"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky"
-Guatama Siddharta

Over and under and up and down...sunshine and thunder...a laugh and a frown!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Zanpa Lighthouse and Beach

2/26/11

The weather was absolutely perfect, lots of sun, bright blue sky, and nice puffy clouds from time to time. Why not venture off to a beach and lighthouse?! We did exactly that. Zanpa Lighthouse is very close to where I am staying. It cost 200 Yen to climb to the top of the lighthouse and rest assured it was worth every yen cent! The view was spectacular (although it was quite windy and at times I wondered whether or not the lighthouse was secure to really withstand such winds).

I have been told by Okinawan's that Cape Zanpa is where you can go to whale watch (on land). The humpback whales come in during this time to mate and many people have seen them from the shore. Now that's my kind of whale watch, no puking required! Unfortunately I did not see any whales on this day

Lighthouse in distance
The beach is close to the lighthouse, but you have to pay for parking at the beach, not at the lighthouse, so we walked from the lighthouse to the beach and enjoyed some of the most beautiful weather that I have seen in Okinawa! The beach was deserted, only two other families.

After some time on the beach we walked back and stopped at what seemed to be a giant tag sale. All kinds of things (mostly ceramics) were being sold.

Ceramics at the "swap meet"

All in all a very successful day. I did however find it hard to really relax and enjoy myself, knowing that tomorrow I will be put through all kinds of hell when I go in for my first meeting (assessment/demo) with my Crossfit Asia trainer. I can already anticipate the hurt, and quite frankly I might need some pepto just to make it to the appointment!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Me Love Okinawa!

2/25/11

Oh my word! I definitely found the mecca here in Okinawa. Laser hair removal in the states is enough to put your house in foreclosure. Here, you can get treatments for less than the cost of a good meal. Shoko-San is amazing, she speaks English very well and is very accommodating. She is working with my limited schedule to make sure that I get all of the treatments in before I leave. Each month she runs specials so even though you might be impressed by the costs on her website, stop in and see what specials are currently running. The March specials are the same as the February ones and I took a picture of the list and have put it here.



I can assure you that you barely feel anything when doing these treatments. Also, it doesn't take much time each session (you can literally go on a lunch break or in between classes, right after work, etc). I did not experience any redness in the treated areas and there were no after effects. After the zap, that's it.

Here is a map of where it is located. It's on the other side of the street from Cocok's. After you see Starbucks and then a United Christian Church it will be on your Left. It's on the first floor of the three story beige building. The website indicates that they do not take Sunday appointments but I have at least one Sunday appointment coming up.

If you do go, feel free to use my member name/number as she gives referral bonuses and discounts. Laura, 370



Happy Hairlessness

Monday, February 21, 2011

To Nago and Beyond

2/21/11

Today I embarked on the "Explore the North" tour and wow, was it packed with things to do/see/eat! The tour started at the Nakijin Castle (which happens to be a World Heritage Site). What I gathered from the tour guide was that there were a lot of concubines. They had children very young. They lived in separate quarters, concubine quarters if you will. We were taken to the site of the concubine quarters and let me tell you about the view. If that's how you get a view like that...


Next stop on the tour was lunch, which was delicious, teppanyaki style, meaning that you have a grill built into your table where you cook your own food.



After our meal we headed to Pineapple Park and tasted lots of samples and whatnot. This is a great place for gifts for people, they have everything that you can imagine in pineapple...except Kit Kats, WTF.

Next up we went to the Ryuku Glass Craft. This place is amazing and I do hope that I'll be able to get back here in the near future. You can blow your own glass! They have a store with tons of amazing items, many worth more than my life. It's a look don't touch kind of store! I tried to get a video of the glass blowing but it was almost my turn and I didn't have the settings correct on my camera, so it's a bit blurry at times, but neat to see none the less!




Final stop on the trip was the Orion Brewery. Unfortunately (or fortunately since I was dead tired at this point) the tour portion was not an option because they are doing renovations (to eventually include a beer garden with restaurant and menu option of all you can drink)

The weather was definitely fantastic, a good beach day. I'm hoping to get one of those soon! Word on the street is that there is sunshine in the forecast for next weekend!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Zampa Drummers at En Okinawa

2/20/11

Most amazing dinner tonight. Went to a restaurant called En Okinawa, highly recommend it as the waitstaff is great, but the entertainment on Sunday nights is PRICELESS. Zampa drummers! The intensity of the performance was truly amazing. I had to capture it on video to share! I hope you enjoy!

