Our last full day in Japan was SO fun. We woke up around 5 and were out the door at 6 to get on the monorail. We got on a bus and were off to the aquarium!
We bought some little rice crackers in the airport the day before and we brought those with us to snack on. We drove past little towns and then WHAM it was like we were in the jungle! The forests were crazy dense and there were mountains and it seemed like we were in a tropical jungle! It was mind blowing. Randy told me that nobody goes into the forests and mountain areas there because there are super poisonous snakes and such.
We had a pit stop just past Ishigaki (a little city that Randy did splits in while he was a missionary. He even sent me a video from there saying he couldn’t wait for me to see it one day! HEART EYES). There we found a vending machine (they are ALL over Japan and filled with the most delicious snacks) and we found one that had Blue Seal Choco Drink that Randy loves. It was SO delicious, I was obsessed with it. The drink is SO cold when it comes out of the machine and it was so tasty.
We got back on the bus and kept driving through.
We drove through Nago, where Randy served the first 6 months of his mission! The water there is GORGEOUS, even more beautiful than the water in Naha. We drove past Randy’s apartment, the places where so many people lived that he taught, and he told me stories about each area as we drove by.
We even saw the spot where Randy sent one of my favorite pictures from his mission! It was so amazing to see another city and area that was so important to Randy.
A few minutes later we arrived at the aquarium! We went right in and got a fun picture where they told us to ROAR like the shisa (these little dog statues that are ALL OVER Okinawa! It’s a good luck thing to have them protect your home.)
We went into the aquarium and saw a bunch of beautiful fish, all tropical that I had never seen before! There were a bunch of lobsters and crabs, weird little snake and eels things and I just loved it! We walked around a corner and suddenly saw a HUGE tank! It had 3 whale sharks in it, a bunch of other sharks and a ton of manta rays! It was AMAZING – I still can’t stop thinking about it!
We decided to get real breakfast and I got pasta, Randy got some rice, and we got to sit right next to the tank and eat. We stayed there forever just watching the giant fish. They fed the manta rays and it was SO cool to see them swim up to the surface and swoop fish into their mouth.
We walked into the next room and saw the jaw of a great white shark, which is RIDICULOUS and huge. It was crazy! We also saw a great white shark fetus, which was as big as me. It was NUTS.
Next we got to see how thick the tank glass actually is, and it blew my mind! It seems like it would be from Randy’s finger to his elbow, but you keep reaching around and it goes all the way to his shoulder! It was just really mind blowing, sorry it’s hard to explain!
We finished walking through and saw a bunch of really creepy deep sea fish and a ton of tropical fish, some sea turtles, and then we got to go down to the beach. We had a small photo shoot because we couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful water! It is indescribably gorgeous. I haven’t ever been to a tropical island, but I’m pretty sure all of them will be ruined now because of how gorgeous and wonderful Okinawa is.
We got back on the bus and slept the whole way back, we arrived back in Naha and went back to our hotel to rest up.
When we had cooled off a bit from the heat, we went back to Kokusai Dori for some shabu-shabu. They bring you trays and trays of meat and veggies and you cook it in a boiling broth pot on your table (there is a stove right in your table, so cool!) I LOVED it and thought it was so delicious. We thought we were in trouble, because they charge you for all the meat you don’t eat. They brought out like 12 trays of meat with at least 6 pieces on them, we thought we were toast! But we managed to eat the meat and it was delicious!
We looked out the window and watched the CUTEST little girl dancing in front of a jumbotron in the city, it has a camera and broadcasts you next to under the sea creatures or battle bots, and she was just dancing and dancing and wouldn’t stop! She was out there for at least 40 minutes just dancing and going crazy. It was too cute!
We into Heiwa Dori which is like an indoor market of the city that lets you get out of the heat, to buy the rest of our souvenirs. We decided we had to get matching Okinawa shirts, and found this cool shop that had the coolest guy working there. We talked to him about the church and he told us all about how much he loved beer hahaha, it cracked us up! He was really cool though, and took pictures of us to put on his social media pages!
After that we took a train to this beautiful castle called Shurijo. It was a bit of a walk up but we had a great time chatting. The castle was beautiful, it’s from the 1400’s and was where the leadership lived, then when the Japanese took over they moved in, it was the site of a lot of contention and was actually destroyed during the War of Okinawa, but was rebuilt. We took our shoes off to walk around inside, they had completely redesigned it to look exactly like it would have back then. They had a few paintings and artifacts, but a lot of stuff had been destroyed during WWII. But we got to see the throne room where the Shogun would receive his people and that was amazing!
We also learned that there are a bunch of tunnels under the castle and the city that were built during WWII, which is crazy!
It was SO hot and we still needed one more souvenir so we went to one shop, the lady was SO nice but she was SO particular, she kept wrapping and rewrapping our purchase. Her English was perfect and she was sweet but so interesting.
We walked around Naha more, and decided to have some Japanese McDonalds for dinner, which was yummy! They had wasabi sauce which was tasty, and it was funny to try something familiar but new!
We bought some donuts for the missionaries and some ice cream for us, and then walked to the missionary apartment to try and catch them as they got home.
We were lucky and caught them and chatted, took some pictures with them and they were SO sweet. Randy found out about some of his favorite members and gave them some advice, they were just so sweet! We walked to our hotel and went to sleep, so sad that our adventure was going to be ending the next day.
