29 June 2013

Iejima (Ie Island)

After reading my last post on my adventures with Kassie on Kourijima, I know you're just dying to find out if we ever made it to Iejima, our original adventure destination.  We woke up early, drove up the oh-so-familiar-by-now highway and arrived at the ferry terminal to find a packed parking lot and long lines.  This looked much more promising!  The lines moved fast and within a few minutes, Kassie was loading her bike up in the storage area of the boat and I was wading through a sea of people to find a spot to claim for our 30 minute ride.

Be sure to check out Kassie's blog and recap of our trip here.

As soon as the ferry hit land, I hopped off to find a bike rental place.  The day before I totally forgot that I knew how to say bicycle in Japanese, but this time I took the opportunity to practice asking where they were.  They were right around the corner.  Duh.  The ferry cost about $14 round trip per person, and I think Kassie paid about $12 to bring her bike, which, if you have one is definitely the way to go.  I rented a bike for the day for $10, but being out in the salty island air, it was rusted to shit, and I had even harder of a time this day than I did the previous.  If you were to bring a car to the island, you would need to make a reservation and it costs something like $40-$50, which isn't bad if you have a car load of people and are staying for a few days.

We caught up with each other and headed off to find some cool stuff.  We ended up finding a neat little beach all to ourselves and hunted for sea glass, interesting shells, and this guy.

I played with the hermit crab for waaay to long trying to get a focused picture of him/her while Kassie went exploring along the cliff.  She was gone for a while and I thought I should go look for her, but then I dozed off for a few minutes laying on some coral.  Good friend I am, ha!!!

We biked a few kilometers to the Hibiscus Garden which housed over 1,000 different varieties.  While they had really nice walking paths and outdoor gardens, they hadn't bloomed yet, so we headed inside a giant greenhouse, which was still really fun.

There were so many, each on more beautiful than the last.

We couldn't get over how tall the plants were and how large each flower was.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Some were literally bigger than my head!!!

Next up was the feature of the week.  The Lily Festival!!!  We followed tour buses and the crowds through the windy streets until we found a place to park our bikes unchained next to about 2034982349 other bikes.    Walking just a little ways down a path, we came across this view!

Here we grabbed some lunch from some food vendors, listened to music playing from the stage and people watched.

I think we both expected something a little different from this.  For some reason I was thinking that all these lilies would be growing wild, but it made total sense that they are maintained and cared for.  There were people working in nearly every patch of lilies picking off dead petals and fallen leaves to keep everything looking pristine.  I thought that was pretty impressive.

Don't get me wrong, we both loved the Lily Festival, and I would definitely recommend anyone who lives here to go to it.  I mean, come on, how could you not love being in a field next to the ocean in a middle of these gorgeous flowers.  The whole island as a whole was awesome, and definitely go exploring outside of the 'festival'.

Mandatory Japanese pose of the day.

We strayed off the beaten path, not far at all from the festival and climbed over a ton of coral (that stuff is SHARP!  It ripped through my sneaker!) to spy on some fisherman on the cliff.  While we were standing there, some water shot up through a little tiny crack in the coral, so we had fun getting as close as we could to it without being blasted and taking a ton of pictures.  Check out Kassie's blog for a hilarious but mega unflattering picture of me posing 'terrified' of it.  Hehe.

We knew it was about time to get back on our bikes and check out at least one more place before we had to catch the ferry.  Ugh...there were hills, and my rusty bike didn't want to peddle and we were tired and my butt hurt.  But then....we arrived at Wajee View Point, which was worth every second.  Seriously, check out this view!!!

Time to head back.  We had only seen a fraction of the island, and thought we had missed all of the historical sites until we passed this building which had been destroyed during WWII.  It was too bad we couldn't read about it, all we knew was that it was a historic site.

