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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Okinawa Getaway: Day 7 7月1日

This was the day I bade farewell to the island of Ishigaki 石垣島 after having stayed there five days. As my flight to Naha 那覇 wasn’t due to depart until 11am, and with Ishigaki Airport 石垣空港 being just a twenty-minute bus ride from the downtown area, I had some time for a final walk around.

This sign on the wall of the covered shopping arcade expresses the residents’ thanks to the Taiwanese people for the support they gave to the Japanese in their time of recent crises.



The public market.



Proof that T’áiwān 台灣 isn’t very far away. I was headed in the opposite direction, however.


A last look at the city of Ishigaki 石垣市 from the window of my Japan Transocean Air (JTA) 日本トランスオーシャン航空 flight to Naha Airport 那覇空港.


It was a short flight from Ishigaki to Naha (just 55 minutes), and as it was lunchtime when we landed, I sought out a restaurant in the domestic terminal building, and sat down to yet another soba 蕎麦 meal. This time I had Sōki Soba ソーキそば, thick white noodles with pork spare ribs (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soki).


After lunch, I rode the Yui Rail ゆいレール monorail line to Asahibashi Station 旭橋駅, the closest station to my hotel, the Tōyoko Inn 東横イン那覇旭橋駅前 (www.toyoko-inn.com/e_hotel/00076/index.html), where I had stayed my first night in Okinawa 沖縄. It was too early to go up to my room, but I was able to register and leave my bag with the front desk, and then set out to see Naha’s most well-known area (at least for domestic tourists), Kokusai-dōri 国際通り.

Kokusai-dōri (“International Street”) is a 2-kilometer (1.2 miles) long road lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. It’s busy most of the day, but especially comes alive in the early evening, when the sidewalks are teeming with Japanese families, young friends traveling together, foreign visitors and American Marines on leave from one of their many bases on the island. The entrance to Kokusai-dōri was just a short walk from my hotel, but I elected to begin my exploration at the opposite end, so I rode the monorail three stops to Makishi Station 牧志駅, and started from there.

It wasn’t long before I came to the entrance to the Heiwa-dōri 平和通りcovered shopping arcade. This street, and the adjoining Ichibahon-dōri 市場本通り, both evoke images of a Japan that is in danger of dying out in the modern era, as the country grows more and more suburbanized. There was a time not long ago when most people would take the train or bus to their local downtown areas, and do their shopping from small mom-and-pop stores in the covered arcades. Now, however, large shopping centers built on the outskirts of urban areas are drawing the customers away, and all over Japan you can the sight of shuttered stores in these once-shriving districts. All seemed well in Naha, however, no doubt as a result of the thriving tourist trade.



Halfway down Ichibahon-dōri is the Dai-ichi Kōsetsu Makishi Ichiba 第一公設牧志市場, a two-story market with seafood, fruit and vegetable and household goods stalls on the first floor, and a number of small restaurants upstairs specializing in fresh seafood. The foods on sale here would not seem out of place in T’áiwān, but here in Japan it all seems very exotic. I decided to come here later for dinner.




Leaving the arcade, I returned to Heiwa-dōri, and then followed the arcade to its end, going away from Kokusai-dōri. Where it ended, the Tsuboya 壺屋 pottery district began. My Rough Guide book states that this area has been the center of local ceramics production since 1682, though none of the current buildings there date from anywhere close to that time. Though I don’t have a particular interest in ceramics, I was still surprised (and disappointed) to discover the Tsuboya Pottery Museum 壺屋焼物博物館 to be closed in the middle of a Friday afternoon at the beginning of the summer vacation season. However, there is a traditional climbing kiln on an embankment next to the museum that can be seen at any time. My guidebook says this kiln dates from the 1880’s, but according to a sign in front, it was actually erected in the 1680’s.



These days, many of the shops in the Tsuboya area specialize in the production and sale of Shīsā シーサー guardian lions.



At the end of Tsuboya-yachimun- dōri 壺屋やちむん通り, I turned left and made my back to Makishi Station, and returned by monorail to my hotel, where my room was now ready.


The view from my hotel room. That’s Asahibashi Station in the upper-left part of the photo.


After resting for a bit, I was getting hungry, so once again I rode the monorail to Makishi Station, and returned to Kokusai-dōri, and, eventually, the Dai-ichi Kōsetsu Makishi Ichiba market. At one of the restaurants on the second floor, I sat down to a plate of fresh sashimi 刺身, which along with the accompanying bowls of soup and rice, was pretty good value at ¥1200 ($14.75/NT425).


After dinner, I spent the remainder of the evening walking west along Kokusai-dōri, in the direction of the Tōyoko Inn. I spent some time browsing in some of the stores, and picked up some souvenirs for myself (namely a very cool Okinawan-style shirt-sleeved shirt) and my daughter. Most of all, I enjoyed watching all the people going back and forth. Despite all the activity, the vibe was, well, fairly mellow, at least in comparison to similar scenes in T’áiwān.





Relaxing with my buddy, Joe Yabuki 矢吹丈, star of the boxing manga 漫画 and anime series アニメ “Ashita no Joe” あしたのジョー, while drinking a cup of shīkwāsā juice シーくぁーサージュース (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citrus_depressa)


Haisai ojisan ハイサイおじさん - Shoukichi Kina 喜納昌吉 


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