Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Random things about Okinawa (an interjection)

One: Okinawans are supposed to be the longest-lived people in the world. There are tons of people over a hundred. AND I didn't see any of the super-bent shrimp-shaped old women there, either. They're doing something right. Maybe it's all that pork.

Two: Because of internationality and American influence, Okinawan vending machines (which seemed to appear every thirty feet) are sometimes stocked with stuff you don't see anywhere else. (The same reason you can get taco rice there)



Aaaand of course, the A&W restaurant. I had more rootbeer floats on this trip than I've had in the last year.

Three: Shisa, called shishi in China, are guardian lion-dog creatures that are often seen in pairs at the entrances to homes or other gate-structures. Usually, one has its mouth open and one closed. I have read different explanations but my favorite is that the open mouth is the "a" and the closed is the "m" representing the first and last sounds of the universe.. in English generally written as the "om" which is mantra-tastic. Also, sometimes one has a ball (the male?), and one has a cub (the female). I find it significant that they are protectors, but apparently they are known to be really rough on the cubs (squishing them with their paws, throwing them off cliffs, etc. to test their strength) as well. I love them because about ten years ago I had a dream about a creature strongly resembling a lion/dog which played with me in an enclosed courtyard. It threw me against the stone wall, and when I was really put-out about that, it assured me it was "just fucking with me," turned into a young woman, and promised to be my protector for ever.

Shisa are just everywhere in Okinawa, in all forms of fierce and comical.

At Naminoue Shrine.

At the Sanrio store: A

and, M

And, as the name of a bar.

Four: The local beer is Orion. The local sake is Awamori, and it's special because it's brewed from Thai jasmine rice instead of mainland Japan rice. It's strong, but I did buy a bottle of a mix of it and umeshu (plum wine) that is excellent.

Awamori! (Inside that Shisa bar)

Two of the other varieties of Orion: Rich and Southern Star. Mugi is still in my fridge because I tucked it into my carry on before getting on the plane..! Also featured, special pineapple-shiquasa chu-hi, not to be confused with hi-chu, which is also sold in these flavors and only in Okinawa.

Five: Famous foods include goya, a bitter gourd melon thingy, and the champuru style of cooking in which you kind of just throw everything together at once. Which is so my style of cooking. So it's probably more involved than I just said.

Goya champuru. And Orion beer. OKINAWA LUNCH number two.

Six: There are MONGEESE. Mongooses? Someone said a must-see thing would be a mongoose fighting a snake. Word. Apparently, Okinawa has a couple poisonous snakes. Or rather, apparently, mainland Japan doesn't really.



  1. You brought back a LOT of good memories! I was assigned to the Army's 62d MP Company at Camp Sukiran from 1973 to December 1974 and had my new bride there with me-our first born son was born at the US Army Hospital, Camp Kue-now the US Navy Regional Medical Center. We both greatly loved Okinawa and the Okinawan people. I was in hog heaven when I discovered the Kirin/Asahi/Orion beer vending machines on the street corners; saw our first Habu/Mongoose "fight" at Kadena (AFB) Carnival!

  2. Judas. For some reason I had bookmarked a January post and thought you hadn't been posting all this time. I am a moron. ^^;

    But anyways, that is a pretty amazing dream. Red Shisa Kitty needs to accidentally fall into a mailbox with an address label to me on her. :P