Golden Week: that magical time each year where three holidays line up with a weekend, affording workers all across Japan with at least 5 days of vacation (and up to 11 in some business). This is recognized as the busiest traveling season of the year, as people take advantage of the free time and warming weather to explore other parts of Japan, Asia, and beyond.
About 2 weeks out, my friends and I didn't have any plans for the week, so we booked a trip through a travel agent and we were off for three days on Yoron Island, the southernmost island in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.
We board the ferry in Naha at 7 a.m. and are shown to a small carpeted room equipped with sleeping cushions, blankets, pillows. We're pretty thrilled to get such nice accommodations, as most of the people on the ferry are stuck in much larger, more crowded rooms with tatami flooring, crying babies, and noisy foreigners (snicker). None of us know why we are given this special treatment, because we certainly didn't pay for it, but we don't complain.
After 4 hours and 45 minutes, our ferry pulls slowly into the port and we disembark to sunshine, clear skies, moderate temperatures. Perfection.
The shuttle for the Coral Hotel picks us up and we are shown to our room. It is a small, skinny, somewhat dingy room, but it fits four clean bed and boasts stunning views of the teal ocean. Again, we don't complain.
Our first necessity is, of course, lunch.
We walk into the small town near the
hotel and find a sushi restaurant.
I order an awesome sashimi salad. Yum.
Next, we explore the area a bit. Though we are searching for a convenience or grocery store, I mostly just notice the island's critters. There are so many beautiful butterflies on this island that it is difficult to go anywhere without being ambushed (as Sarra would say) by the bright fluttery things.
Then, of course, we head down to the beach. It is low tide so we can walk along the coast to a beach which is usually underwater and therefore especially secluded and lovely. Sarra sunbathes while John and Yang and I wade around in the colder-than-Okinawa waters and harass the local sea creatures.
Yang and the crab (at her feet)
Hermit Crab, Sea Urchin, Puffer Fish, Mysterious-Squishy-Thing.
I'm especially excited to see a puffer fish (which I think may be my favorite sea creature) but I don't think it was as excited to see us.
Here it is getting all puffy and swimming away as quickly as possible. :P
When the sun and salt has taken its toll on us, we pack up
and head back into town for dinner at a little ramen shop.
After such a long, full day, it is easy to call it a night, and we are all asleep well before ten p.m.
One of the perks of our trip is complimentary breakfast so we wake up early and head down with mixed expectations. What we find is a strange mixture of Japanese and "western" foods: breakfast salad, eggs, french fries, spaghetti, nato, bread, hotdogs, and more. Strange, but mostly edible.
Then we walk back down to the beach to claim our reserved sea kayaks and paddle out for 2 hours of costal exploration by boat. We didn't actually plan for kayaks (we originally thought we reserved canoes) so we get wetter than expected, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves anyway. :)
Sarra and I certainly did! We rowed our hearts out and even managed to steal a few photos on my cellphone before I put it safely back in a zip lock bag. I would hate to lose my ketai (cellphone) to the sea! I think the most exciting moment of our journey was when a long, thin fish came fly out of the water and skipped across the top for awhile. I wish I had gotten a photo of that!
After a quick lunch from the grocery store, we decided to continue our exploration of the island via scooter. Sarra decided to opt out for some alone time, so we proceeded with Yang and John on a double-bike and the newbie driver, me, all alone on a one-person bike.
<--don't know what that face's about!
I think this was the highlight of the trip for me. I had never ridden a scooter but quickly grew comfortable at moderate speeds and quickly learned not to grasp the handle (accelerator) when I wanted to stop. heh.
We drove all around, up and down the island in about four hours. Yang and John took a break to explore a sand bar via glass bottom boat while I kept right on scootering on my lonesome.
It was perfect. Barely any traffic, mild weather, breathtaking views, winding roads... *sigh*
I'd do it again in a heartbeat. The experience was almost enough to tempt me to buy a scooter.
If only they weren't death traps in the city. :P
We returned our scooters at 6 and met up with Sarra for dinner. We enjoyed a good meal at a cute little place by the water.
Then we dragged ourselves back to the hotel to rest up. Little did we know, there was one more adventure waiting for us.
I was sitting on the couch, talking to Sarra who was facing me from her bed, when I saw movement behind her. I said slowly, "Sarra, don't turn around." The largest cockroach I have encountered in my life was scurrying quickly across the headboards of our beds. We both ran out of the room screaming, but I managed to return, flip flop in hand, to defeat this terrible foe. Alas, I was too late, and the cockroach scrambled quickly out of sight under the bed. My courage failed me then, and I retreated to the couch and called for John, who was no where to be found.
Finally, after many tense moments of staring at that gap beneath the bed, imagining terrible beady eyes staring back at me, John returned. We immediately entreated him to find out the horrible creature, and as soon as he moved the bed it came bounding out to greet us. Sarra, Yang, and I screamed in terror. Yang jumped up on the couch where I was sitting, wrapping her arms around my toweled head.
Luckily (?), I was talking to Travis on skype at the time and he took a couple snapshots of the shenanigans. I'd like to think I was the composed one of the bunch, but I think I was grasping Yang for fear as much as she was me. :P
Definitely not looking too composed here.
In the end, John managed to herd the cockroach out of our room into the hall where it promptly ran under our neighbor's door. Then we stuffed towels under the door to prevent its reentry.
When we managed to feel comfortable and safe in our room again, we drifted off to sleep in preparation for yet another exciting day. Tune in next time!
JOKES! It's been about a million years since I wrote part one so I am just going to sneak the rest of Golden Week onto this blog and hope no one notices but also anyone who comes later won't think I just promised a continuation and didn't follow through. I am like a ninja of blogging.
SO, here are some pictures and words to describe of the rest of my Golden Week:
Our third day on Yoron was only a half day because we had to catch the ferry at 2 so we didn't go very far from the hotel. We kind of walked around the little town and got lunch.
The restaurant Sarra chose was AMAZING.
I should post bigger pictures but this way I can just drag and drop the thumbnails from facebook. If I do that with the full size photos, they are too big. I just can't be lazy AND have proper sized photos, so I am choosing laziness. Deal with it. :P
This italian restaurant was rocking. The atmosphere, the food, the owners, the COLORS. I loved it.
It is called ... something. Well, I don't remember. But if you are ever going to Yoron you should go to the restaurant with the Italian flag colors on the little road by the little fishing port. Yep, I am gonna be THAT specific.
Okay here is one big picture. Hope that helps. ;P
I think this food was the highlight of my trip. No lie.
After lunch, we caught a shuttle from the hotel to the ferry and began our five hour trip back to Naha.
It was pretty uneventful.
Except for the stalker, but I don't have the energy to tell you about that. If anyone is reading, I am sorry. :P
I spent the rest of Golden Week just kind of bumming around. The other highlight was, not surprisingly, also food. Travis took me to Rose Garden. Finally. I am gonna be so fat.