The Great Golden Week

Hello everyone! I’m back and fresh from a great vacation! The weather is finally warming up, and everything is kicking into high gear now that my time here is starting to come to an end.

Anyway, on to the vacation!

First, things kicked off with the big festival in Kagoshima where our Southern Kyushu team had our debut. And what a debut it was. I’m surprised I survived, it was quite a day. We had 6 performances total, 3 for S. Kyushu and 3 for Minamata. We had to change into our different uniforms between each performance, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it definitely wasn’t easy. I messed up a lot in all of the S. Kyushu performances, but I was in back so you probably couldn’t tell that much. Our teacher said he knew I tried really hard when we got to talk to him at the end, so that made me really happy. I don’t know if I’ll get to perform with them again, but I really hope I do. There’s something really special about this team and dance. I’m so lucky to be a part of it.

Here are two videos of our performance. The first is our final performance with everyone in the group. The second is with some people missing because they had to work as staff at the festival. You can see me a little better in the second video. I’m in the back on the left side of the video on the end. If you look closely, I have a black knee supporter on. You can see me a little bit in the first video, too.

 

Here are some pictures, too:

Needless to say, I was very tired at the end of the day and my knee has been messed up ever since, but it was so worth it.

However, I couldn’t be tired because the very next day I had to get on a plane so I could fly down to Ishigaki Island in Okinawa! I went to Naha last year and knew I wanted to go back to Okinawa, but to a place with better beaches. I wasn’t disappointed. Ishigaki is BEAUTIFUL. It’s a lot like Hawaii with some mountains, tropical temperatures, and lots of green. I met up with my friend Sarah who I haven’t seen in a year. The first day we arrived in the afternoon, so there wasn’t a whole lot we could do. We wound up being taken to the beach by our Airbnb host. She dropped us off and we just walked around for a bit taking pictures and got some ice cream before deciding to get dinner. We didn’t really know what was around, but our host’s husband showed us his restaurant and said it was traditional Okinawan food. We were both down for that, so we walked there as it wasn’t too far and the bus wouldn’t have come for another hour. Once we found the place, we asked someone if there was room for two. The woman said we had to have a reservation, but that we were very lucky because they did have space. The place was very nice, all beautiful wood, and there were a lot of families. We had to wait quite a while for anyone to serve us, but it was okay as a man and a woman came in to do a live performance of dancing and shamisen. We wound up eating unagi (grilled eel), beef (Ishigaki is famous for beef of all things), pork, and sea grapes. Everything was really delicious. I also got the local beer, which had three different flavors. I wound up having one each night.

The second day was the highlight for me. I had arranged a day tour that including visiting some tourist spots on the island and snorkeling. They picked us up at our place in the morning and the two guides (who were very nice) drove us to our first destination, Kabira Bay. It was rainy, or I should say “rainy” as it barely rained, and it was quite cloudy so the water wasn’t as colorful, but it was still beautiful. The area to walk around Kabira Bay isn’t that big, but you can take glass boat tours if the weather permits. They also farm for pearls in the area. After taking some pictures, we drove out to the snorkeling spot. When I booked the tour, I had chosen this particular place because it looked and sounded cool. It’s called the “Blue Cave.” It’s supposed to look like this: 

And it was beautiful, but not AS beautiful in the picture because it wasn’t a sunny, clear day. Still, it was really fun. First we changed into our gear, and our guides had us practice a little bit in the shallows to make sure we were okay. Then we took off into the sea. I was basically blind because I couldn’t wear my glasses, but I was surprised at how much I could see. Even with clouds in the sky, the water was incredibly clear. I saw a lot of rainbow colored parrot fish. They were gorgeous. There were a lot of other fish, too. Our guides pointed out some anemone and clown fish. It was really cool. Then we made our way to the cave and climbed around in there for a bit. After that, we went back out to some of the deeper parts of the ocean. There was a point where  I saw something that looked like a flower in the water. I thought maybe it was some sort of sea plant, but when I got closer, realized it was a lionfish! Obviously, I backed away because those things are venomous, but it was super amazing to see one up close in the wild. I’d only ever seen them in aquariums. Sarah said she saw an eel swimming around towards the bottom. I wish I’d seen it, but I was too blind. Not long after that, we made our way back to shore and continued to tour at an observation point and lighthouse. The observation point was nice, but the lighthouse was amazing. The structure itself wasn’t impressive, but the location was stunning. We overlooked this gorgeous section of beach and in the parts where the sun was trying to peek through, you could see the water was such a beautiful blue. We took a TON of pictures. The tour overall was really great. We were driven everywhere and took some very nice scenic routes all along the coast of the island. I was really excited because I saw a Ruddy Kingfisher on the drive, if only for a second. Anyone who knows me knows I love birds, so to see this little guy in a flash of red was pretty cool.

