Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rawboned Ryukyu: Rootless in Okinawa

I had two weeks in July between the end of the semester and summer school, so I went ahead and bought the airplane tickets to Naha, via Peach Air for only 10,000NT return for two. Can't beat that!

Day 1-3 Naha City: Old Taxi Drivers and Tourists

Our plane was late and we waited at the airport for 20 long minutes for the shuttle bus to take us from Peach Air's hanger to the larger airport. From there I had planned to take the more economical monorail, which would of taken us pretty much to our guesthouse. My daughter was tired, I caved, I didn't mind. We took a taxi with an old man, who could barely read my address, and ended up at the wrong hotel. He charged us 1600 JPY and we had to take another taxi around the corner to our final destination, 30 minutes shy of the 10pm lose our reservation time deadline.

Accommodation: Grace Naha グレイス那覇 ,900-0014松尾1-19-29  [3 nights twin bunk] (3,618 NT/ ¥11,111) take the Monorail to Kencho-mae (260 yen). ( 7 min walk from Kenchomae stn.) TAXI: Find the crossing by the (main)street Kokusai dori, by Mos Burger. Then just walk up the crooked uphill for 3-4 minutes and the inn is on your left hand side. Beware not to miss it, the entrance is quite small.

Grace Naha's is nothing to write home about, a Japanese backpacker's dive, but our bunk bed mattress' were super comfortable, clean bathrooms, knowledgeable staff with basic English and more importantly cheap! If I come back, I would stay at the Hotel Graceria around the corner on Kokusai Dori, for just a few bucks more and whole much more fancier environment. That's where the taxi man originally took us.
Well spent 700¥ (200 NT) at a church flea market. The whole color scheme of sea green and coral somehow are taking over. We went to Gap outlet and I bought some pieces with similar colors. Weird. My kid called me Buffalo Head.

You can imagine my surprise when I opened my backpack and discovered I forgot to pack my clothes, fortunately I had my snorkel and swim gear, but nothing else. How providential that as we were walking back to the train from Shurijo, a local church was having a mini flea market and I was able to get a few items all together for 700 ¥.
Day 1: Shurijo Castle Park¥(820/310)+ Shrikinjocho Stone path
The castle grounds are massive, there so much to see, ponds, gardens, gates, thrones. My daughter had fun collecting stamps on our map at each successive site. It was blistering hot and humid.
View behind as you enter into the castle courtyard
 Walking down the 500 year old path was challenging in the heat especially as were walking around the castle all morning, so when we saw the exquisite Cat Cafe, we had to stop for a refreshment. We took our time,played with the cats, listened to jazz, talk with the owners, admired their garden.

refreshing, bitter melon juice and local sweets at the peaceful Cat Cafe Garden

Day 2: Okinawa World, Peace memorial, Himyuri, Outlet Mall 7 Hour tour. To read about my July 4th Independence day  tour click here.


Doing Okinawa World without a tour is preferable if you don't want to be rushed, like we wereAdult-1,650JPY(524 TWD), Children – 830 (264)JPY . Do not miss the Eisa dance! Unfortunately you cant record or take photos of the performance. The Eisa show is year round (daily)  Eisa Plaza One show lasts approx. 25min.) 10:30/12:30/14:30/16:00, Cave, snake museum, Take bus number 83 from Naha Bus Center all the way to its terminal stop, Gyokusendo-mae, which is located in front of Okinawa World (60 minutes, 580 yen, one bus every 1-2 hours)

Day 4 : Checkout of Grace Naha early to catch the ferry to Zamami Island!


Zamami Island: Turtles and Typhoon

+9am ferry to ZamamFerry to Zamami (60/120 min). Queen to Zamimi Round trip 5970 adult/ 2,990 child. I called and made a reservation a month before our trip but some foreigners just showed up and although they had to wait for those who made reservations, they still got a seat in the end. You can imagine my disappointment when the woman at the ticket window told me a typhoon was coming and they would probably cancel my ferry return on the day I had planned ( 4 days later). But typhoons are finicky, they change directions, often last minute. I told her I was going for it.
THINGS TO DO: Zamami-Jima Island, Furuzamami Beach, Kitahama Beach, Aka Beach, Sea-Kayaking, Diving
DRINKZamami sells a special bayberry liqueur made from mountain berries collected on the island. You can purchase it in the grocery stores.
Accommodation: Guest House Lyonchi +817054925052 901-3402 Okinawa, Zamami, Zamami 123 (14,000Y/ 4,219 TWD) for 3 nights and 1 night at  Zamami International (1 night) 座間味インターナショナルゲストハウス 901-3402座間味126, +817054925052

Chatlan: Riding Out the Storm on the Myagi Coast

 The typhoon threw a monkey wrench in my schedule. I had to cancel 3 nights at  Zamimi and then suddenly I lost tracks of days entirely. We took a bus from Naha city to Guest House Kona, to the very hospitable Guest House Kona. We stayed here in Chatlan for 3 more days, we felt like it was home. Our owner took us night fishing our first a night and the reef of the Miyagi coast was literally outside our door. There were tons of great places to eat and some of the restaurants' clientele were all Americans which felt a little weird after living in Taiwan (Air Force Base). We took bike rides along the coast to different beaches, sometimes we got caught in torrential downpours from the typhoon. The owner actually drove us to our next accommodation, which was a Godsend.

Onna-son: Beaches, Rendez-vous and Road Trip!

