I am nomad. Hear me roar.


Friday, 22 October 2010

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Aka Jima

The 'scattered showers' that were forecasted in the weather report for this week have coincided with my trip to the island of Aka Jima. This meant that when I embarked on my journey to Tomari Port this morning, it was drizzling and when my ferry left the port it was in rougher than expected seas. Not that either of these things concerned me in the slightest, I've never been one for getting seasick, and I'm definitely not adverse to walking in the rain.

I arrived on the island without mishap, to find an unexpected shuttle from my hotel waiting for me, which whisked me away to check in. Having dumped the bulk of my gear, I set out to explore the island, and find out if it is even possible to get lost on an isle that has a diameter of only 2km.

As it turns out, it is not. The island has clear roads headed to each destination, and any thought of bush bashing is quickly silenced by the absolutely impassable dense tropical foliage. Now when I say 'impassable' this is not entirely true, if you had a machete and a couple of hours you might make a few feet of progress, but for all intents and purposes it is practically impassable. Not to mention the snakes in jars that I saw whilst souvenir shopping the other day were more than enough to deter me from any kind of 'placing feet where you can't see' behaviour. This generally comes under the same heading as 'poking things that aught not be poked' a desire which growing up in Australia completely cures you of.

I hiked up to a couple of Aka's lookouts, to admire the view which remains gorgeous even in this grey and ominous weather, then trotted down to the deserted public beaches, stumbling across some of the island's fauna on the way. Gecko-like lizards, deer and hermit crabs the size of my fist, one of which was bright purple, all inhabit Aka.

Not wishing to miss my hotel's barbecue dinner, I turned and strolled back, greatly anticipating the 'hot' rather than 'scattered' shower that awaited me there.

Tomari Port

Desperately Seeking Goya

I happened upon a Okinawan restaurant, offering a live show at about dinnertime today, so despite the fact that I was headed somewhere completely different I went in. I'm very glad I did, not only did I find the live traditional Okinawan music fun and engaging but I also found a pork hot pot that was to die for. Boiled pork pieces with nori and tofu, in a bacon broth that was exquisite, despite being decidedly full at the end of my meal I was still disappointed to discover the bowl was empty. Still I sat, soaking in the sounds of the Okinawan three-piece band, still chomping on the other highlight f my meal, which was finally finding a Goya dish I enjoy.

Goya is a vegetable, or a fruit, I'm not entirely certain which, which is found in Okinawa. They call it a bitter melon when it is translated, but it's unlike any melon I have ever had. It looks like a cucumber that has contracted acne or some horrible skin disease causing it to grow lumps all over the outside of it. It tastes more sour than bitter, and it is available everywhere, and I mean everywhere in Naha, if not in actually food form then in some kind of souvenir. Hello Kitty and Monchichi's dressed up as Goya, Goya-zilla T-shirts, and my personal favourite, Goya shaped benches lining the streets. I have spent the last couple of days trying to figure out what all the fuss was about.

My first Goya experience was a Goya Hotdog from Mos Burger, and I must admit I didn't really expect much of this one before I tried it. It wasn't good.

Not to be deterred, and knowing there had to be more to this Goya thing, I kept exploring the world of Goya. I tried Goya icecream, which was an interesting experience. I tried Goya omelette, which was starting to move in the right direction. But tonight, tonight when I had all but given up, I ordered the Goya salad at the Okinawan restaurant. Winner. Finally I understand the preoccupation with this funny looking green thing. It was served raw with a vinegar and chilli dressing, the sour crunch of the bitter melon, offsetting the sweet rice vinegar, with just a hint of heat from the chillies was delicious.

I was so impressed that later that week I bought the T-shirt.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

For Sale

Doctor Fish

As of today I can now cross 'Have feet eaten by Doctor Fish ' off my Bucket List. It's been on the list for a while now but until today I never really had the opportunity to remedy it.

