Back on the trail…

Hey everyone!

I have one or two new readers, so hello to Hawai’i and Virginia. I hope I can live up to expectations.

Now everyone who knows me understands that I need to be by myself to recharge the batteries. Since coming to Okinawa I have been prowling the sea side on long walks in the evenings, accepting invitations from Mother Nature to enjoy the sunsets over the East China Sea and marveling at some of the flora and fauna of this island. What I haven’t been doing is getting into the woods, or forest, or jungle. Whatever you want to call it, I have not been there. Now, I have a few good excuses which are: 1.  I’ve been wandering through castle ruins; 2. getting acquainted with my neighborhood; 3. exploring fascinating Okinawan stores, such as Don Quixote 4. and lastly, taking note of exactly which vending machines carry my favorite Royal Milk Tea (for only 120 yen, what a deal!).

Okay, so my fellow explorer Amanda had mentioned Hiji Falls and I had been thinking of going to Nakijin-jo (castle ruins) to add to my World Heritage sites from the Gusuku period here in Okinawa. Last Saturday we decided to give it a go.

wood lizard
Is he gorgeous or what? I almost stepped on him and he still posed for me…such is the hospitable and sweet nature of the Okinawans.

So I posted this little meme, I guess it’s called, on Facebook that said, ‘she had not known the weight until she felt the freedom’, I liked that when I read it. And I felt it when I stepped onto a trail that lead to Hiji Falls. I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath until I let it out on the trail. My late husband Michael once told me that when he stepped out and stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, he let out a sigh that he had been holding in for twenty years. Everything that he had been carrying, he said, fell away. I finally understood what he meant. I felt a weight slip from me into the welcoming arms of the trees and the woods. I felt like I was at home.  I keep having moments like that here, that understanding that this is home. This foreign land, where the customs, language and cultures are so new and strange to me, is more of a home to me than anywhere I’ve ever been before.

ferns and rocks at hiji
Someday I will publish a book of photographs called ‘at my feet’  as I shoot many amazing photographs that are literally at my feet.

There is a lovely little campground at the bottom of the trail with platforms for tents and it is by a stream. I was reminded again and again of Bash Bish Falls in Copake, NY, until I saw the warning signs for habu! I’ve mentioned them before, but they are clearly worth another public service announcement. Habu are venomous snakes that are fast and ill-tempered. My supervisor said they are like the karateka of the snake world, they strike fast and put you down. I liked that comparison…it made me feel tough, until I thought about the habu, then I got nervous again.

tough life butterfly
This little moth or butterfly has seen better days, but still diligently went about it’s business on these pretty little yellow flowers.

So after stopping and starting about five hundred times, (thank you Amanda for your patience with me and my desire to photograph absolutely everything on the trail) we reached the falls. It was beautiful and powerful and overwhelming, there is nothing like sitting on a rock beside a stream or near a tree to give you understanding.

We descended and decided to go to Nakijin-jo which is not that far away. We were both dragging a little bit because all that trail climbing and over-exuberance was taking its toll on both of us. Amanda had an excuse, she was getting over a cold…I was just running up and down stairs like a ‘baka gaijin’ (which I am told regularly that I am). We both ended up with incredibly sore calf muscles until today!

blue okinawa
This photograph does not begin to capture the color of that water…wow it was amazing that day!

So, anyone who’s been paying attention to this blog is aware that we have many castle ruins around here. Some are ruins thanks to us Americans and Japanese, some are ruins because the Lords got a little uppity and decided to try and take over someone else’s lands and had it explained in no uncertain terms that it was not a viable option (Katsuren-jo’s Lord Amawari for example). Nakijin-jo, from what I understand was destroyed by Satsuma invasion of the Ryukyus around 1609. Forgive me if I got this wrong, I’m still trying to pick my way through the rich history here.

sakura
Nakijin is famous for its Hikan cherries and Sakura (the cherry blossoms).

Well another stunning and gorgeous site. I feel like I didn’t give it enough time, so I will definitely be heading back there just to spend some time. Perhaps tomorrow, when it will be in the 40’s here and everyone will be hidden away in their houses huddled under blankets.

more walls of nakijin
These walls are more than 500 years old and they appear impregnable!
worth protecting.JPG
That is a view worth protecting.

“The fortress includes several sacred Utaki groves, reflecting the gusuku’s role as a center of religious activity.” That is from the website that explains it’s cultural significance, feel free to check it out: http://nakijinjo.jp/english/

To think that when Columbus was ‘discovering’ America, this culture was alive and well building walls that remain intact to this day. What a constant reminder that we have never been an occupied land, but Okinawans continue to accept and love and trust, despite their treatment by foreign peoples who want to take everything from them.

After our tour around the museum, which was quick since neither Amanda nor myself is literate here, we decided to head back toward her home in Yomitan. We found a nice little restaurant where she steamed her own food and I enjoyed some goya chanpuru (I’ll explain another day…this is getting lengthy).

So the rest of the week, just in case you think I just travel around and look at interesting things (I do!), was filled with chaos as we in our building were getting new desks.  So here is my office, please disregard the grey filing cabinets, they are now gone.

IMG_1900 (1)
A step up from my little window-less cell at MHA!

Work is great, I am happy and I say it again…our Marines are my heroes, every day!

Also, because there was a lot of peace and tranquility in this post I’m going to show you a video from the Hamby Town plaza, where I go to shop near my house when I am too lazy to drag myself out to the mall in Mihama (my favorite supermarket is in the mall there).

This is the little video section that is designed, I believe, to overwhelm you and take away all your yen in your pockets. Have a great week and I’ll chat again soon!!!