The Lost Blogs #29
Travel Dates: Sat, April 28, 2012 – Thu, May 3, 2012
On our third day in Okinawa, we decided to drive out all the way to Northern Honto. Naha City, where were were staying, was all the way near the southern tip of the island, and it was 1) really boring there, and 2) was getting hit with the worst of the rainy season. We thought if we drive out really far, we might be able to escape it for a bit. And as you can see, while the weather still wasn’t ideal, we did get a break of blue sky!
The main attraction in Northern Honto is the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which is located within the Ocean Expo Commemorative National Government Park. In addition to the aquarium, which costs 1,800 yen to access, there is also a dolphin lagoon, a sea turtle pool, and a manatee pool, all of which are free to access. Three beaches, Emerald Beach, Sunset Square, and Seashore Alameda, are also part of the park grounds. There is also the Oceanic Culture Museum and Native Okinawan Village, both of which we did not visit, but you can find more information at Japan-Guide. The park grounds are quite large, but there are multiple parking lots, and a small shuttle which you can ride for 200-yen.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is said to be the best aquarium in Japan. In the Okinawan dialect, churaumi means “beautiful sea”, and in this aquarium, you can see all that Okinawa’s beautiful sea has to offer. There are several species of tropical fish, many of which you can see inside the Kuroshio Tank, which is one of the largest tanks in the world.
The aquarium is designed with the building entrance on the third floor, but actually begins on the fourth floor, where you can find statues of whales and manta rays. Visitors make their way down to the entrance in the Coral Lobby on the third floor. Immediately after the entrance, visitors are greeted by the “Life in Inoh” exhibit, which is a large touch pool full of starfish, seashells, and small fish.
The aquarium route is easy to follow and guides you through a number of other exhibits, such as The Coral Sea, tank, which is open to the sky and is lit by natural sunlight. There are a number of other tanks housing tropical fish, coral reefs, and freshwater life.
Tropical fish are so colorful! I love it! You’ll also find other ocean life like sea turtles, manta rays, and seahorses in the exhibits.
But, the most exciting thing was seeing Jinta, the aquarium’s biggest whale shark. There are three whale sharks in the Kuroshio Tank, and Jinta is the largest measuring 8.5 meters in length and weighing an estimated 5.5 tons.
We actually spent several hours at Churaumi Aquarium, which is funny because it was our first day on the island where we didn’t experience heavy rain. After eating lunch (taco rice and naan dogs), we ventured out to watch the manatees, turtles, and dolphins for a bit. We happened to catch the dolphins performing as part of a show, but we were most entertained by the manatees.
There were two manatees hanging out in the tank. One was kind of lazy, and he did nothing but lay on the ground for a bit before eventually attempting to scratch his armpit for ten minutes. The other was a total showoff! He swam in circles, using one of his forelimbs to push against the walls to gain speed, then when he reached the window, he would perform a very graceful spin in the water, right before our eyes.
Finally, we made it out to Emerald Beach, a sand beach which is divided into three areas: a beach for playing and swimming, a beach for resting, and a beach for viewing. Of course with our luck, the rain found us, so we did some “viewing” and that’s about it.
We took a trip to the gift shop before leaving, so on the drive home we were nibbling on shio-chinsuko (Okinawan Salt Cookie). This stuff is so good; I almost bought the big omiyage boxes not to give out as souvenirs but to devour all by myself. But I stopped myself and settled for this tiny bag instead.
Back in Naha, we ate at Sam’s By The Sea. Sam’s Restaurant is a somewhat-expensive chain, which had locations just walking distance from our hotel in Kokusai-dori, but we did a little blog-research and decided to take a taxi out to the Sam’s By The Sea location in Awase.
Good to know. Sam’s By The Sea is 1,684 miles away from Tokyo, and 12,570 miles away from San Francisco!
Chain or not, this restaurant is really fun. Typical tiki statues and torches for decor. They have a number of tropical cocktails, some of which come with souvenir cups which you can take home. We all decided to get one, and so now my husband and I are the lucky owners of a JAWS cup and this really awesome SKULL cup. The portions are large and heavy; very American-sized, if you ask me; and come with bread, pineapple butter, soup, and salad. Soup of the day was curry-flavored, and I was surprised to find blue cheese dressing as one of the options.
I chose the crab-stuffed red snapper and stuffed jumbo shrimp. I had absolutely no room for dessert after eating this!
And the boys at our table both ordered the surf and turf: lobster and bacon-wrapped steak. Yum!
There are a lot of good places to eat in Okinawa, as long as you know where to go, and while I normally prefer to eat at local favorites and mom-and-pop’s, a visit to Sam’s By The Sea is A-OK in my book.
Next time in the Golden Week in Okinawa series: Getting Out of Okinawa Honto!! After three days on the main island with mediocre beaches and a downpour of rain, we finally escape!!
Missed the previous posts? Find them here!