So today when I was walking down the main street of Naha, and I spied a souvenir shop with a shallow tank in front advertising 10 minutes for 500 yen, I jumped at the opportunity. It is the oddest sensation to have the tiny little fish chow down on the dead skin cells all over the surface of your feet, in fact, it is revolting if you think too hard about it. I mean really, they are eating little dead bits of you, right from off your own body. If you think too hard about it, you want to rip your limbs from the tank and run screaming for the hills.

Good thing I've never really been much of a thinker, and if results are what you are after these little fish are a winner. Even after only 10 minutes there is a notable difference to my tired old, travel worn tootsies. Granted they are not perfectly exfoliated however had I given the piscean marvels another ten or twenty minutes I'd bet they would have been. Definitely an experience worth having.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Shurijo Castle Park

Beach Hair

I have salty beach hair.

I have the kind of salty beach hair that some women spend hundreds of dollars on product to achieve and still don't come close. It usually takes a weekend in Forster for me to obtain this bedhead beachy look, turns out a couple of days in Naha will have the same effect.

It's making me homesick.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Day 2

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is playing in the background. Not just the song but what sounds like the whole album, and maybe more. If there is one thing I think the whole world can agree on, I think it's The Beatles. They're just so cruise-y, iconic and versatile. I really do believe they have a song for everyone. This is my solution to all the worlds ills, my contribution to the quest for world peace. Beatles songs. Beatles songs and Okinawan food. I have just been enjoying my own cute, personal, miniature, barbecue in a great little restaurant on the main drag. I grilled my own pork at the table accompanied by miso soup, side salad, and big bowl of fluffy white rice, I feel quite at peace with the world.

I have already done everything I had planned for the day, once again I have been setting myself easily completed tasks in order to increase my sense of achievement throughout my holiday.

Today my tasks were, to go for a swim, which I did first thing this morning, in fact both my cossie and hair are still slightly damp. Stroll down the main street and locate both the local markets and the tourist information centre. I found the markets first and spent a couple of hours poking about all the vibrant stalls, stopping whenever curiosity demanded so. Having exhausted the markets, I pulled out my map and found I was only a block away from the TIC, where I found a funny little old guy who gave me loads of great advice on where to go this week. I won't tell you what he said, it'll ruin the surprise. With that done, I had completed my whole itinerary, and it is only 2pm. Success.

Around Naha

Naminoue Beach

I know I had plans for this afternoon.

Earlier I did manage to locate the train station, turns out it was actually a monorail. The directions said 'train' the signs said 'monorail', hence the confusion. Not that it matters now, in fact I'm having trouble worrying about anything right now.

The second you step off the plane at Naha, you know Okinawa is a bit different, just a completely different pace to the rest of Japan. The whole inside of the airport is completely decked with orchids, right from the start Okinawa just smells different. It's wonderful.

Alighting from the train later, when I was headed for the hostel, I left the air conditioning to be enveloped in a very soft breeze, carrying with it a subtle hint of the sea. Just enough to entice.

I found my hostel, with the assistance of a very helpful cabbie who had stopped in hope of a fare, but who was happy to tell me my destination was just around the next corner. The Base is a decrepit baby pink building which has been decorated in that typical hippie, surfer, stoner chic that is common beach culture world wide. It's well worn, pre-loved but despite this it is very clean and comfortable. It is perfect. I set up my stuff, and refreshed after a nanna nap, headed out to explore.

I know I had plans of where I was headed, I found the beach like I was drawn to it. Like that subtle scent I had caught earlier had taken root and dragged me here.

I pulled off my shoes, curled my toes in the cool sand, and suddenly I have no idea what else I was doing. I bee-lined to the edge of the grey green surf, let it lap over my fatigued footsies, and suddenly the cares of the world just don't seem to exist.

I know I had plans.

Destination Naha

I struck out before dawn this morning. There is a bus that goes straight from the Guch to the airport, but even it didn't leave early enough for me today. So I train hopped my way to the airport, in order to catch my 8am flight.

