Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Christmas Vacation in Okinawa

So, it's quite a few months late, but I'm finally getting around to posting our Christmas vacation album. For Christmas vacation, Kassie and I decided to visit Okinawa - the tropical island in southern Japan.

Despite looking so tiny on the map, Okinawa is actually larger than it looks. It's very different from the main island of Japan as well - that's not surprising being it used to be it's own kingdom since the 1860's. And because of the American military base there, the Okinawan people are quite used to (and very friendly toward) foreigners. The taxi drivers were a lot pushier as well.

There are no trains or subways, which are practically all over in Japan, but there is a single monorail that goes up and down the length of Naha, Okinawa's capital. I personally think it would be nice if it went up and down the length of the entire island. But the monorail was nice and clean and thus looked fairly new. Such an idea may be on the drawing board for the future.

Other than that, tourists have to rely on busses, taxis, or rental cars to get around. Here are some photo highlights from our trip:

Enjoying the local cuisine. Lobster, yum!

A rainy outdoor scene at Okinawa World

At a university near Shuri Castle

Arial view of Okinawa

A beach

More beach

Downtown shopping area of Naha.

Goya champuru - bitter, but delicious!

Kassie and I managed to get off the island of Okinawa and took a plane to Ishigaki island. Then took a ferry to Iriomote island - a very tiny and quiet island where about 80% is wild, protected forests. Only a single road runs along the coast that takes about an hour to travel - we read that there is only one gas station, too. It is also quite famous for the Iriomote cat, an undomesticated feline about the size of a house cat native only to this tiny island.

I was hoping to spot an Iriomote cat, but because of their nocturnal lifestyle and our limited time, we were unable to spot one. I heard it was quite rare, anyway. Interestingly enough, I did manage to spot one of my junior high school students all the way down here!

Anyway, here's some photos from Iriomote island:

Overall, it was quite a pleasant experience. We probably enjoyed the warm weather the most, despite raining half the trip. We'd definitely visit again. Hopefully we'll get the chance to spend more time in Iriomote when we do - a few days of relaxation and spend some time in the only natural onsen in the Ryuku Islands!