Japanese cuisine, table manners and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Yesterday (Sunday for me, Saturday for the US), our landlady, Sachi, and her husband (whose name I can pronounce, but not spell) took us out to explore Okinawa.
Originally, the Bagpiper and I thought we were just being treated to a meal (which was perfectly fine with us), so we were very pleasantly surprised when Sachi and her husband told us that they were treating us to lunch, a visit to the largest aquarium in Japan and dinner!
Lunch was about five minutes away from the house, at the local fish market. I was a bit skeptical, because I’m not a big fish eater. But, I was going to be polite and at least try something new. Sachi translated the menu for us, and asked me if I liked lobster. Lobster is one of the only types of seafood I do enjoy, so I told her I did and she told me to order the lobster. Sachi and I ordered lobster and Bagpiper and her husband ordered mackerel.
The meal came with raw tuna, which I tried and liked, but didn’t want to eat all of it since I’m not supposed to be eating sushi/sashimi while pregnant. The lobster was so good and had some orange sauce that was great, but I have no idea what kind of sauce it was. The meal also came with steamed rice and fish soup. While I tried the fish soup, I didn’t like it. Bleh.
The Bagpiper’s meal was the same, only with a giant mackerel instead of lobster. He said it was really good, but he wasn’t used to eating a fish with so many little bones. But Sachi’s husband showed him how, and after a few attempts fumbling with chopsticks, they got him a fork. Sachi also taught us a little bit about Japanese customs at meal time, like how to take soup (they don’t use spoons, they just sip it from the bowl), mixing wasabi with soy sauce for the sashimi (raw tuna –I used soy sauce, but I stayed away from the wasabi) and they taught us what to say before/after a meal.
Before the meal: itadakimasu (ee-tah-dah-kee-mas), which means something like “I gratefully receive this meal.”
After the meal: gochisosama (go-chee-so-sama), which means “Thank you for the meal.”
After lunch, we drove for about an hour and a half to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which according to Sachi is the largest aquarium in all of Japan. It was definitely huge, and even though we spent all day there, we probably only saw about a third of the park.
We saw the planetarium and took a small show. It was all in Japanese, but I was able to figure out (through pictures) that the story was about Chiron. After that show we looked at the boat/sea artifact exhibit.
Then we wandered over to the aquarium area and looked at tons of fish. Sorry to say, but the Dallas Aquarium has nothing on the Okinawa Aquarium. Nothing. LOL
We also got to gaze at fish, shark and rays in the largest viewing room I have ever seen in an aquarium (granted, the only other aquarium I’ve been to is the one in Dallas). The viewing glass was floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall. We’re talking at least 20ft high and 30ft wide. I wish I could have gotten a better picture of the scope of this thing, but it was too dim to get a really good picture.
After sitting in the viewing room for a few minutes to rest and enjoy the a/c, we saw the manatee exhibit, the sea turtle exhibit and then we took in a dolphin show! I’ve never seen a dolphin show outside of Sea World San Antonio, so this was a lot of fun for me. The back drop of the dolphin show is the ocean, so it was gorgeous to watch these creatures jump in the air with the full ocean view behind them.
They did a lot of tricks, and I think the narrator was explaining stuff about the dolphins and the handlers, but of course, it was all in Japanese, so Bagpiper and I just enjoyed the show. At one point, the handlers made the dolphins sing which was really cute — though after a minute or so the noise was a little annoying.
The really nice thing about this aquarium, is that it’s right on the coast. So even though it was hot and humid, we had a lovely sea breeze keeping us fairly cool most of the day. All in all we spent about five hours at the aquarium and then we had an hour ride back, and Sachi and her husband took us to a really nice buffet dinner at a fancy looking hotel.
We got to know one another better over dinner, and because dinner was buffet-style, I didn’t have to worry about ordering something I wasn’t comfortable with eating. I had some chicken, vegetable stir fry, salad, fruit, soup and dessert. So our “lunch” turned into an all day affair, but it was definitely worth it. Not only did we get to see a whole lot more of Okinawa and learn a little bit of the customs at meal time, but we got to get to know our super nice/friendly landlords.
They even mentioned that in a month or two they’d like to take us out again, so I think that sometime while we’re here Bagpiper and I will have to treat them to a meal or get them a gift for being so hospitable and welcoming.
By the way, the rest of the pictures of the aquarium can be seen HERE.