Friday, April 9, 2010

Day three of Tour and other days

The third leg of our bus tour was the southern portion of Okinawa. There are lots of WWII sites of significance as well as some sites of ancient historical history.

We actually went in reverse order from our normal route and took in a few sites we haven't seen on previous tours. Although we didn't stop, we rode around the site and Taika Oyata explained that Sho Hashi, on his conquest to unify all of Okinawa, took control of this castle first. The ruler was a major support of the ruler of Nanzan territory and it's capture was a major step in taking over the southern portion of Okinawa.

The next stop was quite awe inspiring, Sefa Utaki. During the Ryukyu Kingdom days Sefa-Utaki was the holiest site in Okinawa. It was the first place where the king visited after ascending on the throne, and it was where the highest priestess in the kingdom, Kikoe Okimi, performed sacred rituals. Kikoe Okimi herself was a member of the royal family as only the king’s mother, sister or daughter could hold the office.

After taking in the spectacular view, we stopped at a small tempura stand where 35 of us descended upon them with a vast hunger. The tempura was delicious and I'm sure they are on vacation now because they sold a month's worth of tempura that day!

The next stop was the natural caves of Okinawa. Some chose to walk through the caves while others visited the replica villages, took in the Eisa show and dance and of course, the souvenirs. There's also a sampling of Habu-shu, a distiled rice wine that contains a whole Habu, Okinawa's answer to the rattle snake, minus the rattles.

The next stop was the Peace Park, a large memorial dedicated to the battle of Okinawa. There are literally 100's of monuments dedicated to those who lost their lives in Okinawa. There is also a wall, similar to the Vietnam war memorial containing the names of all the military who lost their lives in Okinawa. We found the wall containing the name of Taika Oyata's brother, Akiwo.

The next stop was Himeyuri where some school girls who were hiding in cave were all killed during the battle of Okinawa. This was quite somber and a stark reminder of the horror's of war.

One of the highlights of Hiemyuri is the Okinawa doughnuts, Andagi. We watched as "mama-san" cooked up a batch in front of us and we got to eat a fresh batch just out of the pan. Where's a tall cold glass of milk when you need one?

The last stop was the Ryukyu Glass factory. There we witnessed glass being hand blown and for a few yen, you could actually make your own souvenir. The shop contained thousands of items to buy and we spent a few hours just browsing and shopping.

The next few days have been spent shopping or visiting Shuri Castle. A small group are going scuba diving in the next few days and I'm planning a trip to Shureido, Shuri Castle and a few other historical sites. Keep watching for an update

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