Meet me at Shuri-jo

Hello everyone,

I am feeling the weight of the damage that we do to each other as I write this. It’s Sunday morning and the news of the attacks in France have left me with a heavy heart. Why can’t people of any belief see that hate and destruction is not what any god commands? I send my thoughts to people all over the world who have to live at the hands of extremists.

So, this week was Veteran’s Day and what an experience to work on a Marine base not only on Veteran’s Day but during the 240th birthday of the Marine Corps and for the annual ball. I’ve said it a lot, but these individuals put it all on the line every day for us. So many of them did not want to come over here away from everyone they’ve known, they’re very young and much is demanded from them. Their family as well, it is heart wrenching to see people who want their loved ones but cannot connect. So I honor them for what they do. It is truly like being surrounded by heroes every day. I love my job.

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, we had the day off and my supervisor Deb took Amanda and myself out to a few islands I’ve been wanting to see. She does this with all the new people to show them around the island. Granted, Amanda and I have made many inroads already as we are explorers by nature I think. She took us over to Hamahiga and we were headed toward Miyagi, but I don’t think we made it…plans for another day!

gorgeous water
Hamahiga Island, yes the water really does look like that!

There is a tomb here, and I’ll steal from what has already been said:

“The Grave of Amamichu”

“Before there were kings, there were gods – that according to Okinawan legends. The above grave or ‘ohaka’ houses the remains of Amamichu, the female deity that was one half responsible for creating the first inhabitants of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Her counterpart, Shirumichu – a male deity, was also responsible for establishing the first civilization here on Okinawa. Every year, particularly during the beginning of the New Year, people come here to pray for prosperity. It would not be uncommon to see a noro (priestess) here during special occasions. Women also come here to pray for fertility.”
So no, I wasn’t praying for fertility! But here are a few photos
hamahiga tomb
There it is! Quite a lovely resting place.
hamahiga vets
heading up to the shrine…extremely slippery, like walking on ice!
Deb was very in love with this place. We also discovered a headless sea turtle on the beach. Nothing goes to waste, some bird or other creature had a turtle dinner.
I always seem to find dead things on beaches…In Nova Scotia I came across a golden eagle eating a dead seal….anyway, I digress….
So we stopped at a little touristy place, it’s nice that other tourists are all over the place, but they tend to be Japanese, and chose our lunch from a vending machine. Now you’re not actually getting your food from there, you look at what you want, choose it, put in your money and a ticket comes out that you hand to the waiter. Anyway, I’m in love with the vending machine way of doing things! And there is no tipping here, so you pay for your food and then you’re free to go whenever. Great system!!
So after another bowl of Okinawa soba, we hit the ladies room before heading out. Now, if you’ve never encountered a Japanese toilet, here’s a little heads up ( Pun intended!).
japanese toilet
Yes, that’s a Japanese toilet alright!
So, yes, that is in the floor. What strikes me as so weird is the dichotomous nature of the toilets here. If you go to Nitori (think Japanese Ikea) and go to the bathrooms, they’ve got a seat warmer, music, bidet and air freshener all built into their toilets. If you go out and about in the less populated areas, you encounter this. It reminds me very much of camping, and was fun to try out! You face the flushing handle and you can all figure out what to do from there!
We ended up heading back to base and Amanda and I headed up toward Yomitan, where she lives, to check out a big warehouse furniture store. Well, it’s more rural up there as we noticed when we pulled in and encountered a chicken tied to a tree. Also after we left there, we went down to a beach and noticed a goat tied to a tree. When we were on Hamahiga Island, there were quite  a few goats. Deb said her theory was that these goats were the progeny of the goats left over from WWII when the Navy left the goats to cut the grass, so people wouldn’t get blown up with left over munitions from the war.
So yesterday morning I decided to go to Shureido in Naha to check up on my gi. I saw on their website that they have a lot of orders and are backed up. They said another week and they’ll email me to let me know. In other words, stop bugging me Gaijin!
Well at the top of the page you may have noticed that Chinese looking castle. That is Shuri-jo (the jo means castle) and it is iconic here. There are two things everyone sees when they are at Okinawa: Shuri-jo and the Churaumi Aquarium. Well, I bought an annual pass for about $14, since the day price is about $7.
shuri annual pass
Don’t I look happy?
Now if I get to Naha early for training with Sensei, I can drive up the hill and hang out at the castle. How many people can say that?
This castle is a replica of the ones that stood here before. They say it’s been burned many times since the 14th Century  and completely burned down in WWII.  The stone walls remain and the new one was built 70 cm over the top so you can look down and see it. Much of the design was influenced by the interaction with the Chinese. Many of the kings were interested in trading and opening markets.
shuri-jo inside
Where the king would receive guests and conduct business
shisa at shuri
A very Chinese influenced Shisa
me and shisa at Shuri
this is a more playful shisa
 So, I will leave you with that for this week. It is time to go find a butcher’s shop near Kadena Air Force Base….something tells me this will be another adventure.