The Little Mail Carriers have once again written home… from the far east! Turns out they’ve been enjoying the mild winter days of Okinawa! Read all about their adventures on this post from their host cbayha.
Greetings from sunny Okinawa, Japan! Did you know that there is a subtropical island that is part of Japan? Actually, the Prefecture of Okinawa is made up of hundreds of small islands, the largest of which is Okinawa Island. There are palm trees here, and they grow tropical fruits, like pineapple!
A long time ago, these islands were an independent nation, called the Ryukyu Kingdom. The kings and noblemen of the Ryukyu build many beautiful castles and because of this, 9 of the 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Japan are on Okinawa.
Our first outing was to the Katsuren Castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm! The castle sits way up on top of a hill, with a view of the ocean on either side. We were pretty tired after we hiked up to the top! Down at the visitor’s center they have built a model of the castle that was just the right size for us.
The people of Okinawa are very creative! They are famous for their pottery and hand blown glass. We took a trip to the southern end of Okinawa Island to visit the Ryukyu Glass Village. There we met this ferocious looking shisa. Don’t be scared – Shisa are Guardians. They protect buildings from typhoons, which threaten the island every year. Legend has it that a clay shisa, much like this one, once came to life and saved the island from a horrible storm. Now almost every building has at least one shisa (but usually a pair) guarding them and protecting them from the storms.
After watching the artisans at work, we admired the beautiful glass tile wall that is one of the main attractions. Okinawan glass is very colorful.
The glass is not the only thing that is colorful on Okinawa! The Okinawa sweet potato is bright purple on the inside! It is very nutritious and tasty and everyone’s favorite way to eat it is as cake! Sweet potato boats are the most popular present for tourists to take home with them from Okinawa. At the bakery we got to sample different varieties of sweet potato sweets, and watch how they are made.
We also met another shisa! This guy was very happy and relaxed. He was taking a break from his regular duties to eat a few sweet potato boats.
What a day we had today! Today we went on a road trip to the Northern end of the island to visit the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. This world-famous aquarium is a must-see for anyone who visits here. The aquarium has lots of hands-on exhibits for children, a sea turtle exhibit, a manatee house, a great dolphin show and one of the largest aquarium tanks in the world!
The Kuroshio sea aquarium has a capacity of 7,500 cubic meters and houses giant manta rays and whale sharks! We had lunch in the cafe along one side of the tank and watched all the big fish swim around.
After that we headed outside for the dolphin show. We were very happy, because it’s winter on Okinawa, so we didn’t think the dolphins would be out performing. But they put on a great show and we loved watching them leap in the air. If you look beyond the dolphins, across the bay, you can see an island. That is Ie Island. On Ie island they grow peanuts and flowers! They host an annual Lily Festival which is supposed to be amazing, but we are visiting at the wrong time of year.
Maybe we’ll come back some day to see all the flowers in bloom!