Next we move onto the (much shorter Miyako Island section of the trip.
The island of Miyako, which I'm sure means Perpetual Rain
Yes, it rained the entire time I was on the islad, which is ironically considered one of the best beach islands in the chain. Ah well. At first, I was somewhat depressed at the A) lot of rain, B) lack of an umbrella, and C) not much to seemingly do. Fortunately I was able to buy a quick umbrella at the convenience store, and while no one I asked for suggestions to do mentioned them, I happened upon a map of cultural places to check out. I wasn't able to check them all out since at day 4, my feet were starting to hurt from the walking, but I did get to go see a bunch of stuff.
The first place I went to was actually right outside the hotel, and is the major Utaki of Miyako Island known as the Harimizu Utaki.
It is apparently associated with the creation myth of the island.
Here's the entrance to the Utaki.
Further up the street was a German Monument To Commemorate Goodwill in Miyako
Here is the description on the plaque (the monument itself is the next photo):
In July 1873, a German merchant ship named "Robertson" was hit by a typhoon on a voyage from Fuchou, China to Australia. The ship ran ashore off Miyaguni, Ueno Town./ The people of Miyaguni went into rough seas and through very high waves to rescue the eight men.
The crew men were treated kindly and shown great hospitality for 34 days. Thereafter, they were given an official ship and sent back to Germany by the Miyako Island officials.
In March 1876, the German Emperor, Wilhelm I, learnt of this incident on Miyako Island. He sent a warship to erect this monument as a sign of thanks for the goodwill and bravery of the Miyako people. The epitaph was carved in German and Chinese characters on the front, with classical Chinese characters on the back.
The monument is located on the side of a hill in an area previously "Uyagusu". When it was first erected, it was possible to see from this site to the brilliant sunset over Harimizu Port.
This area is protected in its present condition from any development.
"Let's Preserve Carefully Our Cultural Assets"
Yes, the Germans sent a WARSHIP for a GOODWILL mission... no comment.
Here's the monument itself.
And here's the monument and surrounding area.
I then went into town for lunch, and was interested by the designs on the sidewalk.
I had lunch at an Okinawan Soba house, and had the house special, which was a Okinawan Soba soup... with pork... including pig's feet. It was.... special.
Then I came back along the main shopping street and saw the greatest store ever.
BEHOLD, THE KING OF PARLOR!
(and that's supposed to be Taco Rice, not Tacorise)
I then went to see the Miyako Shrine...
...complete with shisa...
...random old monuments...
...and preparations for New Years.
I then followed the culture walk to the Tuyumya Baka, three sets of tombs for the ruling family of Miyako Island during the 15th and 16th centuries. It has been designated a Natural Cultural Asset. I took a bunch of pictures since I was planning on retiring to my hotel room until dinner afterward.
For dinner I was treated to another Miyako special... surprise - boiled fish heads. Now in hindsight, I should have probably recognized the kanji after "fish" as "head" but I you live and learn. To be fair, it wasn't bad, more shocking than gross. But in the end, after eating a number of heads, including the... eyes... I still had to run to Mos Burger after to get the fish head taste off my palate.
In more enjoyable food-related tale, I got to enjoy a number of Okinawa's famous Chanpurus (effectively Okinawan stir-fry) including Fuu - pork, Goya - bitter melon, and (pictured below) Somen - thin noodles). The Somen Chanpuru was so enjoyable, I had a second portion (the picture below) at the Miyako airport before my flight.
Somen, So good!
And a brief note before closing on Miyako Island while mentioning Goya. As the translated name "Bitter Melon" implies, it is freakishly bitter. While on Miyako Island, I found a store selling Goya Green Tea. And all I can do is wonder, what type of person takes bitter green tea and says... I think I need more bitter in here? Craziness, I tell you!
And on that note, we are done with Miyako Island and about 2/3 through the photos. Phew!
After Miyako Island, I flew to Ishigaki Island, the main island of the Yaeyama Island chain.
After unloading at the hotel, I went to find lunch, to try the Ishigaki specialty of Mimi-gaa (Shredded Pig Ears). To be fair, this time around, I, at least, knew what I was getting into, since I was looking for it. I was told by friends to try it out when in Ishigaki, so I did so. It was actually quite good.
But, amusingly, on the way to the Pig Ear restaurant, I saw this sight.
They call it Ei ando Daburyu. I will also admit that I ended up having my last meal of the year here, though not by choice. After exploring for the day, I took a nap in my room and woke up after all the restaurants stopped serving food (early since it was New Years eve). I was highly disappointed, but it was either that or not eat, and I was very hungry.
But I somewhat digress. Ishigaki was an interesting island to explore. Though many things were closed for New Years.
The first stop on my tour after eating wasthe Miyara Dunchi House and Garden.
Built in 1819, this was the hoome of the Shuri Government official that was in charge of the Unification of Yaeyama.
Standing here in the garden was a white cat. It was happily licking itself until my camera was ready to photograph it. Then it disappeared behind the rocks. It was a weird anime moment.