The shisa dog came out and danced. I have to tell you, it was actually really frightening at first and I'm an adult. I can't imagine seeing that as a child, and the restaurant had several children. At the end of the Shisa dog's dance if he puts your head in his mouth it's said to be good luck. He did this to me, hopefully someone who I was with has a picture! Such a fun experience, no words do it justice!

On the way home we stopped at Blue Seal for some ice cream. MMM!

Oh yeah, and check out the motorcycle shop that I found on the way up to En Okinawa. Nifty huh? Makes you want to run right out and get one? No?

"Skid mark motorcycle shop"

Without further ado, here are some of the videos that I shot at En Okinawa of the Zampa Drumming. 
*Side note: I've decided that I need a zampa drum because it clearly is the world's BEST arm/chest/abs workout. Ever*








There are so many more but I think you get the point from this selection here :) Wish you all could be here to experience it in person with me!

Here is the slideshow of photos that I took...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

2011 Okinawa Marathon

2/20/11

Today was the big day! It was rainy and kind of nasty, but also kind of perfect if you choose to run 26.2 miles on a tropical island!

The marathon kicked off around 9am, so at 8 I walked down to Comprehensive Park...the location of the start and finish. There were swarms of people and more Lycra and spandex then you ever care to see. Don't even get me started on the shorts that could pass for underwear. But hey, they're running 26.2 miles so I guess they can wear whatever the heck they damn well please, and that they do. I saw a man wearing a white Lycra suit with a banana penis (?), a man in a full monkey suit that had a tail and red butt, men dressed as women, women dressed as princesses, anime characters, animals, and everything else you can imagine.



They weren't letting spectators out of the park to get to the street where the race was being run, so I hopped a wall/fence so I could be right at the front. Now, I didn't just do this on a whim, I had to make sure other people were doing it first because I'll be damned if I'm going to jail here I'm bringing others down with me! This risky stunt got me the best seats in the house and just in time for the fireworks/gun that signaled the start of the marathon! I shot some video so that you all could experience some of it (and get a taste for some of the "outfits")





The early finishers of the 10k were coming in approximately 30 minutes after the start...it started to rain pretty hard so I didn't stick around for any half marathon or marathon finishes. But, if you've seen one finish you've seen them all. Cross the line, cheer, hooray, and we're done!

Cape Hedo (the point where the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet)

2/19/11

View from lookout 
Ventured out to Cape Hedo today (after hiking Hiji Falls). It's quite close and along highway 58. Cape Hedo is the point where the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. It is the uppermost point on Okinawa.

The drive up the coast to Cape Hedo offered several choices for humor, mainly in the road signs that they had out for construction or various warnings. All of the construction signs feature cartoon animals (almost like you see in a baby nursery) performing various construction tasks. An oxymoron at it's best.

My favorite warning sign of all was the one featuring the "land crab". Never did see an actual land crab, but I was definitely warned for a good 5k about their existence.

Watch a for land crab

The drive was rather scenic but since the sun was not out and the seas were rough, I didn't take many ocean pictures. It just wasn't as beautiful as normal!

Here is a video that I shot from the lookout point at Cape Hedo...



And finally, a slideshow of the pics that I took during my Cape Hedo adventure. Enjoy the road signs and watch out for land crabs!



Hiji Falls

2/19/11

Hiji Falls, Okinawa
Went to Hiji Falls today. It's a beautiful hike that consists mostly of stairs (up and down both ways) and bridges. By the half way point (the suspension bridge seems to be half way) I was sweating to death, and the sun wasn't even out. I can't imagine doing this hike in the summer or on a sunny day. It was intense, and I've been walking almost daily and doing at least 5 miles per day.

Hiji Falls is definitely worth the effort though, it's a beautiful falls with plenty of humor along the way (the signs are a hoot)


I could have done without the plethora of snake warning signs with graphic pictures. I guess that's what you get when you're on an island that is inhabited by deadly snakes. If you want more info, google Habu Snakes. I detest snakes and refuse to even take a pic of the signs to show you what they look like. Think big. And deadly. Nuff said.

Back to the falls. At about mid point there is a suspension bridge (really high off of the ground and it moves when you walk on it) that has fantastic vantage points of the water running below and the tree tops.


