Okinawa Taikai October 2016   9 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Okinawa”

starring: Lari & Shari

October 19 to November 4, 2016

I had first heard about Uchinanchu Taikai 5 years ago, when some friends went to Okinawa for the 5th Worldwide Unchinanchu Festival in 2011. This time more friends were going to the 6th Worldwide Taikai and I was interested in participating, so I asked Shari Tamashiro if I could go with her. I am so thankful that she let me join her! She has been to Okinawa several times and I have never been there. After finding out how expensive the tours were, we decided to go on our own instead of on a tour and we ended up saving at least a couple of thousand dollars each. First we booked a hotel, then our air on Hawaiian Air to Tokyo and home from Osaka. Then we booked flights on ANA to Okinawa and to Osaka. I planned the activities in Tokyo and Shari planned the Okinawa part of our trip and her friend, Masao took care of us in Okayama after we arrived in Osaka.

We were in Tokyo for 4 days. We visited Ghibli Museum, Shari’s most favorite place, because she loves Totoro! The next day we were on a special tour of the Imperial Palace grounds with Yumi’s friend Jibiki. We were very honored to attend a Gagaku program. Gagaku, literally means “elegant music,” and is the oldest surviving music in Japan from 1,200 years ago and is performed at the Imperial Court. That afternoon, Yoshiaki Ando and his daughter Tomoko picked us up and took us to Umihotaru, in the middle of Tokyo Bay by tunnel from Tokyo and bridge from Chiba. They have shops and restaurants and a view of Tokyo from the bay. Then we went to Asakusa, where we enjoyed the Japanese shops on the walkway to Sensoji Temple. Then we had monja dinner nearby.

Early the next morning Kazu picked us up and drove us and the Ibaramoto family along with Asako (7 of us) to Nikko. It was serendipidous to meet Hiroki Sakamoto-Graphic Man, who flew a drone overhead and we met him again at Lake Chuzenji. You can find Hiroki’s amazing videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn-BNbfWO2g  We enjoyed the lovely fall colors around the lake and the Kegon Waterfall.

The next day was travel day. We took a train back to Tokyo from Nikko and took the subway to Haneda to catch our flight to Naha. Shari’s friend, Chizu picked us up and took us to her house for dinner that she made. Everything was delicious! We stayed at the Tsuboya Garden House, a small hotel in the pottery district of Tsuboya, owned by Naoko and Dingo, who have a cafe that serves vegan breakfasts.

The 6th World Uchinanchu Festival was amazing. Okinawan people from all over the world gather every 5 years for this special festival. We marched in a parade and the local people showed so much gratitude to Americans, especially those of us from Hawaii. They had a huge Opening Ceremony at the Cellular Stadium, and you could see contingencies from Peru and Brazil as well as Hawaii. There was much music and dance to entertain us. Each village/city/province also hosted the guests who came from those places. Shari and her family are members of the Itoman club in Hawaii and we went to Itoman for a wonderful party hosted there for us with lots of food, entertainment and gifts. There was a closing ceremony at Cellular Stadium with fabulous entertainment with, eisa drummers, dancers, singers and fireworks.

Shari has many friends in Okinawa, since she is the producer of the Eisa Festival in Hawaii and goes there often. Her friends drove us around and we caught the monorail to get around in Naha. She celebrated her birthday 3 times with different groups of friends! We also got to go fishing on a fishing boat, and I caught 7 fish, my first time fishing with a reel. One of our parties was at an izakaya that prepared the fish we caught from our fishing expedition. We also rode on a Sabani boat, the traditional small, wooden fishing boats of Okinawa with paddles and orange sails. Many Okinawan izakayas have unlimited food and drinks for one price. So you can imagine how much fun we had! My favorite drinks were Orion beer and Shikwaasa Sake! (Shikwaasa is a small lemon). I loved all the food! Everything was so delicious and I got to try many traditional Okinawan dishes. Shari took me to some museums where I learned a lot about the Battle of Okinawa during WWII.

We flew from Naha to Osaka and stayed at the wonderful Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa, Okayama. Shari’s friend Masao and his wife showed us around the area, and we enjoyed the onsen soaking at the ryokan… they had one downstairs from the lobby and one on the roof, which we loved-sitting in the hot spring tub in the cold autumn air, enjoying the fall colors on the trees nearby. There was a public onsen across the river, where both men and women bathed out in the open in the hot spring waters on the banks of the river. We tried that one too, but they gave us modesty cover-ups to bathe there. Masao drove us to Matsue Castle in Shimane Prefecture on the Japan seaside. We took a boat ride around the castle, had lunch and visited Lafcadio Hearn Museum. Masao also took us to a Salamander Museum.

We were very lucky that so many friends took us to amazing places to visit and experience on our entire trip in Tokyo, Okinawa and Okayama. This truly was a memorable trip, one that no tour could have done. Thank you, Shari!

Lari’s Top Twelve:

12 Matsue Horikawa Meguri-boat ride around Matsue castle

11 Delicious food and onsens at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa

10 Learning the history of the WWII Battle of Okinawa

9 The trip to Nikko and Lake Chuzenji w/Kazu and friends

8 Marching in the Taikai parade

7 Izakayas where we could eat and drink as much as we liked

6 Shikwaasa -a small lemon-like fruit

5 All the many parties, especially Shari’s 3 birthday parties

4 Eating all the delicious food, especially the vegan breakfasts

3 Meeting all of Shari’s Okinawan friends

2 Enjoying the Ceremonies at Cellular Stadium

1 My first time fishing on a real fishing boat and catching 7 fish

 

Shari LOVES Totoro at Ghibli Museum

Cat bus at Ghibli Museum

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This is the Gagaku stage after the performance.

