Friday, August 17, 2012


Shisa, the Okinawan lion-dog creature, decorates many houses.
Mensore means welcome in uchinaaguchi, a native Okinawan tongue. It's one of the most common native words a tourist will see around the island, which mostly, at least in the large commerce areas, runs on mainland Japanese.
This was my third time in the Ryukyu Kingdom, the first when I was a kid and the second two years ago. Again, Skymark was the cheapest deal I could find on a flight. Thankfully, no needy seatmates were in residence this time around.
Body-shaming freebie at the hotel
I looked into staying at the place I stayed last time, but the hostel has changed hands and a double now costs about the same as a cheap business hotel - except the hotel has the benefit of a private bathroom. We ended up getting a Toyoko Inn club card (¥1000-¥1500) because at a few hundred yen discount per night for five nights, it paid for itself. In addition to the discount, you get a free night's stay for every ten. Since the card is for life, it also saves me the hassle, at this hotel at least, of being asked for my passport. I always refuse to provide it (I don't travel with my passport domestically, and guests who are assumed to be Japanese are not usually asked for ID), but it saves me the whole refusal song and dance agitation. Getting worked up less often is good.

So after arriving late at night, cabbing to the hotel, and crashing out, we spent the first day in Naha city riding the monorail and checking out the city. At Shuri station, we found the cleverly named 35 coffee, and when I saw they were offering iced coffee for only 100 yen, we got one. 35 in Japanese is san-go, which in a homonym for sango/coral (珊瑚). This coffee company spends a portion of its proceeds preserving coral reefs in Okinawa.
We hit up Vegi Cafe Shanti for lunch, a beautiful little vegetarian cafe offering Nepalese-style food. Some of their sales go to building a school in Nepal. Yum!
These ladies are doing a tea-gathering dance.
We had both been to Shuri Castle before, but walked around the grounds anyway and got there just in time for a Ryukyuan dance performance! We got to see four traditional dances from various aspects of Ryukyu culture, from the courts to the farms. I love the whistling and chanting that goes along with Okinawan traditional music!
View from Shuri castle
On the way back to the monorail station, I spotted this storefront and we stopped, intrigued. NPO Agora is a non-profit dedicated to helping those with developmental disabilities, especially those with mental disabilities. Here they have a cafe and social space, and also sell arts and crafts made by their members. We bought some jewelry. This day left me with the impression that Oki has a higher than average level of do-gooders/socially conscious people.
We also hit the prefectural museum, which has both art and history wings. We chose the history museum, and learned about both the natural and folk history of the island and the archipelago(s). Worth it!


  1. There's a little NPO/shop like that in Kikuna too.

    Jealous of your trip to Okinawa!

  2. Miss you! Let's hang out soon.