This christmas, because I would be alone, I decided to go on a vacation! Domestic flights can be fairly cheap if you book them about 6 weeks before your departure. I didn’t have a particular place in mind in October untill I talked with a friend, also on JET, from toronto! Turns out we had applied at the same time and both got in! We’re friends from University, and we were interested in visiting each other for the holidays! We decided on Okinawa, the southern most islands of Japan! It has a rich unique cloture from the Ryuukyuu kingdoms – the people who used to own Okinawa. Big history, I wont go into it yet. Anyway! It was decided! And as the date drew closer, we were pouring over sites with Okinawa reccomondations of must see’s and do’s! Ohh, there was so much! After booking the flight, deciding on a hostel to stay at, booking a one night stay at a hotel resort and renting he car all that was left to decide was what to see and do each day! We went with a list of must do’s and want to do’s and booked our days based on how we felt – in the moment- and somewhat on weather. We were defiantly going to see the Charuamin aquarium and Shurijo castle. The resort would take one day, and because it was 2 hours north of the main city we’d booked out hostel in, we figured we’d plan the distant must and want to see’s around the day we went up that island! He’s how m vacation went 🙂
Christmas Eve: Packing for Okinawa, not sure if it will be warm or cold… But i got a cold this morning sooo Ill pack both summer clothes and fall clothes… doesnt hurt to pack too much. Finally filled my luggage case with all the necessities and had a pile of last mintutes to load. Weather said it would be war, – around 24 degrees but cloudy.
Christmas Day: Call home and say hi to everyone! Didn’t get my parcel in the mail so I wasnt opening gifts before I left. Oh well. I would be leaving in the afternoon to take a ferry to Fukuoka where I’d be spending the night cuz of an early flight on the 26th. I spent the morning cleaning my house and making sure nothing was left on or out. Super tidy holidays! My plan was to leave by 4 from Katsumoto, arrive in gounoura, but a christmas cake cuz that’s Japanese tradition! Then head to the ferry, buy a ticket and wait. So I did that and got the ticket almost 2 hours early… soo i went for a walk to the park across from the ferry terminal. I ran into a teacher and his 2 daughters! It was fun talking to him! He talked in English and I tried to talk in Japanese! It worked out pretty well! He’d been to Okinawa 10 times!! Nuts! I then walked back to the ferry after talking some awesome shoots on my phone and sending them to my friend who was packing at the time. I grabbed my bag and lunch bag from the Cara nd loaded the ferry. Ate some dinner on the ferry but had now way to… wait! I forgot to say! Before I left the house i cooked a ham:) a Christmas Ham! MWahahahaha. I packed it to eat at the hostel in Fukuoka but didnt pack cutlery. … so on the ferry I couldn’t eat it even though I was hungry. Lol. Got to Fukuoka, walked for 30 mins to the Hana Hostel and checked it! It was awesome! People were having a dinner together! I met a really nice Korean visitor on the top bunk and then went out to eat my ham and cake in the main room. Everyone wanted my ham after I heated it up.. Never! My ham! Lol. They thought it was funny that I was eating just ham and cake. Odd combination, but then Im an odd person :))
December 26th: Got up early and packed. making breakfast and called home to say hi to everyone at dinner! So fun! It was great to see everyone! I missed them so much! I kept them posted on my journey to Okinawa. My friend was on a train to her own plane too. I took the subway at 9am to the airport – cuz Japans awesome like that, and followed the signs to check in. Found the loading gate – such a long walk – and then took a bus to – Wait, did you think i was going to say take a bus to Okinawa? Cuz i was confused when I got on the bus too.. I was like, … don’t tell me this bus flies… hahahaha. So the bus shuttled us across the airport to wherever PEACH airlines loads their planes. Really weird. Finaly got on and then sat fr an hour and a half through excruciating ear pain… eating or chewing didnt help. I dont know if it was the cold or PEACH but my ears popped on the way up and then suffered like knieves in my ear canals on the way down. Took like 30 hours to get my hearing right…. Landed in Okinawa slightly delayed and then had to try to find a way to the rental car pickup. They had shuttles for poeple who rented so I had to ask a lady and showed her my confirmation number with the app Id downloaded. Found out what bus to take and then I was on the road! Jess was on a bus now to the airport. I picked up the car – slightly freaking out cuz the app said id need my credit card but I thought it was already paid for and yea… Turns out i didn’t so all was good! I got the gps set to the hostel and arrived half an hour before check in was allowed… so I asked if they new of any free parking and alas… nota. SO Id have to pay parking each night and split it was Jess – my friend. I finaly checked in – after lugging my case up 3 flights of stair to the reception…. to find out my room was on the 4th floor… god… So then I set up bed and Jess said she was in Okinawa! So i went to pick her up! Still not used to the roads, I got turned around and passed the airport and then I cudn’t find the right parking so i was in the taxi area… It shouldn’t matter, I was just picking her up. Finaly we were united!! Half way across the world, delayed by 5 months! OMG!!! Then I see she only has a back pack…. and man do i feel like i over packed… and she has fancy night life clothes and regular clothes and I have super casual…. god…. and Im still sick! Oh no!!!! We get her checked in and settled and then we head out to explore Naha and find food and entertainment!! We ended up having pizza and martinis at the dirty martini bar next to the hostel! So fancy but we were alone. Weird. WE then wandered around looking for a place to hang out! We found this live entertainment where we could drink and watch this performer sing and dance Okinawa style!! It was fantastic!! After tha we returned home to sleep. Man my cold was bugging me but I wasn’t going to let it stop me.
