Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Summer Vacation: Kansai + Okinawa!

Happy summer, northern-hemisphere-dwellers!

Last summer, I took a well-needed trip back to New Zealand to see my family and friends. My mum and I went on a really fun trip to Napier to visit some relatives and enjoy the great weather up there. It was so much fun!

I've spent summer this year here in Japan. After being away for it last year, it was a bit tough adjusting to the sudden, intense heat. When I first came to Japan, I was really surprised to learn how hot and humid it gets here in summer. In the height of summer, it's not so unusual for the temperature to hit 36 degrees, with 80% + humidity. On top of that, schools are notoriously conservative with their air conditioning units, so there were more than a few days spent sitting panting at my desk. On a serious note, if you are working or travelling in Japan in the summer, please take care to drink plenty of fluids! Heat stroke is a serious danger here, and a number of people die due to it every summer in Japan. Water is a must, but there are also some good sports-type drinks like Aquarius, Pocari Sweat and Dakara which are good for replenishing electrolytes.

Okay, lecture over! So, what did I get up to this summer? Well, first of all I went down to the Kansai region to visit my good friend Briar. We were Wellington JETs who came to Japan at the same time two years ago. I took a night bus to Kyoto to meet her, where we spent the day hanging out and catching up before heading to her home in Shiga prefecture.

Sunsets in the countryside.
Lake day!!!
We went to a fireworks display at Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan. I've never seen such amazing fireworks in my life!

video


After a few days staying with Briar and her boyfriend (thank you guys!!!) I went to Osaka airport to meet the lovely Virginia and fly to Okinawa. I was so excited! This year, I had two places I really wanted to visit: Okinawa and Hokkaido. I couldn't make it to Hokkaido (I really want to go for the snow festival) so I was super happy I got to go to Okinawa! 

On our first day there, Virginia and I walked around and checked out Kokusai Dori, the main street in Naha. We tried some Okinawan food, like goya (bitter melon), and chilled out. 

The second day it was off to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. This aquarium is pretty famous, and it was the biggest aquarium in the world until 2005. I have to say, it was really impressive. We saw so many unusual and amazing sea creatures. For me, the best part was the Kuroshio Sea tank. This tank is so big, it had two whale sharks, some huge manta rays, and lots of other really interesting fish. It was so nice and relaxing to sit at the restaurant there and eat lunch whilst watching such interesting things go swimming past. Actually, after watching so many fish that day, we felt a lot like eating sushi, so that night we found a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant called Yazaemon, which was really delicious and we highly recommend! The staff there were so friendly and the food was so good, we really wanted to go back there another night, but unfortunately we ran out of time. 

I love rays! They look like they're smiling!
These giant lobster things were horrible.

A whale shark in the Kuroshio tank.

Outside the aquarium is also really nice, although of course it was super hot!

On our third day, we visited Okinawa World. This is a good place to see and learn more about Okinawan culture, as it's really unique and different from mainland Japanese culture. We saw some traditional Okinawan crafts, like glass blowing, traditional Okinawan dancing and music, and we also visited a snake museum there. There are no snakes at all in New Zealand (apart from perhaps some sea snakes?), but it turns out Okinawa has a lot of them, so it was really crazy for me to see so many! There were a lot of displays there which were pretty terrifying to me, but also interesting. We also watched a snake show, and got to hold this horrible huge snake afterwards!

Can you see the look of "THIS IS NOT OKAY" on my face?
Seriously, even holding tiny lizards freaked me out.
This guy was pretty cute though.
Snake selfie. Also very not okay, to be honest.
As we were in line to hold the big snake, I wondered what it would feel like. It was a little bit cold, and really heavy. The skin felt so strange...it's kind of like you can easily feel its bones moving beneath the skin. Later, I held some smaller snakes. It was fun but I was still really scared of them. I appreciate snakes a little more now, but I can't totally get over my natural fear of them. After looking in the snake museum, we went under Okinawa World into the Gyokusendo Cave. This is an 850 metre long cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites. It's well lit so you can see the spectacular sights. It's quite eerie and breathtaking as you first walk in! There was a lot to see down there, and it was fun to walk through. If you go, be careful as the walkway can be a little bit slippery from the water dripping inside in the cave.  


Donk!


On our last full day in Okinawa, of course we went to the beach! We took a bus to Manza beach, because I had seen a lot of photos of it and it looked really beautiful. When we got off at the ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach, we found out that you had to pay a lot to use the beach near the hotel. However, if you walk just a few minutes down the beach, there's a public area which is just as beautiful and totally free to use. We rented a parasol for the day, which you could get from the lifeguard. Then we just relaxed, ate and drank on the beach, went swimming, and explored the area around the beach a bit. It was so pretty, especially at sunset, and so fun to just lie on the sand or float around and chat!





The convenience store near the beach sold this very strong alcohol in juice boxes!
All the photos.
And all the selfies.


So twilight, very beach, much sunburnt.
Well, just like that, our holiday in Okinawa was coming to an end. That night, we ticked two last things off our Okinawan to-do list: I drank a big glass of Okinawa's traditional sake, awamori (it's good served on the rocks), and Virginia tried habushu, awamori made with a snake inside! I was too scared to try the habushu, but she said it tasted good. We flew back to mainland Japan the next morning, and, as I talked about in my last post, went straight to an amazing DaizyStripper concert in Utsunomiya. I've been on holiday for another week, but I've mostly just been relaxing in Utsunomiya and meeting up with my friends.

Nothing but blue skies for our flight home.
Goodbye, Okinawa!
How has your summer (or winter) been? Have you gone on any interesting trips lately? Let me know!

- Annabelle.

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a good summer. Okinawa is great, isn't it? Did you like the goya?
    I went back to the UK to visit family and friends. It was great to escape Japan's humidity!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment! Yeah, Okinawa was great and the goya was delicious! Have you tried it? I ordered it a few times. Going back to the UK sounds wonderful. I can't stand the humidity either!

      Delete
  2. Nice!! This is the first time to see, the foreigners who are drinking "ONIKOROSHI". lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! We knew nothing about it, but it looked so interesting we wanted to try it. I liked the taste!

      Delete

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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:
 
 
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