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Okinawa Tour: Day 3 Northern Okinawa Tour

TIME : 2-24 15:49:28

 

I wanted to see more of Okinawa than Naha, so for my second full day I took a Japan I Can bus tour to the northern part of the island. It left at 8:45 from the Naha Bus Terminal, and I was surprised to find that there were no other people from North America signed up. An older couple from Germany and three young men from France, but the rest were Asian, mostly Japanese or Korean.

Naha Bus Terminal

Naha Bus Terminal

The first stop on the itinerary was Ryukyu Mura Town. I was afraid that it would be a cheesy theme park, so was pleasantly surprised. Granted, it was full of tourist activities, but I really would have enjoyed more than an hour to explore. The recreation of the Ryukyu village with its thatched buildings was interesting, and I liked the water buffalo which was plodding in circles, grinding sugar cane. It looked bored, but I have never been that close to a water buffalo!

Ryukyu Mura Town Traditional House

Ryukyu Mura Town Traditional House

The best part was a parade of Okinawan festivals. There were dances, music, and costumes from different events throughout the year. I had seen the eisa taiko drumming already, but not the lion dance. It was actually a bit scary since you couldn’t see the dancers’ faces, and once in a while the approached the audience very close. One even pretended to bite the little boy next to me, who then cried, and his parents tried to tell him that it was good luck to have the lion do that, but I did not find out why.

Beginning a dance at Ryukyu Mura

Beginning a dance at Ryukyu Mura

I was also amazed at an older woman walking around with a big bottle of awamori, the local, very strong sake, on her head. I have no idea of the significance of that, either. There was a karate demonstration and some more formal dances. The parade was certainly fun to watch.

sanshin player at Beginning a dance at Ryukyu Mura

sanshin player at Beginning a dance at Ryukyu Mura

Another place had a snake-handling show, but I really am adverse to reptiles, so skipped that. But I was surprised to note that there was a separate cage with a mongoose in it, which was much less cute than I would have imagined. I guess they used to have the snake and mongoose fight, but no longer are permitted to do so. What a gruesome activity, I thought. And I was more put off to think of those big snakes slithering around the island.

Ryukyu Mura Entrance (photo:  navisan/flickr)

Ryukyu Mura Entrance (photo: navisan/flickr)

I saw signs indicating that you could participate in various craft activities, or even try your hand at the dancing. I was very tempted to dress up in the traditional Okinawan clothes and have my picture taken, but there was not enough time on the tour to do any of those things. I regretted that I had to hurry through, because I could probably have spent the whole day there.

Ryuku Mura village at work (photo: navisan/flickr)

Ryuku Mura village at work (photo: navisan/flickr)

I really wanted to try the fabric painting! However, it was time to board the bus for the next stop, Cape Manzamo 万座毛.

From Atop the Elephant's Head @ Cape Manzamo

From Atop the Elephant’s Head @ Cape Manzamo

That was a beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean, which was picture-postcard blue and almost blended into the sky. The beach was sparkly white, and there were a whole lot of succulent plants that I didn’t recognize to fill out the scene. A lovely interlude from the fast pace and riot of colors on the rest of the tour.

OKASHIGOTEN

OKASHIGOTEN

I am guessing the tour was designed by a woman, because lunch was at a pastry shop. It was shaped like a miniature Shuri Castle, complete with red columns and dragons. It was called Okashigoten, which was famous for the purple potato pastries I have been seeing all over since arriving in Okinawa. They said the potato was called beni-imo and indigenous to the island.

 

beni-imo soba noodles

beni-imo soba noodles

There was a huge array of styles, and I picked out several from the gift shop as souvenirs. For lunch I ordered beni-imo soba noodles, which had a slight flavor, but mostly were unique for the color. The parfait I had for dessert was incredible, a pinkish purple decadent delight!

Beneath the big tank at Churaumi aquarium

Beneath the big tank at Churaumi aquarium

The Churaumi Aquarium was our next visit, and the one I was most looking forward to. What an amazing aquarium! I wish I could have stayed there longer than the scheduled two hours. It seemed like there was no end to the number of tanks full of tropical fish. Some brightly colored, some subdued. I loved watching the mantas and other rays in the biggest tank, though the featured animals were a trio of whale sharks.

Churaumi aquarium big aquarium whale sharks

Churaumi aquarium big aquarium whale sharks (photo: M.M.Meeks/flickr)

It was so mesmerizing that I decided to order an iced drink at the café, because the Churaumi Aquarium café had floor to ceiling windows on one side of that tank.. Maybe I was a little tired from running for the past few days, but it was extremely tranquil with the gentle lighting and swimming fish. I relaxed there until it was time for the bus to depart.

Churaumi aquarium dolphin show

Churaumi aquarium dolphin show

Nago Pineapple Park lived up to its name. It was completely dedicated to the pineapple, with pineapple statues, plants, and even cars with pineapple-shaped roofs! I had to laugh at how preposterous it was. But they said there were over 100 varieties of pineapple, and there were enough plants that I could believe it. It was interesting to see the process of growing them, and there was a complicated machine that trimmed them and chopped them into little pieces.

Nago Pineapple Park car (photoL butterforfilm/flickr)

Nago Pineapple Park car (photoL butterforfilm/flickr)

I particularly liked the tropical garden with a wild variety of plants; as usual, I could only recognize a few, like the banana. There were pretty funny golf carts that were retro-fitted to turn them into pineapple cars to tour people around the gardens as well. There was a waterfall that added a freshness to the section. But the best part was the all-you-can-eat samples in the gift shop. There was a café, too, but I was full from lunch and had very little time left to sit and try anything.

Okinawa Fruits Land Fruity Map

Okinawa Fruits Land Fruity Map

Our last stop of the day was Okinawa Fruits Land, which complemented the Pineapple Park, and was quite close. It focused on other fruits, some I had never seen! There were all shapes and sizes and colors. However, I was entranced by the little houses scattered throughout the grounds. They looked like little fairies should live there, and they appealed to the little girl in me. I rather envied the toddlers exploring the charming places. Adults could read the signs about the plants, but I just wandered around and drank it all in.

Kokusai-dori Shop (photo: jasonpoon/flickr)

Kokusai-dori Shop (photo: jasonpoon/flickr)

After that, I was pretty well wiped out. The bus ride back to Naha was well over 2 hours, and I ended up nodding off for much of the way. I got off at the Naha Bus Terminal, but was impressed that the bus dropped people off at other places like the Okinawa Miyako Hotel which looked like a very nice hotel in a more tranquil location from the hustle and bustle of Kokusai-dori. I should look into tours that run from my hotel next time I travel.

Kokusai-dori Shop awamori (photo: chrissam42/flickr)

Kokusai-dori Shop awamori (photo: chrissam42/flickr)

On the way back from the bus terminal to my hotel I picked up a few light things for dinner in my room. I grabbed a sandwich at one place and some pastries in another. Then I picked up a small bottle of awamori. I was intrigued about how it would taste after having seen it at Ryukyu Mura. I got some ice at the hotel and enjoyed sipping on that in the evening while watching some odd Japanese show about travel in northern Japan with what must have been a comedian because she was so funny! Tomorrow I had time to explore a bit more of this tropical city and then back to Tokyo.

 

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Enhanced by Zemanta photos by: Kzaral & Globalism Pictures, Matt Watts, Okinawa Steve, Hyougushi, Alexander Synaptic, Dolmang, Dolmang