Sunday, 12 January 2014

Naha, Okinawa

Downtown Naha (src ^).

I feel lucky that have to opportunity to once in a while explore the world, and that I don't at all mind travelling on my own. Some might think this sounds sad and boring. I love it though. This way I can go when, where and how I feel like. I don't have to depend on anyone. Hence I decided to once more leave my Tokyo office ^. This time I wanted warm sand instead of cold powder. At the same time when it can be minus 20 up north in Japan, it can be plus 20 down south. South I went. I jumped on a plane headed for Okinawa ^ (more info ^). Three hours later I landed in Naha ^.

The lion dog ^ can be found everywhere in Okinawa (src ^).

It's easy to tell that Naha has got a lot of tourists. I found people in general being better English speakers than in Tokyo. As well more signs seemed to be in English or rōmaji ^. I stayed one night in Naha, at the nice but cheap Best Western Naha Inn ^ (4900 Yen a night). As I could take the monorail ^ from the airport directly to the hotel (Asato station ^), and from the hotel to the bus terminal (Asahibashi station ^), it was a choice of convenience. Overall it was very easy to find my way in Naha.

Go Ya Ya
At the hotel I asked for a place for local authentic Okinawa food ^. They recommended me a restaurant, but due to my lack in reading Katakana ^ and Kanji ^ I am not sure if I ended up at the suggested place. I might have though, as I did find an inn serving traditional food and sake ^. It was called Go Ya Ya (and here is how to get there from Asato station ^). When I entered the restaurant / bar there were only four others there, two working and two guests. Despite of all the empty chairs I was given a place next to the woman in the bar. A thing that I do not think would happen as easily back in Norway. The woman looked at me and said "You, blue eyes! Karate?". She obviously though I visited the island, being a martial arts guy. That I took as a compliment. Karate originated in Okinawa, so I guess a lot of people go here for training. And Mr Miyagi ^ is also from the island (thanks for the tip, Tone ^. I actually found his place ^, due to my knowledge in Hiragana ^).

Go Ya Ya (src ^).

Instead of bragging about my one yellow stripe in Shotokan karate, I achieved for about 30 years ago, I told her I was here for skiing. She looked strangely at me. No one comes to Okinawa for skiing, I realised. Anyhow, despite of her limited English (or actually, I should say due to my very poor Japanese, after all it is me that is visiting Japan) I did manage to explain that I was in Okinawa for the sun, and later would go to Hokkaido ^.

Go Ya Ya was a brilliant place. The people working there, and their guests all very amiable. I was actually given numerous presents, food and sake, from both guests and employees. It was as if I had know them all my life, and just returned from a very long trip overseas. Hard to explain how well I was welcomed, but it was an experience I will never forget. Later, when a new guest enters the bar, the woman next to me yelles out "Hey, meet Frodo. He is my wife.". She was equally unimpressed in my skills at drinking sake as the Norwegians are in my skills at drinking beer. It is always a good sign when you can pull each others leg like that.

From left: Michi, Ikemi, Arakaki and Junko (src ^).

So if you are in Naha you should definitively drop by Go Ya Ya. You will hopefully meet "Big Bossu" aka Ikemi over the pots and Miss Michi behind the bar. Maybe Miss Junko and Mr Arakaki is there as well, enjoying wonderful Okinawa food and sake. But you should not count on impressing them with your drinking, because as a friend in Tokyo told me "Be careful! Okinawa people strong drinker, very strong drinker.".

From White Powder to White Sand
The next day I jumped on a bus, heading north to Okuma Beach ^. So this is how I in one week went from skiing in deep Japanese powder, to swimming in clear blue Japanese ocean (well, actually it is the Pacific's, or the East China Sea ^, but you get my point). Japan is not bad, not bad at all.

Okuma Beack (src ^).

For more pictures from my first days in Okinawa check out this link ^.

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