Sub-Tropical Island Part 3: Back through time to a dance party.
(A correction to the definition of Tropical vs. Sub-Tropical Islands brought to you by master-of-all-things-life, Eaon.)
I never tire of exploring beaches. I think when Jen stumbled upon me on the beach sitting there pondering the meaning of life with the hermit crabs scuttling about (Imagine carrying all you have on your back, after moving here with our luggage, I could sympathize.) she realized that there could be more fulfilling things to do while here – or at least equally-fulfilling-that-she-could-also-partake-in-and-not-get-bored. It was decided that leaving the afternoon Seminar sessions early and heading off with a couple of other collaborators was the next best course of action – and like a flash, we were off on a speedy boat on our way to Taketomi Island.
A brief stop at the city center (about a half-kilometer walk from any edge of the Island) and we saw a video on the island, as well got an idea of what life is, and has been like for the better part of many many decades.
The pictures of the town will do more than I can really say. Life is slow here. The entire population is under 400 people. There are about 40 children at the local school. It’s only 6 square kilometers. It’s also beautiful. Being here is like being transported back in time, in fact, I had to check to make sure our boat wasn’t a time machine (Jen informed me that it did indeed lack a proper Flux-capicator, and while we did zip along pretty fast on the water, it was doubtful that we hit 141.6kph)
Once you get into town past the very traditional road-entry-way (split to let in good spirits, and let out bad) there are rock-walls along every sand-covered street.
Upon closer look, you can see that the rock walls are all made out of coral! I can only imagine how many tons of this was taken off the island itself, or taken directly from the sea.
We must’ve picked a perfect time to come as well, the flowers of various hibiscus trees, and many other species of plants were all in bloom. There were wonderful smelling flowers everywhere, again, surreal.
We continued our trek through town, visiting the local weaving center and looked at how the traditional garments & symbols were done by hand on the Islands.
The symbols stand for Male & Female. 5 and 4 squares. Together they mean “Together Forever” and typically a symbol is given to a male from a female.
To add to the ambiance of the afternoon, we soon heard a sanshin being played, and a local singing along. What came next I didn’t quite expect.
Done largely for tourists now, the Ox carts can still get you through town if you want to take a lazy stroll. Who needs a radio or stereo when you have a live performer singing to you?
Stops for pictures, some sights, a view of the ocean and of course, shaved ice with black sugar on it. Yum. Very good on a hot humid day. 😀
Eventually we did have to leave, but not before snapping a picture looking west towards Taiwan. 😀
Farewells were bid to Taketomi, and now it was time to prepare for another party – and of course, dinner!
We stopped for dinner at a grill place. I haven’t been to a grill like this before – grill it all yourself, and you get a big platter of meat, vegetables, all this other stuff you can order and bon appetité! If you’ve heard of Kobe Beef, then you will be already familiar with Ishigaki Beef! As it turns out, Ishigaki beef was the forerunner to Kobe Beef. It’s every bit as good as it looks – I’ve never had meat to flavorful and tender in my life. Grill for 10-20 seconds per side, keep it medium-rare and you’re all set.
I recommend the tongue. Very very good.
After filling ourselves up with amazing grilled eats, it was time to party. Flat rate, drink all you can, and enjoy the music. It was Traditional Okinawan music – sanshin , drums, beautiful singer. Such a unique sound – must be heard to really appreciate it. The place was packed with people from the seminar and after a few drinks, well, you can see what happened.
This was largely in part to a couple things; 1) Good music. 2) Awamori.
If you don’t know what Awamori is, it is similar to Sake. Made from rice, absolutely clear in color. Local to Okinawa. About 30%abv. Has a nice taste to it and when mixed with local fruit juice … dangerous.
Our table of 4 people went through 2 bottles. Now, we did have good call for this. I’m from Wisconsin. Jen is a Scot. The older gentleman is Vladamir, who is from Russia. Yuri, a ph.d student & colleague of Jen’s from Nagoya University was in charge of pouring. If a glass was half full, it got filled. Yep.
We all got a lot of singing and dancing in, we all had our share of the local spirits, some more than others I will say. An absolutely memorable time. Even the next morning. For those who are interested – yes, Awamori gives a killer hangover. Luckily I had the foresight to drink water before bed that night, but it was a slow start to the morning, and my morning time pondering life with the hermit crabs kept being interrupted by the pounding of their legs in the sand.
I only wish I brought a bottle back home with me.
Next up – Black Pearls, Monorails & City Lights!
(note: I’m only using a small percentage of photos for these posts to not overload you too much! If you want to see everything that I’m shooting check out Flickr: This gets updated way more as I take photos on my daily travels, and I won’t have time to write about everything!)