The guides didn’t speak much English at all, but that was fine because Sarah and I are okay at speaking Japanese. It was fun talking about the fish we saw while snorkeling and learning the different names for them in Japanese.

Once we were dropped off at our place again, we showered and headed back out to see the downtown shopping area and to maybe scope out a place for dinner. I wound up buying some gifts for my co-workers and we ended up at a Yaeyama Soba place. Yaeyama is the name of the set of islands Ishigaki is a part of. They are the southern islands of Okinawa. The Ryuku Islands are the northern ones. The soba wound up being like ramen, but a little different. It was all very delicious.

Our third and final full day was gorgeous out. We really lucked out because Ishigaki had already started it’s rainy season, but apparently it doesn’t really rain even in rainy season. So, we had a beautiful, sunny, clear day. We decided to go back to Kabira Bay for some pictures because it was so gorgeous. We were able to take the bus. We spent some time there just walking, putting our feet in the water, and taking one million pictures. I was tempted to do a glass boat tour, but we were unsure about the bus timing, so we didn’t. But it was okay. I was content to just look because it was so gorgeous. I know I keep saying that but seriously:

20170503_114308_HDR

#nofilter. ‘Nuff said.

After Kabira Bay, we went back to downtown for lunch. I had seen a steak burger place and knew I wanted that. It was very delicious, especially with the fresh mango juice to accompany everything. After lunch was more shopping. I had a lot of gifts to buy and I’m super excited to give them to people.

And that was our trip to Ishigaki. There’s not a lot happening in terms of variety of things to do, but it’s the perfect place if you like snorkeling, diving, or relaxing on the beach. I would definitely go back and even check out some of the other small islands in the Yaeyama area.

But Golden Week isn’t quite over yet. I came back to Minamata on Thursday and the next day, Renryu had a local performance at one of the department/supermarkets. We were joined by our friends from Hitoyoshi and got to see the local musical/comedy act, the Yauchi Brothers. I can’t quite explain the humor as a lot it, I can’t understand, but I know they sing songs about Minamata and do some slapstick comedy. It was a fun day.

Then, yesterday, I went to see my friend Marika in Fukuoka. She had stayed at our house for 2 weeks, like, 10 years ago when we were both in high school as part of a sister city exchange. I’m sure I’ve mentioned her before because I saw her maybe last year, or two years ago during winter break. Well, she was back in Fukuoka for a quick minute, so I went up there to visit. We went to the aquarium, which was nice (and super crowded, my goodness) and spent time catching up. It’s still amazing to me that we’ve known each other for so long, but haven’t really seen each other because of distance. I hope she can make it back to the U.S. some day and visit. At the end of the day, we went to dinner with her parents, which was little awkward because I’d never met them and they were unsure of who to speak to even though they knew I could speak some Japanese. But it was nice and they were friendly. They thanked me and said to thank my parents for taking care of Marika all those years ago and even gave me a gift for it. So Japanese.

All in all, it was a great, last Golden Week for me. It’s a little sad to think it’s my last, but I know there’ll be some more great adventures in the next coming months and then the adventure of readjusting to America. But enough of about that! You came not just for my rambles, but for the pictures. So, here they are (no snorkeling pictures, sorry)!

Hope you all enjoyed. Until next time!

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