Iejima played a major role in Japan surrendering to the US during the war.  There are 3 runways that still exist, one which is still used for civilian aircraft.  The US Marines use the island as a training facility, and we were able to watch some paratroopers jump out of an Osprey!!! Farming is huge on the island (as is most of Okinawa), well, as huge as could be on a 9 square mile plot of land, and raise tons of things including ducks, cattle, flowers, tobacco, potatoes, fish, and probably tons others I don't know about.  There is even a rum distillery.  We got the impression that you cannot tour the factory, but we did bring some home to try!

We headed back and returned my bike, and as we were walking away, we were yelled at in Japanese to come back and get a free snowcone!  We each got one and enjoyed our surprise treat sitting in the shade.  It was very appreciated after being in the blazing sun for hours!

After buying some treats for the boys back home, and some lilies for ourselves, we headed back.  The ferry ride back was uneventful and quiet.  We plopped down in our hidden little spot on the top deck and relaxed, uploaded photos of the day, and talked about how awesome our island adventures were.  We'd love to go back, maybe bringing the guys and check out the other side of the island, some of the historic stuff, climb the mountain and go into the caves.  Maybe we could stay at the resort of even camp in the winter.

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20 June 2013

Kouri-Jima (Kouri Island)

I'm so behind on blogging it's crazy, but I've been busy, so definitely no regrets going on here.  A few months back I met Kassie of Mr. & Mrs. O and Crafts and Carafes online and after following each others social media accounts for a few weeks, it was obvious we were meant to be friends.  I sort of fell in friend-love with her when I learned she doesn't wait around for her husband or anyone else to go off exploring.  It's harder then you'd think to find people like us!

So for our first get together, we planned on biking around Ie Island and visiting the Lily Festival there.  Honestly, I was a little nervous.  Over the past few years I've gotten really out of shape, and while I've been working on that pretty religiously, I still had no idea what kind of 'biking' my new friend expected to do.  After all, she was bringing her bike, and I was renting one.  I just imagined me at the bottom of a hill passed out yelling "Go on...leave me....save yourself..." *Gulp*

It wasn't like that at all.  We realized we both wanted something easy going and casual.  To be outside and explore.  And it was actually pretty funny, apparently Kassie got a little freaked out when I showed up at her house in exercise type clothing, she thought I was so marathon biker or something.  HA!  I quickly explained that comfort and sweat control were my biggest priorities while biking all day in 500% humidity.

Anyway, we drove over an hour to the ferry building for our trip to Ie Island, and both of us were thinking, "Wow! There's barely anyone here, that's awesome! So glad we came on a weekday." Um.  Nope.  Turns out that the ferry runs hourly during the lily festival except for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - when we showed up.  Sooo....basically if we waited for the next ferry, we would be able to spend 30 minutes on the island before having to go back.  Not going to happen.  That's the sort of adventures you encounter when can't read the local language. We grabbed some more pamphlets and using those combined with the ferry building signs, we were able to decipher the schedule for the next day and headed out to find a new adventure for the current day.

A short drive later, we found a few other islands accessible by car (later to learn we drove across the largest bridge on Okinawa), Kouri Island.  We found a bike rental, and started off strong.  Until we hit the first hill.

We worked hard getting ourselves up that first hill, and decided to reward ourselves with lunch at the first cafe we saw.  It was pretty tasty, my meal below was a pork set, with some soup, custard, salads, fried veggies, rice, etc.  It hit the spot for sure.

The view didn't hurt either.

Lunch gave us a much needed boost of energy, and I appreciated that we both wanted to stop a lot and take pictures.  We explored down some trails (which got a little too crazy for the bikes) and found some gorgeous spots.  We also joked/not-joked about habu snakes while making our way through the jungle.

It was well worth a little mud and bushes to find this view on the other side.  Kassie climbed down a little ways, but the tide was coming in and the waves were crashing pretty hard.  It was awesome and so peaceful!

I couldn't resist taking a picture with the cow with the largest nipples in the world.  But really, who could?

