The semester, by this point, seems to be flying by as Golden Week is now upon us. Japan’s Golden Week is aptly named for the numerous holidays that’s in each day of the week including Emperor’s Day, Green Day, and Children’s Day. Traditionally, I think students usually get the entire week off, but this year, they sneaked a couple of school days in the middle of the week, which I think very few student actually attended. I think professors also know this as well so they were generous in letting us finish up work that was due during Golden Week ahead of time so that we could have the week free, and for me that meant doing my in-class Japanese sakubun (essay) ahead of time.
Then it was Thursday evening and we were on our plane to OKINAWA, the Hawaii of Japan! The weather forecast for the week didn’t look so great with chances of thunderstorm but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. Arriving in Naha, we felt like we weren’t really in Japan anymore. Although Okinawa is part of Japan, its history was of a diverse land, where traders and travelers from all around Asia traveled through and used as a trading hub. Honestly, Okinawa was more Chinese than Japan from the traditional dress to the Shisa mascot (similar to a Chinese lion dog). The first night in Naha we went for the beach, which is what Okinawa is famous for, but we were greatly disappointed in the “beach” that was close to our hostel. As we found out later, all the beaches here are netted off to prevent people from going too far out or jellyfish getting in, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the highway that was cutting across the view towards the ocean. Nevertheless, we were too tired to care and look forward to the next day where we hope to find a more promising beach.
And a better beach we found, albeit not without some difficulty. It baffles me that these beaches weren’t within walking distance when the island itself was only about 10 miles in width. But it was a beautiful day and we spent most of it on the beach since the beach apparently had a closing time at sundown…oh Japan and your early sleeping hours…
The next day we boarded a ferry for Zamami, one of the smaller islands about 2 hours from the main island. This place, was the real island getaway we were hoping for. We rented 3 tents from a service on the island along with a grill. The campsite was literally about 20 steps from the beach. We went to town almost everyday to get food and spent the rest of the time on the beach if it wasn’t raining. Fortunately for us, the only time when it really stormed was during the night as we were all sleeping. Being from Oregon, the beach is a familiar place to me, but Zamami was different. We rented snorkel gear for around 5 dollars for 24 hours and wow, the oceans here was so cool! We saw fish of all shapes and sizes including a couple of sea turtles! Walking the beach at night we found giant hermit crabs crawling everywhere, some as big as a grown man’s palm! These were mysterious creatures because we don’t see them at all during the day but them swarm the beach at night like bees around a hive. Also at night was a beautiful bioluminesence ocean that light up with every step in the water. It was like a dream.
The last day in Okinawa was the first day of the Naha Festival they have on the main island to celebrate Golden Week. There were dragon boat racing and fun and games not too different than American festival. There were also plenty of food stalls selling yakisoba,okonomiyaki, fried squid and meats, and of course lots of ice cream and beer. The festival air was so lively and we were sad that we had to return to the mainland early, but it was alright because waiting for us in Osaka is a nightbus to Hiroshima!