Archive for October, 2012

Snorkeling In Okinawa

When I was in Okinawa visiting my sister, she took me to her favorite place for snorkeling.A beach with smallwaves crashing against distant rock formations.She said that she often goes to that spot or one nearby to unwind after a long day at work but doesn’t often go snorkeling there.  High tide in Okinawa is early morning (that day it was at 5 am) or near when the sun goes down and visibility goes way down.

I had never gone snorkeling before so I had trouble putting on all my gear, especially the mouth piece.A close-up of my face as I try to figure out how the mouth piece fits in my mouth.Snorkeling was fun, except that I forgot one thing.  I hate having my face in the water.  It took me a number of tries to force myself to relax, even enough to float on top of the water and look down.  My sister mentioned afterwards that the last time she had come, her friend had brought a lubricant she put on the goggles.  Yeah, my sister didn’t realize how important that lubricant was until our goggles fogged up almost immediately.  It didn’t help my fear of being underwater that things were blurry since I couldn’t wear my glasses with the goggles and I could only see clearly near the edges of the mask.  However, I did see some little fishies that traveled close enough to be seen.  I didn’t leave the cove that we were in for deeper water (I needed to be where I could stand up every time I got water in my mouthpiece or too much water in my goggles) where the better coral is so I didn’t see much besides small coral formations, rocks, and adventurous fish that seemed partially transparent underwater.  Still it was rather nice to float at the top of the water and look down.  I can see why people would get up early to snorkel or spend hundreds on trips to the best snorkeling spots in the world.  I doubt I’ll ever do it again since my terror wil probably ruin the effect for my companions, but it was a fun experience.Me leaving the water with my snorkeling gear in my hands and a rock formation in front of green slope behind me.   After snorkeling we returned our gear to my sister’s car and went to the public restroom nearby.  It was still early so we decided to explore the area and found a hiking path that led down to a picnic area and a lovely spot for pictures of lava rock that had eroded into various shapes with moss growing on it and water in the background.A moss covered rock formationA side view of me overlooking the waves crashing against moss covered rockA view over rocks to a long bay with a city beyondAll in all it was a lovely day although that night the typhoon hit that took out our power for a day, an odd thing on Okinawa where typhoons are so common.  Due to the storm the rest of my trip was limited but it was fun to see my sister again and explore the beautiful island of Okinawa.