After lunch we went to Uniqlo, this awesome story that Randy loves there, and I spotted a skirt for 5 dollars. I decided to try it on and get it, and when I came back from trying it on, Keiko was in line buying the same skirt! She was so excited we would get to match which made me SO happy!
We woke up a bit later than we had been the next day and got ready. We went out into the kitchen and Grandma had made us an amazing breakfast! There was soy spinach and rice, pickled salad, cucumbers, an apple salad and ham.
Randy played a game of Japanese chess (I can’t spell the real name) with Grandpa while Keiko and I talked and she went to get ready.
We left with Grandma to go to the bus station right outside their house, which took us to the Machida train station. Then, we got on a train for Kamakura.
We stopped at this sweet and peaceful temple in the most quiet and quaint little town. There was nobody at the temple and it was just beautiful and peaceful, I loved it! We got back on the train and kept going, after Keiko gave us some yummy lemon and honey candy.
We got off the station as Keiko was telling us about her favorite sweet potato ice cream that they had in Kamakura. We walked off the train and there was an ice cream shop, so we had to stop! Keiko got sweet potato, and Randy and I got a sweet potato and a mint chocolate chip cone each. The sweet potato ice cream was SO GOOD. It blew my mind how much I loved it! I’m normally a chocolate girl through and through, but I loved that ice cream cone so much!
We went to see the giant Buddha statue which is called the Daibutsu. It is overwhelming to walk up to it and see how gigantic it is. There is a beautiful garden and shrine behind the statue, and there were a million school kids there on vacation. A few came up to me and said “Hello!” in their practiced English, and when I would respond “Oh hello, how are you?” They would run away because they didn’t know what I was saying!
I need to talk about Randy’s grandma Keiko for a minute. She is the sweetest lady in the world. She was so fun and would laugh and tell us hilarious stories. She speaks really good English that she learned when she went to Catholic school in Tokyo. She would speak to Randy in Japanese a lot but would translate for me immediately and would talk to me in English a bunch. She would ask me questions and we got used to speaking slowly and gesturing to each other so we could understand each other perfectly. She is so fun and loves to laugh and isn’t afraid to speak her mind at all. I absolutely adore her and meeting her gave me so much insight into Randy and his family, and the reasons why he is the way that he is. Keiko would pause all the time and say “How you say that in English…” then she would say a word in Japanese to Randy and they would try to figure out the best English word. “Ahh yes” she would say after they decided on the right word. She would laugh and bump my arm and squeeze my shoulder. She is almost 80 but she is insanely healthy and walked all around, navigated busy stations for us, and seemed more energetic than we were!
After we saw the statue we went to a noodle shop Keiko loves and I had duck soba, and Randy had Oyacodon which is chicken and egg rice.
We got back on the train and went a little further into Kamakura, and walked up this beautiful lane that during the cherry blossom season, is just unreal. We saw a wedding party leaving the temple and it was amazing to see the dresses and hair and makeup, I loved it so much. Randy and I went up the steep stairs to the top of the shrine, then we came back down and wandered the town with Keiko, shopping and chatting about what she loved about America and about Randy’s time in Okinawa. Keiko wanted to get some tea and we explained we would go with her but wouldn’t drink tea, then we saw a jinriksha, which is a carriage pulled by a person, and before I knew what was happening, Keiko had arranged for Randy and I to get a tour of the city while she would go to a nearby cafe and we would be dropped off there later. They were all speaking Japanese so quickly and I was SO confused, it was kind of hilarious!
We got on the cart, he kept telling Randy he had to get in first so he could help me into the cart, it was sweet! And then, we were off! He would walk and run and then slow down the cart with us in the back and I was floored! He had to be SO in shape to be able to do it! He was really nice and spoke pretty rough English. Randy asked “Where did you learn to speak English” and he replied, “Uhhhhhh recently!” It was kind of hilarious! He showed us a museum and this beautiful temple called the Temple of Love. It was built after the first Shogun died and his wife built it for him, in his honor. The guy pulled out his notes to tell us the story and was SO animated and acted the story out for us, going “He died…BLEH” and then closed his eyes as if he died, or “His wife was so sad…BOOOHOOO” and pretended like he was sobbing. It cracked us up!
We finished running through the town making jokes about the cars and how his cart was “eco-friendly” and then we were back to the tea house where Keiko was. It was called the Milk Tea House and it was DARLING. Antique and beautiful, playing jazz music. We had hot chocolate with Keiko and laughed and talked. We left and kept walking around Kamakura, we went to this “Bean Store” where they had beans and nuts of all kinds of crazy flavors to sample, we tried curry, squid ink, green apple, raspberry, and a million more. It was so fun!
We got back on the train and laughed and talked the whole way back to Machida.
Keiko was ready to go home, so she told us to stay and play in Machida city while she took the bus home. We went around the city and people-watched and shopped and had a fun time just the two of us.
We decided to take the train to Naruse and then walk back, since the walk was short and it was fun to see the neighborhood.
When we got back, Keiko had made chicken and salad and tofu and rice, and we had this amazing oily bread from the bakery which was to DIE for.
Keiko pulled out the nuts and beans from the store that she had bought and we chatted to Grandpa about what we had done that day and told more stories. Randy’s cousin Reina came to visit and it was so awesome to meet her. She doesn’t speak a lot of English so Randy and Grandma had to translate a lot for both of us! We just talked and folded magazine paper into little trash bins for tissues and wrappers, which was super fun.
We kept talking for a bit, and then Reina went home, and we went to sleep after a crazy busy day!