Starting 2022 with a trip to Okinawa — Chapter 4: Exploring Okinawan Culture
Friday evening, as I completed my week working from the resort, I made plans with my friend for the weekend (essentially Saturday as we were flying out to Tokyo on Sunday).
As we started walking towards the car rental shop, I noticed yet again the half-lion half-dog figures on almost every building around our resort. Curious, I did a Google search and found that this figure is called “Shisa” — a traditional Okinawan cultural artifact, borrowed from China. These typically exist in pairs outside one’s house, where the closed-mouth figure keeps the good spirits in, and the open-mouth figure wards the bad spirits away.
Our first destination was the Matayoshi Coffee Farm, an hour away from our resort. We got to know about this while browsing interesting things to do in Okinawa on Trip Advisor. Matayoshi Coffee Farm offered a guided tour/lesson on the coffee-making process- from gathering coffee beans from the farm to washing, peeling, and roasting the beans and finally grinding and dripping to make a fresh hot cup of coffee. However, since we did not make an advance reservation, we couldn't make it to the guided tour. Instead, we just explored the coffee farm and had freshly brewed coffee from their cafe.
The coffee was really refreshing! With this, we were energized to reach our next destination, the Former Japanese Navy Headquarters, located near Naha city. It was a 75 minutes drive from the coffee farm. As we reached, we were guided to the lobby where a documentary about the cruelties of WW2 in Okinawa was being played. Just watching the first 5 minutes gave me goosebumps and I was sure the next hour at the site would be really grave. Next to the lobby was a small museum showcasing the events that led to the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945 and how the Battle fared. In summary, the Battle of Okinawa was considered the first step of the Americans’ plan to get into mainland Japan. Fighting with almost half the force as Americans, the Japanese combat forces started recruiting locals from Okinawa to help in the combat as well as other construction and service activities. In order to buy some time as well as plan for the upcoming battle, the forces constructed the underground naval headquarters(the place we visited). The Battle of Okinawa was won by the Americans and the chief of the Japanese Navy wrote a letter to the Tokyo HQ before committing suicide at this place, praising the Okinawans for their immense support during this time. The Naval Headquarters was at least 20 meters below the ground with gun/grenade marks on almost every wall.
Whenever a war happens, there is never a winner. With this thought, we took a small detour to check out Naha International Street, a popular shopping destination for tourists. With souvenir shops, there were a lot of international shopping brands around too. I still couldn't get past “Shisa” and took some snaps.
We finally headed to the American Village and were pleasantly greeted by fireworks, which were specially organized for celebrating new Year!
American Village is like a big amusement park with shops, restaurants, cafes, arcades spread across a large area. We walked across the riverside before exploring the shops and restaurants. We finally settled for the arcade and after spending around 4,000 yen, managed to pick a few soft toys. I was surprised to see Indian restaurants here too and added them to the GoCurry database quickly!
So this was the end of our trip to Okinawa. As the final gesture, we met a bike gang on our way back to the resort. They made a lot of noise but were really obedient to the other traffic rules.
Okinawa had been great and I will return back. Next, I would try working from a new location in Japan.