When I arrived, I had some difficulty checking in using the automatic kiosk, so I proceeded to the desk only to have the lovely lady there inform me that my flight had been booked for yesterday. Feel free to have a bit of a chuckle at me at this point.

Luckily the very lovely lady at the check in desk was able to change my flight over, without me having to buy a whole new ticket, just an amendment fee, and so paying for my own stupidity, I did the dash to the gate and almost immediately boarded my plane.

Now Japan specialises in space efficiency. This is a fairly commonly known fact. Til today I never understood the real reason for this. True, Japan has a very large population compared to it's land area, but this is not reason enough for the extreme cosiness of living here. On top of this the majority of Japan is uninhabitable. I never truly appreciated this until today. From the air, Japan is spectacular and it is clear from the myriad of tightly packed, compact cities, separated by vast stretches of visibly steep mountains, how small the livable areas really are. I spent most of my two hour flight just gazing down at the amazing countryside below, until I could make out the roads, and slowly the cars on the streets. The mountains gave way to scattered islands, the ocean cataloguing its depth with a colour code, indigo so deep it is almost violet for the depths, turquoise and soft greens for the shallows clearly outlining the reefs below the surface. Bright white streaks mark the journey of the boats zipping along the waves. Finally I can make out individual people as we begin to land. Welcome to Naha.

I have not made it out of the airport yet, I couldn't immediately find the location of the trains, so I decided ramen was a higher priority. I will shortly finish my lunch, then direct my entire attention to locating the tourist information centre followed by the trains and my hostel, which unlike my flight I actually managed to book for the right day.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Packing once more

In order to offset my travel time, I've been pulling long days at work. All work and no play makes LGL, a little more dull than lost. But it is a means to an end, and tonight you find me packing once more, this time just the Mini Turtle, in preparation for tomorrow morning's early flight to Okinawa. Where I will, weather permitting, be spending an entire week basking on the beach. I can't wait.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Host Boys - Episode 1

My housemates out of curiosity and dire financial circumstances have decided to become Host Boys. "We need money..." said Ink "we will have to sell our bodies to science, and by 'science', I mean Japanese women".

Now, the role of Host or Hostess are strange professions in Japan, they are essentially modern day Geisha, entertainers that lure cash for drinks and snacks from the customers pockets, escorts paid for their company and lively flirtatious conversation. But, there is also a much darker side to the job description, with its links to alcoholism, prostitution, and there are documented cases where paid dates went wrong resulting in rape and murder. There is a thick line in many shades of grey between bar wench and hooker, this is where the Host Boys dwell.

This all began a couple of weeks ago when the Magnet actually had an interview, or perhaps audition is a better word, for a position as a Host Boy. He returned home that day with tales of secret entrances to basement venues, rooms viewed through mirrored glass windows by seedy old men, and a drinking test starting with wheat grass to see just how much his stomach could take. The boys intend to return shortly to secure themselves places in this underground realm, I'm not sure where this will all lead, if anywhere, but I have been asked to chronicle their escapades. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of 'Host Boys'.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Osamu Tezuka Museum

Yesterday, to celebrate my Japan-niversary, I went to the Osamu Tezuka Museum. A museum dedicated solely to the creator of Astro Boy. I was pretty excited to go when I heard about it, as I'm a big fan of his work after having seen an exhibition of his art at the Gallery of NSW in Sydney a couple of years ago. The exhibition in Sydney was spectacular as it was composed of a large selection of the artists original sketches and paintings. As such, I was expecting something similar from the museum. I was, I have to admit, a bit disappointed. It came across as being a touch too commercial, and did not contain much of his original work. I think maybe I might have appreciated it more if I had had children with me.

Having said that though, I did see a very charming short anime, by Osamu, which was dialogue free, allowing the pictures and score to tell the story beautifully. It was a simple boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy has magic chalk and creates a dream-like world saving himself from his own poverty and the girl from her own reality. You know how it goes.