I didn't think to try to video my hike, but on the way back I shot a couple of short videos to give you a preview of what the hike is like and to bring everyone along with me!
The first video is going up a set of steps along the hike, the second video is of a small falls before Hiji Falls, the final video is going down a massive set of steps. All of the video was done while trying not to fall and die (remember no cell service!) and also while keeping a sharp eye on potential Habu movement.





Finally, here is a slideshow of the photos that I took during my trip to Hiji Falls.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who doesn't want to sleep looking like a Samurai?!

2/18/11

I have avoided this "hotel luxury" since arrival for many reason...the first being, how the hell would I fit into something tailored for Japanese people?! My body type=curvy with hips and an a$$...Japanese people, not so much. But, I succumbed to peer pressure to try these bad boys on...and they made it past my knees believe it or not. I actually got them on and as I sit here typing I still have them on and no circulation is being cut off!

I feel like a Samurai in these bad boys. They make me want to run around the room doing karate kicks, of which I know nothing about!


I may even try sleeping in them. Perhaps that's going too far!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blast from the past...

2/17/11

How can you not have a lovely ride to work with something like this on the "popular" radio station?!




This song is actually quite special to me and makes me laugh (and perhaps tear up slightly) each time I hear it because my sister was OBSESSED with the Miami Sound Machine from the ripe age of 3 years. That's right, she rocked it from her car seat!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Earthquake!

2/15/11 at 10:45 (ish) pm a 4/8 magnitude earthquake hit the Ryuku island of Japan. This is 45 miles from Okinawa, so I definitely felt the shakes. I happened to be sleeping at the time, and recall feeling moving and not being fully conscious to be able to acknowledge/realize that that movement of a building was not appropriate.

What's equally interesting is that for the past 3 assignments in various locations, I have experienced earthquakes. Perhaps I need to start looking at seismic maps before taking assignments! Before leaving for Japan the first time I experienced a large earthquake in St Louis as well. YIKES! Definitely a reminder of how small and powerless we are in this big world...and...don't piss off Mother Nature or Mother Earth! Those bitches are fierce!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Okinawan's really know how to do Valentine's Day

2/14/11

So it probably comes as no big surprise that Valentine's Day isn't my favorite holiday on the calendar...what will come as a surprise is that I might be a converted Valentine lover. All thanks to the ever so friendly people of Okinawa. I mean seriously. It started this morning before ever arriving at work when I was wished a Happy Valentine's Day by a total stranger.

Next were the endless Valentine's wishes while at work

Next up, I attended my Bingata (art) class and was showered with gifts from the Okinawan woman who co-hosts the class. She gave me an origami box that was beautiful and had a pink origami heart on it. It was then filled with Okinawan chocolates. I was also given a homemade truffle by one of the other students in class (who happened to be in my origami class too). These gifts never stop. I'm warming up to Valentine's Day!

Finally, we stopped at Chili's to grab something for dinner after class, and immediately after paying each of the women in my dinner party were given a red rose. Converted. Official. Valentine. Lover.

I would like to celebrate each and every holiday in Okinawa please. They sure do know how to make strangers feel special!

Bingata

2/14/11

My paint over the pattern
Tonight was class 1 of 2 of Bingata (traditional Okinawan art of textile dying). It really is quite a process and we're only doing part of it for the class. We arrived to fabrics that already had the patterns on them and the glue applied, we had our colored pain next to us so it was our job to paint according to the picture, or to use whichever colors we desired to complete the project. In two weeks we wash off the glue and apply the darker accent colors and then we are finished.

The painting of the fabric is done in a special technique. When I read about bingata it said that two brushes are used, one in each hand, while simultaneously painting. We did not do that. Thankfully. But, what you do do, is paint in a circular motion.

When the glue is removed it then leaves white accents on the fabric (ex: lines in a flower or leaf)

I finished my painting early and was lucky enough to score a bonus origami lesson (I made several variations on the crane and then something she called a rabbit, I however don't see the resemblance)

My supplies, the brushes aren't like regular paintbrushes
The pattern I was following...roughly


So, while my textile dries and cures for the next two week, I'll keep you updated with various other island nonsense :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Photopia (iPhone style)

2/14/11

Happy Valentine's Day all...not my favorite holiday by any stretch of the imagination, but I decided against a long tirade here on my blog, since hey, let's just enjoy the fact that people are being attentive and sweet to one another, at least for this day!

Not the purpose of this post...

