Monday, May 14, 2007

"Okinawa is like the dingleberry of Japan"



Last Friday evening I found myself sitting in the Naha airport with Bridgit while sucking down some delicious Banana Java Chip Frappuccinos (get thee one of these fraps!) and waiting for our fellow travelmates - Amy, Juhi, Christina, and Paul - to arrive from their lengthy journey down the island from Nago. Our calm was destroyed by panic-ridden text messages from Amy about how they were going to "be cutting it close. Real close." We were encouraged to fake death or bombs in order to stall the plane. Thankfully, we saw Paul running towards us with a few minutes to spare and everyone else following in tow. Of course, our plane was delayed.

It was an ominous beginning to our weekend on Miyakojima, an island famed for its beaches and according to Seiko, "no adventure or excitement." Nevertheless, we were in high spirits as we boarded our 40 minute flight to our destination. Upon arrival, we were handed the keys to our very own flash minivan which would serve us well as we drove around the island... and as we shocked the locals with greetings and waves in a completely non-Japanese manner.

The first night was spent checking into our hotel, complete with a game of janken to draw rooms, and eating at a small Japanese restaurant where we almost drove the waitress straight into the arms of madness. The food was good, especially our first version of beni imo in tempura form, and we were off to karaoke. There were some stellar performances and Amy and I were more than willing to clap politely for each performer, while keeping our own musical genius to ourselves. (We wouldn't want to outdo the others...) We also met up with some of the Miyako ALTs and headed to another bar to get a glimpse at Miyako nightlife.



The following day started out slightly overcast, but by the time we had finished a lunch at a Greek restaurant on the ocean (with absolutely no gyros in sight), it had become a gorgeous day on the island. We did some off-roading in the van and thanks to a local's suggestion, tried some beni imo/sesame mochi which was really excellent. It was all a great build-up to going to the beach. Although it took us a few wrong turns (and a surprise cockroach attack in the car --- Juhi's first bloodcurdling scream), we found the white sand shore. Miyako is home to the longest white sand beach in Japan and it provided fun in the sun and sand for a few hours. The water was clear and warm (after you got used to it, of course) and was a perfect way to spend an afternoon.





Our evening was spent chowing down on pizza, including Christina inadvertently trying a habanero pepper, which later led to hysterics as Amy and Juhi attempted to remove her contact lenses. We decided that as exciting as visiting Miyako snack bars would be, it would be just as much fun to head back to the hotel for some storytelling and cockroach trapping (Juhi's second scream). Paul proved quite heroic as he caught the cockroach in a cup and the next morning suffocated the still-alive insect with a hearty spray of cologne.



On Sunday, we were disappointed with cloudy skies, although they had been predicted. We decided to head to the famous cape where the view is usually astounding and makes for great calendar pictures. Unfortunately, it was sort of dreary and dull for us, so after snapping some photos, we headed to the German Village of Miyako. For some reason, supposedly from a sistercity in Germany or some sort of cultural link, they have built a German castle and some buildings that look German. And although Paul's German accent had us rolling, the whole things was bizarre and disappointing. And uberJapanese. It just didn't make sense.





We had an afternoon to waste before our flight that night and we spent it eating and playing cards. Most of the time was spent discussing A) bodily functions and B) how the Miyako ALTs (and those ALTs on even smaller islands) still have any shred of sanity. After 48 hours on the island, we were all ready to board our flight to our slightly bigger island.

3 comments:

Kenneth Griggs said...

I guess that makes Shimane the boil on the lower back...

Carly said...

A couple random comments. That food looked good. Now I'm hungry.

What was in the bowl? It looked like a brain.

In that anime series, the class took a trip to Okinawa and it was the best thing ever. Ever. I guess you would disagree with their assessment?

Rachel said...

The bowl? Like the cup of ice cream? Blue Seal has a monopoly on ice cream sales in Okinawa... Their motto is "Born in America. Grown up in Okinawa." Even though it isn't even sold in the States. Anyways, the ice cream flavors are quite good and on Miyako I had sugar cane and beni imo flavors. Yummo.

Yes, it's a big deal to go on vacation to Okinawa if you are a mainlander. They spend a ton of money on resorts that aren't even that great. It is the top destination for Japanese, though, so I guess I should appreciate it more. Mostly, it's just different from everything on the mainland. It's like visiting Hawaii... but not as great.

And, Ken... That is hilarious.