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May 26

BackTrackLog: Last hurrah!

It’s about time to wrap this one up. This last post has been stinging me for like a couple many many of months and surely everyone forgot I went to Japan. So here is my last post of my Japan internship before I revered back to my normal site (aka nothing but spam). As you all probably remember I went on a short 2 week trip after my internship ended to see some more of Japan. Instead of hanging out somewhere on the mainland, I decided to visit two island regions. One is the famous Okinawa Island and the other is the less-known but still popular Ishigaki Island, both of them are part of the Okinawa Prefecture. I’ll make a good nice post about what I did, what I saw and what I liked :smile:. First up will be the Ishigaki Islands and then chronologically the Okinawa main island.

If you see this sign during tsunami, you’re pretty screwed…

I will warn you guys this post might be a bit lengthy, but can’t do anything about that. Going out with style :cool:

So first up my trip from Tokyo to Ishigaki (ISG), I left most of my luggage (including my precious otaku stuff) in my hostel room in good hope they didn’t get kidnapped. It was probably the most expensive storage room (3000 yen a day) that was available, but I didn’t really have a choice. In total I had 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks and 1 extra hand carry. It is a silly amount of luggage for one person and you’ll get in trouble dragging so much stuff into a packed JR-train. I’ll tell you more about that in the end.

To fly to Ishigaki, I took an indirect flight from Haneda to Okinawa first. From there a normal 737 carried me to the small island next to Taiwan. It remains a mystery for me why the Chinese never reoccupied the island like some other certain islands. You might wonder why I wouldn’t visit this island another time since it was so close to Hong Kong which I often visit. Well, the problem is that there are no direct flights from HK to ISG. A single ticket can cost more than 200 euros, while a roundtrip from Tokyo is only around 150 euros. The cheapest flights is to go to Taiwan and from there you use a Chinese airliner to visit the island while using Hong Kong airlines you are forced to fly to Osaka! Talk about wasting money, that is a 4-5 hour flight to Japan and 3 hour flight back to Ishigaki. Your best bet would be to book a budget ticket to Taipei (Taiwain) or Naha (Okinawa) and proceed from there. But enough about my flight.

AccesstoISGAll the flight possiblities to Ishigaki…

The reason why I choose Ishigaki as my destination is rather silly. The first time I heard of it was indirectly from a manga called Azumanga Daioh, which is btw a recommended read if you like manga. The comic mentioned a particular cat, which played a minor role in the show and thus I didn’t pay much attention to it. So when I went exploring for other places to visit next to Okinawa the guides mentioned the Yaeyama Islands where exotic wildlife lived including the Iriomote cat. And taadaa, there was the silly cat from the manga. So being the otaku like always I decided to head over to Ishigaki to see the cat (which from on-line sources is practically impossible :P).

But I’ve heard there are other great things to do in Ishigaki! Like great nightlife and other islands.. So I reluctantly made a plan to explore the Ishigaki islands.

The first island to be explored was Ishigaki (duh). The largest town was situated next to the seaport, the only way to travel to the other islands. Most facilities were all situated in this town, including my hotel. It was a cozy little family run hotel just next to the seaport, which was perfect in case you woke up too late for your boat :cool:

Need a boat?…

There are a couple of things you can do on the Ishigaki Island (as tourist). Those are 1. Enjoying the town centre, 2. Go Diving or 3. Wander around aimlessly. Me being me I chose option 3 and went to the north-west side of the island which was home to Kabira Bay, a tourist hotspot. Lucky for me there were not that many tourist, the reason being the weather sucked. Sucked bad. The bay is famous for its emerald seawater, beautiful skies and white beaches. Well, when I was there it was gray, grumpy and empty. Normally you can take a boat tour showing some coral and sealife. Well, today you didn’t see shit.

Well, it does look emeraldish…

It is however even with bad weather a relaxing place to walk around. After all that busyness in Tokyo and even in the town center of Ishigaki, it is very nice to just lay down and do nothing.

Beach! Boom! Beach!…

After I was done moping around, I went back to the town centre to check some Ishigaki food and some more food.

Pudding and Meat…

Apparently the pudding was very famous and it was indeed very good. Kinda like creme brule pudding without the burned sugar top, only 2x better :smile: Furthermore, the Ishigaki meat (bit expensive though, but not as expensive as the damn Matsuzaka meat(pic of 100E meat) in Tokyo) and the Tonkotsu ramen were recommended by one of my colleagues. I’ll spare you the details on how good those tasted :wink:

A nice touch to this country side is that wherever you go, you will see statues of lions. These “Shisa” are an important trademark and tradition of Okinawan Mythology. They are always in pairs, one with open and one with closed mouth. A nice souvenir for those who want to bring something back home.

Shisa everywhere!…

The next day I went island exploring! Yay! But the weather was still shit so I was a bit reluctant to go… Anyways, after booking my ferry passes (they even had a Dutch guy at the travel agency!) I was ready to sail the seas YAR.

Coast Guard with cannon? Has to do with China :P…

The first island I visited was the notorious Iriomote Island with the cat. With high expectations we arrived at the island where a bus was taking us deeper into the wild. From there a small boat carried us downstream a river to even deeper parts of the jungle… To be honest, there wasn’t much to see except a bunch of trees. The weather was terrible grey so everything was kinda dull. Even the highlight of the forest, a super duper old tree (400 years old)  was a bust.

