Local girl imitating the cat statues that pepper the island - it is said that they protect the island, but mainly they look crazy and cool, scattered as they are across the roof tops and other unlikely places.
I took advantage of the long weekend last week to jump on an airplane for the Japan and the alarmingly close Okinawa, or specifically the Kerama group of islands off the West coast. It's funny to think, that Japan starts within viewing distance of Taiwan, and estends its way all the way up to Russia; hop, skipping and jumping along the way.
Completing little more than the most cursory of research, I landed, stayed the night in Naha (the main city on Okinawa) and left the next morning for Zamami, which I was told was particularly chilled out. Remnants of the Jasmine Sake (excellent, by the way) did not mix too well with the heavy swell, but the salty air cooled me down by the time we reached the port, and the most chilled place I have found thus far in Japan.
Zamami, around two hours from the main island, reminded me of Green Island and the other Taiwanese sub-islands. Indeed, the food was somewhere halfway between Japan and Taiwan, featuring heavier, oilier flavours and ingredients like Bitter Melon and fried eggs. Not bad at all.
The similarities did not stop with the food. I was lucky enough to stumble my way into surely the most charming place to stay in the islands: Akabana, which is a one hundred plus year old collection of buildings, complete with sliding screens and ghostly photos from the 1960s. Daytime was spent on the beach, riding round on a scooter, or hanging out outside the local shop watching the local elderly come to buy their supplies. I also sqeezed in a couple of dives, but my ears were not equalising quite as well as I wanted and it left me in a little bit of pain, sadly.
Stars of the weekend were Yokohama super stars, Yumi and Satomi. They didn't speak English. I didn't speak Japanese. So, we spent the time conversing in a series of sound effects, song, and dance. Three marvellous days hanging out ... The sound of the 'breakfast and coffee' song still ringing in my ears.
Tomorrow ... Forever!
Zamami - fully recommended, and an area of the world I would not mind heading back to one bit. Just a shame that the ferry company that operated between Okinawa and Taipei has gone bankrupt. Dreams of jumping off the ferry in Japan have been with me since before I arrived in Taiwan - perhaps the government will step in some day.
At the Copa, Copa Akabana...
Wall of the Shurijo castle in Naha - a World Heritage site ... of which Japan seems to have a monopoly on.
The cats clean up after themselves here... goodbye Zamami!