Obon Holidays:Okinawaaaaaa!!!

The view from Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa.

We have just come back from our summer holiday to Okinawa. Both Thomas and I had been working pretty hard over the last month or so, and were super stoked about our trip to the south islands of Okinawa. So, you can imagine that I was not impressed when I woke up on Saturday and saw the torrential rain in Matsuyama. I imagined that it would be raining in Okinawa as well, but to our great fortune, the weather in Okinawa was fantastic the whole time we were there!

The flight from Matsuyama-Naha is actually pretty short at 1.5 hrs. We arrived to glorious sunny skies and super humid weather. On our first day we just explored around Naha and indulged in all of the American goods that we had been missing living in Shikoku. We also took a bit of Okinawan culture by walking around town and looking at the shisa dogs outside every store. A shisa is a traditional decoration often found in pairs, resembling a cross between a lion and a dog. People place a pair of shisa on their rooftops in order to protect theirs houses from evil spirits. Sometimes you find only one shisa, instead of two, but when found in pairs usually the left shisa has its mouth closed to keep good spirits in and the right shisa has its mouth open to ward off evil spirits.

A Shisa on Kokusai Street (international street) in Naha, Okinawa.

The next day we went on a Japanese tour of the island. Naha doesn’t have the best public transportation system, so we were told to rent a car but neither of us have a Japanese Driver License so we couldn’t do that and so decided to go on a Japanese tour in order to see the Aquarium on the north side of the island. So we woke up early and headed to our Japanese tour. Everything was in Japanese and so we didn’t understand much. We also had to go to some places that were of no interest to us such as Pineapple Road, a pretty big tourist trap in which they lure you with all you can eat pineapple, but try to sell you anything and everything that can be made with pineapples. The one thing that we really wanted to see though was the Churaumi Aquarium.

The Aquarium was incredible! The marine life of Okinawa can be found in this Aquarium including my favourite the sea turtle, as well as whale sharks and manta rays. The Aquarium works as a research facility and a conservation area for the marine life of the surrounding area. We only had 3.5 hours to explore so we had to rush through some parts of the Aquarium but still had enough time to see the 2 big tanks as well as the sea turtles. Some other interesting things we saw were sea horses (which I haven’t seen anywhere else), giant lobsters and king crabs and some sea weeds that looked like worms sticking out of the ground. We really had a great time there!

Sea Turtles at Chumauri Aquarium.

Sea horses at Chumauri Aquarium.

The biggest tank at Churaumi Aquarium.

After a full day of touring around the island we ended up having dinner at a Canadian Pub, not very Japanese of us but it felt like home. I must also mention here that on that evening I celebrated Mexico winning gold at the London Olympics in soccer with a Corona beer.

The following day we went on a tour to an island 20 minutes way from Naha. This tour was great, they only took us to the island and then we were given 4 hours to go wild and go swimming, snorkeling and all. We rented snorkeling equipment and I literally spent 3.5 hours snorkeling and swimming. The snorkeling was fantastic especially because after visiting the Aquarium we actually saw the fish that we saw in the Aquarium in the sea. My favourite was a little shy clown fish that kept hiding every time I tried to swim towards it. We had a great time and it was exactly what we had gone to Okinawa for. Just fantastic!

An island off of Naha, great snorkeling spot!

We’ve made it to Okinawa!

On our last day we took a taxi to a beach just out of Naha. We spent a couple of hours swimming and having an awesome time. Unfortunately, we weren’t too smart and didn’t rent an umbrella and we got burned pretty badly. The plane ride back was a painful one but we arrived home with big smiles on our faces, feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the last part of summer. Okinawa was just awesome!

Picture of the Week

The last few weeks have been busy with work and goodbye parties. July is when most people leave Japan, so the last few weeks have been filled with goodbye dinners and not a lot of pictures have been taken. I don’t like saying goodbye, so while summer is a busy time filled with activities, it is also sad to see our friends go home. This year we had to say goodbye to some awesome people, so I was particularly saddened to see them go, but we have to keep positive and believe that we will meet again sometime, somewhere. Plus now I have made friends from so many countries around the world, that I can keep traveling for years to come! 🙂

Work has also been extremely busy. We welcomed a new teacher in our company this past week and we were all busy training her and showing her around town. Also a few new JET (Japan Exchange Teaching Program) members have arrived in and around town, so Thomas has been busy showing our new neighbour all that he needs to know about his job, the program and the city.

Overall things have been very busy in the work front and we are very much looking forward to the next week when we will have a weeks holiday and we are heading to sunny Okinawa in which we plan to suntan, lie under the sun, go swimming and read magazines for 4 days!

This week’s picture is from our trip to Osaka in March. We were walking around town and came across this alley that most likely leads to a small shrine; one of many hidden shrines that can be found where you least expect them throughout the busy shopping district in Osaka.

An alleyway in Osaka.

Have a great week everyone!