Walk through Tancha or a failed attempt to reach the farmers market

Travel ?? Comments Thu 27 November 2014


A) OIST     B) Nakadomari    C) Ishikawa    D) FamilyMart

Since my first full day in Okinawa coincided with a public holiday, after exploring the campus I decided to take a walk along the beach towards the Onno No Eki farmers market in the town of Nakadomari (suggested by Thomas).

It was on this walk that I realised just how isolated the campus is if you don't have a car - the nearest minimart is the almost ubiquitous FamilyMart (Lawson is also around, but no sign of 7-Eleven), a 20 minute walk - whilst the two nearest towns, Nakadomari and Onna, are both a one hour walk east and west respectively. So, along with seeing what was on offer at the farmers market, I aimed to get my bearings, check out FamilyMart, and take a leisurely (ha) one hour stroll along the beach.

It didn't all go entirely to plan.

The first part of my walk was from OIST down to the beach; this part of Okinawa (Tancha) is mostly residential, with one small shop and a restaurant (Pancake Island Cafe). The style of house on Okinawa is quite distinctive; large concrete blocks with the entire ground floor consisting of a garage. This is due to the Okinawa's location in the Typhoon Alley - when faced with a choice between traditional Japanese style dwellings that could ultimately fly away each year, and giant slabs of concrete, it's somewhat of a no-brainer. (On the other hand, cars have been known to embed themselves up to 3m high in concrete buildings during previous typhoons).

Okinawan style house

One of the more interesting Okinawan houses


... aaaand this explains the 'stilts'

Unfortunately, this causes the cityscape to become quite ugly and monotonous after a while (but hey, practicality always wins).

Another cool addition on almost all the houses were the presence of Shīsas, or guardian lion-dogs. Usually found in pairs, they adorn the roofs and/or gates of almost all Okinawan buildings; always one with an open mouth to catch good fortune, the other with a closed mouth to keep good fortune in.


Shīsas adorning an Okinawan house

You can only take so many photos of Shīsas and concrete houses, so I started to venture off the road and onto the beach. Which, by the way, is seriously impressive and a feature not normally associated with Japan.

Tancha beach

Tancha beach

I couldn't get over how empty and seemingly undeveloped it was. And it was almost a 30 degree day! Ridiculous, in Perth it would have been packed. I was told that the water is too cold to swim in this time of year, but that's no excuse. The water temperature was so much warmer than Perth. Only negatives: the arguably uninviting presence of stonefish in the shallow water (and you do not want to accidentally step on a stonefish).

Sun Marina Beach Resort

Sun Marina Beach Resort

Not soon after I finally hit my first beach resort, and ventured back to the street to the welcoming presence of FamilyMart. It was everything I expected, and more. Bank! Hot food! Cold food! Actually all types of food! Cup noodle galore! Bento boxes! Ice-cream (couldn't resist some Haagen-Dazs on this relatively humid day)! Electronics! Hentai! (wait, what?)

I knew the ATM here wouldn't work with international credit cards, but out the corner of my eye I saw the Citibank Japan logo (Oh! Maybe Citibank Australia will work here!). I was so determined I tried three times (three different card rotations, that's how desperate I was to get it to work). Alas.

I'm probably quite lucky my card wasn't eaten after all that.

As I passed more and more beach resorts, the road quickly became saturated with tourist paraphenalia and restaurants (I started to pass a unending chain of hamburger restaurants, gift shops - including a place that solely sold shells - and diving centers).

Tourist road

Shīsa in the tourist area

It was here that I finally gave in and decided to have something to eat; the food just became way too tempting. Whilst Japanese cuisine is very closely associated with fish and seafood, Okinawan cuisine is significantly different, due to the independence of the island as part of the Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th to 19th centuries. High levels of Chinese trade over the years led to Pork becoming an important staple in Okinawa (lucky me - the one meat I don't eat), along with unique dishes such as sea grapes (also known as seaweed caviar) and sata andagi, deep-fried dough (i.e. a doughnut) available n a delicious array of flavours.



The American occupation of Okinawa from 1945-1968 also resulted in a bizarre new Okinawan dish - taco rice! Apparently everything about tacos were a hit except the shells themselves. In fact, every Thursday and Friday at OIST is taco rice day - the one day everyone seems to queue for the same bento box.

Eventually I settled on a cool beachside bar/seafood restaurant (I refuse to admit the promise of free wifi factored into the decision whatsoever), and ordered a delicious array of yakitori. Well, I tried to, but all I got was several plates of chicken yakitori. Apparently the 'point and hope for the best' method of ordering wasn't as foolproof as I was led to believe. (There were even pictures to point at! Oh well, it was all stupidly delicious and I was too hungry to argue.)

Chicken yakitori

Delicious chicken yakitori


Interesting restaurant decor

I ate, paid, and continued on my journey. Everything was going amazingly considering I've become way too reliant on GPS. Well, almost. It was here that I hit a fork in road.

I must have agonized over which direction to take for hours (read: 5 minutes), and since it was pretty dark by this stage, and I'd been out for over one and a half hours, I made the painful decision to turn back.

I later found out that if I turned right and continued along the beach (rather than turned left and headed into the main part of Nakadomari), I would have reached the farmers market.

I was a mere 10 minutes away.


Dusk over the Moon Beach Hotel



It wasn't all bad though. On the way back, I bought a plastic container for leftover food from FamilyMart!

Only to put it in the microwave and completely destroy it as soon as I got home.


Tags: japan okinawa