Monday, May 21, 2012

Golden Week Travels 1/3: Okinawa

So, Okinawa: our main Golden Week destination.  This trip would also serve as our 4th Wedding Anniversary trip (which is actually April 19), since we like to travel around that time every year. There were endless options of course, but we ended up sticking with the main island because that would be the cheapest. A lot of the smaller islands also don’t have mid-range hotels; it was either dorm-style hostels or very expensive resorts. The resort we chose was Rizzan Sea Park Hotel on the main island and it also had several restaurants on-site, which was appealing to us since we could enjoy drinks without having to deal with driving.

 Our travel experience at Kansai International Airport was quite painless. Security was a breeze and took all of two minutes at most. Domestic airlines here don’t charge for checked bags, so everyone checks theirs, which means you don’t have to scramble onto the plane to secure overhead space for carry-on luggage. The Japanese are also more relaxed about their approach to flying in general, and arrive at the gate much closer to departure time than we do in America. Meanwhile, Matt was geeking out at everything at KIX since he’s a nerd he is very into aviation and previously worked at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.

Once in Naha, we rented a car. I really wanted a cute Nissan March (my FAVORITE kind of car here!) but they gave us a Cube instead. It was still nice, though. We have gotten so used to driving our tiny kei car and it was like a dream to ride in something much larger and more comfortable / stable. The roads in Okinawa were also like a dream. Wide, double lanes, curbs, side rails, and all the little things we took for granted back in the states! You can definitely tell the influence of the military base here.

Ohhhh, horsepower, how we've MISSED you!

We stopped at a roadside restaurant for TACO RICE. It’s exactly as it sounds: all the fixings for tacos on top of rice. Simple and delicious.

After that, we checked into the hotel. I forgot to take photos of the room. It was big for a Japanese room, but normal for an American-sized vacation hotel room. It came with two twin beds, which is kind of a standard thing here. The balcony was great and had an amazing view! What’s interesting to us is that the Japanese don’t really do balconies. Yes, they have them in most apartments, but they serve the purpose of hanging laundry and extra storage, maybe a small area for potted plants. So while we were sitting out on the balcony every night with a drink, the other patrons of the hotel barely touched theirs.

Front of the hotel.

Balcony View.

Gorgeous blue water.

No waves!

 The beach was interesting. The sand was beige/tan and full of coral, and the water had zero waves at low tide. The water was a lovely shade of blue though, and crystal-clear. Most parts of the coast had large rocks. Overall, I rate the beaches here 6.5/10. They’re very beautiful in photos, but up close I’ve seen much better. Matt and I are just beach snobs that way, I guess. It comes with the territory of being a Florida girl and growing up near the Emerald Coast.

Most of our time in Okinawa was spent exploring the resort (it was HUGE!), eating delicious food, having drinks at the bar, and driving around the island. Unfortunately, it was still a bit chilly so we didn’t get to put on our swimsuits, but that’s okay. I had been under a lot of stress at work prior to this vacation, and it was nice to just get away from everything and relax in a different environment.

The second day we drove to a tourist trap cute little place called Okinawa Fruits Land. It was a large garden where you could view flowers, fruits, butterflies, and birds all in one place. Since the traditional gift for the 4th wedding anniversary is “flowers and fruit,” I thought this would be appropriate and fun. It was a great way to spend a drizzly afternoon, with plenty of opportunities to shoot photos and video. You can also eat fruit desserts in their café, and buy fruit omiyage in their gift shop.

For dinner, we made a reservation at the 焼き肉 (yakiniku) restaurant in the hotel. It’s basically grilled meat, and super delicious. You could choose from their set menu, or order à la carte. Matt and I aren’t big eaters so we just picked a few meats and an order of vegetables, which ended up being more than enough. When Matt was doing his manly-man thing of handling the grill and the meat, he came to the realization that all the women in the restaurant were grilling the meat for their male partners. Ahhh, cultural differences!

And of course, here's some video footage from our trip! I've started showing some of these to my students to help them practice English listening skills, and encourage them to travel. I wasn't exactly sure if the latter would actually happen, but one of my students ended up writing an essay about "wanting to travel the world, like Meru-sensei" and it really made my day! :)

Two nights in Okinawa was just right for us, and we had a nice time. Our next day was spent packing up and traveling back to KIX in Osaka. After that we took a ferry over to Kobe, the next destination of our trip. I'll post about it later this week!

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