Posts tagged “Okinawa Prefecture

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.

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Settling in…finally.

Yikes! It’s been almost a full month since I’ve updated here.

The excuse I’m going to use is that our furniture finally came in and I’ve been unpacking. The other half of that is that I’ve just been a little on the lazy side.

The furniture is mostly put away, with the exception of some stuff in the crafty room/nursery. We still have the loan furniture, so downstairs is crowded, but surprisingly, we still have plenty of space to move around.

Otherwise, there’s really not much new to update about. Bagpiper has been working a lot so we still haven’t had much of a chance to go exploring. He’s currently in Thailand with a few guys in the band doing sound for gigs. And with the exception of a few weird sightings, he seems to be enjoying himself. He won’t be back until the 10th, which is just in time for my second prenatal visit and the premier of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Afterward, he’s off again, this time to Guam for about a week. Then he’s home in time for my third prenatal visit — the one that will tell us if we’re having a little boy or a little girl — and then he gets a week of leave, which will probably when we finally get to do some exploring around the island. I’m really hoping to go to the beach. I’ve been hear almost three months and I haven’t gone to the beach yet!

The other big news is that my mother-in-law is getting all the paperwork straightened out to get Sushi out here. It’s looking more and more like she (and the dog) will be out here around mid-July. I think this is right around the time Bagpiper leaves for Guam, so I’m hoping to get the courage together to get my license so I can drive her around while she visits. Driving on the left side of the road still has me a little scared though, so we’ll see. I know eventually I will want to drive, but right now I’m just not ready for it.

The pregnancy is going good. I just entered week 16. All the morning sickness symptoms are long since gone and now all I want to do is eat. Specifically, all I want to eat are chicken pot pies. I can’t get enough of them!

Well, that’s really all that’s going on. Now that we’re more settled, I’m sure I’ll be updating more (and posting more pictures). Tomorrow I’m going to a BBQ with one of the other wives whose husband is also in Thailand. So it’ll be nice to get out of the house and mingle with real people for the first time in the past week, lol.

Take care and have a wonderful July 4th weekend!


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.


Exploring Okinawa: Home Sweet Home, Cafe M and high-tech toilets.

Yesterday, the Bagpiper and I did a little exploring off base.

First we took care of “important stuff”, like getting internet set up for the new house (bonus, we get a US IP address, which  means I will have access to Netflix instant streaming!), and setting up how we’ll pay all the bills. We stopped at a convenience store (Family Mart — these places are everywhere) and I bought some of the most succulent strawberries evah. Too bad the cup only came with about four, these where some seriously good strawberries.

Then Bagpiper took me to see the house, which is more amazing and beautiful in person than in the pictures. I kind of went picture happy inside the house, snapping pictures of every nook and cranny in each room. Rather than bombard this post with tons of pictures, I used Picnik to make a pretty little collage…

Still can't believe this is our new home!

There is a bad thing about the house, the oven is SUPER SUPER tiny. Like, I’m not even sure what one would possibly cook in there, cause anything I’ve ever put in an oven requires much more space than the Japanese oven in the house. It’s definitely going to take some creative experimenting to bake goodies in that kitchen. But one really exciting/nerdy awesome thing about the house? It has a cupboard under the stairs. Like in Harry Potter. Bwahaha! So after seeing the house and imagining what it would look like with furniture (and also wondering how I would set up the nursery), Bagpiper and I walked around the corner and found a hold-in-the-wall place to eat called Cafe M.

Cafe M was really quaint. There were shelves and shelves of all sorts of manga and the tables were actually video games. The menu was in Japanese, so neither of us could read it, but the cook spoke English and he broke down the lunch menu for us. We opted for “Lunch A” which was some type of pork with veggies and wrapped in fried deliciousness. Lunch also came with a bowl of steamed rice, a bowl of soup, two types of noodles, an egg roll, a piece of sweet chicken and a cabbage salad.

The entire meal was delicious beyond deliciousness. Hole-in-the-wall places are almost always good, and I’m so glad we found this place and that it’s literally right around the corner from our house. It’s definitely going to be a favorite spot. We also got some very refreshing iced tea. I have no idea what type of tea it was, but it was really good. They gave us a small (very small) pot with a sweetner (it looked like sugar water, but more syrupy), and at first we didn’t know what it was for, but watching the other people around us we were able to figure out that it was to sweeten the tea. ^_^v

I had taken a picture of lunch, but I took it with my phone, and it doesn’t have a data plan so I can’t email it to myself. -_- Never fear, I’m sure I’ll have food pictures soon enough!

