Okinawa

Some days are just better than others.  On those days that slip below par, it’s a good idea to find a way to see the best in what you’re given.  Today was one of those days.  We looked at all of the possible excursions in Okinawa and there really wasn’t anything that truly excited us, so we decided to just walk around and check things out on our own.  We saw a lot of others doing the same thing, too.  We knew there was a touristy shopping street not far from the ship, so we planned to go there…eventually.  The kids are I were already missing our time in Tokyo, so we were happy to be back on Japanese soil.  At the least, we wanted to find some good sushi.  That didn’t happen, but we still found the day’s silver lining, which for us was just joking around with one another and enjoying the offbeat things we saw in Okinawa.

The walk from the ship, which was docked really close to a touristy shopping street in Okinawa.
These tall statues, one on each side of the main street out of the port, welcome visitors to Okinawa.

It was hot and sunny, so we knew we’d need to drink plenty of water.  As soon as we left the port, we stopped at the first grocery store we saw, or better yet, the first grocery store we recognized as being such.  It can be tough to know what certain establishments are when the signs are so alien.    

It can be difficult to find certain types of businesses in non-English speaking Asian countries due to the language barrier. I have yet to see a post office and recognize it as one.
some of the advertisements and a handicapped parking sign at the grocery store

On our way out of the grocery store parking lot, we came across a little hamburger stand.  It was closed, but Fred had to have a photo.  We liked the “from California” and the “Real American Taste” bit.

People seem to love American burgers no matter where we are.

This giant monster was another thing that I couldn’t pass up.  My dad used to crawfish in his spare time and, due to my small hands, I was often his bait boy as a teen. I can’t imagine what any of us would have thought to see a crawfish this size.  I think I’d still be having nightmares.  My dad may have just wanted to build bigger traps 🙂

Attack of the killer crawfish!

We decided that we wanted to see what some of the lesser traveled streets looked liked, so we walked quite a few blocks off the main street.  We found a lot of closed up shops that looked similar to this one.

This is just one of the many run-down commercial buildings we saw on the lesser-traveled streets in Okinawa.

Even with the lack of thriving businesses, there were still vending machines on just about every corner.  There still weren’t a lot of drinks that we recognized though.

Kyle, like the rest of us, is fascinated by the variety of unfamiliar beverages offered on just about every street corner in Japan.

Another thing we noticed were the “lion-dogs” that seem to be everywhere.  At first I thought they were dragons, but I looked them up online and they’re known as shisa.  These statues are placed in the entrances to just about all of the residential buildings, usually one to each side of either the gate or the main door.  They seemed to be guarding or protecting the residences.  We even found them in intersections on the street.

one of the shisa that we saw on a residential gate
Shisa are even found in the middle of many street intersections in Okinawa.

This was clearly going to be one of those days where we entertain ourselves with the quirky things we notice around us.  You can see the jovial mood that everyone was in from the photo I took next.  Also, we were near the “Smile Hotel”, so how could we possibly do otherwise?

The family, bored with my constant photo taking, decides collectively to pose creatively for the camera.
How could anyone not be happy while staying at the Smile Hotel?  Can you spot yet another shisa?

There were a lot of really compact houses.  Here are a couple of houses that are typical of what we saw in the residential areas where we walked.  Take note of the shisa on both residences.

This is a typical small residence in Okinawa.
Here is another home that seemed typical on the streets we walked in Okinawa.
This was my favorite shisa of the day.

I don’t remember why I took this next photo, but I did capture a family walking down the street.  You’ll notice that the mother has a mask over her face.  We saw scenes like this one a lot all over Asia.  We were told that they are usually protecting others from their germs.  I would’ve thought it was the other way around, since the first time I was exposed to this practice was during the H5N1 epidemic in 2005 (I was traveling a lot then & saw people with masks all over the airports).  It made me feel a lot of respect for the Asian people in general, since this is just one of the ways that I noticed in which they show so much consideration for others.

Kayla stops by yet another vending machine with a Japanese family in the background.

Here are just a bunch of photos that I took of various things that caught our attention during our walk to the shopping street.  Read each of the captions to see why.

Kayla and Kyle both liked this sign, although I’m still not sure what type of business it was representing.
If you look closely at the top corner balcony, you’ll see an owl statue perched on the railing.
Class A:  For several blocks, we joked about being high class…then it got old.  It seemed funny at the time.  Maybe the heat was getting to us?  😉
We stopped here for sunscreen and more water; it was hot!
We passed by this mall. I was surprised to see a Tower Records, but we didn’t go inside.

When we got to the main souvenir/shopping/tourist street, things became a little less interesting for me.  There was a lot of repetition in the storefronts and things that we had seen in other places.  Nonetheless, here are some of the things we saw that I don’t think I’ve shared in other blog posts.

This is the start of the main shopping street in Okinawa.  More shisas guard the entrance.
sunglasses for sale with a really creepy handmade sign
Fred checks out t-shirts
A hedgehog cafe – one of a number of animal cafes in Japan.  You can go in and hang out with the animals (cats, owls, hedgehogs, bunnies, etc) for a price.
These pizzas are actually made of cake and icing.
This little boy got to ride on his mom’s luggage; it was actually made for kids to ride!
Kyle and a gorilla guy with a Hawaiian shirt:  I’m seriously speechless.
I’ve seen entire buildings that are smoke-free, but never an entire street.
The kids were talked into posing with one of the anime statues we saw on the street. There was some arm twisting involved.  Kayla hates me now.

The kids and I were tired after walking quite of few miles in the heat, so we headed back to the ship.  It was on our way back that we saw this last and greatest sign of the day.  We tried to do our best to comply.  I think you should, too 🙂

My translation app says this means “cowardly participation”, which can’t be correct, but it was the English at the bottom that really made us laugh.

Thanks for a memorable day, Okinawa!  We couldn’t find a post office and had no sushi, but we still had a fantastic time.