Sub-Tropical Island Adventure Part 4: Black Pearls and Okinawan Girls
Our sub-tropical island vacation was finally winding towards the end. Only another couple days left on Ishigaki. The sunshine filled morning set a wonderful stage for the rest of the day. With Japanese-only talks all morning, both Jen and Vladamir cut out early and the three of us went on our own little adventure towards the North of the Island. Kabira Bay was calling, and even without any influence from my love of the Pirates of the Caribbean Movies, I was excited to check out what a Black Pearl looked like, without all the zombie pirate skeletons.
A visit to the bay is not complete without a glass-bottomed boat trip though! Our wonderful taxi driver even got us setup with a tour company for one of them (I wonder if he got a comission …) and within a few minutes of walking along the soft, white, sandy beach we were off to see what sorts of reefs lie just tens of meters off the shoreline.
The Black Pearl Farms here on Kabira are were the first in the world. Sadly, I did not get a chance to photograph any, nor take the time to buy any. Didn’t quite have that much dough on me at the time … $_$!!! Beautiful works of art they turn into though. Amazing that all that comes from a grain of sand.
There was another beach just a kilometer walk west of us (turned out to be a couple, but hey, walking on an Island in beautiful weather, who can complain?) and we made the trek. Kabira had an amazing look to it, but this beach had something else. It faced west, so there was beautiful sunshine. The water was calm, almost glassy, clear, golden. Shoes off, waded in, walking hand-in-hand with my wife … life definitely has its serene and wonderful moments. Those feelings that you will forever treasure because of not what they are, but who you spend them with … yeah, those feelings.
We walked back to Kabira for some final photographs as the day had cleared up. On the road we saw nature’s creatures struggling in the life/death scenario of well … giant spider being taken out by a humongous wasp.
The wasp was 4″ long. Not joking.
An absolutely beautiful sunset started to take over, and it was time to head back to the hotel and out to dinner. Our taxi driver told us as we passed through the western part of the Island that on a clear day, you can sometimes see Taiwan from that particular road. Wow.
We ventured into town for dinner, and after walking around trying to decide we found a place in an alley that looked like fun, had pictures in the menu, and went in to check it out. This ALMOST didn’t happen, I will add, as we walked by it a first time. Got halfway past, then decided to take a second look just because a little “something” pulled me back. Turns out, the intuition turned out to be perfect. Now, without being able to read or speak the language too much, having a picture menu is extremely helpful. Point at what ya want – works very well. 😉 We sat down at the food bar area, and had a cook come out to help us with the menu (he spoke English!) and while we were getting all set to this suddenly one of our friends, Yuri pops up and says “Hi!” We turn around and see half of Jen’s workgroup from Nagoya sitting in another part of the restaurant! Instantly invited to join them we happily accepted and joined in for a total of 14 and started having food served “family style.” What I’ve come to learn and expect here is with bigger groups, the bill all stays together. You order whatever you want, or whatever you want to share and everyone has some, this happens till everyone is full and at the end, everyone splits the bill evenly. No fussing about, no advanced degree in Bistrmathics – oh, and EVERYONE has cash. Japan is largely a cash-based society, so you always have enough cash on you. The food was great, the company fantastic, there was restaurant-wide songs and music going on with one of the employees playing a sansing and singing Okinawan music (In case you were wondering, this is how you rock out with like the Shisa)
It wasn’t a large place by any means, the owner came around and made sure everyone was enjoying his catches (Yes, he’s a fisherman and caught everything we were eating!) and just had an amazingly warm and fun personality that made this place special. Add all this with a no-hassle-everything-is-fair-bill – and you get another wonderful end to an amazing day.
Our last day was spent swimming in the ocean, relaxing, buying small souvineers, and packing up. Tomorrow at, around half nine, we left for Okinawa.
