Published: September 13th 2010August 28th 2010
Visiting Japanese Supermarkets is the single funnest thing to do in Japan
Alrighty, 3+ weeks in Japan and finally I am going to write a travel blog on the first week or so. Hopefully I don't forget about too many of the more interesting things but a lot has been happening over the last little while. Also this Japanese keyboard is infuriating to use. Good thing the internet cafes are so damn comfortable.
After the stress of Hanoi I was hoping for a nice relaxing flight to Okinawa. It didn’t exactly work out that way unfortunately. We got on the flight in Hanoi no problem and we had to change planes in Hong Kong. At Hong Kong airport I ran into a road block at the transfers counter. The guy wouldn't give me a boarding pass because I didn't have a return ticket booked from Japan. Apparently this is a rule that I didn't know about. I spent the hour layover trying to find a cheap return ticket or booking a ticket that was refundable but there was absolutely nothing available that I could find on such short notice. Finally after the plane was already fully boarded they allowed me my boarding pass as long as I signed a waiver saying that
The only ones who avoided swimming in the safety pen.
I was responsible for myself and wouldn't hold the airline accountable. They then rushed us through security and onto the waiting plane. I spent the rest of the two hour flight stressed out about possibly being refused entry to Japan. Of course at the Japanese immigration I found out that this was not a problem at all. Yumi even told the guy strait up that I had no return ticket and he said it was not a problem. Long story short, airlines are really stupid.
After clearing immigration and customs I met my buddy Matt on the other side who we were meeting here and travelling through Japan with. For those who don't know, Matt is my friend from high school who's working in Africa and gets flown anywhere he wants to go when he's on vacation. He visited me in Australia twice and we've been waiting ages to go see Japan. Matt shall henceforth be referred to as Nairb.
The main town on Okinawa Island where we were based is called Naha. Naha is a cool little city and a nice introduction to Japan. It's got everything the modern Japan is famous for as well as the
friendliest people I've encountered so far in the country. Also it has some really good restaurants and a relaxed and unassuming nightlife. We stayed in a little guest house/ hostel which was nice enough, but we had to get over the shock of no longer travelling in a cheap country. The price of a dormitory bed is more than the price of a mid range hotel in SE Asia. The big budget breaker in Japan is the transport which is 100 times more comfortable and efficient but also nearly 5 times the price from what we are used to.
The best day we had in Okinawa was, if I remember correctly, the third day when we took the ferry out to the greatest island in the world. I honestly can’t remember the name, but it started with a T and was around 1 hour by boat from the main island. Help me out Nairb when you read this. With no exaggeration or hyperbole I can say honestly that these are the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen anywhere in the world, and I’ve seen some really nice beaches. We rented some snorkeling gear and bypassed the main beach area with
Another from the lookout
The water was the greatest shade of blue.
the Japanese tourists. We are meant to only swim on one beach in a tiny overcrowded pen. It’s Japanese culture to have millions of rules and everyone simply follows them all. This left us with about half a dozen pristine beaches with coral and great snorkeling just for the three of us. Also worthy of mention is the lookout point on the hill with the amazing panoramic view of several islands and beaches. Also it was home to a massive evil spider.
Another great day in Okinawa was the history and museum day, starting at Shuri castle. Shuri castle was rebuilt rather recently as pretty much every structure on the entire island was reduced to rubble during the latter stages of WW2. It originally is part of the Ryukyu kingdom which was distinct cultural and ethnic region from mainland Japan before the Okinawan islands were annexed in the 1800s. There were plenty of cool things to see within the castle walls, but the real highlight of the day was spent at the tunnel complex dug by the Japanese as part of the defense of Okinawa. The tunnels still exist today and they have preserved many of the scars from
the war, including shrapnel blasts from the rooms where soldiers killed themselves with grenades instead of allowing themselves to be captured. We also visited another museum documenting the ww2 story specifically regarding the Okinawan islands, which suffered the worst out of any place in Japan not called Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
We left Okinawa after 3 full days and booked ourselves onto the ferry to Kagoshima which is on the very bottom of Kyushu Island. The ferry took 25 hours and was actually one of the best parts of the trip. We slept in a room full of about 50 futons and nearly as many people. The rest of the ferry was more than big enough for us to stretch out and enjoy, including a cafe, arcade and an empty upper deck big enough for a game of football. We spent most of the day just relaxing and watching movies, and the night out on the deck downing some cold beverages with some new friends.
We showed up in Kagoshima early in the morning. We did not realize beforehand, but the time we were travelling is very busy in Japan because it is right at the end of school
holidays. We called around for awhile and finally managed to find a room in a hostel in the city of Fukuoka, at the north of Kyushu. Unfortunately we were unable to look around Kagoshima, and we booked onto the local train network to Fukuoka. The bullet train is a lot easier than the local trains, but we saved a but of money this way and it worked out quite well as we got to see some really amazing scenery that we would have missed out on otherwise. Kyushu is not the Japan you imagine. It is mostly beautiful wilderness and farmlands in between the coasts.
I'm going to leave it off there for now, just after a quick word on the food situation in Japan. I already love Japanese food but it is really incredible here. I want to eventually write a blog just on how good the food here is. Believe it or not but microwavable meals you can purchase from convenience stores are better than a lot of restaurants in Australia or other countries. The quality of the fish especially is noteworthy.
Ok I'll update again as soon as possible. Next time I hope to get
Crazy blue colored water, off the side of the ferry.
caught up to Tokyo.
There are more photos below