The second and last stop of my cruise was Naha, Okinawa. Our plan was to visit a cool castle and then visit a special street for shopping!
The first place we visited was Tama-u-dun, the mausoleum of the 2nd Sho Dynasty. Essentially that means that’s where kings and queens and royal people were prepared to be buried. At the visitors’ centre was a little exhibit which had some cool pictures and a model of the mausoleum, but the real star of the show was obviously the actual building itself. But you can’t go inside. There was a tiny little house beside the mausoleum, but it was closed due to rain.
The major point in our day trip was a visit to Shurijo Castle Park, which Tama-u-dun is actually a part of, but is on the other side of the street which is why we visited it first.
At the park, you can choose to fill out a piece of paper by stamping it with the stamps that are placed all around the park! I just stamped the stamps in my travel journal that I bring with me on all my vacations. I love this stamping idea because: 1) it’s engaging, and 2) it reminds me of when I was a small and silly girl stamping my way through America’s national parks!
We walked through several gates which all looked quite similar to each other. I learned that a lot of Ryukyu (the tiny, southwestern islands of Japan) culture was largely based on Chinese influences, while the Japanese side of things showed itself in the details.
When we entered the actual castle building, we were told to take off our shoes (presumably to keep things clean!). Unfortunately, my shoes were soaked through due to the rain so it was kind of disgusting. Once my feet dried though, it felt REALLY nice! Walking through the building, I learned about and saw where the king and queen, as well as their aides, worked and lived. I also got to see the classic bamboo walls and tatami mats. It was just as I’d imagined Japan to be!
After touring the castle, we walked through town, and it was really cool to see how the locals live! Japanese cars are small and cute and boxy and the streets are very narrow, so there are mirrors on some street corners because otherwise it’d be impossible to see! There were also cool streetlights.
We had a short break for lunch, then went to the monorail station because my dad loves transportation! I had a tiny kerfuffle when it came time to go through the gate; my ticket wasn’t working and I screamed so loudly for help in English thus exposing my status as confused foreigner. It wasn’t my brightest moment. A very kind ticket attendant helped me through though, and everything sorted itself out in the end! We also took the monorail at the same time that school let out, so there were kids in uniform riding the monorail with us. I was basically in an anime show.
We took the train to Kosukai Street, apparently famous for souvenir shops. It was pretty overwhelming/overstimulating, what with the colourful products and flashing lights shining in our faces. There wasn’t much to buy, just random pouches. dried foods/cute snacks, and little lion statues. We tried to look for souvenirs, but not many things said “Okinawa” or even “Japan” on them! We also turned into Heiwa-Dori Street, which is basically just a covered version of the same thing.
I feel like now is a good time to highlight my parents’ travel savvy – they hailed a taxi quite easily and my dad even figured out a communication system with our driver (since none of us speak Japanese). Since written Japanese borrows a lot of characters from Chinese, my dad would write things down in Chinese, the taxi driver would nod enthusiastically, write some stuff of his own, my dad would nod in agreement, and we would be on our way! Honestly, I’d be such a mess if I ever went to Asia on my own. I am thankful for my parents!
P.S. A post on my exciting lunch in Okinawa is coming soon!