"Oh, are you going to the hot springs?"
"No, I didn't know there were any."
"But that's why people go to Okinawa.........."
Okinawa is (I learned) famous for hot springs, snorkelling, Pachinko gambling and the Okinawa diet. We did none of these when we went to Okinawa.
We were there for six days and got off to a slow start. It took me a day or two to come to terms with how expensive everything was compared to Taiwan. I would go to pay for things only to find my purse shrivelled and trembling in my bag.
"Come on, I need some money to pay for the monorail," I would say.
"No, no, it's more expensive than an amusement park ride and not as much fun!"
The first hotel we stayed at was out at the harbour rather than in the capital, Naha's, centre and we spent some of the first day wandering around lost. We finally found the main street, which consisted of endless souvenir shops, restaurants and amusement arcades. In the evening hawkers would stand outside on the pavement trying to persuade customers in. I realised what this all reminded me of. Yes, I had travelled thousands of miles across the world, to a completely different country and culture, only to find that I had come to a place remarkably like Blackpool.
The second day Andy had a work crisis that necessitated our hanging around the hotel for much of the day. We had not got off to a good start anyway. The disadvantage of sleeping near a harbour is that ships have fog horns, and the disadvantage of sleeping in a hotel is the other guests. We had some chatty Korean women on our floor, who managed to talk loudly in the corridor throughout the early morning at intervals of just-long-enough-to-go-back-to-sleep.
We did manage to get out in the evening for dinner. I said earlier that we didn't eat the Okinawa diet while we were there. The Okinawa diet is famous because the Okinawans are one of the longest-lived people in the world. I think our chances of living to a great age were reduced significantly by the meal we had that night. Vegetarians should look away now.
We went to a teppanyaki restaurant, where, as you probably know, a chef cooks your food in front of you and often performs juggling tricks with his knives and other implements to entertain the guests. I had another 'this reminds me of something' moment during our chef's performance. Then I had it - Tommy Cooper! Our chef kept dropping his condiments and knives etc., so that at some points I was seriously concerned for his safety.
But the food was delicious:
These started the frying show. They are little gelatinous fish. I didn't find out what they were made of and probably don't want to know.
My lobster is on the right and the thing on the left is a giant prawn of some kind.
The steak and now empty lobster on my plate.
So the day didn't end too badly.
The next day we travelled halfway up the island with the intention of visiting the aquarium at the other end the day after. This day was the best weather we had all week, and luckily the place we were staying at was near a beach. Okinawa has beautiful beaches. We saw them all along the west coast as we went up on the bus. It also has world famous coral reefs, where you can go snorkelling in the summer. As we were there in the winter the best we could manage was a few wonderful hours paddling and relaxing in the sun:
That's all for now but I'll write more on Okinawa later this week, including the foibles of Okinawan men and the twittering of birds.