray cooked us a beautiful Shabu-Shabu. Well, if the truth be known, we actually cooked it ourselves. Click here to read all about it. What a wonderful experience.

Okinawa is well know for two things. 1) The local firewater, as seen above, with a free dead snake included, the Habu. The wee bit of venom the snake imparts to the booze apparently gives the drinker a wee buzz. I'm not prepared to judge for myself.

2) Shisa. We bought a pair. They're now sitting in my living room.

Our final day on the island was spent shopping in downtown Haha. Susan, Ray and Connor were wonderful hosts and took us exactly where we needed to go. Visiting shops with wild, exotic and unknown products is my idea of heaven. I've a very inquisitive mind.

We finished the day at a restaurant, the meal being cooked in front of us, at our table by a very theatrical chef. Adorable and unforgettable.

Although the world is a large place and differs greatly, sometimes with every step we take, Okinawa was such a beautiful island that I would love to return there someday.

Until then, I'll be searching planet earth for somewhere as marevellous, hoping, at least, to match it. I don't hold out for much luck, though.


RIC said...

Man, those Japanese don't play around, not even when they're drinking... Snake venom?! I'll pass and stick to my scotch...
(Wonderful pics!) :-)

Anonymous said...

You look like you had such a fun time! Thanks for sharing all your fabulous pictures! :)

Moncrief Speaks said...

Wow!! Wonderful pics and story.

I'm surprised Okinawans were surprised by foreigners in their midst, though. I thought there was a heavy US military presence there.

Anonymous said...

I think the northern part of Okinawa is the US Base, but can't remember for sure :)

And Minge, it looks incredible. I love the Far-East way of life, very appealing. However, the picture of the "drink" nearly made me wet myself. Why?! Why would anyone drink something with a dead snake it in?!

Minge said...

Okinawans, I think, were not surprised to see Europeans out and about, on the street and in cars, but staying in a beach hotel, they were. I guess the US military don't go on vacation a couple of miles along the coast. We did get "daggers" a few times and I did wonder if the locals thought we were American, but that was the exception rather than the norm. We were normally treated with courtesy and sometimes friendliness.

Moncrief Speaks said...

Do you think you were the only gays in the village? Do you think that may have also been a source of the "daggers"?

Minge said...

I think our homosexuality might have been a source of the daggers, but of course, the Japanese are far too polite to really let it show. Assumption is all guesswork. I think though, just the fact that we were foreign had a lot to do with it. I heard the word gai-jin sometimes. Of course, for all I know, they might have been saying gay-jin!