After lunch we used the restroom in the cafe. Who knew that this would become a mini adventure in itself! Even though the toilet was a little weird, I was able to figure it out no problem. Bagpiper on the other hand…

…well, afterward, I asked him what took him so long and he explained that he had no idea what the buttons on the side of the toilet were for. Basically, he discovered the bidet settings. He said he felt violated….but then he admitted to doing it twice! LOL I mean, I thought the pictures on the controls were pretty self-explanatory:

..at least we didn't have to squat!

Anyway, that was our day. Monday we will move into the house and Tuesday we will get some borrowed furniture to use until our stuff arrives. The only bad thing I can see in the near future is that it’s going to take a week to get internet set up. Boo.


Konnichiwa!

Konnichiwa!

I’m safe and sound in Okinawa, Japan! After two layovers and about 22 hours in the air, I landed in Okinawa around 10:30pm Wednesday (8:30am Wednesday in Texas). Bagpiper picked me up at the airport (he hitched a ride from a fellow bandsmen and his wife) and they drove us to the hotel on base.

We’ll be in the hotel for the rest of the week and then we’ll move into our off-base house. And in case you haven’t seen a picture of our house…

I'm not even joking. This is seriously our new home.

It’s a two-story Japanese-style home. Two bedrooms, an office and 1.5 bathrooms. Oh, and it’s about 25 yards away from the beach. How amazing is that? We get to move in on Monday, but the Bagpiper is going to try to take me to see the house this weekend.

Meanwhile, I have a lovely view of Camp Foster from my hotel window:

View from hotel room window.

I have not done any official site seeing yet. I got in too late last night, and frankly, after all those hours on airplanes, all I wanted to do was lay down comfortably in a bed and sleep next to my hubby. So far, I have not really experienced any  jet-lag. I’m now 14 hours ahead of CST, but I’m glad I got in so late last night, because (hopefully) it will help me adjust to the time difference.

That’s all I have to report now, expect more updates and pictures soon!


Less than two weeks to go!

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Bagpiper left for Japan. We talk regularly on Skype and on the phone (thank God for international plans!) and he’s doing really well out there.

He says it’s gorgeous; I can’t wait until I’m there to share it with him.

Surprisingly, the Bagpiper didn’t have much jet lag, even though there is a 14 hour time difference. He said he slept the first day, but after that he was good. I think this is partially because he’s anxious to get everything set up before I get there. Speaking of which…

…my flight is reserved for May 17! That’s less than two weeks away!

I’ll fly to Minneapolis first, then Tokyo and arrive in Okinawa late on May 18. It’ll be a lot of time flying, but I’m excited. I plan on filling my eReader with plenty of books so that I have lots of choices to read. I also have some knitting, so I can knit some baby bibs on the plane too.

I’m entering my 8th week (I think), and the nausea comes and goes, but overall I’m doing well. I’m sleepy a lot, so I’m taking a bunch of naps. Once I’m in Okinawa, I’ll make my first prenatal appointment and find out exactly how far along am and all that stuff. I just don’t want to start in Texas and then switch doctors in Japan. To me, it makes more sense to wait an extra week.

I also haven’t begun to practice Japanese. I’m waiting until after Monday — after I take my French final. Then I’ll start studying Japanese. It’s too much work to try to learn two languages at the same time.

Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot going on. Just waiting….and time is going soo slowly.

I’m ready to be with my husband.


Update…

I just received a message from the Bagpiper.

He’s just landed safely in Tokyo. He got to watch “Deathly Hallows” on the plane and said it made him think of me, lol. He’s got an hour layover and then will take his last connecting flight (about two or three hours) to Okinawa.

He said he tried to call, but that dialing internationally was confusing and he was too tired to keep trying to figure it out. Once he’s in Okinawa he said he’ll try to Skype me, but it might not be until tomorrow (Friday for me, Saturday for him).

Current time in Japan is about 9am Friday. He’s in the future!

🙂