Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hiji Falls and Pizza in the Sky

We decided to head north today and combine two things that we loved, exploring a new area on foot and eating.  After loading up our backpack with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for both of us, water, our trusty camera and sunscreen, we headed to the Okinawa Expressway and headed north.  It did feel a little strange going 80 km/hr, a full 20 to 30 km/hr faster than normal, on the expressway.  The new route got us from Okinawa City to Naga in just about 30 minutes, easily an hour faster if not more.

After driving through Nago city, we continued our trek north.  Our directions were very spartan, but luckily there was a large sign that pointed us in the right direction.  Our first stop, Hiji Falls.  After parking the car and paying the park entrance fee, we began our stroll to the falls.  It was extremely humid but we
 were pleasantly surprised to see that the path to the falls was very well maintained.  It did include a lot up steps that went both u
p and down as we navigated over the terrain.  After a nice brisk walk that left us hot and sweaty, we arrived at the falls.  The roaring sound of the falls and the dense foliage overhead made a perfect place to enjoy our sandwiches and water while we rested up for the walk back.  After enjoying the scenery for a time we backed our things and began the walk out of the jungle.  Just as we were leaving the park it began to rain on us.

After all that walking and sweating, we decided it was time to head to the main event for the day.
  We have heard that the best place for pizza on
 Okinawa is a place called Pizza in the Sky.  It is located just to the west of Naga.  Luckily for us there are some pretty good directions out there because there would have been no way we could have found it without them.  During part of the drive to Pizza in the Sky, we were on a one lane road winding its
 way up a hill.  With one or two lucky decisions on which way to turn, we made it to the restaurant without having to ask for directions.  The place was packed when we arrived which we took as a good sign.  We put our name on the waitin
g list and walked around back to enjoy the gorgeous view.
In no time at all our name was called and we were shown to our table- Japanese style low to the floor with no chairs, but cushions to sit on.   The menu was a white fan with the Japanese rising sun in the middle.  Each fold of the fan had a menu item and the cost.  The menu is pretty simple; one type of pizza with two different sizes, salad and a variety of drinks.  We ordered a salad and a medium pizza.  The salad was outstanding.  It had that wonderful seasame seed and ginger dressing we have grown
 to love.  Shortly after getting our salad our pizza arrived.  When you only serve two things it does not take much time to prepare.  The pizza was piping out and was covered with one thing you don't see a lot of on pizzas, corn.  Nevertheless, the pizza was just as good as we had heard.  We had a wonderful time enjoying both things as we gazed around and enjoyed the wonderful setting.  It was with a heavy heart, but a full stomach, that we left Pizza in the Sky and started our way back south. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Connected to the World Again

We have finally gotten our internet. After 7 weeks of waiting we are once again connected to the rest of the world. As everything else since our arrival it was a little bit of a struggle. We were informed that the internet company would arrive between 3pm and 5 pm. Four Okinawns arrived at 4:20pm. We quickly discovered that the visit was not going to be like the states. Three Okinawans walked into our place and began installing the fiber optic wires throughout the house. This process took a good hour. During this time an American representative arrived to supervise the installation and act as the interpreter, if needed. At 5:30pm we were asked if we had a key to the maintenance closet down on the 1st floor. When we told them we did not, we were informed that they needed access to that room to finish the installation of the fiber optic wire and since we did not have it they would just come back tomorrow. After waiting so long for the internet we told them that we wanted it finished tonight. We told them that we would drive to the housing agency and pick up the key if necessary. Luckily for us one of the cable people drove to the housing agency that owns our building, picked up the key and was back within an hour. By the time the house was wired, internet hardware connected and our internet account setup it was 7:30pm.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Saturday Night in the Neighborhood

Having no special plans this Sat night, we decided to walk around our area of town, Okinawa City, aka Love Hotel Mecca (you'll see why soon). Our evening started with dinner at a local restaurant that is always packed called the Emerald Pub. We thought it was a typical Japanese take your shoes off at the door and sit on the floor kind of place, but it turned out to be more like a 70s steak house you'd find in the states. We're constantly fooled by exteriors here; outside appearances of buildings are so deceiving and I can't even count how many times I've been completely surprised by what I find inside. Anyway, we had a great meal there. I had sauteed chicken and got a kick out of the tiny side of mashed potatoes; Sean had the "jumbo" steak because he just couldn't resist finding out what the word "jumbo" means to Japanese sense of proportions.

After dinner, we walked across the street to a patisserie called "Couple" full of delectable desserts like marshallows and cream puffs. I never knew marshmallows had such a huge appeal outside of beach bonfires... We were unable to leave the patisserie without purchasing a few items.

