Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Okinawa Trip: Two Days of R&R

On Tuesday, we drove to the northern end of Okinawa to take a ferry to Ie Island. For some reason, you have to back into spaces here (something I'm very bad at!) so poor Brian had to drive backwards onto a ferry! I was impressed - I would have ended up in the water.

The further north we are, the harder it is to communicate. Around the bases, more people speak English and many signs are in Japanese and English. Up north, not so much. We tried to find a restaurant when we got to the island, but couldn't find one to save our lives. We ended up getting lunch at the FamilyMart (a convenience store chain).

I got sushi and Japanese yogurt, which is a little thicker than ours. I'm not usually one for grocery store sushi, but figured I'm safe in Japan. Jen got some kind of rice/ fish thing and Brian and his parents ate peanut butter & jelly. Japanese peanut butter is very strange - it almost has a caramel consistency.

After lunch, we climbed to the top of Gusukuyama, a 172 meter high mountain (hill?). (see above right)I'm not sure how high that is in feet, but it worked my quad muscles like crazy!

YYY? Just Because...
After turning into big, giant sweatballs, we checked into our adorable cottage at the YYY Resort. It was so cute - you couldn't wear shoes inside so there were five sets of slippers waiting for us at the front door. We each got our own folding couch bed.

We played ground golf (a cross between croquet and miniature golf) and walked on the beach. The ocean was beautiful - really blue waters - but it wasn't a good swimming beach. Too much coral! I checked out the hotel's bath house. It had a fabulous hot tub where you could sit overlooking the ocean. It's a clothing-optional bath house, but being a prudish American, I kept my swimsuit on. And seriously, compared to the Japanese women, I'm a giant.

We were pretty tired so ate dinner at the bar. I got to try the Okinawa brewed Orion beer - loved it! I hope they serve it back in the States. They serve beer EVERYWHERE here - but the drinking and driving rules are really strict. The legal limit is low, so one beer can put you in drunk driving status. If you even ride in a car with someone who is drunk, you could pay thousands of dollars in fines AND get jail time.

Wednesday: YYY, Sharks and Mickey-D's

Once again I woke up super early, so I started the morning by walking down to the ocean and reading a book on the beach. At high tide, the ocean comes up really far so there were only a couple of feet of beach to sit on! We ate at the hotel's breakfast buffet, which served American and Japanese breakfast.

The Japanese version of American pancakes is not so good. They also served chicken nuggets - maybe they think that's what we eat! I had some miso soup and a really interesting dish with cabbage and some type of protein. I also had a disgusting lightly poached egg sitting in some cold soy/misoish sauce.

After breakfast, we drove all over the island - visiting the Ernie Pyle monument (everyone was shocked I didn't know who Ernie Pyle was!), a habu snake breeding center that only had one habu snake and a bunch of pickled habu eggs, a gorgeous ocean overview, and a cave with a rock that makes women have babies if you lift it up. Jen and I both picked it up - I figured if it works I'd at least have to meet a nice man or get really drunk. Either way, good times!

We caught the ferry back to Okinawa and headed for the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. It was the best aquarium ever. They have a whole section devoted to poisonous creatures you can accidentally run into in Japan - and what to do if you get stung/bitten/stabbed. Most of the exhibited animals were local so I've never seen them before - I think they even had one of those pufferfish!

The best part were the whale sharks. They were as big as two cars and we got to watch them eat. They just open their mouths and suck in everything around them - kind of a whale/shark hybrid. We ate lunch at the Aquarium where I got to try the famed Okinawan taco rice (a taco served on rice) and sweet potato ice cream. You wouldn't think sweet potato ice cream would be good, but it was!

Japanese McDonalds!

On the way home, we stopped at a McDonald's. I was so excited to try a Japanese McDonald's! To order, we used the English menu, which meant we pointed at pictures and the sizes we wanted. The portions are significantly smaller than American sizes.

I ordered the ultra-yummy Ebi Filet-O, which is a Filet 'o Fish made of shrimp. I also experienced the disgusting Japanese item ever. I forget the name, but it was some kind of iced tea that tasted like fish or seaweed or miso or moldy coffee grounds or dirty dishwater or a combo of all.

We also tried a warm Triple Chocolate Pie - which was a McDonald's Apple Pie with chocolate instead of apple. Nothing in Japan is as sweet as it is back home - it makes for some interesting desserts!

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