My Last Full Day In Okinawa

Today started like any other, noodles and dumplings for breakfast, a short walk on the beach, and onward to Camp Foster to shoot the men’s basketball teams practice at the field house. Besides getting a photo of head coach Mark Few smiling (a rare sighting), this was uneventful. I was told that I’d be able to shoot the team shooting at the firing range, but shortly after I was informed that ESPN isn’t letting any media onto that tour.

So after editing some photos, I decided to finally listen to all of the hotel employees and my mom and go to the ‘world famous’ aquarium on the northern end of the island. After about an hour and a half in the car, driving through quant little villages and popular resort destinations, I finally reached the aquarium. I took one look at the price of 2,500 Yen and decided my time would be better spent talking around the town of Bise instead of looking at glorified fish tanks. All along the pristine white sand beaches that lined the town were large groups of schoolchildren in their uniforms taking selfies and pushing each other around. I walked about 15 minutes and came into a small somewhat rural part of Bise, where a man was walking his ox and old men were playing card games in the street. I walked into a small restaurant called Cahaya Bulan, a place full of stray cats, and whose menu consisted of one page of food and the other 10 full of various teas and local drinks. And once again, I found myself in a place with people who didn’t speak English. However, the people there were unbelievably friendly and helpful. So I pointed to what I wanted to eat and drink (thankfully the drinks at least had pictures), ordering a strawberry and what I think was seaweed smoothie and a dish that I still don’t fully understand what it was. Though it taste fine, it was a cross between unsettled rice jello with chicken, all together costing a mere $8.15.

I walked a ways and hopped into a cab asking for the fastest way back to my hotel. The driver knew I couldn’t understand him, and he took full advantage of that—driving me through the mountains of Motobu and weaving our way through the streets of Nago, a city of about 62,000. Even though I was already frustrated that my meter way being run around in circles, this area was absolutely stunning. Small family tombs adorned the hillsides at every corner, tropical trees covered as far as the eye could see and the buildings and houses of humble people sat in near ruins packed so tightly next to each other. An hour later and an extra 800 Yen to take the Expressway I finally returned to my hotel, tired and mad that I just paid $100 for a cab ride.

After a little shopping for some Japanese whiskey and colorful boxes of items unknown until I open them, I went to a small sushi restaurant called Kouwa. I attempted again to eat the raw fish, but after the second bite of tuna sashimi I had to call it quits. However, I remembered that any food left on your plate in Japanese culture is very disrespectful. So unfortunately, I choked down the other two and a half pieces of fish followed by a large glass of Orion, an Okinawan beer, and walked about 30 minutes to a small restaurant near my hotel. I got absolutely delicious shrimp tempura and sake and held a small conversation with the chef who spoke the best English he could. And for the last time, I returned to my room and called it a night.

Tomorrow is the whole reason I came to Japan, the matchup between Gonzaga and Pittsburg. Even though it has been disappointing being unable to follow and shoot the team like I was told, it has given me two more days of exploring than I planned. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to finally be able to shoot this once in a lifetime basketball game at Camp Foster.