Day 8: Shuri

Its hard to believe I’ve been here for 8 days. Today I only had a half day in subtropical Okinawa. There are still a few things I would like to have done. There is a Chinese Botanical Garden that looked nice, and I still would like to have gone to that aquarium, not to mention do some diving. As for the garden and aquarium I didn’t have enough time to travel there and get back to Naha in time for my 5pm flight, so that got ruled out. Today wasn’t a very good day for swimming either, the sky was overcast and it was a bit misty at times, add in a breeze, and not wanting to be all salty flying back to Osaka, swimming just didn’t have much appeal today. I have to say I wouldn’t mind a day of watching TV and sleeping in late, but most hotels have check out at 10-11am so that’s not going to happen, I guess I can sleep in when I get back to the states. Today I decided to check out Shuri Castle. I don’t mean to seem like such an architecture guru or something, but there really isn’t a whole lot of ancient Japanese culture remaining that I haven’t seen, and today’s Japanese culture is very very western. Remove the language, slight difference in style, and extreme courtesy and the Japanese people would seem like Californians. The large cities, though impressive, can only impress me for a good 10 minutes, its not like I haven’t seen dense city life before. That’s not to say I’m not thoroughly enjoying myself, that’s just why you wont see much pictures of people riding in subway cars =P. I feel like such a tourist at times haha.

Shuri Castle was the seat of Ryukyu (pronounced like look yoo). The original castle was completely and utterly destroyed during the battle of Okinawa sadly, and was later rebuilt after the American occupation ended. What really amazed me about it, was the amount of research they did for every single detail, down to analyzing the style of the Chinese Emperor’s calligraphy to accurately reproduce letters he hand written to the King of the Ryukyu. The Castle itself is amazingly beautiful, and I just cannot capture the intricacy of the artwork that adorns the pillars within the castle. There is gold leaf everywhere you look, from screens, to the pillars. What I also found interesting was that the king had his living quarters behind the ornate throne room built to be much more ordinary, even using what was considered architectural design techniques for the roof that characterized the lower caste of Ryukyu society. After touring the grounds for an hour, I sat down for the musical performance, which was to again be Ryukyu traditional music but this time supposidly more in line with what the king would have play at his court.

I was also feeling a bit adventurous today with regards to food again. I tried this purple ice cream with a name I couldn’t figure out even with my guide, though most of the other ones had names like pineapple. It turns out to be a violet colored sweet potato. Yes sweet potato ice cream. Its actually very very good though. The flavor is fairly mild, not all too sweet, but very good. I guess though if you were not familiar with vanilla you would be like ‘what the hell? why do they make vanilla ice cream?’

I’m now back in Osaka for the night before heading to Koyasan tomorrow morning. I wasn’t able to make a reservation for staying at one of the temples, so I plan to bring all of my luggage with me tomorrow, and hopefully get a room. If not I’ll have to find an internet cafe or a phone and make a reservation somewhere else in the Kansai area for the night. If all goes to plan though I’ll have some stories to tell, but most likely not right away, somehow I doubt the temple will have internet like every single one of my hotels has had so far luckily.

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