Continuing west from the Miyara Dunchi House, I found the Maitsuba well...
...in the middle of the road.
And alongside the well was the Maitsuba Shrine that kept it...
...home of this sacred tree...
...estimated to be between 200 and 300 years old.
After the Maitsuba Well and Shrine, I went down to the Tourinji Temple, the main temple of the island.
I'm not entirely sure what this is, but it looks musical.
If anyone has a good guess, I'd be more than interested in hearing it. (I'm looking at you David).
The temple people were busy preparing for New Years since this temple is apparently the place to go to for the locals.
The main reason this temple is so important, however, is that it is the home of the only Ni-oh pair in Okinawa. The only other pair was destroyed during WWII.
Next to Tourinji Temple is Gongendo shrine which is considered a National Important Cultural Property due to its unique architecture.
After the temple and shrine, I headed back to the hotel via Shinei Park which has a nifty pond with a niftier rock formation.
But more important to the park is the World Peace Bell.
Like the main island of Okinawa, Ishigaki Island feels the need to pray for world peace after World War II. Like the Bridge of Nations Bell at Shuri Castle, Ishigaki Island has a monument to how Okinawa's place in the center of East Asia makes peace all the more important.
The sign shows distances from Ishigaki:
1100Km Hong Kong
I couldn't read the plaque at the bottom.
Ishigaki City, The City Which Declares Nonnuclear Peace
If there was any uncertainty which war had scared this country so much, I think the second-last word removes all doubt. (Godzilla joke tempting...)
I found this little gem of a restaurant sign across from the hotel.
And before taking a nap, I noticed this in my hotel room.
So, for those of you who wonder why the internet sometimes just dies, now you know.
So after my nap, I hunted for Ishigaki Beef (a local delicacy) and ended up with A&W instead. Then I went back to Tourinji for New Years.
Happy New Years!
In the end, I decided the line for the bell was too long and since I was going to take a morning tour to Iriomote Island the next day, it would be best to get a full night sleep.
Iriomote Island, home of the rare Iriomote Mountain Cat, was by far the most tropical island of the trip.
I admit, it started like any other island, with it's roads and fields and whatnot, but when we hit our first stop, the Urauchi river, all that changed.
While I didn't video the two major waterfalls much, I did get a bunch of still shots.
Here is Mariyudo Falls, the first waterfall on the way up..
And here is Kanpire Falls further up.
Apparently people who really like the falls choose to show their appreciation by carving their names into the rocks.
That is either very hardcore, or really obnoxious; I can't decide which.
On the way back to the boat I lost my balance and almost fell down the cliff but managed to regain my balance in time. I was very glad to not have my camera in my hand at the time. It was much safer in my bag.
Also of mention, I found this little side route to the river close to the boats that I didn't notice on the way up and took a few shots.
After the Urauchi river was lunch, and then we went up to the beach where I almost slipped on a rock and fell into the water (seriously, not a good balance day) and for revenge stole some coral that was washed ashore. That'll show them!
I will say, however, it is a very pretty beach.
After the beach, we went to Yubu Island, which is a tiny island across from a shallow area. Travel to and from the island is done by Suigyu-pulled carts.
What is this experience like? you may wonder. Well wonder no further!
After a very (VERY) short tour of the island, we got free time to explore for a bit on our own before having to head back for the bus. Here are a bunch of photos I took on the island.
Here is a little shrine/monument about the Suigyu.
I didn't really understand the specifics.
This is Shizuka-chan (means "quiet" in Japanese), their #1 suigyu model.
As such, instead of making her pull carts, they have her take pictures with all the tourist folks.
This was quite possibly the funniest thing I saw on the trip.
So many amusing comments spring to mind while looking at this. Feel free to offer up your own ideas for the most "appropriate" caption should be.
Another sandy beach...
...or is it?
That's right, the entire ground is made up of coral fragments.
I have no idea what this is.
I even tried asking someone. But I still have no idea what it is. But it was a big metal cat-head-shaped thing hanging from a tree. In a way, it was very cool.
The octopus tree, with it's many tentacle-like branches...
...and roots that look a bit like an Octorok.
Here's the skull of their biggest ever Suigyu.
And here's the Suigyu family tree (because this is important).
Note: on the left tree, third row down, second suigyu is Shizuka-chan with a sign that says #1 Model.
Here is the watering hole for the calves.
It was while taking this picture that I realized that the rope that the driver uses to stop the suigyu is pierced through the nose. Seriously, Ow.
After this, we headed back to Ishigaki (via Iriomote Island ferry), and I went to get Ishigaki Beef for realz this time. I relaxed for the evening, and then headed back to Tokyo in the morning.
Overall, it was a great trip. I had an excellent time, and seriously recommend for others to go check it out. If you can only make one Island, I'd say go to the main island. It was very foreigner-friendly, and there was a lot of great shopping and food.
That's it for now. Happy to finally be done with this update :)
Oh, on one last brief note, in December I took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 3 and finally got my results today. With 90% correct, I passed. Yay!
Okay, ta-ta for now!