Sunday, February 19, 2012

The toilet bowl and the prayer cave

I've recently been trying to add to this blog my "email posts" made when we first got here - pre-blog format - and was rereading a post about a beautiful spot that we went to when we first got our drivers licenses:  the toilet bowl, or so it is affectionately called by the Americans.  Since we needed an adventure on Sunday (it had been a hard week for both Stevie and me), we loaded up and started driving toward the bowl.

The view of the "bowl" is a Japanese tourist destination - or at least a stop on their bus tours of the island - which consists of a trek through the parking lot full of junk vendors, a short jaunt down the path to the edge of the cliff, a quick group photo on some rusted out bleachers and then back on the bus.

We, however, chose the more scenic route.  After seeing the view from a far, I remembered reading something about a cave down a little known about road behind the a fore mentioned junk vendors.  The cave is supposed to be a holy spot for Okinawans.  Since we (meaning I) were in the mood for more of an adventure, we found the road and started driving.  About a mile long, we parked at the end of the road and found a path leading toward the sound of crashing waves, so we followed it...

And came out on this...

The bottom of the bowl - a churning mess of waves looking so beautiful, but so dangerous too.  I can only shudder to think of the danger you'd be in if you got in the water here.  Apparently, the fish must not think it's dangerous since there were surprisingly quite a few fishermen perched high atop the cliffs and even a little fishing shanty.

Heading back down the path to the road, we found a hiking path.  Hazzah!!!!  I know, it doesn't sound like a rare thing to find, but on this island it is.  I've only been looking for one since we moved here and know of only one or two other hikes on the entire island!

This was a beautiful, gentle path that made us think of being back in the States and not on Okinawa.  I think it was the pine trees and the neatly carved out trail.  Here's where the trail ended:

We got to this spot through a cave that you descended into and came out the other side.  Was this the mysterious Okinawan prayer cave we set out to find?  I'll never know, but the beautiful nature path was definitely an answer to prayer!

Fearless Emmy heading down.

Going down into the cave.

Coming out of the cave

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I received a flyer over email this week advertising a rug auction to benefit the Kadena Gift Shop and their supported charities.  I have to admit, I know nothing about rugs except what I think is pretty.  I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that - like hand-knotted, knot count, material, country of origin, age, etc. - but my knowledge before last night was knowing what was only knowing what I thought was "purdy".  So there, I've said it, I'm intimidated by rugs.

Why did I even have interest in this auction then?  Well, because every single house I've been looking at online in Washington state has hard wood floors and I'm going to need something to cover those floors!  So I asked Stevie on a date, which he happily agreed to after he saw "open bar to registered bidders" on the flyer, and off we went last night.

There were 86 rugs laid around the ballroom at the Kadena Officers Club and we felt overwhelmed.  We tried to get as well educated as we could in the 45 minutes of preview time we had, but basically just marked on our sheet which ones looked appealing.

And then the bidding started!  The auctioneer was extremely knowledgeable (and funny) and I can now say I know a whole lot more about rugs.  Which is good, because we are now the proud owner of 6 beautiful works of art that are meant to be to be trod upon!  We were continuously told throughout the night that these were investments, not just rugs, and to calm my mind I'm going to believe that.  No, really, I believe we got some incredible deals and some incredibly beautiful works of art.  Just remind me never to take Stevie to an open bar auction again! Ha, ha.

This one is from Iran and is a tribal pattern that is not often seen.  When we asked for this to go on the auction block the owner of the rugs told Stevie that he had very fine tastes in rugs!

This one is amazing!  It was done (and signed) by a master craftman and took him three years to complete.

Oodles of noodles

Saturday brought us little relief from the grayness and cooler temps that we've been having for most of the week, but that didn't stop us from getting out.  The kids all start soccer soon (pray for us coordinating THREE soccer practices and games), and Cannon seems to have an enthusiastic coach who wanted to start practices before the regular season.  He had his first practice today, but we discovered that our Exchange doesn't have soccer cleats for his size (he's growing so big!)  So after he practiced we all headed out to the Japanese sports store to find some.  Man they have some wild looking soccer cleats!  Well, they have wild looking shoes in general.  With no success at the first store, we went for lunch before pursuing our quest.

There are all types of noodle restaurants in Japan.  There are soba noodles, an Okinawan specialty which are made of buckwheat flour and usually have some sort of fatty pork belly floating around in the bowl.  Sounds gross but they're actually really good.  Then there are ramen noodles that when cooked fresh taste nothing like the little 25 cent packs you get at the grocery store.  But Cannon and my favorites are the udon.  Thick, slightly chewy strands of heaven in a bowl.

A few months back a new restaurant opened not far from our house and there were lines around the block to get in.  Peaked my curiosity.  I eventually found out that it was an udon restaurant and apparently the Japanese love this particular place because every single time I drive past, there is a line to get in.

A couple of weeks ago, Emmy and I went out for lunch and tried this place and it is good!  The noodles are all made, cut and cooked fresh while you wait.  And the tempura to go with the noodles is so scrumptious!  It's been one of our favorites - in fact she often requests we go for noodles!

