Aka jima and endless sushi

Wow, what a great couple of days!

Monday night, we went and got sushi from a tiny little place — the hotel called us a cab because it was tricky to find. After the cab dropped us off, we didn’t see the place immediately, but K asked some old men on the street and one walked us the 2 blocks over. As we were eating and enjoying our sushi, who should come in but the cab driver! He apologized and tried to give our $5 fare back — apparently he’d dropped us at the wrong place and this wasn’t the restaurant we’d been heading for. No worries though, as it was great! We were the only people in there, and the sushi chef and his wife(?) spoke no English, but seemed happy to have us. He made us what was good that day — essentially chef’s choice nigiri. Yum!

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We used my “OffMaps” app to guide us back to our hotels, since we weren’t actually very far.

Tuesday, we took a ferry out to Aka jima (“jima” means island)

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There, a woman met us and took us to her little guest house where we rented bicycles, snorkels, and fins. She showed us on a map where we could go, and off we went, rusty bikes squeaking down the hill. Fortunately the snorkeling equipment was in a bit better condition than the bikes, and we got to see beautiful coral reefs and colorful fishes.

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The second beach (closer to the ferry port, so we hit it on our way back), delivered on our hopes, and we got to snorkel with a sea turtle! I didn’t have my phone with me under water of course, so I took a picture of a picture of a turtle. Our friend looked like this:

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After showering off the sand back at the guest house, we relaxed in the shade, enjoying the island breeze, before heading back to the ferry.

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When we got back to Naha, we were a bit hungry, so we stopped at a convenience store for ~$1 onigiri snacks and then picked up a piece of fish tempura from a woman across the street.

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We stopped by a store for some aloe, then by my hotel so I could drop off my bag, and headed to M & O’s hotel so they could do the same before we got a real dinner. As we got there, K met us in the lobby and told us we needed to go! Meeting some friends for dinner!

Great company and fantastic food — more sushi than we could eat, and some (what turned out to be) horse sashimi. Very tender, and accompanied by delicious ponzu sauce. Who knew?

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A hobby I hadn’t considered

After a big lunch with M, O, and K, we wandered around through the nearby markets and neighborhoods. The markets had some interesting things, and we tried the ice cream with various flavored salts on top.

I also saw the guest house where they’re staying, and the butterflies someone there was cultivating (by sheltering big caterpillars). Really beautiful, golden cocoons and big black and white butterflies. After emerging from their cocoons, the butterflies stayed just until they could fly, and then they were off.

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Wait, what day is it?

I’ve been having a lot of days at work lately that each feel like they’re at least two days. Yesterday was a bit like that, but it actually WAS two days (thanks, international date line!)

Long as the “day” was (I really didn’t sleep much on the planes), it’s really nice to be on vacation. Even if sometimes the travel logistics can be a little stressful (friends running late getting to the airport, tight connection for our international flight, etc.) there’s something to be said for only having to focus on one thing at a time. Also, letting go of the things out of your control.

Once we got to NRT, we hung out with the beer robots in the “arrivals” ANA lounge at NRT. Note to lounge connoisseurs: this lounge is not nearly as fancy as the ANA international departure lounge I’ve been in. Still, it had showers with fantastic water pressure, and I’m not complaining!

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When we got to Okinawa (on our colorfully painted ANA plane), M & O’s friend/sensei met us at the airport and dropped me off at my hotel before taking the guys to their hotel/apartment. My room is small but impeccably clean, and the bed was a welcome sight indeed!

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In the morning, after another fantastic-water-pressure shower, I checked out the included hotel breakfast buffet. I’m still not sure what a lot of things were, since most all the signs were in Japanese, but everything I tried was good. Miso soup, rice with pickled veggies & umeboshi, noodles, tofu and broccoli and squash in gelatinous sauces, and tempura’ed veggies.

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After breakfast, the number one on my list of things to do was to get cash. No problem, just find an ATM. Didn’t I just get done telling someone that HSBC is all over the world (except Colorado)? Well, it’s not in Okinawa either. And although every convenience store has an ATM, they only work with cards issued in Japan. The travel agents, shop clerks, and hotel front desk people I asked were either not much help, or pointed me to a money changing counter that didn’t open until 2pm. Finally, I decided to try the post office I’d seen near my hotel, and although today is apparently a holiday, the doors opened and the ATMs gave me joy! Shopping is a bit more fun when you have more confidence that you could actually buy something if you find something you like. Also, the vending machines shall taunt me no more!

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