It was (yet another) morning of mixed weather. Heavy rain followed by brief glimpses of sunlight. Not really sure what was going to happen we thought we’d try our luck and see what happened, hoping the best but (to the best of ability) prepared for the worst.
We’d decided to look at the attractions in/around Naha City. Top of the list was Shuri Castle, which was once the main seat of power in the Okinawan (Ryukyu) empire.
Like just about everything in Okinawa, it was destroyed during the final months of World War II, but we’re told that it’s a faithful recreation. Not being cynical, but of course they’d say that. Immediately it was apparent that this castle was nothing like the ones that we’d seen prior in Japan. It wasn’t just the glossy red castle that was different (though, it was certainly the most obviously discernable difference). The gates and the walls were also different. It was much more… Chinese. And, I say that like I have any idea what Chinese castles look like. I don’t, but it’s just the impression that I got.
It was also a lot more expensive than the other castles that we’d seen on the mainland (¥800 cf. ~¥400).
It wasn’t just the exterior of the castle that was impressive/shiny, the interior was also equally glossy/detailed. Ridiculous levels of detail had been applied to the interior. Very lavish and spectacular. Could only imagine seeing something this grand several hundred years ago.
We were quite lucky with the weather, it was still sunny and there were large patches of blue sky visible. We’d secretly thought that maybe the typhoon had passed. I quickly put those thoughts out of my mind in case I jinxed ourselves.
The other place that I’d wanted to visit (and was also recommended visiting) was the former underground naval barracks. On the way, I stopped for a quick convenience store snack. The food that is available here is quite different, so I’ve been experimenting as much as I can. I know that it’s going to be nasty, but somehow I still need to try it. This applies to the cheese-burger onigiri that I ate. I knew it’d be at least semi-disgusting (and it was). But, it could have been delicious (it wasn’t). It wasn’t just this cheese-burger onigiri, there have been several other Okinawa only flavours that I’d subjected my health to.
The naval barracks were on the opposite side of town, so commuting between the two took time. Plus, using an iPhone for navigation while on a scooter is a challenge. Of course, we arrived. Eventually.
The first thing that we viewed (and didn’t realise that we were meant to pay prior to entry) was a brief museum about the history of WWII in Okinawa. Not only did it talk about the suffering that was brought upon them by the fierce shelling from US forces, but it also told of the huge loss of life due to locals/civilians being drafted to fight alongside the Japanese forces. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. And, to make matters worse, the constant American presence must feel like salt in the wounds of the survivors. It was like all war museums should be, an experience to make you never want to experience.
After the museum (and finally paying admission), we descended into the subterranean tunnels that were formerly occupied by Japanese naval forces during WWII. The tunnels were the final resting place of over 4000 soldiers, many of whom committed suicide during the final stages of the war. The tunnels were surprisingly well made; smooth, wide, tall-ish (I didn’t have to stoop very often) and well lit. But, that was when we were there with only a few other tourists. It was said that the rooms were so crowded that people had to sleep standing up as there wasn’t room to lie down. But, for all the amazement at the construction of the tunnels, the holes in the walls from shrapnel from suicide grenades instantly reminded us about the macabre history.
We’d planned on visiting some giant limestone caves near Yaese, but we’d almost run out of time. There were two cave options; a heavily tourist-orientated option, or a semi-natural (and more expensive) one across the road. We were told that the semi-natural one also had a giant café inside the mouth of the cave. We went and checked out the café, with an interest in exploring the caves only to be told that the last tour had finished for the day, thereby deciding for us.
We went back to our friend’s house before heading out for dinner. She’d recommended a Thai restaurant a little down the road. We haven’t had Thai in ages, so we couldn’t wait. There was a nice view out over the ocean… until the sun set, then it was just dark. We ordered several dishes (I think we got a little excited ordering), and they were all tasty and just the right amount of spicy.
As we were leaving the restaurant, an odd man told us that there were some bats having sex in the trees and he was insistent that we come along with him. And, there it was, two bats having sex, in the tree. We had a quick ice-cream and headed back to our friend’s house where she treated us to another two episodes of Dexter before bed.