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With Shari and Tomoko at the giant gate/entrance to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

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One of many wonderful Japanese shops along the way to the Sensoji Temple.

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Yoshiaki cooked our monja dinner after driving us around the Tokyo area.

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Here is the monja that Yoshiaki is preparing for our dinner.

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Kazu, me, Shari, Asako, Yumi, Koji & Kenzo drove up into the mountains from Nikko to Lake Chuzenji. We stopped here for a view/rest and met Sakamoto-san with his drone

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Lovely fall colors on our drive up to Lake Chuzenji with Kazu and Ibaramoto family

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We met Hiroki Sakamoto with his drone. Look for his YouTube videos under “Graphic Man”

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We met up with Hiroki Sakamoto again at the lake. Here he is controlling his drone over the lake.

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Hiroki Sakamoto’s drone flying over Lake Chuzenji

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Beautiful Lake Chuzenji with Shari

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Here is our travel group at Kegon Falls entrance.

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Kazu and I at Kegon Falls.

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Yumi, Koji and Kenzo under a lovely Momiji-Japanese maple tree.

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3 monkeys at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

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We arrived at Naha airport in Okinawa.

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Shari’s friend, Chizu, met us at Naha airport with this sign and a Shari mask.

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Dingo, a professional wrestler, and Naoko own our hotel, Tsuboya Garden House, and they cook delicious vegan breakfasts.

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Shari and I took a Bingata class where we painted our own items and took it home with us. These ladies are painting a large wall hanging.

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Pigs feet on display at the Heiwa Dori market.

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Shaved ice snack while shopping in Heiwa Dori market.

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We marched in the World Uchinanchu Festival parade!

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In the parade I met my neighbors, Wayne, Kevin and Lisa Shibata.

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Also met Jan Uesato in the parade!

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Our hotel was in the Tsuboya pottery district, so we got to visit some lovely pottery shops, and watched a demonstration of items made on the pottery wheel.

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I sat with Ethel Miyasato, Jimmy and Geri Oshiro and their son Chad and his family, at the Opening Ceremony at Cellular Stadium

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Opening ceremony at Cellular Stadium had great entertainment!

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Shari and I met Governor David Ige and his wife, Dawn at Cellular Stadium after the opening ceremony. We are doing the Shisa (lion) pose

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We rode the efficient monorail around Naha.

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Shari and her family come from Itoman town in Okinawa, so we went to a welcome party in Itoman, with entertainment and dinner.

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Birthday princess!

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Shari’s friends threw her a birthday party-this was the first of 3 parties. Shari loves to have everyone do the shisa pose for photos.

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Fishing expedition with Alton Chung, and Arisa, who drove us to Kitanakagusuku.

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Capt. Yasunobu Tanaka on his boat Daiyasumaru took us fishing

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Here are all the fish we caught!

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And here we are eating the fish we caught, prepared by Izakaya where we had Shari’s 2nd birthday party.

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Okinawa Prefecture Peace Museum

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Folded paper cranes at the Himeyuri Noto hospital caves where teenage girls worked during WWII Battle of Okinawa.

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Shuri Castle in Naha

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The Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival closing ceremony had great entertainment and fireworks at the Cellular Stadium.

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Shari’s 3rd birthday party was hosted by these young handsome guys who are all Eisa drummers.

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We just arrived at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa, Okayama with so much luggage! Mostly omiyage given to Shari by Okinawan friends.

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Okami and Chef Masahara at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan where we enjoyed exquisite cuisine by the Chef.

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Our ryokan had 3 onsen, and this outdoor onsen on the roof was our favorite one!

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Across the river from our ryokan was an open, public onsen bath.

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Shari’s friend, Masao drove us to Matsue Horikawa Meguri-boat ride around Matsue castle

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Shari, Ikuyo and husband Masao had to lay flat when the roof of our boat was lowered to go under the low bridges.

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Saying goodbye to our lovely ryokan friends: Okami, Shari, Chef Masahara, Ikuyo and Masao in front.

Posted February 28, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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9 responses to “Okinawa Taikai October 2016

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  1. Lari, this was amazing!! I loved all the info & pictures, especially since Reuben & I & Reyn & his wife will be going to Osaka in November! Thank you for sending us this beautifully done travelogue!

  2. Thanks for sharing.

  3. That onsen was calling my name. Question? since Shari likes to make you folks do the lion pose, were there lion’s in that part of the world once upon a time? Just wondering.

  4. Lari, Mahalo for sharing your trip. You are a world traveler – soooooo interesting! Your travelogue and the beautiful pictures were so nice.

  5. You sure do get around. Good thing I read your iti ’cause I know Kegon Falls is near Nikko, not Naha.

  6. I love your blogs Lari. Whenever I’m asked to travel to perform music, I jump at the chance. One day I’ll go to Okinawa.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Loved seeing Geri and Jimmy Oshiro because their grandchildren go to Momilani El. and
    I sometimes bump into them when I drop off or pick up my grandson.
    I think that is their son, Cary who lives in Okinawa. Is he the one with the shaven head?
    Chad is a postman and lives in PC. There must have been a lot of Hawaii people there.
    Judy Ota was there with her daughters and their families.:-)Irene

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