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Lafti's Captive

Part 10 of 68 in a series:

I just got back from Okinawa! It was my first time to be there. Before leaving my mind danced with tropical thoughts of hot weather and swimming, but chilly evenings and temperatures too cool for swimming greeted me. I was quite mistaken indeed.

But I fell in love with Okinawa. First, the people are great. Okinawans struck me as a very warm, friendly, and generous people. From the kind old lady who let me try some awamori to the elderly gentleman who taught me about Okinawa’s traditional musical instruments, I curiously didn’t feel as though we were meeting for the first time.

And the ocean. The sparkling sea. A pure blue expanse. Next time I’ll visit during the summer, and I won’t miss out on swimming!

And then the stars. I could see far more stars than in Tōkyō, as well as the Southern Cross, which in Japan you can only see from Okinawa. I could have spent hours just gazing at Okinawa’s night sky.

The food was also superb. I’m totally hooked on Okinawan cuisine. I had lafti (pork kakuni) every day. I had sea grapes [Caulerpa lentillifera] for the first time, and the flavor was incredible! I used to think of gōya as bitter and difficult to eat, but the gōya chanpurū I had in Okinawa wasn’t bitter at all and very good. And the pork ribs with sōki noodles, tōfuyō, akaimo, sātāandagii, mimigā, Okinawa tofu topped with rakkyō [Allium chinense], and pineapple and guava juice—I enjoyed everything. Of course I also sampled some Orion beer and awamori.

I can’t wait to go again! I love everything about Okinawa.

As one of my goals for this trip, I set aside time to educate myself on Okinawa’s history. I found much on which to reflect, and I gained something by seeing with my own eyes this land of a varied past. Though beautiful, Okinawa has its share of sorrowful hues. All I can do is learn of those hues. But on this trip I once again realized that learning is crucial. To travel here for only the blue sea is too selfish, I feel. Okinawa is a land of many faces, and that’s the Okinawa I’m enchanted by. It instilled in me a desire to know, see, and experience it more.

That being said, this trip was a keen portrayal of my poor travel skills. When I met with my friends the morning of our departure, my bag stood like a giant next to my friends’ compact luggage! You know how they weigh your bags at the airport check-in? Turns out my bag weighed 15 pounds [7 kilos]! Even though we were only spending three days and two nights… It was even heavier and more unwieldy on the way back, with every bit of space taken up by souvenirs.

Anyway, it was wonderful to mark the end of my time as a student with such a fun memory.

Today I brought a souvenir picture from that Okinawa trip. Ladies and gentlemen, a shiisaa.

Hahaha. Just what you’d expect from Okinawa, right?


Part 10 of 68 in a series: