5 Things You Didn’t Know About Okinawa.

  • In Which, I Introduce You to the Land of Mr. Miyagi.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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).
    4. 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.
    5. 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.

    Flushed from the bathroom of your heart.

    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”.

    IMG_8567.jpg

    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.

    Common Myths About the Samurai That You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know.

    In Which, I Delve into a Common Misconception.

    1. 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.
    2. 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’.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

    3 things you didn’t know you wanted to know about the Izu Peninsula.

    1. The Izu Peninsula is made up of two cities: Atami and Ito. As of 2006, both cities combined had a population of 120,000 people.
    2. The Ryokan Inaba, located in Ito, is a 100 year old National Treasure that can be found on the Matsukawa River. What’s notable about this, is that every room is different. Even with respect to the type of wood used to make the room.
    3. Atami in Japanese means ‘hot sea’. According to legend, there used to be a geyser in the area that erupted into the sea. As the majority of life during the times of ‘legend’ depended on fish and other sea life for sustenance, this was bad. At a loss, the local fishermen asked a Buddhist Monk to pray for a solution. The monk being a monk, he was happy to oblige. The monk’s prayers yielded a success as the geyser moved from the sea to the beach. And that is how the town, Atami, got it’s hot spring water that the townsfolk bathe in today.

    Reiber, Beth. Spencer, Janie. Frommer’s Japan. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing. 2006. 8th ed.

    You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

    For those of you who appreciate a bit of esoteric traveler knowledge, Americans who consider themselves ‘local’ to anywhere will always bitch about the weather and they’ll all use the same joke like it’s native and new: if you don’t like the weather in (name of region here) wait five minutes.

    For the record, I’ve heard that used Florida where the weather is essentially sunny for 90% of the year.

    With the season of “fall” came our first ‘cold season’ in Japan. And since our previous state was Florida, my wife was adamant about getting  a space heater since our home falls a bit on the drafty side. Naturally, I was enlisted in this shopping excursion because I’m her husband. I also used to sell space heaters (true fact!).

    So we went to our local department store and purchased a space heater that we were both happy with. Upon exiting, I noticed that the Halloween costumes were merchandised on the same floor.

    Shortly after that realization, I spied with my beady eyes the display that they were using in order to announce that they were, in fact selling Halloween Costumes.

    In case you ever wondered what the population of Japan thought of President Trump, now you know.

    9 things you didn’t know you wanted to know about Mount Fuji.

    1. The first documented climb was during the 8th century.
    2. During the Edo Period, the climb was used as a purifying ritual. Additionally, thank to men being men, Women were not allowed to climb the mountain until 1871.
    3. Fuji-san is 2,388ft tall and is actually classified as an active volcano. It hasn’t been legitimately active for a few centuries, though.
    4. You can get to Fuji by train! For the more initiated, take the Chuo Line to Otsuki. Then take the Kyuko line to Kawaguchiko Station. It’s about a two hour trip.
    5. Mount Fuji is actually a part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park system.
    6. “Official” climbing season is from July to August. You “could” climb from April to October if the weather cooperates. Spoiler alert! It doesn’t. Just wait for the official climbing season like everybody else.
    7. Roughly 600,000 people climb Fuji every Year.
    8. There are 6 ascending and descending trails that will take you to the summit of Fuji.
    9. In the event that you are not made of tough stuff (aka a damn, fool), there are huts on the mountain that you can spend the night in. They offer basic amenities only! They can be located above the 5th stage (every trail is broken into 10 stages) on the Kawaguchiko Trail.

    Reiber, Beth. Spencer, Janie. Frommer’s Japan. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing. 2006. 8th ed.

    5 Things you didn’t know you wanted to know about Nagoya, Japan.

    1. Nagoya is located 227 miles west of Tokyo and is Japan’s 4th largest city with a population of just over 2 million.
    2. Nagoya was founded almost 400 years ago at the request of Tokugawa Ieyasu who knew that the location would prove useful when trying to monitor the subjugation of cities.
    3. Nagoya is the home of the Atsuta Jingu Shrine. This shrine is revered as one of the three most important shrines in Japan because it “contains one of the Emperor’s three sacred treasures”. Said treasure is the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, or ‘grass mowing sword’. The other two treasure are the Sacred Mirror (which is stored in the Ise Grand Shrines) and the ‘Jewels’ (which reside in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo).
    4. The Nagoya Castle in Nagoya was built for the 9th son of Tokugawa Ieyasu and was completed in 1612. Fun Fact? Tokugawa forced all of the lords in Japan to contribute finances to the castles construction to the point of lord’s own bankruptcy. Tokugawa did this on purpose because he knew that it would make it harder for the now destitute lords to rebel in the future.
    5. Nagoya was nearly decimated during WWII.

    Reiber, Beth. Spencer, Janie. Frommer’s Japan. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing. 2006. 8th ed.