Today seemed like the perfect time to introduce the guys to the place and they were just as impressed as Emmy and I.  What better on a cold, gray day than a big bowl of steaming udon covered in green onions and tempura bits?  I'm going to miss this place...

This tasted like a giant onion ring.

Stevie enjoying his bowl.

Emmy and London with their lunch.
And yes, after filling our bellies, we went on to another sporting goods store and managed to land Cannon some sweet shoes - just hope they help with his running!

Catching Up

I've been reminded lately that I haven't posted anything in almost 2 weeks so this post will be like the highlight reel...

Our neighbors, Eric and Ashley, went to Sapporo for the Ice and Snow festival so Wendell, their extra cute pug, came to stay with us.  The cats did pretty well with him (Obi doesn't seem too bothered).

What happens when you tell a 5 year old to go get dressed?  This!  Inside out maroon shirt with last year's purple, green and turquoise skirt and leopard shoes.  Good job she's cute!

A particularly beautiful sunset...

Pink scones with raspberries, must be Valentine's day!

This picture gives a new meaning to "cat nap".  Sorry the quality is bad, I didn't want to use the flash and wake her.

Even after 2 1/2 years in Japan, it still amazes me that in a major store you can still see such gross misspellings of words!  And they still make me laugh out loud.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Another Beach Sunday

I know, I know, there is an overabundance of posts on this blog about beaches.  I guess it's the hazard of living on a tropical island for 2 1/2 years.  I mean, what else do you want to do on a beautiful weekend day then go visit a beach?  And since all five of us seem to enjoy this activity, even in the winter when it's too cold to get in the water, the result is a lot of beach photos.  So if you're tired of seeing our beach walks, go ahead and Google something else or go check your email.  For the rest of you, here are some shots from our most recent beach trip!

We tried to go for a walk on one of our favorite beaches on Sunday, but when we got there we found that it must be the time of year for seaweed to wash in.  The place was covered with a plush layer of an emerald green carpet.  Mixed with the shallow low tide, it was a boggy mess that we soon abandoned with the hopes of finding a slightly more sandy beach.  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see sandy beaches across the bay, so that's where we headed (in the car, not on foot!)

We drove down the road trying to find some road or parking area and stumbled upon a small grassy parking area with what looked to be some sort of shrine behind it.  When we got out of the car, we saw the giant bell and statue perched up on a hill with the beautiful ocean behind.

Turns out this is a statue of Shinran Shonin who was a teacher of Mahayana Buddhism.  The religion seeks "worldwide peace based on the truth of coexistence".  It's particularly meaningful where this statue is located since during the Battle of Okinawa a battery of heavy guns was positioned in the same spot.   

Trying to reach that beautiful beach, Cannon spied this slightly overgrown path.  Anytime I see a path like this I think "snakes"!  And since Okinawa is home to the deadly habu, it's a valid concern...

Can't you just see a habu striking my tantalizingly tasty looking toes?

Anyways, we made it down the path (any potential snake attacks were probably warded off by the noise the kids make) and were rewarded with this view...

In one of those deliciously clear corral pools we saw this puffer fish that was trapped by the low tide...

Stevie on his private island.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I really wanted to see the cherry blossoms one last time before we leave Japan.  And since they are in bloom for such a limited time, it's not really like I can choose the time to go see them.  If we have a day off, and the weather is not rain, then I feel like we have to make the trek up to the northern part of the island (where the cherry trees are) that day.

Well, that day for us was Sunday.  Now poor Stevie was post-call with limited night sleep AND had a pulled muscle in his back that had him walking crooked, if he even walked at all, but like I said - it was now or never! So trooper that he is, we all headed out in the Golden Nugget to see the sakura.

The most popular sites for seeing the sakura are the Nakinjin castle ruins or the Nago park - both sites we've been to in previous years, and both sites that can get extremely crowded.  I wasn't looking for crowds, but I was looking for a serene day out with some blossoms to photograph so I ventured a bet on another little spot that I read about on a local website.  It's called Todokori-no-Taki (which you would have guessed had you read the title to this post).  I love the directions for getting there: turn right at the second light after getting off the expressway "into what looks something of a shanty town".  I'm not sure the local villagers would like that description of their town.  To me it looked more like a typical Okinawan village - narrow, narrow cockeyed streets with a mis-match of houses that simultaneously look like they're falling apart and bursting with life.  We wound our way to the back of this village and found a spot that seemed to meet the description.  There were cherry blossoms in the parking lot and a little trail with a sign and arrow.

We followed the path only a short way where upon we came to a bridge and a beautiful waterfall.  Todokori-no-Taki means "roar of the falls" in Japanese - although I wouldn't say these falls roared, it was still a peaceful spot to observe nature.  And although the guide posting promised the place would be "bursting with cherry blossoms", we only saw two trees.  Still, I won't complain because I enjoyed it, and the kids did too.  Stevie was trying ever so hard to enjoy it, but alas had to retire to the car to rest his back.

Cannon and I climbed up the slippery, moss covered rocks to get a better view of the falls (this would have gone better if I hadn't still been wearing my skirt and flats from church!)


So this was our cherry blossom outing for the year, sad to think there are now things that I'll be doing "for the last time" before leaving Okinawa!