This morning saw Nick and I rising early in order to have breakfast and then make our way to the airport for the next phase of our journey.
In my opinion, breakfast was a lackadaisical affair with the hotel restaurant offering both western and Japanese breakfasts and failing at both. Maybe it was that I was tired from waking up early, but I didn’t find much joy in the breakfast offering. Nick thought it was adequate, but ‘nothing to write home about’ – so I won’t waste too much too much on this.
We had a little adventure in waiting for the airport limousine (a bus with a fancy name) in that Google told us to wait further down the road then we should have. We were watching a host of local busses dock and depart and then we noticed one back further down the street. We wondered down to have a look and sure enough, it was the airport bus. We started pelting down the street to catch it and (luckily) made it. I am not sure why we panicked. We could have easily have caught the next one but then again, its no fun to worry about making your plane on time!
It was about a 40 minute drive to the airport where we checked in and went through security with no issues. We had about an hour and a half to kill once on the gate side so we had a coffee and watched the planes landing and taking off before it was time to catch our own flight.
We were flying with Solaseed Air, a Japanese low cost carrier. Nick was slightly apprehensive about the service we would recieve, but happily his worries were unfounded as we boarded on time, left on time and landed on time like clockwork. The flight was even very comfortable with enough legroom for Nick to stretch out. We had to sit next to a grumpy old Japanese business man, but other then that, there were no issues. The flight only took an hour.
Landing in Okinawa, there were still no dramas and we got to catch the handy monorail from the airport to Asato Station which took about 20 minutes. The Airbnb was only a short walk from the station, but we stopped to grab a quick lunch from the ‘Family Mart’ before checking in.
Okinawa is a bit of a ghost town at midday on a Monday. Monday is a tricky day in Japan with most attractions having a break. Originally, we had planned to have a lunch out but we couldn’t find anything. We decided that instead we would have a cheap lunch and treat ourselves to a nice dinner. Family Mart provided a more tasty lunch then our more expensive breakfast. Nick had a curry don and I had a mixed bento of rice, sushi and chicken pieces.
The Airbnb is the first private house we have hired for this trip. Its a small studio apartment which is very comfortable and I love the detailing of the doors and the living room right next to the bed. Despite the small space, it feel cosy rather then cramped though Nick thinks the bed will be too small for both of us and might sleep on the futon.
I spent the afternoon resting while Nick researched some of the day-trips we intend to take over the next few days. In the evening, we ventured out to explore the streets of Okinawa.
Rika, our leader for the Intrepid tour, described Okinawa as ‘the Hawaii of Japan’ and I can’t say that I disagree with this sentiment. Everywhere we went, there seemed to be American restaurants (American steakhouses, burger joints and more) and this area seemed to have a much more ‘Western’ feel then previous areas we have visited.
Nick explained that there are currently 54,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan with the majority of these in Okinawa. This could account for the relatively high degree of ‘Americanism’ we are seeing here.
While out, we explored Heiwa-dori – a famous shopping arcade in the area. This market felt very tourist-y with mostly t-shirts, jewellery and other such things on sale. However, many stalls were closed (Monday) so it might be more interesting on other days of the week.
After a time, we started to feel hungry so started to head home for a Yakiniku restaurant which was handily across the road to our Airbnb location. Kataya Sakaecho Yakiniku.
Yakiniku literally translated means ‘grilled meat’. It is very similar to Korean BBQ and is, as we found, amazingly fun and delicious. Interactive dining, the food is delivered raw to the table and you then cook it on an electric grill which handily has a fume-hood as well.
The staff didn’t speak any English, but once again, with many smiles and ‘sure, we will try that!’ repeated a few times, we had an absolute feast of foods. Our waitress was a lovely giggling thing and we both ended up laughing from our poor Japanese and our ready acceptance to anything she suggested from the menu. From the normal chicken, pork, steak to the slightly more adventurous squid and tongue, we tried most of what was on offer. Some of the meats came pre-marinaded, whilst others seemed to have nothing besides a little seasoning. For most meats, you first cook them on the grill and then dip them into a sauce at the table before eating it. Others were tasty and tender enough to eat without the sauce. Overall, its one of the most interesting and exciting meals we have had here.
There were flames literally leaping from the grill for the fattier meats we tried. It was exhilarating!
This was certainly Nick’s time to shine – as he is a BBQ genius, he made sure nothing was burned or overdone. It was sensational. Aside from the meat, we had unlimited servings of salad, kimchi, and rice which we partook of liberally.
At one point, the waitress brought out some ice blocks to lay on the grill to cool it down slightly. It was pretty interesting! I had no idea what she was doing at first – I thought it was ice for our drinks maybe, ha ha.
After the meal, we waltzed across the street back to the Airbnb (literally, right across the road from the restaurant) to collapse into a food coma before tackling the day tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s plan: Tokashiki Island!
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