By Jenifer Tull-Gauger
Our Wednesday in Okinawa was spent in the Naha (capitol city) area. I want to let you know about something pretty awesome we saw the night before. Gauger Renshi and I were dropping people off at Hamagawa Lodge, and when we were in the parking lot, which was slim and bordered by large tropical trees, we saw fruit bats flying around and landing in the trees. These were the large flying foxes, about as big as Chihuahuas, with two to three foot wing spans. I snapped pictures, but the best one was all black with two little eyes shining:
Here’s the view from our lodging on Wednesday morning. It was pretty much like this every day – a little overcast. The air was clean, just very humid.
Some of the sights on the drive in to Naha:
An Okinawan taxi and the Naha Budokan (a Japanese-government-owned martial arts training hall):
We were dropped off at the Baseball Stadium, and met up with other members of our group.
We walked across the street to the monorail station, paid for our tickets at vending machines, and took the train to Kokusai Dori/Kokusai Street in Naha: the shopping district of Okinawa. (Notice the shisa statues on the wall in the station above the ticket machines.)
This shisa statue is 3.4 meters (11.16 feet) tall – by far the biggest one we saw on the island.
Kokusai Dori is definitely a tourist area of Naha. Store after store lines the street, some restaurants appear too. A lot of people shopped there, but I had the feeling that this was a light day, because many of the shops had employees outside encouraging people to enter. I am not a big shopper, but I would say the shopping was not great and the good items were expensive.
A friend helped me find a small Uchina-guchi language learning set in a CD store. He opened up a conversation with the 20-something clerk (who spoke fluent Japanese and English). This young man said he does not speak the native Uchina-guchi, but his grandmother does. This is pretty common in Okinawa, and unfortunately, the grandparents often don’t speak Japanese, so they can’t communicate very well with their grandchildren. I guess this is why, unfortunately, a lot of the traditional ways of Okinawa/Ryukyu are being lost and left behind in the past.
This is the station in Naha where we got off the monorail, a piece of the giant tug-of-war rope, and the menu from where we ate lunch.
This delicious restaurant was on the second story overlooking Kokusai Dori. We sat at the bar looking out the window. I enjoyed goya chample (bittermelon stirfry) with tofu and egg. Gauger Renshi and Tull-Gauger Sensei tried (and loved) taco rice. The way we ordered and paid was pretty typical for Okinawa. We looked at the menu and indicated to the waiter what we each wanted. He wrote it down. When the food was ready, he brought it out and showed it around for someone to claim. After eating, we went up to pay with no tab or bill. We had to tell the cashier what we’d had; they rang it up and told us the total money owed.
Gauger Renshi was in the restroom when I went to pay. I overpaid about $5 for lunch, because I insisted on paying for the only taco rice I saw on the menu. I mistakenly looked at a combo meal price instead of the less expensive lunch version ordered. The language barrier blocked. The cashier was probably explaining or asking about the meal, but I did not know “combo,” “special,” or “deal” in Japanese. Oh well, it was not too much in the grand scheme of things. Here’s the view from where we ate lunch. These students appeared to be on a field trip in Naha.
Next we went down Heiwadori, which was like an alleyway off Kokusai Dori, with a shade cover, and a lot of smaller, one-and two-person booths of specialized goods for sale. More pathways lined with booths branched off from this alley, but we did not get to them. I snapped a couple photos of this (herb/tea?) booth before I noticed signs all over the shops asking us not to take pictures (?).
Our next stop in Naha was the Shureido martial arts supply store. This small shop had very little retail. The items of most interest were nunchaku and makiwara punching boards. They didn’t have much else other than sparring gear, but we could order other weapons and things to be shipped to the US. (Only with translation help – thank you very much!) I found this video of the store on Youtube. When we went, they had pretty much the same selection, but only about half as much.
Shureido store virtual tour: https://youtu.be/ZUs8pEqvEAc
From there, a handful of the group could go to Hakugin-Do temple, while the rest walked to a Naha park. We still had a long, enjoyable afternoon and evening ahead of us. I will tell and show you more in the next blog.