Getting around in Okinawa was easy. We rented a car equipped with GPS and decided to venture around. As an island, Okinawa offers many beautiful coastal scenery. As usual, we stopped by here and there to take photos.
Our next stop was the Gyokusendo Cave which took us an hour to walk up and down the limestone cavern. Within the labyrinth of Ryukyu limestone visitors can see over a million massive stalagmites and stalactites; some of them are just gigantic. It was fascinating as they only grow 1mm in 3 years.
Castles are usually the only remnants of the glorious past. We stopped by the Katsuren Castle Ruins which sit on a steep hill close to the shore that offer attractive panoramic views to the landscape below. The site is included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage designated Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
We decided that we would have a little stroll in one of the beautiful gardens and residences of Okinawa – the Shikinaen Garden. This garden was built as the villa for Ryukyu King, completed in 1799, destroyed during the World War II and rebuilt 20-40 years ago. We spent a couple of hours walking around the pond, palaces, arbors, bridges, hills and flower gardens. The architecture was a fusion of Chinese and Okinawa styles.
We also visited the Shuri Castle. While the exterior was impressive, we were more impressed with the interior of the castle. Clearly, back in the old days there was a lot of interaction with China. The inscription were all in Chinese characters.
No trip would be complete without visiting the markets. The markets are always full of colors, scent and life. This is also where you may interact with the local people. We went to a fish market; it is fascinating to see that apart from octopus and other colorful fishes, they also have large fish eyes for sale!
Understand that each day, they will have a live performance showing how sashimi is prepared. It was now time that they cut up a large tuna. It was interesting to see this man who seemed to be very happy with his daily job. He is holding a big tuna in his hands and ready for action.
He was happy that he has successfully opened up a tuna in a matter of minutes. We were happy too as we would have fresh tuna sashimi for our snack!
The life style in Okinawa seemed more casual than those in mainland Japan. The people we met on the streets seem to be slim, happy and in good health. No wonder that the oldest people in Japan are found in Okinawa. We visited shops selling products of black sugar and sea salt ; had a good meal of local noodles. On our way to the airport, we were happy to have seen so much in such a short time.