Sunday, May 10, 2015

Okinawa, Part 2


On the second day, we walked the 5 minutes over to the Chiraumi Aquarium. It boasts one of the biggest water tanks in the world and is stocked with a wide variety of sea life. It also has a nice view of the sea from the main entrance.

(Ie island. The rock outcropping is called Mount Gusuku. According to one sign, the main agricultural crop grown on the island is peanuts.)

Some of the aquarium exhibits' sea reef life.

Can you spot the fish?

The aquarium has an exhibit hall showing whale and shark skeletons. In the hall is a TV, surrounded by Doraemon dolls, advertising the Okinawa Dream Center park. I debated on whether to visit the Dream Center later in the afternoon, but settled on hiking the coast road north instead, so when I got back, the park was closed.

In the mouth of a whale.

(Street-side view of the aquarium buildings.)

General photos

The hotel has an all-you-can-eat buffet for breakfast and dinner, and dinner was scheduled for 7 PM. After visiting the aquarium, I spent an hour at Emerald Beach before going hiking. The waters at Emerald are very shallow, so it's really not a great place to go swimming. However, the weather was warm, and about 30 people were hanging out on the sand, or wading in the water. Me, I just sat on the beach for a while, then headed out on the road going north to get some exercise and look for things to take pictures of before returning for dinner. I only had 3 hours to work with, so the plan was to get as far as I could in 90 minutes, and then come back. In the end, I got up to Ha So park.

(A fisherman working near Emerald Beach.)

From the sign:
"Ishigantou is the Okinawan name for the stone tablets placed at the head of T-intersections to ward off evil. Most bear three Chinese characters reading "ishigantou" although some have five characters reading "taizan ishigantou." A few bear no inscription at all. The ancient custom is actually Chinese, deriving from Taoism. The tablets were to ward off misfortune and let in happiness. Introduced to Japan, they are now found throughout Okinawa and Kyushu but are also as far north as Aomori. They are especially common in Okinawa.

One story about the origin of Ishigantou is that the term was originally the name of a 4th century Chinese warrior from Jin who often turned misfortune into good fortune. It was said that the forces of evil would avoid even his name. Another theory is that the first two Chinese characters represent the name of Sekikan, a god who devoured malevolent spirits. A third story is that Taizan is the name of a god whose mission is to quell devils. Some people believe that the very hardness of the stone represented a deterrent to any negative force.

Although we do not know when ishigantou were first introduced to Okinawa, the custom was probably widely adopted during the 18th and 19th centuries when Chinese customs were extensively adopted by the people. Ever since, Okinawans have continued to erect these tablets and the custom is now undergoing a popular revival. Ishigantou tablets can be seen everywhere, especially in front of buildings blocking the flow of a road or pathway."

There were a few birds along the way. Most only sat in one place long enough for one or two photos.

Not sure what is planted here, but the earth is a very rich shade of red, which might mean a high clay content.

Mars Cafe. Unfortunately, it was closed for the day.

There were 10-20 butterflies as well, and most of them never stayed in one place long enough to any photos.

About halfway along the route there's a community center, which had about 10 people inside the building, conducting some kind of a meeting. Outside was a small garden with some very colorful flowers.

And more butterflies.

One greenhouse had a gutted bus sitting out front, apparently being used as a garbage dump.

Another bird.

There are small villages dotting the coastline. One of the buildings in one village had strings of garlic out to sun dry.

I could see the ocean from the street through a break in the trees, so I went down a narrow alley through the village (past the garlic) to a small beach. There, as I was looking up the coast to the rock outcroppings, I realized that I was standing next to an old man sitting in a chair and staring at the water. We talked for a few minutes, then he went back inside one of the buildings. His main comment was that this area has beautiful sunsets, but it's the wrong time of the year to see them now.

After turning around and coming back, I still had about 15 minutes left before needing to go eat, so I went past the aquarium and down to Dream Center Park. Along the way, Ie island was framed nicely by the Children's Day carp streamers.

One of the Dream Center buildings.


There are a lot of graves in the sides of the hills along the coast road. Some are modern granite boxes, like small mausoleums. Others are holes in the hill that are blocked off.

(Cups of sake are set out as offerings to the dead.)

(The container here is used for holding incense sticks.)

Rural Extent Station

Ha So park is built around what I think is a water reservoir, a couple miles from the port at the north end of the island. Currently, it consists of a gardening supplies center, a small park, and the water system.

(Garden center.)

(The sign in the middle of the parking lot shows the reservoir at a time when the water was running from it.)

(There's a goat cage in front of the garden center. The sign says "$350 for one goat.)

At the other side of the parking lot is a dried out pond. I assume that when the water is running from the reservoir, it goes through a center pond, and over the waterwheel into this pond.

(One of the local inhabitants.)

(A better view of the waterwheel. The wheel house looks fairly modern.)

This marker is entitled "A farming community's calendar (Then and Now)".

The reservoir as seen from the top of the stairs.

The front of the reservoir.

One of the pipes running from the side of the reservoir.

One of the inhabitants sitting on one of the pipes.

Some flowers in the gardens in the village near the reservoir.

After dinner, we returned to the room to watch TV before going to bed. The next morning, we got up early for the buffet breakfast, checked out of the room, and took the bus back to the airport. The flight returned us to Hakata, and then it was another bullet train ride back to Kagoshima. We got in to Amu Plaza at 6 PM, and had dinner at a tempura restaurant. That's when I got a text message telling me to go in to the conversation school at 8 PM because we'd just picked up a couple new students and the owner wanted me to prepare for the lessons in advance. Thus ended my Golden Week vacation. Next time, I'd like to stay a little longer in order to get in some snorkeling at a deeper beach.

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