Trip to Okinawa

Finally, it was Vacation Time! This year, a short 4 days/3 nights trip to Naha, Okinawa, my first time to the islands down south.

It was a reunion trip with two friends from my days as a doctoral student back in New York City. Students in New York back then, now many years later, each of us living in our countries of birth: Taiwan, Korea and Japan. And so we decided to meet up in Okinawa, flying in from three different countries (ironically, my “domestic” flight was the longest), for our first reunion after graduating. It was long overdue but we finally managed it and ended up having a blast!

We had rented an apartment for 3 nights in the Tsubogawa district, which turned out to be in a very convenient, safe and pleasant location. Close to the airport, short walk to the Tsubogawa monorail station, a 24 hr. supermarket a block away. Staying there saved us a lot of money and it was great to have a full kitchen available. The living area was cozy and the two bedrooms were adequate.

On the first day, we took the ferry to Zamami island. A two hour ferry ride away from Naha Tomari Port, Zamami is part of the Kerama Islands of Okinawa prefecture. The small village is surrounded by turquoise seas and white beaches. The ferry ride was great: it was just awesome to be out on the open sea, see nothing but ocean on the horizon, feel the power of the sea, pass by some small uninhabited islands and rocks, feel the wind on the open upper decks…The ferry made a stop at Aka island and then went on to Zamami. We had only 2 hours until the ferry took us back to Naha.

On Zamami island, we had lunch at a little shack that served homemade local food. First time to try Okinawa Soba, a bowl of hot noodles that look like udon in a tasty broth topped with some pork. We also had some tasty Yakisoba and Katsu-don.

As this was a reunion trip with friends I had not seen in years, the main point was to catch up, reconnect, and horse around. I admit that I had not laughed this much in years! It is funny how easily one reverts back to the ways during the time in life when we were students together even though so many years have passed.

Riding the Yui Monorail, we also visited Kokusai-dori or International Street, a touristy strip full of souvenir shops and restaurants, as well as the Duty Free Shop in town, T-Galleria DFS. We went to some American style restaurants but we mainly enjoyed eating in at our apartment, buying groceries at the nearby market.

Time flies when you’re having fun

so true…

…and this was the case here. It was a short vacation full of fun, laughter and friendship which was much needed for all of us. I got to reconnect with some very dear old friends, relax and be silly. It felt great to let loose and totally be myself again. It made me think of how life nowadays and of course work demand a certain way of behavior, attitude and posture that sometimes comes close to pretending to be someone else. I suppose it also has to do with living in Japan, which still feels like a foreign place at times. It also has to do with speaking a language here that I’m not the most comfortable with. It has to do with having to be an “adult,” sometimes having to filter what I say or choose the right way to say them, adjusting to circumstances, adapting to situations…all of which I was allowed to forget for a short time.

This trip also made me think of how important it is to maintain these old friendships. This, of course, takes the effort, time and willingness of all involved but it happens too often that over time and with distance (physical and otherwise) even the strongest of friendships fade into a mere memory of the past and have little to do with the present. Life goes on in different directions and what was once a strong presence in one’s daily life is reduced to a once-or-twice-a-year-greeting-email for occasions such as birthdays or holidays. So this trip was not only a great way to relax and shake off the stress from this past school-year, but also a much appreciated and cherished time to reconnect, reaffirm, revisit with friends from the past and make plans for future meetups. And get energized for the new school-year at work and face all performance projects planned in the near future head on.

I’m ready now!