Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ryukyu Mura

The last thing I had on my list of things to do with Grammie and Grandpa while they were here was to take them to Ryukyu Mura.  Of all the times on the island, we have yet to take Grammie here so this was a new experience for both of them.  Ryukyu Mura is a village-like theme park that represents all things Okinawa.  There are shows and actual homes and all the crafts and products that are unique to this island.  It really is well done and a great overview of this island all in one place.

Posing with a shisa dog, a piece of the great tug-of-war rope is in the background.

Feeding the fish - the carp go nuts and just boil in the water trying to get the food!

The Habu Snake Center was interesting, but the signs are always the funniest part.  Look out for those "short tempered" snakes!

This one is explaining the life span of a mongoose.  I have yet to see one with a cane and glasses, but I'll keep looking!

The people of Okinawa look distinctive from mainland Japanese - rounder faces, darker skin, etc.  And they are distinctive in how long they live.  Did you know that Okinawans have the most centenarians of any culture in the world? 

This beautiful lady told us she was 91 - I can't even sit like that at 41!  I can only hope I have her smile, skin and poise when I'm 91.  I was kicking myself right, left and center that I didn't have my Nikon camera with me to catch her face in better detail.

That's a sanshin, a traditional Okinawan instrument, she's playing.
This other guy was singing and playing a sanshin in traditional festival costume.

Here's Stevie and Cannon peeking over one of the wall Okinawans build in front of their entrances to keep away bad spirits.

After Dad bought 4 Okinawan donuts, we got invited into one of the houses for tea and a try at the sanshin!

Going into the mock shrine...  Look at Emmy's pose!  Don't know where she gets it.

Emmy's favorite part was the water buffalo who turns the mill that extracts the juice from the sugar cane.  The Okinawans make this juice into a delicious "black sugar" which tastes more like treacle or molasses than brown sugar.  She kept following that poor guy around and around...

Still watching the buffalo...

And what Okinawan experience is complete without a little kitschy shopping including a display of pig face?

Here Comes Santa Claus

After our busy time out at Ryukyu Mura, the kids, Grammie and I finished the day by going to the Naval Hospital Christmas Tree Lighting. 

This annual event is when they throw the switch on the hospital's Christmas decorations and kick-off the Christmas events.  It's a cute little family time with games set up by the hospital staff, entertainment by the middle school choir and band, and - of course - Santa arriving by firetruck!  (Shouldn't that be in an ambulance since it's the hospital???)

It was also the first opportunity to have a photo with Santa.  Cannon declined and Grammie got caught up in the choir's performance so they missed their photos, but London and Emmy waited in line to put in their requests.  London fretted the whole time not knowing what to ask for, but Emmy knew right away - a border collie (stuffed this year, maybe real next year???)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Yes, it's Black Friday, and my mom and I hit the stores for a little shopping.  Are we crazy?  No, because I took her to the Japanese stores where the aisles looked like this...

Now that's the way to do Black Friday!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  We had an excellent day topped by an excellent meal topped by an excellent dessert social and bonfire with all our neighbors.

Looks like Emmy already started chowing down!

Look at all those yummy desserts!

Dima, Stevie and Krimp enjoying the bonfire

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gingerbread Men

On Thursday's adventure around the south end of the island, Emmy was entertained in the back of the car for half the trip by Grandpa, the other half by Grammie.  What did they do?  Read books!  Grandpa read a riveting story about Scooby Doo and Grammie read a sweet tale about Gingerbread Baby (a Jan Brett book).  If you know anything about Jan Brett's books its that she has beautiful illustrations on each page, and since this book was talking about the Gingerbread Baby and his new friends, Mom got the idea that she and Emmy should make some too!  The book actually included a recipe that Mom copied and then on Sunday the two of them got busy mixing...

Emmy's an excellent help in the kitchen

And then that night they began baking and decorating...

We all agreed, these were the best cookies Grammie has ever baked!  It must have been all the love baked in there.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crashing waves

Sunday was a beautiful day, but WINDY.  When Dad said he wanted to take some pictures of the waves, I knew just the place.  The lighthouse at Zampa is a beautiful place to observe the waves and the awesome colors of the ocean, but when it's windy and the waves are kicked up - it's simply astounding! 

I'm not sure you can tell the scale of the waves from these photos, but Dad thought they were 30-50 foot waves!  And my favorite was when the waves broke, the water was so clear that you could see strait through the wave.  And don't you just love the ice blue color?

