Madea Flats

 Madea Flats. About 30 minutes north of us. Come visit!!!


Churaumi Aquarium

Churaumi Aquarium is the 3rd largest aquarium in the world. No big deal. When I wikipedia-ed it I found out the name Churaumi means 'beautiful ocean' in Japanese, very appropriate. Anyways it was a really cool aquarium in an AWWWEEESOMME location, right on the water in a huge park and we were lucky enough to be there for sunset. The highlight is a giant tank with three whale sharks. Largest sharks in the ocean, but they don't eat people. yay.
Whale Shark feeding on plankton

Then we headed up some winding, narrow roads to a restaurant called Pizza in the Sky. Lots of people had raved about it, so we checked it out. The view was incredible. I didn't die over the pizza though. Still fun though!
coolest menu
the view
This lady was eating the pizza with her chopsticks, but of course once I pulled out my phone to take a picture, she stopped. But it was awesome guys.


Shuri Castle

This here is Shuri Castle. It was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom back in the 14th century. So before Okinawa was an official part of Japan it was a tributary to China, known as the Ryukyu Kingdom. Then it was a tributary to Japan and wasn't adopted as a Japanese Prefecture until 1879. So for a while it was doing it's own thing and had it's own ruler and the capital was here at Shuri Castle! The castle was completely destroyed during WWII and wasn't reconstructed until the early 90's. It has been a very slow process and many areas around the castle are still being worked on! I also learned they had the G8 Summit here in July 2000 with those heads of state in attendance here, so ya know, kind of cool.
Some of the outer gates around the castle

 We had to remove our shoes to go through most of the museum out of respect-something that I'm still getting use to here! Many places you go eat at or museums and people's home you are suppose to remove your shoes and a couple times I've totally forgotten and felt like a big dummy.
 Where the king sat!
 A little replica built of some of the ceremonies performed here. They still use the castle and courtyard for certain festivals and what not. So we'll have to go back during one of those!
It has been really fun learning about a culture so different than what we are use to. I'm so glad we got to come over here and hope to learn much, much more!


Hiji Falls

The really awesome thing about PSC-ing (permanent change of station) to Japan was Duke's squadron gave him plenty of time to adjust and get settled before starting work everyday. We decided to take advantage of the time we had and see some sights together! This day we drove about an hour or so north to hike to Hiji Falls. It was really pretty and very lush and green. Mostly the hike was walking up TONS of stairs, but it wasn't bad at all. Also all these pictures are iphone pictures, so the quality is meh, but you get the idea.

 The falls!
 Duke jumped in, while I stayed and took pictures. 
 We still didn't have a car at this point, but were sick of being stuck in the hotel and had just found out we could RENT cars right next door! So we took advantage of having a car and went out for some local food. It was kind of a bummer food experience to be totally honest, haha. I had heard about this place-Kitakaisen-from a Okinawa facebook group I was part of, but didn't seem to live up to the hype in our opinions. But they had a large variety including have horse meat sashimi! (which we weren't brave enough to try). We did like the tempura sweet potatoes we got. The sweet potatoes here are not the same as in America. And actually the kind we had were yellow-fleshed which I thiiiink is the sweet potato they use mostly in mainland (could be very wrong on that). However, sweet potatoes are a big thing here in Okinawa. There are two different kinds--Ube & Beni Imo. And they use them in EVERYTHING. They are a really pretty purple color and are probably super healthy. I haven't given them a go to be honest...yet! But they use them in ice cream, pastries, candies, bread..and probably lots of other things. I do miss my regular old american sweet potato though!

Okinawa sweet potato^
 I just bought our own chopsticks actually so that we can become pros! We have learned the proper etiquette while using them and what to do and not to do with them. Sticking them straight into your food is considered offensive and so is passing the food from chopstick to chopstick!
Also here is one of our cars we got! This is the one I drive, because the seat doesn't go back far enough for Duke's long legs. So after buying this car that was Duke's main concern with the next car. In the states I was not a huge cube fan, but they are probably the most popular car here. If it isn't a cube, it looks like a cube. But they do have vans and regular sedans as well. Duke's car is more normal American style so it's too boring to be pictured here. Also I think we've adapted well to driving on the wrong side of the road, although I can't tell you how many times I go to the wrong side of the car to get in. I don't even know which side is the "right" side any more. I am confused for life.


Katsuren-jo Castle/my birthday

The Monday after we arrived was Columbus Day and so Duke had the day off! It also happened to be my birthday that day. We didn't have a car yet, but our sponsor family invited us to tag along with them to see Katsuren-jo Castle. It's really just castle ruins and was built in the 13th or 14th century. Pretty fancy. It's on a hill on this little peninsula and so the view at the top is gorgeous with pretty ocean on both sides. It's cool that it is still around because so much was destroyed during WWII, but this little gem escaped destruction!
 After walking around Katsuren, we drove over to a nearby Navy base called White Beach. Hence the Navy ships below. It was our first beach visit here and I was surprised how coral-y the "sand" is!
 See, lots of coral^
 definitely don't want to go barefoot on this beach. ouch.
I had to use the bathroom at the castle visitor center and I opened the stall door to this. Wasn't really sure how I felt about it, so I opened another stall door and they had a western toilet. Most places have regular toilets-this is actually the only one I've seen so far like this! I suppose they are more sanitary bc you don't touch anything, but still a little different than what I'm use to!
This might be the time to talk about Japan and their strange love for vending machines. There are SO MANY vending machines EVERYWHERE YOU GO. It's kind of crazy, but you will never die of thirst in this country, so at least they have that covered. Anyways, the only familiar drinks in the machines are Coke and Coke Zero, but I was feeling adventurous so I got this Aloe & White Grape drink. Sounds delicious and refreshing. What I was not expecting was chunks of Aloe in my drink. It was too weird for me and I couldn't finish it. Good, but who really wants floating chunks in their drink? Not me. I don't even like concentrate in OJ, sooo this really wasn't my cup of tea. Or juice. 
 I think we pull the Japanese look off very nicely.

The hotel we were staying at on base has a Macaroni Grill right next door, so we decided we'd celebrate my bday over there since we were car-less. (which is the worst!)
We also got this little cake from the commissary. The only mistake was that it was gluten free. It was absolutely horrible. So much for that. Anyways I turned 27. Which sounds like a good age. So cheers to 27!