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Okinawan Dinner Theater

On Thursday night my sister and I went to a dinner theater in Okinawa.  We got to eat little bits of really good food (small portions of a lot of dishes equal a full multi-course meal) while the performers did traditional dance to entertain us.  My sister and I know very little Japanese so we couldn’t understand the singing and never did figure out what the story they performed was.  However, as my sister reminded me we had learned at the kabuki play last year, the Japanese theater pays less attention to the story and more attention to the image.  The imagery of the dancers in Japanese traditional outfit dancing around the stage in time with the strong or soft spots in the music, singing along occasionally, was definitely striking.
A rectangle of tofu in a bowl with a sprig of herbs next to a small salad The night started out with us being late so this is what awaited us when we showed up.  Most of the other patrons were already on their second helping but there were also two other sets of people that came in after us, so we didn’t feel too bad.  My sister said that Okinawans are not known for being early, or even on time all the time.  The dinner theater seemed to have taken that into consideration because the meal started at 6:30 while the performance started at 7:00 pm.  The meal was rather good with sushi, a few different types of salads, a very good chunk of meat (in the covered bowl), and tempura fish.A few delicious dishes from our Okinawan meal  My sister didn’t much like the idea of eating a full fish, scales, head, fin and all.  Since I ate mine (stopping at the fin) she gave me hers to eat and thought it was hilarious that I actually ate the fish.My sister's picture of me eating the full fish  Hers was a little more salty than mine had been but otherwise it was fine, as long as I didn’t see the face as I ate it.  Somethings are just better to not think about while. or after, you do them.
Not long after the fish incident, the lights dimmed and the stage lights started to dance around the stage in alternating colors.  Then two ladies came out and knelt with their backs to us.Two ladies in traditional outfits bowing with their backs to us.  As they started to dance on the darkened stage, they clicked together two wooden blocks in each hand, adding a nearly cymbal-like sound to the music playing through the hidden speakers. Two lady dancers clicking wooden instruments as they danced. After they walked off stage two male eisu dancers walked on and started their dance. Traditional eisu dancers high stepping around thestage. Eisa dancers are people, often men, who dance with drums, hitting them in tone with the music in a traditional Okinawan dance.  One of the dancers broke his drumstick in half.  The broken half he kicked to the back wall and the half he held, with the tassel, he used to hit the drum.  It probably wasn’t as loud or perfect to hit the drum with the tassel end but it still worked for the show.
The males ending their dance as the women come on stage.Soon the two lady dancers came out again, this time in peasant outfits and the eisa dancers went backstage.  The ladies danced with flower branchesTwo ladies dressed in traditional Japanese outfits dancing with flower branches. and finished with scrolls that said something in Japanese. Two ladies finished their dance with open scolls They left and the shisa dog came out to prance about the stage.Two men ina shisa dog coming on stage  It was rather impressive when you think of how perfectly in time they were to have the person at the head of the body snapping the wooden jaws shut with the dance and the two people able to coordinate enough to roll around on the ground like a real dog would.  Shisa dogs are popular in Okinawa due to the belief that the mix of dog and lion creatures are protective wards that protect houses.   The shisa dog on a walk through the tables of patrons. After a little while the shisa dog turned on glowing eyes and walked down the steps to walk among the tables.  Yes, it did try to eat my sister.The shisa dog character pretends to eat my sisterNext the ladies came out for a brief dance before the older one left the younger one to dance alone. A lady in traditional Okinawan dress dancing alone with clappers in her hands. After a short dance with the clappers, the other lady came out to dance alone as a warrior. An Okinawan lady dancing in traditional male outfit Soon the other girl came out in warrior outfit and they danced a short dance together.  Soon they were replaced by the two male eisa dancers and a female eisa dancer. Two male and one female eisa dancers This time the men had the big drums and the girl had the small drum.  They danced around the stage in their high stepping drum danceThree eisa dancers jumping and dancing around the stage until the two men left the lady warrior to dance alone.  Then the two ladies came back on to dance with her. Three dancers, one in eisa gear and two in traditional Japanese female outfits The two lady  dancers then went into the crowd and brought people on stage.  My sister went up while I stayed put to take pictures.My sister dancing with dancer in traditional Japanese outfit  Soon others joined my sister on stage and they all danced. Two lady performers dancing with the audience on stage Then the shisa dog joined them The shisa dog among the dancers on stage. for a minute before going out among the tables again to see what trouble it could cause. The shisa dog actors walking among the tables with glowing eyes. The dog went back on stage and the show was over.  The cast bowed (yes, the male eisa dancers were the two parts of the dog)The dancers of the performance taking their bows and we got to take pictures with the cast. My sister and I posing with the men in the shisa dog costume and the lady dancers. After picture time, the “dog” stood up, shook itself off,The men in the shisa dog costume making it look like the dog shakes out its fur. and trotted off stage.The shisa dog trotting off stage  Show complete.
The night was not complete for us though.  On the walk back to the car we found these cuties.My sister and I posing with baby statues dressed like animals.  The baby “animals” are permanently attached to the bench while the dogs are stuffed animals advertising the doggie shirts sold at the store behind the camera.  If you look closely you can see the babies are  bigger versions of the old dolls that were popular in the US years ago (as in they were going out of popularity when I was a kid) but they have maintained their popularity in Japan and are a popular souvenir item in various outfits and a popular craft seems to be to create outfits for these small baby dolls.
A shop with a lot of life size superhero statues in the windowsWe also passed a store that sold souvenirs and was decorated by super heroes and other popular icons.  You can see Hello Kitty coming out of the roof, various superheros in the window below, and you can’t see Tweety Bird comfortable in a shark’s mouth ( or was it a whale?) in the store along with many other favorites.  I’m not sure what the life size dolls had to do with the merchandise since the store seemed like it was merely a normal Okinawan souvenier store, but it was eye catching.  It was later at night than I like to be out so we didn’t stop to investigate the store.  We took a picture and got in her car, soon we were home and getting ready for bed. hmm, bed…  A late day should mean a late morning but no such luck.  High tide was 5 am and we were going snorkeling the next day so no sleeping in for us.  (Okay, just a little)

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