We then decided to explore some of the theme hotels nearby our apartment building and got close-ups of some of the wacky details. We've posted photos of the more bizarre ones. The most intriguing one by far is the space station themed hotel...


Friday night we attended a huge wine tasting event featuring wines from all over- California, Europe, and South America including our personal wine country favorite, Argentina. This was a rare opportunity to actually get dressed up and socialize and eat! The delicious food selections included different kinds of pasta, sushi ofcourse (no event here seems to happen without a sushi table), and wonderful little desserts.

The Officers club was divided into two areas. The inside banquet area had 5 different wine tasting tables specializing in specific regions. In the middle of the banquet area were a variety of pasta dishes, sushi platters, and other fun foods. A tent was set up outside with a bar for those to impatient to wait in line for wine and wanting more than just a sip. Large seating table, live entertainment and more food could also be found outside.

We were so enamored with some of the wines that we went back the next day to buy a few bottles to keep on hand and to make up for the paltry selections available on the base. We bought 6 bottles of some new favorites, but we were very disappointed to discover that a General bought up all 3 cases of our all time favorite, the Argentine Malbec! That's so wrong!

I did find a bottle of German Black Cat Riesling in honor of my cat to console me, however.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Yoron Island

The Labor Day Weekend allowed us to finally take advantage of the area and go on our first trip to Yoron Island. Our tour package provided a bus from Camp Foster to the ferry just north of Nago, a two night stay at the Pricia Resort and two breakfasts and two dinners.

The ferry ride was fun! First of all, the ferry had large communal sleeping areas where we could camp out. When we walked in, we saw rows and rows of tatami mats with blankets and strange black leather pillows resembling shoe boxes. Unexpectedly comfy though!

Upon arriving at the resort we discovered that we would not be able to check into our room for about another two and a half hours. We decided to leave our luggage at the hotel and walk into town and see what it had to offer. After a short thirty minute walk, we found ourselves in Chibana. Chibana is not very large but it does have a tiny Greek town in it created to look like a hilltop village in Mykonos. By this time, we were starting to get a little hungry so we decided to try a Greek cafe in a Japanese town. We ordered a gyros and a bacon and cheese on toast. Yummy! One of the things that Yoron Island is known for is their pottery. After our meal we decided to head north out of town and look for one of the two well known pottery stores. After about an hour of walking we finally broke down and stopped at a hotel to ask where the pottery store was located. We knew we had to be close, but we could just not find it. Well, come to discover the little village like store was located about 200 yards from the hotel. Our excitement soon turned to disappointment when we discovered that the little village was closed. We never could find out why it was closed on a Saturday. Now disappointed, hot, sweaty and feet starting to hurt, we made the hour and fifteen minute walk back to the resort.

We arrived at the resort, checked in, and settled into our room. It was a cute room with two Japanese style single beds, a couch, a small TV and a bathroom, but we still felt like giants stomping around in a dollhouse. For dinner that night, we had a wonderful sunset BBQ. Upon arriving at the beach terrace, we discovered that about twenty tables had been placed along the area offering a great view of the ocean and the setting sun. We expected to be eating from a large bbq grill, but found out each table had its own little grill to cook our own food! The waiter lit the grill in the middle of our table and returned with a platter of seafood, meat and vegetables waiting to be thrown on the grill. We proceed to cook our meal at our table, watch the sun go down in front of us, drink some more Kirin beer, and enjoy each others company.

We are both shocked at how much we managed to eat, but it was a wonderful experience. After our meal we walked along the beach and then headed back to our room for a lazy night of watching Japanese television. How did we understand what we watched? Simple- we added our own dialogue to Japanese telenovelas. Trust me, the story lines transcend culture and language!

On day 2, we rented scooters to explore the island. Yoron is only 22 km around, so it was a great way to travel around at leisure and stop at interesting sites.

The main attraction is an island off the coast called Yurigihama, accessible only during low tide a few times a month. We were lucky enoughto arrive right before low tide when the sand bar is easily accessable. The sand bar is unbelievably gorgeous- white sand surrounded by crystal water. Something special about this sand bar is star sand, which is exactly what it sounds like- sand granules in the shape of stars.

After looking for star sand we decided to hop back on the mopeds and look for the other pottery shop. After a few missed turns we finally found it. To our disappointment this shop was also closed. No pottery for us on this trip. We then returned to the resort and got ready for dinner. This evening we decided to try the Japanese restaurant. We ordered a wide variety of food and proceeded to enjoy ourselves.

Our trip to Yoron was really fun and it made us excited to see all the other places this region has to offer.


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