There were the cutest little island homes, farms, and vegetable stands all over the island.  These buoys remind me of Maine a bit.  You don't often see this many strung up around here.

It was such a perfect day for a bike ride, and it was pretty hilarious how much we struggled up hills.  And I learned how much rental bikes suck.  My brakes were barely working and made this awful screeching sounds every time I touched them, so we constantly laughed about it and imagined me flying off the road into the ocean, but all worked out well.

We were pleasantly surprised to see the bridge again, while we were biking for quite a long time, we thought we had only gone half way.  When I handed in the bike, I noticed this little guy hanging out next door.  I tried to say hi, but he didn't really want anything to do with me.

We walked around the beach area, which had a couple little food stands and a nice produce market, where we picked up some goodies to bring home for the boys.

After leaving Kouri Island we found another little spot on Yagiji Island and sat there watching the tide go come in and taking pictures.  I think it was here that I realized it was my first day in Okinawa that I didn't see one other American.  It was really peaceful and nice to be explore areas the locals do, a little bit off-the-beaten-path from foreigners.

Kassie took some great photos of our day, including the one of us below (Thanks Kassie!!!), so definitely go check out her blog.  I don't think we realized how tired we were, but before we even got home, we planned for another Ie Island and Lily Fest trip early the next morning.

Check back soon for our Ie-Jima adventures!!!

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05 June 2013

Okinawa World

I might have mentioned this before, but it's totally true.  We often run into the problem of what to do, because we have so many options, it's hard for us to narrow it down.  Last month it rained a ton, so when the clouds parted, even slightly, we jumped on the opportunity to get outside.  We decided to go to Okinawa's theme park - Okinawa World with some new friends.

This park is all things Okinawa, including Gyokusendo, the second largest cave in the country, Kingdom Village, a replica of old time Okinawa with hands on folk craft workshops, and a Habu Center, a museum of Okinawa's famous deadly snake!

These Shisa dogs might be my favorite I've ever seen, and I really like this picture of us with them. I just wish that damn bench was better placed. 

We bought tickets to see the entire park, which cost about 1600 yen (approx $16.85 at time of purchase), and we spent maybe 3 hours here without doing any hands on activities.  The park was nicely laid out.  As soon as you enter, you can go downstairs into the cave where you walk all the way underground to the far end of the park, and then you make your way back to the entrance seeing all of the above ground attractions.  Here is the largest room of the cave.

In the 850 meters open to the public (I believe you can go spelunking here also), there was a small stream, and tons of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

Once emerging from the cave, we were immediately at the villages.  Here I got myself a cup of delicious fresh made sugar cane juice, here's a woman making mine.

Right next door we watched some Ryukyu glass making and watched as some people were taught how to make it.  We didn't participate this time, but it's definitely something I want to do while we are here.

In this little area, there were tons of buildings where you could learn how to do basket weaving, fabric dyeing, paper making, pottery, etc...  There were also small museums and attractions going over folklore and history.

While in the village, we were able to watch an Eisa dance show.  Eisa is a folk dance originating in Okinawa and incorporates singing, chanting, drumming, dancing, and sanshin playing. They wear beautiful costumes and it's really mesmerizing. I can't to go to more festivals with these performances.  We weren't able to take pictures, but if you get the chance, definitely google or youtube it.

They did have a beer and habu sake brewery on site.  We do plan on getting some habu sake at some point, but it isn't cheap, so I snagged some Okinawan beer to bring home instead.

One thing we were looking forward to the most was the Habu center and show.  The show was entirely in Japanese, but we were able to figure out what was going on, the host was very entertaining.  Later we realized there were pamphlets in English for us to follow along - but it was even more fun figuring it all out.  Here they raced a mongoose and a habu snake in water to see which was fastest.  I expect Sammy cat would run just as fast as that mongoose did in order to get out of the water.