I was ooohing and ahhhing like when I watch fireworks!

Bracing against the wind

Those are some angry waters.

Isn't there some song about "running against the wind"?
After the lighthouse, we stopped over at the salt factory and caught a magnificent sunset.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kokusai and fish market

We had a big weekend planned to take Grandpa to Okuma resort up north, but the weather wasn't cooperating so we changed gears and headed down to Kokusai Street instead.  This is such an interesting place and the covered market part is perfect for a drizzly day.  We wondered way back into the market where it gets really Japanese-y and then ended up at some small restaurant where the menu was only in Kanji.  We managed to order some yummy soba and some stir fried vegetable dish by my limited Japanese and by pointing at what fellow diners were eating.  It turned out to be a really neat dining experience.  Of course, I forgot to take photos!

Heading into the market
 After the market we stopped by our favorite fish market and Dad found his nirvana!  He was in 7th heaven (to the point that 2 days later he asked if we could go back!)

After picking up our fish for dinner, we stopped in at the Big Dip ice cream parlor for a long-promised outing (a kind of tradition with the kids and Grammie).  Yummy beni-imo ice cream!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Emmy's International Picnic

One of the great things about preschool are the little events they get to partake in.  Emmy's preschool is partnered with a Japanese preschool and on Friday they had an "International Feast".  We were supposed to bring a dish representative of our native country.  There was all kinds of scrumptious Japanese food - sushi, noodle dishes, rice dishes, etc.  And then there was the American food - mac and cheese, chili, cold-cut tray.  But the funny thing is that the Japanese LOVE our food and go crazy for it!

Enjoying the picnic food.

Emmy and Molly

Remembering the Battle of Okinawa

After attending Cannon's awards assembly, we piled in the car and headed down south for a full day of touring.  Dad wanted to see the Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters which served, as its name suggests, as an underground headquarters for the Japanese Navy during the Battle of Okinawa. 

I've written about this before when we went with Grammie about two years ago, so I won't go into a lot of detail here, but suffice it to say that it's a very sobering venue.  I don't know what affects me the most: the marks on the concrete walls made from shrapnel of the hand grenade that was used by the commanding officers to commit suicide, the score marks in the walls and ceilings of the tunnels made by the hand picks the Okinawans and Koreans were forced to use in order to make the tunnels or the bottles of water and beer left at an impromptu alter in the tiny room allocated to the workers to rest (they slept standing up since there was no room to lay down).  The Battle of Okinawa was a nasty battle in a nasty war and the Okinawans got caught in the middle.

Going down into the tunnels

Those walls were all carved by pick axe.
From the Naval Underground, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some bento box meals and then headed down to our favorite beach for a little picnic.  The weather was threatening rain, but luckily held off until we could eat our onigiri and sushi!

Emmy and her grandpa

A rare shot of Emmy and me!
After filling our tanks, we headed on down the road to the Lacquerware Factory and then the Ryukyu Glass Factory.  Now I've been plenty of times to the glass factory since the Okinwan glass is one of my favorite things here - the bright colors and unique glasses are somewhat addicting - but the lacquerware store I had never visited.  This was Grammie's request and I was happy to comply since I knew nothing about lacquerware.  I do now!  Did you know the base to it is wood?  Did you know it takes many, many applications of lacquer to get the correct finish?  And did you know that lacquer needs high humidity to set correctly so Okinawa's average 80% humidity rate is perfect?  (Glad that humidity is good for something, because it's not great for my hair!)  It's pretty in its own way, but I have to say I'm not that taken by lacquerware.  Just my personal opinion...

Grammie touring the lacquerware factory - wow, these workers must have patience!
 The best part of this stop was the cut-out photo ops!

Finally, we headed to the Peace Prayer Park because no tour of the south end of our island would be complete without it.  This stop actually brought us back full circle to the Battle of Okinawa and the remembrance of the carnage.  This idyllic spot is dedicated to the formulation of world peace by the Okinawans.  It has many monuments, a wall of remembrance similar to the Vietnam War Memorial, a fountain of peace and magnificent views.

Emmy at the part of the wall that honors American soldiers that died.

Making a rubbing of a name.

The walk up to the fountain and cliff views.

Fountain of peace

And of course, the Japanese girls LOVE Emmy.  I turned around from observing the cliffs to see this...

... yes, that's my daughter engulfed by Japanese girls wanting to take a picture with her!