I only wish I had my camera within easy access at the aiport. Never have I seen so many orchids in bloom in my life, all of the same time, everyone so perfect I had to wonder if they were fake. Thousands of phalenopsis orchids in bloom, white, purple, pink all over the airport. I was already liking this.
With only a single day on the Island, we had to make good use of our time here! It cost us an extra 3Y to fly to Okinawa so that’s why we decided to make such a quick stop. Luckily, Okinawa also has efficient and reliable public transport – MONORAIL!!! *queue up the song*
A quick and smooooooooooth monorail ride from the Airport to a 2 minute walk from our Hotel, an early check-in, and we were off to see some old stuff. Awesome old stuff. Ryuukin Castle old stuff. Hello Shuri Castle! I’ll let some of the pictures do the talking, it’s an amazing sight. Wikipedia can do a better job than I can of explaining the history, and check out the rest of the photos on Flickr 😉
Castle left us hungry, and a desire to check out the wonderful “International Street” (Kokusai Street) that we heard and read about. Back to the Monorail!
Just so happened we were visiting on the same day as a big festival. The parade and performances did not disappoint.
We did visit Heiwa dori – an amazing indoor market that’s covered and has a plethora of goods and food. Whether you need designer goods, street food, a fresh fish market or dried snakes for traditional medicine – this place has it all. I’ve never seen anything like it before, I could spend a whole day here just looking at everything. However, Jen would flat out leave me if I did, so I decided against it while were were looking for food, and continued on.
One thing that I’m getting used to here is all the restaurants have people outside of them with menus, or coupons, or just people trying to get you to come in and eat there, and not anywhere else. Annoying when you aren’t used to it – especially when you walk by and they automatically change to “English menu! Sashimi! Sushi! Yes, you like?” … … … >_<.
I decided to let my intuition lead us again. We came across a small sign, the food looked good. There was no one advertising for it. In fact, it was on the second story of this building, behind the building, friendly little words on the steps told us to keep going and we were almost there. A small screen door opened and there we were. “Komban wa! Hai, 2. Hai! Eigo? Ahh, thank you!” We sat down and looked at the menu. The owners didn’t know much english, but they had an English menu. We had struck again! A group of local men all were sitting at one of the tables (there was a small bar we were at, and then two giant tables behind us. That’s it!) and another man at the bar eating some wonderful looking grilled fish. Nothing of tourist, no flagrant overzealous courting of outsiders, we had found a local place, frequented by locals, I knew we were in for something special – I just didn’t know how right I would be. (A rule I’ve come to live by: if you see locals there, and it doesn’t look like all that much, it’s probably something special.) I didn’t take out my camera as I did not wish to offend, or spoil what we were treated to. Amazingly cut fresh sashimi from half a dozen various fish. Glorious octopus. Thinly shaved fruits. Green tea soup. Conversation with the owners and again, a place we will strive to visit again. The man’s mastery of a knife was a sight. I was able to watch him preparing our dishes through the glass case that held all the fish. More locals streamed in, beer flowing, food being cooked up in a quick-I’ve-done-this-for-years-watch-me-for-I-am-a-master way. Two chefs (father and son) and the wife and son served and took care of the gusts as well.
One of the best meals of my life. Upon completion of everything, we learned that the man was from Nagoya originally as well! We told them were we were from, and that we were now living there – fun coincidence! Maybe I’ll find out the name of this place eventually, but here’s the sign that drew me in – again, perfect for the night.
City lights and some shopping ended our time on the Islands of Southern Japan. To the hotel for a good night’s sleep and then it was back to Nagoya on smooth (and friendly!) airlines to hunker down and really start preparing for day-to-day life in the city.
Now you might have noticed that there were, in fact, no Okinawan girls at all in this post. That’s true. I already have a Scot. However Girls rhyme with Pearls so I thought it’s use was pertinent to the title of the post. Sorry if there were any letdowns.
Thanks for reading!!! This should be the last über-long post for a while. Check out the photos on More updates on the way!