I made reservations with Onna Lodge (オンナロッジ) 904-0401仲間2288-39 3 nights (11,492 NT/ 36,000 Yen), but read the fine print only later to discover that they didn't accommodate children! So other options were Torii CampingHijii Camping 0980-41-3636, Ikea Beach. I ended up two nights at Daisy's Howdy Inn. They would accommodate children for an extra fee. 

I rented a car and we drove around to Cape Manza, Ryuku Mura and around Nago. Ryuku Mura was one of the highlights for me. It was a replicated traditional village constructed not from replicas but actual hundred year old buildings that were carefully moved here. They showcase traditional craftsmanship, artisans, and music. It didn't feel fake or contrived at all, or the the way Okinawa World is. My kid hung out with the Eisa drummers and they let her help make the lion dance costume they were making by hand, that would take them all year to finish. My daughter did some traditional DIY cloth painting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the live performances and dancing.

Nago: The Aquarium, Hedo Cape and Orion Brewery

After two nights at Daisy Inn we stayed in Nago and drove around the Hedo Cape. We hit Orion brewery (hooray), the Aquarium, the Nanjing Castle ruins. 

Nakijin Castle (今帰仁城, Nakijin Gusuku) is a 13th century Ryukyuan castle or fortress (gusuku) of the Ryukyuan Kingdom governor. It was demolished in 1609. Its now a world heritage site.

Cape Hedo

Before we returned to Naha, I made a suprise rendez-vous with one ofmy oldest Taiwanese friends who happened to be staying a the luxurious 5 star ANA hotel overlooking Cape Manza. The view from her hotel was breathtaking. Monica and go way back. I was her coteacher 16 years ago at Sharefun Zhuwei,when I lived in Tamsui. The last time I had seen her was the year before when I stayed with them in their guesthouse in Loudong. Happy reunion, but too short!

Broke in Naha

Back in Naha, I tried to do things that were fairly cheap, if not free, the art museum,pottery museum. Eating lunch boxes in the markets or where the office workers would by from the auntie on the street, was very budget friendly.

All over Okinawa tourists pay a pretty penny to dress up in traditional clothes
and have your picture taken. In the art museum for free is an interactive room for kids
where we spent several hours playing with traditional instruments, 3d  block puzzles of
the Nakajin wall and the woman put dressed us in 200+ year old kimonos. She wore gloves
and carefully dressed and undressed us and took our picture- for free!

Grace Naha (2 nights 2412NT/ 8000Y), 
Tsubuya Pottery Street, buku buku cha (¥800) 1-28-3 Tsuboya
July 15 early check out, check in airport at 6:30am return to TPE 8:30 am

We took the first rail of the morning directly to the airport. My daughter was relieved to return back to Yilan. She had enough of sun and heat. Maybe it was too much adventure.
 I really didn't want to leave.

Brainstorming Budget
Accommodation total:
79,00 Y/ 25,000 NT/
Food 2,000 YX 14
28,000 Y/8433= 10,000NT
Ferry to Tokashiki
84,000Y/ 2,530NT
Snorkel Tokashiki
10,000Y/ 3000NT
Boat to Zamimi
6-4,000Y1807NT/3-2,000Y/1000NT child=3000NT
Bus to Onna from Naha

Sefa Utaki
Bus 3320Y/ entrance 400Y
Bus 3000Y/ entrance 600Y
Okinawa World
Bus 2320Y/ entrance 2480Y
Renting a car
6-8000 Y 24 hours
8,000 Y each plus 5,000 facility charge

Next Time:

1. TokashikiZamami was enough for us, but next time we can take this ideal day trip from Naha. Ferries leave in the morning and return in the evening. The high speed ferry (Marine Liner Tokashiki) leaves Tomari Port in Naha city on Okinawa Island twice daily. The journey takes about 35 minutes and costs about ¥4,200 for a roundtrip ticket. A second, much slower (70-minute trip) ferry (Ferry Kerama) makes one round trip daily and costs about ¥3,200 roundtrip. Several dive shops are located in Aharen Village. Snorkel equipment as well as beach umbrellas can also be rented in Aharen Village next to the beach entrance. There are numerous dive and snorkel shops in both Aharen Village and in Tokashiku Village.  5000 yen each for 2 hours (1,506 TW) Okinawa’s specialty dish, Okinawa soba within Shuri area.

2. SEFA UTAKI: (200Y) Take bus number 38 from Naha Bus Terminal to Sefa Utaki-mae (斎場御嶽前, 60 minutes, 830 yen, 1-2 buses/hour), from where the site can be reached in a 5-10 minute walk.

3. Hijii Waterfall Camping 0980-41-3636
4. Nakamurake
5. Nakagusuku (中城): (600Y total) Nakagusuku Castle is located in central Okinawa Honto, about 15 kilometers northeast of Naha. Take bus number 30 from Naha Bus Terminal to Nakagusuku Shogakko-mae (60 minutes, 750 yen (240NT), 2-4 buses per hour), from where it is a 30 minute walk uphill to the castle.
7.ShikaneanGarden ( 230 yen one way from central Naha by bus numbers 2, 5 or 14. Among the three lines, bus number 5 can be boarded along Kokusaidoriand bus number 14 at Naha Bus Center and Asahibashi Station.)
8. East Coast Beaches: The west coast was really overdeveloped, although driving around Nago and Hedo, there were many beaches and parks sans monolithic hotel eyesores.


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