Posts tagged “Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Mini Babymoon Vacation

Warning: This post is very picture heavy.

Last week, Bagpiper was on leave, so we took advantage of his days off to spend a few days in Nago (about an hour and  half north of us) and do some sight-seeing and beach bumming.

View from our hotel room.

He reserved us a few days at a hotel, and though the room was super tiny (it looked much bigger online), we weren’t in the hotel much other than to sleep, so it didn’t matter. Plus, we had a fantastic view.

The weather held beautifully the entire time we were in Nago (it’s been pretty nice all around, really). Mid-80s to Lower-90s, but with lovely ocean breezes sweeping through.

Nago. Day One.

Day one in Nago, we spent exploring. We drove around and found cute little shops and private beaches. We knew that day two would be spent at the beach and day three at the aquarium since our hotel gave us free tickets to go.

Note to self: Learn more Japanese.

So at the end of the first day, we walked into a restaurant next door to the hotel. It was the sort of restaurant where you take off your choose and sit on pillows at really low-to-the-ground tables. Unfortunately, no one in the restaurant spoke any English, and our Japanese is still limited to “Hello”, “how are you”, “excuse me” and “thank you”. The menu was written entirely in kanji, which of course, we have no idea how to read, but we made do with pictures and just sort of pointed at pictures to our waitress (who was really nice and laughed with us since we couldn’t really communicate other than pointing).

We ended up ordering small salads made of something (it was good, but I don’t know what was in it…lol), fried rice, potato wedges and pork skewers. The meal was delicious, unfortunately it wasn’t very filling. An hour later we were both hungry, so we drove up the road to the closest McDonald’s and shared a meal there.

Back at the hotel, it took us a good 20 minutes to figure out how to work the a/c and another 30 minutes for us to feel the effects of the a/c. We watched some really weird Japanese game shows on TV (still not entirely sure what it was we were watching or what the point of the game was) and watched some swimming competition.

Nago. Day Two.

Day two was pretty much spent entirely at the beach.

We drove around looking for a beach that offered fun stuff to do — Bagpiper really had his heart set on snorkeling and going on an evening cruise.

Eventually, we found ourselves at the Intercontinental Hotel. Super fancy place; it was where Bagpiper originally wanted us to stay, until the $900/night per person pricetag showed up. I don’t blame him. But, for 1,00oY we had full use of the beach and restaurants, so that’s what we did.

We rented a couple of beach chairs, Bagpiper bought a snorkeling mask and we just lounged around. Lots of fun in the sun. Day was bright and on the hot side (not nearly as hot as Texas!), but our chairs came with an umbrella, so we had plenty of shade. They offered a submarine cruise, which we really wanted to do, but their next opening was at 5pm, and we knew we didn’t want to spend all day in the same place, so we just enjoyed swimming.

Expensive hotel, but really nice beach.

It was a lot of fun, and I think going to the beach made us realize that we’re on this tropical island for the next three years. It was so surreal at times to look around and realize, “Wow. This is not a vacation. We freaking live here.” We made plans to find beaches closer to home to visit on weekends.

While at the beach, we also discovered the goodness that is taco rice. We’d heard about it before, but this was the first time we tried it. It’s basically  just white rice with all the innards of a taco dumped on top. I don’t know if it was hunger, my recent cravings for Mexican or a combination of the two, but it was really, really good.

All in all it was a really great day that left us exhausted and happy.

Nago. Day Three.

Part of the aquarium and the ocean behind it.

Our last day in Nago was spent at the aquarium. Even though we’ve already visited, our hotel gave us free tickets and there were parts of the aquarium that we didn’t get to visit the first time around.

We took our time walking around admiring all the ginormous fish tanks and we visited the shark research center. Bagpiper mentioned that the aquarium also had a beach area, so after walking around looking at fish, we walked down to the beach and did some more beach bumming.

The water was perfect and the weather was equally so. We could not have asked for a nicer day. After spending a couple of hours at the beach, we ate lunch at the aquarium buffet and had a lovely ocean view to boot.

Afterward, we drove home home and spent Friday and Saturday at home just being a bit lazy. We saw “Captain America”, Bagpiper got a haircut and we did a little shopping at the BX, since Friday we found out the big news: (of which I’m sure you’ve all heard by now)

It’s a girl!

Sunday was another busy day of sightseeing. Our landlords stopped by and took us to lunch (we ate a yummy yakiniku restaurant down the street from our house) and afterward they took us to visit Shuri Castle, the only standing castle on Okinawa.

As we first arrived, our landlords insisted that we dress up in traditional robes and get our picture taken. So, with a lot of giggling, we did.

Hello from Shuri Castle

From left to right: Girl in traditional garb, Bagpiper, Me, Sachi and Yuroshko (our landlords)

After a small uphill trek, we sat down for a show featuring traditional Okinawan dancers. This was really lovely, and I wish I had remembered to make a video clip, but I was too busy enjoying the show to remember to make a video. I did get some pictures of the dancers, however.

We watched four different kinds of traditional Okinawan dances.

The rest of the time was spent wandering inside the castle itself. I wish I had more pictures to show, but much of the castle was strictly “No camera” zones, so we didn’t get many pictures.

At one point, however, our landlords invited us to participate in a tea being held in one of the castle’s tea rooms. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical. I enjoy tea, but I know the Japanese typically drink hot tea, and it was about 92 degrees out. I didn’t fancy drinking hot tea. But they insisted, so off the shoes came and down we sat on pillows.

I was so wrong about drinking hot tea on a hot day. While it’s probably not something I will do often, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, the jasmine tea we drank was so refreshing and delicious (I drank two cups plain…I normally add lots of sugar, honey or lemon to my tea). Our tea was served with various types of Okinawan cookies — each of them really delicious.

After exploring the castle, our landlords had more surprises in store for us. They drove Bagpiper and I to a glass blowing factory — one that allowed Bagpiper to try his hand at making a glass cup!

This was a lot of fun. I had a blast watching Bagpiper learn to blow glass under the direction of a lot of finger pointing, mimicking and minimal translation from Sachi. He had a blast too, because he had a big grin on his face the entire time.

In the end, all the mimicking and translating worked out, because he made a really pretty blue and green cup that we will get in another week or so (it had to cool for 24 hours, and our landlady said she would pick it up and deliver it to us next week).

…and that was pretty much how we spent our babymoon vacation!

I know this post was really picture-heavy. Next time I’ll try to break it up into a couple of posts…

That’s all that’s new on our end, really. We’re having a little girl and I’ve starting building a registry on Babies R Us. You can search my name and Babies R Us will ship directly to me, which is why I decided to register with them — they’re one of the few places that will ship to APO/FPO addresses.

There’s a typhoon coming tomorrow evening, so I’m going to bring some stuff inside and make sure all the storm windows are shut. Then I’m going to settle down to watch some movies and do some knitting. Bagpiper has duty tonight, so I won’t see him until tomorrow morning.


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.

View of the aquarium courtyard from the entrance.

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.

I think Sachi's husband told us this boat was actually Chinese.

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

The "touch tank".

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.

You can still tell that this is a HUGE vieiwng room.

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.

Jump!

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.