Last night, we disembarked our plane onto a hot, humid tarmac way past dinnertime. This is one of the things that always makes me think of Asia. Yes, we are on the road again, and this weekend, we are visiting the Kingdom of Ryukyu, which is better known to the greater world as Okinawa. Okinawa is similar in some ways to Taiwan, being just a hop, skip, and 90-something minute flight away, but it’s also, as we are finding out, a distinct place all its own, even different from Japan.
We are staying in an Airbnb in Naha City, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, and the biggest city on the island. Okinawa itself is known as 沖縄, which means “rope in the sea”, as it is a long, thin island, with Naha City at its most densely settled bottom section. Other than being here just for a visa run (those pesky 90 day limitations on staying in Taiwan…), we figured it was a good time to get reacquainted with Japan and something new.
This morning, first up was my renewed appreciation of FamilyMart, which is bigger here than 7-11 as far as convenience stores go. Other than getting breakfast, I was hoping really hard that someone there had a pin which could trigger the SIM card holder on my smartphone. I needed badly to switch my Taiwanese SIM with my US T-Mobile SIM so I could have slow, albeit real data access here in Japan. Our smiling FamilyMart cashier rang up our breakfast rice snacks, was quite confused at my request initially (the language barrier not being the only problem), and then lit up with understanding, and promptly unpinned the nametag that she wore on her shirt. It was perfect for our uses, and in a trice had my SIM card slot popped out so I could switch it. We profusely thanked her (arigato being one of two Japanese words we know), and emerged triumphant to start our day. Continue reading Evening in Okinawa.→
I smell faintly of sulfur, which makes me intensely happy. It is because I’ve fulfilled one of my World Tour bucket list goals already: visit a Japanese onsen. Well, it was technically a sento, which is a public bathhouse. Onsen are baths that are fed by hot springs. Both are intensely awesome, and I’m so glad that I got to visit one in Japan.
I thought typhoons were like a cooler version of hurricanes. Of course they’re actually just as annoying and miserable. Today we got caught in Typhoon #18, which means a lot of rain, some wind, supposed train delays (but not really), and more rain. We said goodbye to Tokyo Ken this morning and left on the Shinkansen (bullet train), arriving in Kyoto about two and a half hours later. It was fast.
We’ve been in Tokyo for about 28 hours, give or take a few, and have had a number of exciting adventures and trials already. However, I’m really barely functioning given the amount of sleep I’ve had and the amount of jetlag that I’m dealing with.
Let’s try to detail some of what has happened so far. Lessons learned: Do fly Malaysian Airlines. They offer free wine and beer, which makes any flight, especially trans-pacific ones, go faster. Customs is much more casual here, as compared to China. Or even compared to our border crossing in Vancouver, Canada. Nevertheless, it took us an unexpectedly long time to reach our Couchsurfing host, Ken, by JR Railroad and Tokyo Metro, which are two of the rail networks here. We crashed last night, and this morning, got up with the sun, feeling remarkably fresh after 5 and 1/2 hours of sleep. We set off to Shibuya this morning, where we enjoyed breakfast at McDonald’s and internet at Starbucks, took some pictures of the famous Shibuya Scramble, and then set off on the road to investigate Tokyo.