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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