Grrrroooooottttttt…

I still didn’t see any cat so we went out of the forest to visit a tiny tiny island called Yubu Island. We went to this island by buffalo cart with some Okinawa music sung by the driver. On the island there’s a botanic garden with plenty of flora/fauna to see.

Cows and butterfrees, who needs more…

After the tiny island, it was time to hop on the ferryboat again and go to Taketomi Island. This island is very popular amongst the tourist in Ishigaki, it is not fully covered by a dense jungle but has very nice beaches and traditional houses. So we visited an old village here and poked people to show them the insides of the houses. If there’s a place where you want to retire and do nothing. This island can provide that minus the tourists :P

Who needs locks in your house when there is no crime…

How to send a ‘mail’ on this island…

Furthermore, the beaches on this island have star shaped sand. Although it isn’t really sand but baby sea stars who have been kidnapped and sunburned to death on the beach. No, sorry, they are just dead Foraminifera. Everyone who visits these beaches always does his/her best to gather as much stars as possible. Ain’t anyone got time for that, so I bought a bottle from the locals :P.

The weather still sucks…

After Taketomi we went back to the main island and the tour was over. It was nice to see the large contrast between the island that are only one hour apart from each other. The following day I just walked around town and ate a lot of food (since it was raining really bad). In the end it was time to head back to Okinawa! A nice thing from my last minutes on Ishigaki was at the airport. It was my first time seeing airport staff waving farewell to a leaving aircraft. I guess this is pretty much only in Japan :)

Bye bye Ishigaki…

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So lets continue on! Okinawa as mentioned before is a popular tourist hotspot for those who want to visit Japan but also enjoy beaches, nice food and parties. You can find it in Tokyo too but probably a bit more expensive. Most visitors of Okinawa are usually Chinese/HK people so I for me it felt almost the same way Dutch guys feel when they go to France/Spain and still have dozens of Dutchies around them. Not particular a great thing but I can ignore them :) There is also an American army base situated on Okinawa (FREEDOM EVERYWHERE) so you have plenty of Americans too. These two factors means that a lot of facilities in Okinawa have English translations and more restaurants are aimed at tourist. This can be a good thing, but kinda takes away the traditional Okinawa-feel. The most well-known attraction of Okinawa has to be the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium which is part of the Ocean Expo Park. So I went there the first day I arrived in Okinawa. My hotel was in downtown Naha (yes, near shady hostess bars), a bus was therefore needed to visit the aquarium. Okinawas public transport means buses everywhere. There is only one train track and it doesn’t go very far. Oh well, I didn’t mind sitting in a bus and watching the scenery for a chance instead of zooming by with the Shinkansen. I’ll just let the photos talk about the aquarium, you don’t want me to blabber about this too long. Btw, the weather suddenly turned great!

Scenery along the way to the aquarium…

Big and small fish, this aquarium has it all…

One of the largest single aquarium panel of the world…

Churaumi’s trademark posterboy whale

They had super cute mini turtles! Yay!…

Big grumpy ones too…

It’s not an aquarium if there isn’t a dolphin show :)…

They even have a garden for those who don’t like fish…

Lookout Tower!…

View from the tower, only covers the garden… This park was huge…

After this garden it was time to head back to Naha to party! There is one street in Naha that is bustling with shops, bars, restaurants and clubs. Well, I didn’t really like it there. So I quickly left after grabbing a bite. There was a small shopping passage bazaar which had many unique shops. That one was nice to make some last-minute purchases for home.

Main street and inside shopping bazaar…

At night I just went to several live music bars which were much better for my taste. From Rock’n Roll to Jazz, I had a great time in those bars. Less tourists, more locals and great music to boot.

Yes, Japanese Elvis. I didn’t understand it, but it was R&R…

The last day I spent visiting some old castle. There aren’t that many historic buildings in Okinawa that peeked my interest, so I just picked the largest one. The Shuri Castle is a World Heritage Site but sadly during WW2 almost all original parts of it were destroyed. I guess you could partly blame the Japanese for that since they made an underground HQ beneath it. Having it labelled as national treasure won’t help you from USA FIREPOWER. So yeah, shame that it was destroyed but now it is shiny red reconstructed :)

Must be hot standing in those cloths outside…

Not so difficult to see that it is reconstructed…

What do my eyes spot there?…

View from the castle…

Royal Court of Ryukyu Kingdom and some random house…

I can’t end a post without posting at least 1 girl. So there. A tea serving girl at the Shuri Castle :wink:

Maid old-style…

Yep, thats it. Time to fly back to Tokyo. In the end I should have stayed longer on both island but circumstances did not allow that. I did have a great time and experience and that matters most. I could always visit them again, they are so close to Hong Kong anyways.

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I want to close this last long post with a rather random picture. I am sorry it took a whole year to write this post, but lack of motivation kills. I hope you enjoyed everything so far and don’t be afraid to ask me personally for more stories if you’d like. I won’t post a dramatic goodbye or/and how great Japan was story now since it’s kinda useless after one year. If you actually read/watched all the posts, you know I had a great time :) So bye bye and till next time!

Sayonara!…

PS: I won’t blow up the website after this. Will try to post some interesting otaku/nerd stuff sometimes :cool:

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Enjoy the rest of the photos here.

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