In Which, I Introduce You to the Land of Mr. Miyagi.
- Okinawa is made up of roughly 160 islands of various sizes. Because of this, and the fact that the Okinawa Prefecture is located near the southernmost point of the Japanese archipelago, Okinawa is almost viewed as a country unto itself.
- The Okinawa Prefecture is made up of: the Amami Islands, the Okinawa Islands, the Kerama Islands, the Senkaku Islands, the Yaeyama Islands, and the Miyako Islands.
- Okinawa’s subtropical climate makes it the perfect home for the Noguchi Gera (a species of woodpecker), the Yanbaru Kuina (a flightless rail [basically, a bird that doesn’t fly]), Iriomote Yamaneko (a species of wildcat), Yaeya-ma Yashi (a type of palm tree), and the Sakishima-suounoki (a species of the paulownia tree).
- Mount Otomo on Ishikagi Island (located within the Yaeyama Island Group), is considered to be the highest point in the prefecture. This is due to the fact that all other islands in the prefecture clock in with terrain below 300 meters (less than one mile) in height.
- As of 1999, the total population of Okinawa was 1, 311, 282. This has increased annually since WWII. Additionally, 80% of the population is located in central and southern Okinawa, which means that one out of every four people live in Naha, the capital of the prefecture.
The History and Culture of Okinawa. (2001). Naha City, Okinawa, Japan: Okinawa Board of Education.
Just to drive my point home regarding the usage of english language in a country that is the owner of an alphabet that is non-romanic in origin, please observe a picture that I took this past winter of the sign posted for the “sightseeing toilet”.
Said toilet was across the street from a trail head that you can take that will lead you to one of many of Japan’s ice waterfalls. My wife and I were part of a sightseeing trip that hiked to the aforementioned waterfall. To clarify, “ice waterfalls” happen all over the world, for sure. But when you are temporarily living in a foreign country like Japan (like my family and I presently are), you are duty-bound to see at least one ice waterfall.
On this particular trip, said waterfall was still free flowing. My wife and I went anyway.
Free-flowing water aside, what wasn’t properly conveyed to us on this hike was the particular type of hell that we had to hike through just to get to the damn thing. Narrow to no paths, sudden elevation and inclines, erosion and makeshift bridges that offer little to no safety…
I wished for death a few times during said hike.
What made things worse (because I am an egotistical man-child at all of the wrong times) were all of the locals that our group passed on the trail. They were traversing said trail like they were one part Ibex and one part monkey.
By the end of the hike, the real sight for me, was definitely the bathroom.
In Which, I Delve into a Common Misconception.
- Japan is not the land of the Samurai. “Most” statistics estimate that Japan’s overall populations were composed of 5-10% Samurai. What this means is that the majority of today’s Japanese population are probably descended from farmers or some other trade.
- The katana was not a ‘go-to’ weapon for most samurai. During the “warring states” period, 1467-1573, most samurai relied on bow and arrow and other pole-based weapons (spears, pole-axes, etc.). This is also how most samurai became ‘old’.
- There seems to be a huge amount of nebulousness when it comes to the amount of swords a samurai could wear. During the 1500’s, anyone could wear two swords. Towards the end of that century is when the country’s leaders tried to disarm the population in order to cut off any potential rebellions. Realizing this was futile, the governing bodies gave the swords back. After doing so, the Samurai were allowed to wear two swords, so that they were easily identifiable to the rest of Japan.
- Samurai, commonly did not fight fair. It was perfectly acceptable for these noble warriors to incite riots, engage in gang fights, and to generally drop everything if they could take revenge on someone who had wronged them.
Cummins, Anthony. (2015). Samurai and Ninja. Vermont: Tuttle Publishing. 1st ed.