The first month of this quarter s/y Alishan was in Okinawa. We’d secured a safe berth in Ginowan Marine where Marijke would be able to look after the boat in case of a typhoon while Jaap visited Mum and the family.
Ginowan Marina is next to the convention center, a popular hide-out in the weekends.
Places Marijke visited while Jaap was overseas:
Tsubuya pottery district, where all roofs sport one or two shisa, the lion-type ward from evil spirits.
Okinawa Prefectural Art Museum. Very good!
Churaumi aquarium, famous in Japan for its shark whales.
A liquor store in Naha’s Kokusai Street, selling awamori: sake with poisonous habu snakes
When Jaap returned from Holland we had only a few days left of the one month we had paid for in Ginowan Marina. We saw friends John and Naomi, who were working on their boat Horizon. They had very kindly lent us their car again and John took us to the big grocery store on the American Base. It made Nori happy: Naomi presented him Temptations, his favorite cat biscuit. Back in the land of quality pet food both cats were eating a lot more.
Naomi and John Howard on s/y Horizon
We used the car to drive to town and get our cruising permit for the trip to Kyushu, checked out Bios Hill for some wildlife, really should have gone all the way north to Yanbaru, but that was too long a drive to make it before midday.
Marijke looking for moorhens in the lotus pond at Bios Hill
August 1st was the day of the Eisa Matsuri this year, a big festival where groups perform all along Naha’s main street, playing drums and dancing an exciting, vibrant form of Bon dance.
A photo collage of this colorful event is shown in the next part.
Ginowan Marina by night
Eisa Matsuri Okinawa, august 1st 2010
On August 2nd we tossed the lines and hopped north to Izena Island, just off the northern tip of Okinawa. Our friends Pam and Jon on Tweed as well as others had told us about this little island and we loved it. We’d never stopped here on previous occasions and enjoyed exploring the place on our bicycles, taking in the scenery, stopping at little harbors and hunting down the pheasants through the sugar cane fields (which is actually not so pleasant).
Scenes of Izena with a giant shisa left on top
Left: Jaap talking to a local. Right: Molasses, the product of sugarcane getting shipped off.
It could barely contain the urge to dip my finger in there.
After 5 days we left, this time for an overnighter to Amami Ohshima. The winds were light, but got stronger and with the countercurrent created nasty 3-4m waves. At least we didn’t have to worry about unlit fishing vessels and floating objects. We hove to in the shelter of Kakeroma Island and entered Koniya in the early morning.
Koniya visitors’ berth
2 Japanese cruisers were moored in the allocated visitor’s berth, a park-like setting where preparations were going on for the harbor festival. A 3rd yacht moved in just after Alishan and the place was full.
Minato Matsuri: Singing and dancing the bon odori in the midday sun.
The parade of the matsuri was very colorful, but after the big Eisa of Okinawa a bit lame. Small town festivals have their charm in a different way.
Last practice of the Kakeroma group. Where’s a better place then right next to Alishan?
The 2nd day of the festival the weather turned bad, due to a tropical depression. It didn’t develop in a full blown typhoon, which is consistent with the old saying that when the Deigo trees don’t bloom, there won’t be any typhoons crossing the island that season. It merely drowned the karaoke and fireworks in pouring rain.
It wasn’t a contest, but these kids would have scored high.
The best thing about local matsuris: Getting dressed up in yukata (summer kimono), meeting your friends, buying cheap toys and eating greasy festival food.
Yakisoba, a popular fried noodle dish
During the fireworks at the end of the festival it rained heavily. Alishan was secretly a bit pleased. We didn’t get too many ash burns on deck.
The weekend after we got a glimpse of a sumo tournament, also located in “our” park. Big chubby boys of elementary to high school age wrestled for a trophy and, surprise surprise, there was one girl! She did quite well, too.
The event coincided with another one, a 100years old tradition of “kome dagoku”, held in a small town called Yui. Freshly harvested rice was worked through a couple of antique machines, foot- and hand driven, and the grain was sifted from the hulks by women throwing the rice up in a circular movement in wide trays, making it look very simple, but they obviously had years of practice.
Again we had a car to our use, this time from Patrick, our friend on neighboring Kakeroma island went to Okinawa by ferry to do a delivery and he left us the keys. Very convenient! We took one day to drive all over Amami to our favorite spots: Daikuma, Kinsakubaru forest and Ose reef.
Another perk was the sento. Our first since we were back. Every other day we strolled through the narrow streets, entered through the men or ladies’ door, scrubbed 4 years worth of dirt from our backs and aaahhhed in the hot tub. There’s one reason to return!
With the TD gone and the events over it was time to move on again. Another overnighter took us to Yakushima. There was little wind and many thunderstorms around us, but we didn’t get hit.
The island stands out with it’s height of nearly 2000m (higher than the highest mountain of Kyushu) and is known for its old cedar trees. We were there in 1991; didn’t get to see much due to bad weather and when we tried again in 2006 the conditions were worse. There aren’t any bays and the harbors are all kind of exposed. Luckily Japanese are great for building walls and nowadays there’s a safe port at Anbo on the east coast.
Sailing along Yakushima
Alishan in front of the cement factory in Anbo
The town is very small, but they sold bread and veggies and that’s enough. So we explored the island and saw many, many old trees. We visited Yakusugi Land twice. First a friendly local took us there in his car, our bicycles stowed in the booth. We walked one of the trails in heavy rain. The bearded, moss overgrown forest looks like a fairy tale and has inspired some famous animation writer (found him: Miyazaki Hanao). The nearby Gikensugi is supposedly 3000 years old.
A few days later we took the bus up for a second visit when the sun was out. We saw more wildlife, birds, monkeys and deer, but it wasn’t as special as that first stroll in thin, eerie light when the mosses were glistening and the beards drooping with rain. I’d go back on a rainy day any time.
Several times we saw deer and monkeys in each others company.
The bicycle ride on the way back was great fun. The rain had stopped and we loved the cool breeze that lasted till we got back to sea level, where the summer heat was burning wholes in the soles of our bare feet. It was a very hot summer this year, even worse in Fukuoka, we heard. We were in no hurry to move on.
In front of Yakusugi Land 1265m above sea level
The photo above is for people who don’t read the story, so they think we actually cycled all the way upJ. That second time Jaap walked all the way down. Marijke planned to do the exhilarating bicycle ride again, but had not counted on breaks wearing down to a point where they weren’t functioning at all anymore, and had to walk 75 % of the way. No problem, enough to see and eventually somebody stopped with the right size spanner.
Just around the corner of our safe possy in Anbo rough seas were beating the coast.
We stayed in Ambo for 7 days. Jaap used one to cycle all around the island (100km), Marijke did some bird watching with a local and the cats played in the jungle gym of cedar logs that were waiting to be shipped off.
We all loved Yakushima.