December 27th: After having Starbucks for breakfast – cuz breakfast just doesn’t exist in Japan the way we know it, we decided to go to Shurijo Castle and then to the Gangara valley caves! Shurijo Castle is the castle of the Ryuukyuu Kingdoms King before Okinawa was part of Japan! Here we learned a lot of Okinawan traditions and history, Radeska and influences. The castle grounds were so beautiful and even though it was cloudy, it still made for some awesome pictures. There was a stamp relay but we didn’t have time for it. I was thinking its cheap enough to come back and do it again later. Jess was planning on leaving 2 days before me because we were planning what days were cheapest for each of us to take flights! SO I was leaving on the 1st and she left on the 30th. Anyway, then we drove maybe 30 mins to Gangara Valley. There were had coffee and Ice cream for lunch at the cave cafe and the joined in on an hour and half tour of the caves valley! It was so beautiful and fun! They had these head sets with translated information that the tour guide was giving us as we walked. Funny thing was they kept repeating the same 2 or 3 lines over and over untill the guide changed the track, so I got into the habit of turning the volume down after hearing it twice. We wanted to go to the art museum next but the google maps said it was closing soon, so we went home and then changed for dinner. We ended up seeking out a soba shop – but had no luck, so while Pokémon hunting we found a Raman shop and ate there! Then were went home after stopping at a konbini and watched the Dr Who christmas special!! Jess was rereading a fanfic of Dr Who which was awesomely rewritten with rose, and she got me hooked with all the funny lines throughout the trip!
December 28th: We were heading up to the resort for 3, so we left somewhat early and headed to the Charuamin Aquiarium! Thats about 2 hours north of Naha where we were staying. We took the toll highway and then found out we could have taken a separate route without paying, note to selves. We stopped off at a daisy to find an aux cable so we could jam to our own tuns for this road trip! We got to the aquarium and yay!! Parking was free!! The Park in along the Ocean and there was such a view driving up here! The Aquarium was down this huge hill and the view at the park was also pretty sweet. The aquarium was huge and have english info sheets too! It was pretty awesome and the best part was the 2 Whale Sharks!! Sooo fun!! We ended up snagging a seat with a view for lunch and hurriedly ate lunch while watching he sharks. Then we headed back about 40 mins to the hotel!! There was much to do on the resort once we were checked in! OMG the hotel was awesome!! Ocean side view, windy, cloudy but still, aweome flute playing, great food and a pool that was so pretty!! We were impressed! We had showers in the room cuz it was a cool layout and then got dressed for dinner and pictures! Went for a walk on the beach and saw the sun set! Almost got soaked in the waves and almost lost my sandles lol. WE reserved dinner at the buffet with a show! More Okinawan tradition!! And before dinner had a wine on the patio while listening to the flute player on stage with… a lot of orchids!!! So Awesome! During dinner I got to go on stage and dance with a bunch of other and beat a drum in Okinawan fashion! I think Jess got a video! Then we got ready for Japanese style bath. Onsen was awesome and then I saw the massages. I’d been dreaming about one since I left Canada. So I treated myself to a 45 min massage. Ahhhh. Then it was bed!!
December 29th: Plan – have American style buffet breakfast, call home to see them open gifts, swim – since its 25 degrees out and then pack and go to a water fall, the butterfly garden, then return to Naha. We’re a bit late for breakfast so I called home before while we waited for seats. So happy to hear everyone liked the gifts from Iki!! Finally got awesome food and then packed and left. The waterfall was… under construction!! Honestly! So weird!! We headed to the butterfly garden and had such a wonderful time there! Got some great shots before my phone acted strange and said it had not enough memory to view photos. On out way home I realized I left my lunch bag in the fridge at the hotel… Luckly it was on the way home, so we managed to get it back and then went home. I was pretty beat. My cold wasnt getting better and driving all day was making me really tired, so We took a rest at the hostel and napped. Then we went on a hunt for dinner and an arcade! It was Jess’s last night so I was willing to do whatever. I think we had dinner at the corner, an izakaya kabab place. The food was great and so was the Sake. Ive never been to an arcade and Jess is a pro. We finaly got to the big mall and changed some money into coins. We played a music game and then a Taiko game! Really fun! Then we went home!
