Day 5 (Friday):
- Snorkeling at Maeda Flats (very cool place with tons of bright colored fish)
- Peace Memorial Park- this is a park to remember those fallen during WWII. There are many walls that have built with the names of all the people who died. We also went through the museum with an audio tour which was very interesting. It was great to get the Japanese perspective on the war. Very touching and moving, sad really.
- We ate at a McDonald's on the way to Kokusai street. It all tastes the same, but they have cool little trays that hold your food and your drinks all in one, and they use plastic shopping bags instead of paper bags.
- Kokusai Street (International Street) - a ton of shopping and food. This is the main place where we bought our souvenirs and knick knacks. They even have a couple of streets that are underground. It is very interesting to see the shop owners on theside of the street trying to get you to enter their shop and buy their products. Even the people from the restaurants are on the street passing out menus and coupons even I think.
Day 6 (Saturday): We left this island and took a ferry to Ie-jima (Ie Island). It is a very small island just North of Okinawa Island. We stayed in a very nice cottage at this little resort. I guess it was a Labor Day special package because our meals were included. Once we got to the island and got all checked in, we rented a car and went about touring the 7 mile wide island. Here is what we saw:
- Mt. Guzuko - we drove as far as we could and then John and I walked up about a thousand stairs (I have no idea how many there were really, but it was a lot and my legs were killing me) to the top of the "Mountain." What a fabulous 360 degree view of the island as well as Okinawa.
- Niya-Thiya Cave - This was a cave that 1000 people lived in during the war as a shelter from the soldiers and bombings. In this cave there is a stone that they say will cause a girl to get pregnant if she lifts it. John would hardly let me get near the thing and threatened my life if I actually picked it up. I don't know if it is true, but that is pretty interesting. The Japanese people are very superstitious and who knows if it could have or would have come true (I just pretended to pick it up).
- Wajee (a spring) - we drove all over trying to find this thing. We even drove all along the old air strip that the US Military used during the war. I don't know if we were supposed to, but we wanted to get to the other side of it and the rode next to it didn't go far enough. It was definitely an adventure. We got to this really lookout and saw the beautiful waters and cliffs of Wajee. The rode was very windy and narrow (of course) but we made it down and back up without getting into an accident.
- GI Beach - We have no idea why it is named that, but we assume that is where the soldiers used to go for relaxation during the war. This beach is beautiful and hardly touched it seems. There was a group of locals down on the beach on their hands and knees basically cleaning up the beach from debris and trash. So cool that they care so much for their island and for the waters.
- Ernie Pyle Memorial - We didn't really stop at this place, but we did drive by it really slowly. Ernie Pyle was a great journalist during the war and was following around a unit that was fighting on Ie Island. During the war he was killed and in the same spot where he died, they erected a memorial.
- Dinner at the resort - they have three options for dinner, BBQ, Japanese and Western. This night we all chose the BBQ. They have these patio tables outside that have small round BBQs right in the middle. The staff bring you your plate of food and you do the cooking. It is pretty cool. We had every kind of meat you could think of: beef, chicken, pork, white fish, and prawns. They also give you a bunch of veggies and mini baked potatoes. A great experience, but a lot of work.
- Bar - after dinner and a little chill time, we headed to the bar at the resort to play pool and have a few drinks. While we were there playing, these young Japanese guys asked Liz and a couple other ladies (in their early 40s) to take a picture. At first the ladies thought the boys just wanted their picture taken, but then they soon found out they wanted the ladies to be in the picture with them. It was a hilarious sight. The ladies were flattered and the guys just thought they were the coolest. It was definitely interesting.
Day 7 (Sunday): We took the ferry back to Okinawa Island (Motobu Port) and drove our car to Nago to the Churaumi Aquarium. This aquarium is pretty cool. They have a few big tanks with some really neat looking fish. It was just an aquarium, but the fish were amazing, such bright colors and all shapes and sizes. The aquarium is part of Ocean Expo Park (which is gigantic) but we didn't have the time and didn't feel the need to see the whole thing. The grounds are amazing, beautiful structures and really cool plants that make up different sculptures (like crabs and birds). After this we drove to the Nago Pineapple Park (mom you would have been right at home and in heaven). They give you a little tour indoors of the different kinds of pineapple plants and palm trees and some other flowers like Hibiscus and Anthurium. For the tour you ride on these little automatic pineapple cart and they have a MP3 player that plays a recording telling you about the different plants you are seeing. Once you finish the tour, you go inside and you see the factory where they take a whole pineapple and can it. It is pretty cool to see how they get the outer skin off and get into the can and seal it all up. From the factory, you go down into the store part and you get to sample everything from wine to cake, pie to chocolate (everything in pineapple flavor). The wine is pretty good, sweet. My favorite was the pineapple pie. After we got back on the ferry and headed to the resort we attempted another snorkeling adventure, but were unlucky. It was too dark outside and there was no coral for the fish to hide in and around. We didn't really see anything special. Before dinner we took a walk on the beach and John started his seashell collection. Yes, I said John started HIS seashell collection. He is just like his mother in that regard. It was funny. He just handed them to me and said we could put them in a vase or something when we got home.
Day 8 (Monday, Today): We got up this morning and packed our bags to head back to Liz and Jeff's apartment. We couldn't leave the hotel until 12:30 but we had to check out by 11:00 a.m. so we went back down to the beach to continue or shell hunt. This time John and Liz were on a mission to find the big clam shells. Liz has only found them on this beach and boy did we find some. It was awesome, I even got into finally. We walked up and down the beach along the water's edge searching for clam shells, sea glass, and shells. It was very relaxing. It even started to rain and we just continued walking. Once we got back to our car in Okinawa we started the drive home and made a short stop at Manzamo Beach. It is supposedly a great lookout point over these large cliffs, but it was very overcast so it wasn't that great, but it was still amazing to see some of the rocks on the cliffs and this large hole in the middle of one cliff. While we were there taking pictures it started to rain and pretty heavy rain too, but we survived, it was very short lived. They have some really cute vendors there so bought a few last minute gifts for people and for ourselves.
All in all, this has been a great adventure. We have enjoyed our time here and really wish we could stay longer. Jeff and Liz are great tour guides and planners and are so generous. It is nice to have such great in-laws. I have to get going to start packing all of our clothes and souvenirs but I will post pictures as soon as I can.
We will be in Hawaii for the next 5 days and returning to California on Saturday, September 6th. I will try and post pictures on MySpace, Facebook and SnapFish when I get back.