To a Tropical Island! Part 1.
(Welcome to v2 of this post. v1 was lost for an unknown reason a couple nights ago, and I had to remake it from the beginning and in a more edited form. So, with that bit of knowledge … enjoy!)
After only being in Japan for a week, barely getting things setup, staying in our new flat all of two nights, not starting any work and still with no command of the Japanese language, it was already time to take a vacation.
Jen was invited to attend an International Space Conference on Ishigaki Island, as she is utterly brilliant, and her boss was the head organizer of the conference. The conference also happened to celebrate the 60th Birthday of one of the leaders of the whole Japan Space Science program, but we will get into that later.
I was lucky enough to be invited along. It was my decision on whether or not I wanted to stay in Nagoya, by myself, all alone or go to Ishigaki with my amazing wife and be a beach bum / tourist for a week. I think you know what I picked.
We left using the wonderful public transport here in Nagoya. A subway transfer to the train to the airport, about 30 minutes of time, and we were all set. Allow me to attempt to verbally demonstrate what Japanese security is like for domestic flying in Japan.
“Lets see, where is my ticket. Ah yeah, I printed it off last month. Ok. Lets go through security since I have no checked baggage. Ohayou gozaimasu! Scan my ticket, done! Bag on conveyor, perfect. iPad out of other bag, no prob. Ok, through the metal detector. Arigato gozaimasu! iPad back in bag, pick up carryon – have everything? Good! Lets go to the gate!”
From entering the airport to the gate was under 5 minutes. Notice what I didn’t have to go through: Multiple ID checks, removal of shoes, belts, jackets, any extra clothing that might be baggy. No need to remove liquids. In fact – no liquid size limits. I can bring on a liter bottle stuff with me. No back-scatter ray guns that make you grow an extra arm. No demeaning security personal with superiority complexes who really have no idea what they are doing. (*cough* TSA *cough*) No semblance of security to make life difficult. This was pleasant, easy, and with TRUE random searches and actual behavioral scanning in place, I actually feel like flying again. USA … are you listening?
Arriving in Nagoya reminded me being in a Bond movie, or Indiana Jones. Arrive in a tropical foreign airport, pouring rain outside, and you meet up with someone in a Hawaiian-eseque shirt and meet them in a cab with hundreds of locally-made spinning things over all the air vents. All I needed was a man in the front sea passing me mission orders in an envelope to really complete the scene. Apparently the trip had fallen on a week where a tropical storm was predicted. This would prove to not be an issue later on, but at the time there was a LOT of rain. Rain on a tropical island, however, isn’t as bad as rain in … lets say Wisconsin. We could deal. Especially with the following view from the hotel.
Jen was to register for the conference, and I was left to my own devices. The first day was met with me catching up on everything from not having internet back home, Jen attending the opening seminars, and a banquet that night to honor the birthday of our main guest. Of all the nights to forget my Camera. Luckily other photographers were there so I won’t feel too bad stealing a couple of their photos to give you an idea of what went on.
They say a picture tells a thousand words. The night had amazing traditional Okinawa music, as well as a special appearance by the Islands’ Guardians – the Shisa. We got bit, and were told that brings good luck. It’s a good thing, the bites hurt!!!
After the visit of the Shisa, it so happened that the rain kept away for nearly the rest of the week. If it did come back, it was only for a little bit at a time. Good fortune was upon us on our trip to the Island.
Part 2 is next. What happens when you leave me alone on the beach, meet the local wildlife, lets visit Taketomi Island, and how I came to get my first Japanese hangover.