December 30th. Jess packed up and we have breakfast att he Starbucks again while playing Pokemon. I was almost levelling up and catching some new Pokemon so it was great! We walked for 30 mins to a really beautiful Japanese Garden and took lots of photos! AND WE CAUGHT THE LIMITED EDITION CHRISTMAS PIKACHUU!!!! Then we walked back, had Soba for lunch a nd tried to find Jess an Okinawan Lion to her tastes. Then we booked it to the Airport and I said bye! It was weird being alone, I missed Jess as soon as she left. She was fun to hang with, my car navigator and DJ. I was lonely. I headed to the art museum – but it was closed, so i went to Shrijo castle to do the stamp relay! Got some sunny pictures and took some more time reading and seeing everything! Then I went to the royal gardens! Also took my time until it closed and my phone died. Then I went home, charged my phone while reading and then went to the Raman shop that always had a line infront of it all day. Found out it was the number one Raman shop competing for number one all over Japan!! WOot! Awesome for fellow travellers in line with an Okinawan must see book!! Wow after about 45 to 50 mins waiting outside and mesaging friends while waiting, I finaly got in. You order with a machine and then they take the tickets and ask you specifics. Then you get you food surprisingly fast!! It was so awesome!! The ladies with the book came in shortly after and we snagged some picture of the Raman before it disappeared!! I then went to home and read before bed.
December 31st – New Year’s Eve! It was the last day I had the car and there were things I want to see before I left. I had breakfast at Starbucks, then I booked it to Murasaki Maura village! This was an hour out of Naha, in Nago and it was awesome! Like a country market with Ryuukyuu style buildings and crafts! Great for kids! Here I saw banana trees and blow my own glass cup!!! Then I made unrefine sugar from pressed sugar cane adn learned how to grow it!! So easy!! Like a tuber! Then I drove to the Zanpa bay Lighthouse! Wow!! The scenary was amazing!! And for 200yen I was able to climb to the top. But it was really scary…. scared of heights! Alone! IN Okinawa!! With only my phone to annoy mike with!! I managed to get up and down. Down was harder. And I tricked mike into thinking I fell to my doom lol. I dont think i actually tricked him. I think he was falling asleep. I have yakitori and ice cream and then left for Zakimi Castle ruins. The main building with artifacts was closed… till 2020??? And I could grab a guide for free and check it out. The view was amazing and it was super fun!! I got some panorama shots and selfies!! Then I took a drive to the pottery village and grabbed some sake glasses for mike andI when he comes to visit! After that I had one more place in mind. The other castle ruins o the other side of the island. Nakafugakujo. Then Id take the car back to the dealer and take a taxi home. This castle ruins was amazing.. The level of artistry was beyond explination. Please check out the pictures. I got to the dealer half an hour early. Left the car with no extra fees (sigh, thank god) and then I ended up taking the rail home cuz it was really cheap! Then I packed up and grabbed dinner and breakfast at the konbini. Turns out the hostel was doing an ear years thing!! So we made out own soba noddles and had an Okinawan soba at midnight!! I met a lot of people and I ran into 2 other JETs id met in Nagasaki at the conference for JETs! SOoo funny!! Met a cool guy named Kenji and even though i didnt get him on social media ill never forget him. Got some great shots of New Years for you!! Then it was bed!
Jan 1st – 2017: Man, 4 hours of keep and I was out of the hostel and on the rail to the airport. Cheap and fast! Found the terminal for the PEACH plane and made sure I had gum or the ride. Gum didnt help. Read on the plane then I landed in Fukuoka. Trying to figure out the times for the ferry were tough. I was going to miss the best one because of when I landed in Fukuoka. So i subways to the ferry, bought a jet foil ticket even though it cost more, and had to wait 2 hours for the ferry. Finaly got to Iki, but still have to bus to the other ferry port. There’s 2 ports on Iki, one in Gounoura, where I left my car, and one in Ashibe, 10 mins drive from my house in kastumoto… Not ideal. I bused to Gounoura and then grabbed my car- wheel, lol and drove home.. I was sleepy. I unpacked and had a nap. Cleaned up and let everyone know I was home. I was supposed to go out for dinner and a shrine with a friend but they never answered their phone so I stayed home and rested, At last! Man what an awesome vacation!! What a long trip home! 10 hours of travelling to finaly get home on January 1st, 2017!! Yay!!!!
Hope you enjoyed! Until next time!