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).
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.
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
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).
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.
PORK. PORK EVERYWHERE.
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.)
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.
- May January
- Mon 29 December 2014Temples, shrines, and Irish pubs (oops)
- Sun 28 December 2014Temple run and too much sake
- Fri 26 December 2014Hiroshima
- Wed 24 December 2014Things I've noticed since coming to regular Japan
- Mon 22 December 2014Last day in Okinawa
- Mon 22 December 2014A very Okinawan Hanukkah
- Sun 21 December 2014Onna Industrial Festival
- Sun 21 December 2014Last week at OIST
- Tue 16 December 2014A surprisingly good time to go to Russia
- Mon 15 December 2014Cape Hedo and Hiji Falls
- Mon 15 December 2014Vires Acquirit Eundo
- Mon 15 December 2014Chicken skin (and other assorted delights)
- Sun 14 December 2014Bread 1.0
- Sun 14 December 2014More things I've noticed since arriving in Okinawa
- Tue 09 December 2014The Heart Attack Murder Burger
- Tue 09 December 2014Spongebob and the birthday pig
- Mon 08 December 2014Kourijima
- Mon 08 December 2014Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
- Sun 07 December 2014Americana teppanyaki
- Sun 07 December 2014Searching for yeast on a Friday night
- Mon 01 December 2014Pineapple Park
- Sun 30 November 2014Castles, pancakes, Naha and more
- Fri 28 November 2014Attempted drive to Ishikawa
- Thu 27 November 2014Walk through Tancha
- Tue 25 November 2014Things I've discovered since arriving in Okinawa
- Tue 25 November 2014Settling in at OIST
- Mon 24 November 2014Accidental business class
- Sun 23 November 2014Delayed in Hong Kong
- Sun 16 November 2014A Siberian adventure