Exploring Naha

Having turned in my one “assignment," I am now awaiting a little more guidance before working on my memorandum in support of the Department of Human Services motion to amend the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in my case.  Hopefully, that will be in my inbox in a few hours, and I can go ahead and work it.  

That aside, we decided we would walk the Kokusai Dori before breakfast (well, I decided we would),and then we would head out to Shurijo Castle.

We went out this morning for a walk at about 6 am.  It was already bright, pretty warm, and very, very humid.  Walking along Kokusai Dori, headed south, the street reminded me of our neighborhood in the morning - everyone out in the early morning to get in their walks or runs.  Most of the shops were closed, and it was fun to get photographs while the streets were relatively quiet.  Except for the over whelming noise of the cicadas.  It was deafening. I can start to comprehend the distress of people on the Big Island, and in Kailua on Oahu as it pertains to the coqui frogs.  I don’t think I’d wish this on my worst enemy.

Kokusai Dori was the central point for black market trading after World War II.  It is lined with souvenir shops that are touted to be the best places to buy souvenirs.  I personally will be looking at the shops on base to see what they have to offer - the prices are a little high in the city.

We walked back down Kokusai Dori to the monorail station (trying to make up for the lack of exercise on my part yesterday, only got in about 5 miles total), and took it to the end of the line.  Shurijo Castle was very obvious even from the monorail line, a large, red presence in the center of a bustling city.

Shurijo is a World Heritage Site, designated in December, 2000, the 11th WHS in Japan.  It is praised for exceptional cultural and historical value because of its unique stonework and architectural design.  There is a huge amount of Chinese influence in the architecture, which is not surprising since the Chinese emperor would come for the coronation of the Okinawan kings, and there were Chinese delegates here on the island.  Shujiro Castle was the royal seat starting in 1406, under King Sho Hashi (he united the kingdom), and served as the heart of politics, foreign diplomacy and culture for approximately 500 years until King Sho Tai, the last ruler of the kingdom.  Sho Tai abdicated the throne to the Meiji Government.


The castle itself was reduced to rubble and ashes in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, but was restored in 1992 as part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan.  Prior to this, the University of the Ryukyus was located here, but it was relocated further north as part of the renovation process between 1975 and 1984.  The renovation is particularly true to fact, and it is built above the rubble of the former castle.  Work is even now being done to fix the ramparts surrounding the castle.  


As we walked up the steps towards the castle, we were again overcome with the sound of cicadas - the loudest I think I have ever heard.  They can produce sounds over 120 dB, which is a level that causes pain in human ears.  Hearing loss in humans starts with sustained noise levels at 90 dB.  Can you imagine waking up to that daily?  A loud rock concert is typically only at 115.  We saw them flying all over the place.

We walked through the renovated castle, and it is magnificent (no pictures through the majority of it though), albeit rather with short ceilinged doorways.  Dad would not fit here.  :)


The Queen’s throne is on the second floor.  This floor was restricted to only women, and it is surmised that the means of communication between the first floor, where the king sat and heard petitions and conducted affairs of state, and the second was a bell pull.  There was no actual bell, but a mock up was in place.

The pillars on either side of the queen’s throne are Seiden Dai-Ryu Chu Ungyou (right hand of the throne), and Seiden Dai-Ryu Chu Agyou.  Agyou’s mouth is closed, and Ungyou’s is open.  If the dragons are like the shisa, Agyou is the male, and his mouth is open to keep bad spirits away from the home.  Ungyou would be the female, and her mouth is open and the female’s mouth is closed to keep the good spirits in the home.  Of course, there is another group of Okinawans who believe the opposite - the male has his mouth closed to keep bad out of the home, while the female has her mouth open to share goodness. 

The day continued on hot and muggy.  We went back to Naha town to the department store monorail station, and then walked to an Indian restaurant we saw.  $5 lunch plate with $3 beer, and a ton of water commenced.  It was good, and my head is stuffy, so I think I might want to go back for some curry this week.

We got back, and they hadn’t started cleaning our room yet (it was 1 pm), so we went down to the lobby.  I was working on my second assignment for the ICA case, and Wayne was reading.  The smell of smoke just permeates the lobby here, and my asthma is truly not happy about it.  But I don’t think that there is a single hotel in all of the Japanese and Okinawan islands that doesn’t reek of smoke.  Thank goodness our car is smoke free, or I would have to purchase some oxygen and a breathing mask!

We finally went back up to the room at 3 to take a small nap.  At 6:30, we woke up, groggy, and still tired.  I made some coffee (I brought a jar of freeze dried 100% Hawaiian coffee with me) and Wayne had green tea of the cold variety.  We headed back down to the other end of Kokusai Dori, and looked at the restaurants in the department store there.  A number looked very pleasant.  There was one just for Wayne on the 9th floor - an Okinawan vegetarian buffet.

Dinner was at a local sushi train restaurant, highly recommended by Eliot.  And Eliot was right, it was really good, without being really expensive.  It would not be hard to eat here for extended periods of time - my only issue thus far with Okinawa is the lingering cigarette smoke.  Ah, well.

Tomorrow we are off to the University of the Ryukus!