Saturday, February 6, 2010

finishing up okinawa….finally

Well.  I originally started this post two weeks ago.  Due to my job, I have not been able to finish it up.  Imagine the audacity that my job has to interfere with me posting about Okinawa.  Jeez.

So, my final day in Okinawa started out pretty much as normal as could be expected…with a can of Chu hi!  Haha, just kidding.  But since it is juice I think it could be placed in the category of breakfast cocktails.  However, I won’t be lying when I say lunch was spent at MOS Burger.  Heheheh.

I forgot to mention in previous postings how Mr./Mrs. Tater took me to the JUSCO that is located in Mihama American Village. 

NOT okinawa JUSCO

I should say a little something about these hypermarkets.  Asians seem to have the right idea when it comes to shopping complexes.  In the States we tend to build a large strip mall that contains at least two of the following stores: Target, Best Buy, Office Depot, Home Depot, Borders, and a grocery store.  Sometimes there may be a movie theatre.  Usually there is a chain restaurant like Applebee’s or Don Pablo’s that is not connected to the strip, but within the same complex.  They take up a lot of space and look like concrete or brick warehouses with no character.  Over here, imagine all of those box stores in one five to seven story building.  The structure is operated by one company; JUSCO is Japanese and Korea we have Lotte and EMart.  Selection is the same as having seven different stores, but you have them all in one single building.  And quality is not something that is skimmed over…clothing, electronics, and household goods are all name brand.  Food and other grocery items are the same as what you would find in a Wegmans.  One delectable item that I picked up in the bakery section was a round pastry filled with mini sausages.  It was about the size of a small pizza.  I thing maybe 10 inches in diameter.  YUM.  Everything is located in one super convenient shopping complex that takes up less ground space.  Also, since the building is usually owned by the operating company, architectural design is sometimes opened up and can result in some pretty wacky creations.  I found out JUSCO also has something else that is not easily found in the states: Japanese-style crepes. 

Ah, Japanese-style crepes.  One of the greatest creations on Earth.  I was informed about these by a Japanese friend before Karena and I had a Tokyo stopover on the way home from China.  I pulled Karena’s arm off when I first noticed one while walking around in Shibuya.  You want ice cream, custard, and fruit?  Okay!  You want ice cream, cheese cake, and sprinkles?  Check!  You want a cutlet smothered in curry sauce?  Roger that!  How about tuna fish salad on lettuce?  Sounds fine!  You can get so many different sweet and savory combinations.  I think if there was a crepe stand in Gunsan I would stop there every night.  It is probably better that there isn’t one.  Check out the sample selection below:

japanese crepesOkay, back to my last day.  So we lounged around and entertained the idea of visiting another castle or temple.  Instead we decided on checking out the Ryukyu Glass Village (fun Okinawan website here).  It was an entertaining drive to the village.  We got to hop on the expressway.  The last time I was on the expressway, Tater and I accidently drove through the lane for pass-holders and didn’t get a toll ticket.  Whoops!  This time we didn’t make that mistake, however, we did exit off the expressway too early.  Time to break out the phonebook map.  Yes, the island map is in the phonebook.  And it is not the greatest map in the world.  First off, it is spread over 25 pages.  Second off, not all the roads are labeled…and when they are, it is inconsistently.  We had to pull about two U-turns before we figured out that we were headed in the right direction.  Also, the maps don’t give you an accurate gauge on the amount of time a drive will take.  A long portion on the map could only be five kilometers, depending on the scale.  So, once we ended up on the correct road we had no idea how long it would take.  The drive was fun though.  We went through some less-trafficked areas of southern Okinawa.  It was pretty cool driving down the two lane road and seeing farms and small homes dotting the landscape.

Arriving at the glass village, we were presented with a pottery center AND glass-making center.  There were some tours going on in Japanese and some people who were making their own Shisa.  I love these little things. 

shisa It is such a fun activity to walk around and check out all the different designs that you see on people’s homes, shopping centers, businesses…everywhere.  They give people a chance to show some individual flair! I bought two the last time I was on-island to protect our home.  They now rest comfortably on a bookshelf.  Quite a nice life for a pair of Shisa.  Tater joked that we should have a Shisa-making contest, but he was vetoed on that one.  We walked down to the area where the magic happens.  There were a lot of people milling around and not a lot of glass-making happening.  We stood around for a bit and watched what we could. 

glass making area After that we got antsy and went into the gift shop.  IT WAS HUGE.  And there wasn’t just one.  There was THREE different galleries.  Pieces got increasingly expensive as you moved from gallery to gallery until you reached the shop where things cost into the millions of yen.  I won’t lie.  I was a bit nervous walking around this place with so much glass.  The message “You Break, You Buy” kept passing through my head.  I walked out of the shop only having purchased two glass cups made in the village, and a Okinawan talisman called a susuki.  It is basically a knot of grass.  I can’t help that I’m a sucker for things that are supposed to help my luck.  Sometimes you need the extra help!

We returned to “home, sweet Hamagawa” after a short detour through downtown Naha.  This time we picked up the expressway all the way to Kadena.  Much faster.  We decided to search for dinner options.  I don’t know how we go on the topic, but I started telling Mr/Mrs. Tater about Shabu-shabu.

shabu shabu I have been depressed ever since Bob’s 88 closed.  Karena and I have been searching for a good hot-pot place in DC ever since.  Anyways, I found this restaurant, Miruku (Japanese here), and insisted that we would be going there for my last dinner.  We geared up and took the best directions we could find (see the English link) and headed out.  I love driving directions in Okinawa.  Sometimes they crack me up.  You never get straight-forward directions.  They always involve navigation by landmarks which is sometimes difficult in unfamiliar areas…100m past CoCo (not Coco Curry, but the convenience store) turn left, continue until you see a sign for Highway 401, make a U-turn, drive 20m and turn right.  Look for a house with Japanese writing and Christmas lights on it.  Hilarious stuff.  It took us 20 minutes longer than it should have to find the restaurant.  We drove through a residential neighborhood because we kept miscounting the number of streets.  I’m sure this block is gorgeous during the day.  It is situated right on a bay in a quiet little area.  Arriving at the restaurant, we see it is closed.  SO SAD!  Now we are scrambling and decide to head back to the American Village.  There are tons of restaurants over there that we know would be open.  So, instead of shabu-shabu on my last night we settled for some delicious Thai food at a place Tater and I discovered last year.  The food made me happy, as did the cold Orion, and the fine company.  AU represent!!!! Besides, dinner in the American Village meant we could sneak over and have a couple of crepes for dessert!

I hope you guys have enjoyed my writings about Okinawa.  I know it seems like a lot, but I only included the highlights.  There is so much delicious food and the island is so beautiful.  It was real hard to leave the next morning.  I was helped by the fact that it was a rainy day.  The rain eased me back into realizing that I would be flying into the snow covered land of Korea.  Okinawa really is a wonderful island…great people…great food…and so much to do.  I can’t wait to go back.  And trust me when I say that it’s not “if,” but rather “when.”

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