Sunday, October 5, 2014

okinawa

This weekend finds us flying down to Okinawa. Our original plan was to go to Tokashiki Island to do some snorkeling but due to the strong wind all ferries were cancelled.  So then we went to grab some food on Kokusaidori - the main shopping street in Naha.

taco rice - 550 yen
The origin of taco rice is unknown but can be attributed to the strong American presence in Okinawa. I love tacos so it makes sense that I would love taco rice too.

As we went around Naha City, I was struck by how similar the city was to Taiwan. The cement buildings, the architecture and the water tanks located on the roofs gave me flashbacks. There were so many Taiwanese tourists here, I swear I saw more Taiwanese people than Japanese. First stop was to Shuri Castle which was the palace of the Ryukyuan Kingdom, the indigenous people of these islands.

the approach
main hall of shuri castle
The bright colors makes this castle stand out from other Japanese castles. I especially loved the approach to the castle. The contrast of the castle walls surrounded by lush greenery with views overlooking nearby red tiled palace buildings is a breathtaking sight. We missed the main entrance and took a roundabout way to the castle which afforded us better views and solitude from the tourist masses.

cape manzamo
Next up is Cape Manzamo, famous for its rock formation that looks like an elephant drinking water. The waters were such a beautiful cerulean blue. It was super windy...

not exaggerating about that wind!!
We had initially planned to do some scuba diving in Okinawa but the prices were outrageous! There is a popular diving spot known as The Toilet Bowl around this area. No idea why it's called that...hopefully not cause of the things you can find there! We decided to go exploring and found a giant cave called Uduigama with a beach only accessible by climbing over some crazy sharp coral rock. We then decided it would be a good idea to climb some cliff formations made from that same sharp ass coral, I was wearing flimsy Old Navy flip flops. They were wrecked of course. The sun had set by then and getting down and back to the bus stop was actually a little spooky with no one in sight and no street lights.

exiting from Uduigama Cave
Back in town we went back to Kokusaidori where we ate Okinawa Soba at this restaurant called Okinawan Food & Live. Despite its name Okinawa Soba doesn't actually use buckwheat noodles but wheat so actually resembles udon more.

okinawa soba - 800 yen
Many of the restaurants have performances in Okinawan dance and music but unfortunately we had missed most of them. Luckily one restaurant had a late performance and I really enjoyed it since due to the late time the restaurant had only 6 customers including us. Afterwards we all danced in the Okinawan style which was a major fail for me. I just flailed my arms around and did some random clapping. Haha. The guy performer even tried to use English to talk to us! Very sweet.

okinawan music

The Details
Shuri Castle
Access: Shuri Castle - Okinawa Monorail then a 15-20 minute walk

Hours: 8:30 to 19:00 (until 18:00 from December to March, until 20:00 from July to September) Admission ends 30 minutes before closing
Closed: First Wednesday and Thursday of July
Admission: 820 yen - can get a discounted price with monorail pass

*Note you can buy a one day (700 yen) or two day (1200 yen) pass for unlimited rides on the Okinawa Monorail and includes discounted entrance fees to certain attractions.

Cape Manzamo
Access: Manza Beach-mae (万座ビーチ前) - Bus 120
The journey takes 80-100 minutes from Naha Bus Terminal 7th platform 1390 yen one way. It is then a 15 minute (700 meter) walk up to the cape.
website - Bus 120 time table, route and fare (*click on the blue or pink buttons for different days)

website - This website is a great English resource for buses on Okinawa with maps, time schedules, fares, etc

Okinawan Food & Live
on Kokusaidori near the McDonalds

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