Another demonstration showed how snakes can feel the temperature change around them, and how they know what is a predator or not.  The pink balloon was soaked in water water while the white balloon was room temperature.  We all kept our eyes on the habu the entire time and he moved so fast you could barely see...but it went from curled up to popping that balloon in a fraction of a second.  Yikes!

This next one was the most fucked up demonstration of a snake I've ever seen.  If you are reading this on Okinawa and haven't been or heard of what he does to this cobra, then stop reading now.  Go there and watch it.  Don't let me ruin the ending for you.

So anyway, this guy throws the cobra down and he shows how the cobra can only see in front of them and 45° to either side.  They can also only strike in those areas and as far out as they are sitting up.  To actually show us this, because apparently just telling us this (even in Japanese) wasn't good enough, this crazy motherfucker teased the snake with his foot.  While the snake was paying attention to his foot, the guy bent down OVER the snake and WHACKED it on the back of it's head.  Like...not just touched it.  He smacked this thing crazy hard, which pissed the snake off, but it didn't know where it came from.  So he laughs as the audience gasps, and then the guy DOES IT AGAIN.  He bends over the fucking snake and punches it in the back of the head.  What the fuck?!?!!?  So why not.....he DOES IT AGAIN!!!!  Jesus....

So now the snake is really ticked, and the guy, in order to calm it down, grabs it by the back of it's tail (what the fuck, right? and picks it up and SHAKES the things senseless.  I'm not even kidding.  He picked it up and shook and spun it like you would a rope, the snake is flopping around everywhere, and when he puts it back on the ground, the cobras hood is back down and it's all mellow again.  The end.  Sheesh.

After the show, we wandered around the museum and small wildlife center where we saw pits full of snakes, the mongoose from the water show and a bunch of other creatures.

I'm not sure what it is, but we tend to really like giant tortoises.

Sorry if this makes you gag.  Apparently people had that reaction when I posted these next photos on instagram.  I thought it was grotesquely amazing!

We had a lot of fun here.  Sure, it was touristy, but we learned a bunch of stuff and it turned into a great day trip with friends.

On a final note, please don't throw trash at "this snakes".

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03 June 2013

May 2013 Monthly Recap

Oh man, this month flew by.  Quicker than normal it seems. I still haven't been blogging as much as I would like to, but have been trying to stay consistent, and I hope you are all enjoying it.  We stayed really busy in May, and here are a bunch of pictures to see how we've been spending our time.  I do plan on elaborating on some of our adventures in the near future, so keep an eye out! 

(photo courtesy of Kassie)
Making new friends is cool.  Especially when you met and bond through each others blogs and living in a foreign land.  I met Kassie (of www.markandkassie.com) a few months ago, and in the beginning of May we met in person and attempted to go to the lily festival on IE Island.  Missing the ferry that day, we explored Kouri Island instead and had a great time biking all around.  We had so much fun that we attempted IE Island the next day, which was a huge success.

(photo courtesy of Kassie)
Biking around 2 islands in 2 days is extremely exhausting, especially on a rusted-to-shit rental bike.

I thought some of you would get a kick out of this.  A chocolate fondue set in the shape of a toilet.  I like that someone thought this was a good idea and then actually produced it.

We are huge fans of the sushi-go-rounds here.  We tried out a new one which, in addition to taking dishes off of a conveyor belt, you could order on a monitor and have a duck captaining a modern sushi cruise liner sail over to your table for delivery.  While we've had much better sushi elsewhere, this was still a fun place.

I've got the garden started.  A few varieties of lettuce, jalapenos, strawberries, lemongrass, basil, parsley.

While this is genius to wrap the watermelon in rope so you are able to carry it...I will NOT be purchasing a $24 watermelon while I'm here.  Thank you anyway...

I'm not going to get all into the politics of shit and living overseas with the military, but locals here have all sorts of feelings about 'us'.  Mostly, you only hear about the negative (typical, right?), but there are lots of people here who are thankful we are here and are willing to take the time to tell us.  I Love American!!!

