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Okinawa Beach Holiday! Almost....

Written on: Saturday August 25th, 2007

A journal entry from: Japan

Well, we did get to the beach, so...


August 13-18 was a major holiday in Japan, which almost everyone takes off. It's called O-bon, and traditionally it's a time to return to your hometown to pay respect to your ancestors. According to traditional beliefs, as I understand them, the spirits of ancestors are able to visit this world during this time. Most people seem to spend the time visiting family or on vacation or a combination of both. We planned to fly to Naha in Okinawa, one of the main islands in the chain that extends from the main Japanese islands southwest to Taiwan. From there, we planned to head to one of the smaller nearby islands called the Keramas; and then, relax on the beach for a couple days, go snorkeling, and chill out. We also had plans to visit the Churaumi Aquarium on Okinawa Island, a world-class aquarium which Kelly had learned about.

Sounds good; but when we arrived in Okinawa, a typhoon had developed in the Pacific and had started moving towards some of the islands south of us; eventually it passed through the Philippines and Taiwan, and hit China, too. (I read later that the storm caused flooding, and landslides, and knocked out electricity, as well as causing injuries and deaths.) I'm grateful that the storm didn't head for Okinawa; but we were told that the storm would cause a lot of big waves, and the ferries were likely to shut down. So, heading to the Keramas was not an option anymore.

Instead we spend our first evening checking out Naha's Kokusai-dori (International Street). This is the "main drag", at least for foot traffic, and is a long stretch of restaurants, shops and souvenir places. You definitely feel the quintessential tourist trap sensation walking down here, but it can be entertaining. Next morning we headed out of town by bus to a beach an hour or so away, where we hoped to maybe do a little snorkeling. The boats out were shut down for the day (possibly because of the effects of the typhoon), so we just enjoyed the beach. We took a dip and things were looking up; but within half and hour or so we saw black clouds headed our way and we were hit with needling rain. Fortunately, it didn't last long too long.

Next day we had an late morning and headed up the island to Nago, to spend the night and get an early start at the Churaumi Aquarium on the following day. The aquarium is located in Ocean Expo Park; entry to the park is free, and there are several different attractions inside besides the aquarium, some of which are also free. We spent most of our time at the aquarium, though. It was fantastic. The main feature is the whale sharks, and different varieties of rays; it also houses a shark research centre. The whale sharks and rays can be seen in a huge - and I mean huge - tank. "The largest acrylic window in the world", according to their website (and it has also been featured on the Best House, a popular Japnese show where they feature the best three of whatever you can think of). It was great just watching the tank, and all the creatures moving around, mesmerizingly.

We headed back to Naha that night. After a late morning, we tried hopping a bus for the same beach we visited last time, since it seemed to be the only really good beach nearby, at least that we knew of. The bus that we took apparently has a different route on Sundays, though, and after a while we realized we weren't on the same road anymore. We hoped at first that it would still end up at the same destination. When we got off at the last stop, we were in a completely different place, but there was a beach below us, and wouldn't you know it, it was actually a nicer beach than the one we were at before. Ah, the luck of travellers... We spent an hour or two there, before it started to get towards evening and everything closed down, then we headed back into town, and flew home much later that night.




From juniper on Sep 19th, 2007

Yay more pictures (including ones of you) more writing! Hope you're well. Did you ever look into that program i told you about?