I flipped through my photo album on my iPhone and realized that I had quite a few photos that I have yet to share on my blog, so here it is...iPhone Photopia...

Sunsetting at Comprehensive Park

Angry Mr. Fox sign?

Sunset at Comprehensive Park

The pic I tried to get of the Monkey bat

Beautiful flower display outside hotel restaurant


Care for some Fried Tebichi?

Tuna and Avocado Carpaccio (one of my favorites!)

Mango Sherbert...definitely my favorite!

View from the 10th floor restaurant one evening

"The other purpose"

Toilet bathroom

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Origami

2/8/11

Tonight I attended an Origami Class. I figured this time around in Japan I should really try to dive right into the culture (starting with the language would have been wise, but since I haven't even mastered Spanish yet, I highly doubt I'd get far with Japanese!)


Origami class rocked, we made lots of fantastic things, mostly Valentine's themed, which makes sense since it was the February class. I decided that next month I'll sign up for both the adult and child classes since they make different items and they run back to back...plus, let's face it, I need practice on my straight lines.

What I learned in Origami is that straight folds are ESSENTIAL. You can't make even a fraction of a mistake, if you do, you're whole project will be out of line. No room for error in Origami. Not a great place for someone with OCD...not pointing any fingers (ahem, me)


The instructor showed us how to fold money into nifty things as well. After class we made our own dollar bill hearts. This makes a great way to give money as a gift!


I signed up for another class while I was there, Bingata, it is Okinawa's art of dyeing textiles. We had two choices of patterns/designs that we could do for the project...flower (Iris) or chickens. I'll keep you in suspense about which I picked. Tune in next week!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monkey bat

2/7/11

This evening while doing my routine walk at Comprehensive Park I encountered something rather unusual. The walk started later than usual, so toward the end it was getting dark. I heard rustling up in the tree and saw what looked like a kitten (on a side note the park is littered with stray cats and dogs so that wouldn't be so outlandish). After looking closer it actually looked more like a baby/small monkey. This made me extremely happy because I've been trying to figure out if the island has monkeys (many say no, but I'm not convinced). I tried to take a pic with my iPhone camera but was unsuccessful because I have the crappy camera on the 3Gs (thanks so much AT&T for not letting me upgrade to the iPhone 4. Bastards). I digress. Back to my kitten/monkey/fill in the blank. So after taking the picture with my phone I looked more closely and noticed wings. Before even thinking that this could be a bat (the thing was huge) I actually thought that it was a flying monkey. Yes I watch Wizard of Oz/Wicked too much!

Upon further research (after returning to the hotel...at a brisk pace because let's face it, a bat is way more freaking terrifying than a cute baby monkey) my estimate of the situation is that it was a fruit bat. I can't accurately express how big this freaking thing was, but trust me, this isn't the bats that you've seen in the attic. Picture a cat with wings...and that's about the appropriate size.  Here is a small picture for reference, but if you are really interested there is always google! I don't recommend it before bedtime though!

Fruit Bat (this is VERY small compared to what I saw)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Battles of Okinawa

2/5/11

Memorial at the Okinawa Peace Park
Today I went on the Battles of Okinawa Tour which was guided by a survivor (she was 3 months old during the war and indicated that because her mother wasn't educated enough, she did not follow the directives of the Japanese to kill her children if they encountered American soldiers...so when they were found in their hiding place and saved by the American Marines, all of their lives were spared) She really had an amazing story, and appears to be making it her mission to spread her truth regardless of the risks.

In Japan they only teach what they want you to know with history...sound like somewhere else to you?! At any rate, people who speak out about what happened can be jailed and some have even been killed.

The tour started at a cave where Okinawan's hid. The Japanese then sealed the cave when they heard the American soldiers were coming and set the cave on fire killing the people inside. This is an example of one of the things that is not included in classroom history lessons.


Next stop was Sugar Loaf. There was a lot of fighting that occurred here and eventually the 29th Marines were victorious.



Next we went to the Okinawa Park Hotel for a buffet lunch...I thought I picked up an onion ring, after biting into it I quickly learned that it was a squid ring. My bad.





Next stop was the Japanese Underground Navy Headquarters. We went down approximately 50m and were able to walk through a lot of the headquarters, including into a room containing holes in the walls from where a hand grenade had blasted through parts (this room was used for suicide)




The final stop was the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. This park is huge and has outdoor memorials for each of the prefectures in Japan. It also has a National Cemetery and various other memorials for the casualties of the war.