We just recently started geocaching, which I think will be great for us, especially when we want to get outside but can't decide where to start exploring.  During our first day, we found all 3 caches we searched for AND discovered a park we would have never found on our own.

I know you love the signs just as much as I do.  Obviously, if you throw litter in the ocean, the fish will throw it back at you.  I really don't want to mess with that red one, he looks pretty evil.

During Golden Week, there is a dragon boat race in Naha (and other places around the island) to impress the gods and ensure a good and bountiful fishing season.  Each boat is powered by 30 paddlers and race to become the champions! There are dozens of competing teams and the races run from morning to night.  I went down with some friends and we enjoyed trying out the Japanese festival fare and cheering on random teams.

I really thought I would go the entire 3 years here without getting a Japanese pedicure.  I mean, it's just so much going on on your little toes.  I made it 3 months before getting one.  I LOVED it!!!  For $40(ish), you are pampered.  It's unlike any stateside pedicure I've ever gotten.  First, you are in your own recliner with an ocean view.  Then you are given a blanket and a delicious melon iced tea which is constantly being refilled.  There is also a bar and Japanese candies if so interested.  Then, you relax for 2 WHOLE HOURS!!!  And the leg and foot massage is incredible. None of this 5 minute massage crap, this goes on for at least a half hour, maybe longer.  I completely lost track.  The hardest part is picking out what to get on your toes since the binder of options is about 7" thick.  I think I can handle this while I live on an island.

We need a few Sammy shots in here, don't we?  Here's her mid-sneeze.  Oh man, cat sneezes crack me up.

As usual, I collected some more sea glass at my favorite beach hideout.

We went to the Okinawa Prefectural Museum down in Naha, where we were not able to take photos.  But it was a really nice place and very well put together.  If you want to learn the history and culture of the Okinawan people, this is the place to go.  As we entered, we really appreciated the umbrella 'check'.  Do they have these back in the states? I've never seen them, it's brilliant! Especially for here when everyone carries an umbrella with them all the time.  You just stick your umbrella in, close the little latch, and take the key out!

I still look up when a plane goes overhead.  You'd think I'd have whiplash living near multiple airfields, but so far so good.  Sometimes some really neat aircraft come through.  In this case, I managed to get a shot of a helicopter going over the cave I was in at the beach.

This is one of many elevator caution signs we've seen.  It seems a little excessive.  Maybe they have a door-closing-on-hands epidemic here we don't know about.

My friend Vikki and I went snorkeling for the first time since living here.  IT. WAS. AWESOME.  I can't wait to bring Aaron soon, and I can't wait to finish my refresher SCUBA class so I can get down deep.  This location at Maeda Point was great for snorkeling, it's definitely a place I'm going to bring people when they come to visit!!!

I appreciated the warning about angry waves.  Good thing they showed us some examples.

I definitely have to do a post on this over at Kacey's Kitchen, because it was so much fun and I'm so proud of my little bear bento.  For just a few dollars, I took a bento making class on base, made my own lunch, and was able to keep the bento box!!!

I wish she wouldn't disapprove everything I did.

Aaron and I have been wanting to do some woodworking projects for around the house.  Our main goal is to eventually build our own dining room table, but we wanted to start off small.  Here I'm scraping off excess glue for our cutting board.  I'll share more pictures including the finished product with you later.

I was really excited to dog sit this past week.  My neighbor was dog sitting and got busy so I hung out with this hairy guy all day.  We both took a nap in the sun.  Sammy wasn't too impressed...as usual.

We went bowling in May also, which always makes me want to join a bowling league.  I average an amazing 100 (give or take 20), but at least I got some good poses going on.  I'd like to enlarge this picture and frame it, what do you think?
(photo courtesy of KayCee)
That was quite a bit of photos this time, but you know, it's so hard to narrow a whole months of photos into one post.  Is there anything else you guys are interested in seeing here at Where in the World is Kacey?!?! Let me know, and I'll see what I can whip up for you!!!

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