A sky full of stars

When was the last time you actually saw The Sky at Night? I mean the real sky; not the mild glow of towns and cities that we are accustomed to. The one that is no longer visible to most of the world, the pitch black, diamond encrusted vastness of the universe? How many places are…

Just F*cking Killme

In the west we tend to have a long standing superiority complex, and assume that other places — you know, those funny far away places with funny names that you can’t find on a map — must be below us. The same applies to international travel. Say the names Delta, Air Canada, American Airlines, and…

Under the sea

Recently I tried my hand at some underwater photography during a day of snorkelling at Hanagusuku Beach, on the south coast of Okinawa. These pics were taken with just a normal point and shoot, and I think they are not bad. Not amazing, but not bad for a first try in somewhat low visibility. My…

Kings and Queens

Once upon a time, Okinawa was its own ‘nation’, the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. With a distinct language and culture, it was, and in some ways still is, very distinct from mainland Japan, which took it over in 1879. Every five years, Okinawans living abroad hold a massive reunion on Okinawa, with tens of thousands…

Manzamo and Cape Zanpa

During our recently staycation (see post below), we stopped at two scenic spots – Cape Zanpa and Cape Manzamo. Okinawa is blessed with a beautiful, rugged coastline, and there are lots of ‘capes’ to go visit. Usually there is a lighthouse, and in some cases a beach nearby. In this case, there were goats! The first…

Lifestyles of the rich and famous… on a pension

It’s been eight months since I’ve been on a plane. For me, that’s a new record. While living in Hong Kong it seemed that we were jetting out as often as possible. But since moving to Okinawa, we’ve just sort of stayed put and nested. I guess that is a good sign, that we don’t…

The beach in the city

Naminoue Beach, the only beach within Naha city limits, is a small but very pleasant patch of sand to go stick your toes in. Situated beneath the scenic Naminoue Shrine, and unfortunately now located under a huge, concrete overpass, it is not a beach that has a good reputation. But hey, I will let you be…

Please don’t go to this place

Under no circumstances should you go to this place, a tiny island off of Okinawa called Aka-Jima. Just trust me, don’t go. You won’t like it. The environment there is so polluted and destroyed, it cannot support any true wildlife. The food at the minshuku, or guest houses, is boring, bland and disgusting. You’re guaranteed…

Yonabaru Giant Tug-of-War

We could hear the festival coming from a distance, starting with the low, mournful sound of huge conch shells being blown, somewhere up the street. Booooooo-eeeee. Booooo-eeeeee. The road had been closed off to vehicles, and a smallish crowd of people were on the sidewalk, waiting, and watching. Then we heard the drums and percussion, and saw…

Tomori Stone Lion

Tucked away on a hill overlooking the quiet agricultural town of Yaese, southern Okinawa, sits the island’s oldest, and perhaps most historically significant, shisa. (Yes yes, ANOTHER post about shisa!! Sorry!) Sometimes Google leads you on an accidental wild goose chase. In my search for information about the origins of shisa, I just happened to…

Legends of the Shisa

It’s only a few minutes away and I drive past it five days a week when I go to school in the morning – an uninteresting looking mound of green grass tucked away behind some yakiniku restaurants and a Family Mart. I had no idea that this tiny hill had such significance! Everyone knows about…

Shuri Castle at Night

Every night, Naha’s most iconic castle gets illuminated after sunset, making its distinctive red colour even more striking. Going to see Shuri Castle in the evening is a great way to beat the relentless heat of summer. Nowadays the sun doesn’t set until almost 8pm, so we got there around 7.30 and were pleasantly surprised…

Churaumi Aquarium

It’s the third largest aquarium in the world and one of the top attractions for visitors in Okinawa. Located in the northern part of the island, the absolutely massive Ocean Expo Park is home to the Churaumi Aquarium, where you could spend hours walking through the various tanks and observation rooms, with tropical fish, giant…

Break time

And so, the first semester of my Japanese course finished with a bang, as everyone struggled their way through the JLPT practice test on the very last day of class, before heading out for two weeks holiday. Although the last three months have been extremely intense in terms of learning and remembering SO many new words,…

What what, in the butt?!

On Friday when I got home, I opened the kid’s backpack to find a little package with a cup, a tiny bottle, and some kind of blue round stickers on them, with the whole package to be returned to the school on Monday morning. Now what the f— is THIS?  I asked myself, for about the…

The End of the Road

After arriving at Cape Hedo, the most northern tip of the long, scraggly island that is Okinawa, after being awed and amazed at the incredible natural landscape and beautiful scenery, you will no doubt look up, squint into the sun and say, ‘Wait…. What the f*** is that?’ I am referring to one of the…

Urasoe Castle

Okinawa is covered with castle ruins from north to south, with Shuri Castle being the biggest tourist attraction. We happen to live quite close to what was once the biggest castle on the island, a few hundred years ago. So it seemed worth a visit. Urasoe Castle is just north of the capital city of…

Oh, bento!

I faced my first challenge as a wannabe Japanese mom the other day. It was obento day at school. For those who may be hearing the word ‘obento’ for the first time, it simply means a lunch box. But, in Japan, people take it to a whole new level. Go in any dollar store, supermarket,…

Koinobori in Okinawa

There are flying fish all over Okinawa these days. And I don’t mean jumping out the water. A national holiday called Children’s Day is just a few days away, and koinobori – carp windsocks – have been strung up across bridges, in people’s gardens, rooftops and balconies, and even in the schools. It’s a popular sight…

Urban hikes in Naha

Not too far from Shuri Castle, which sits atop the highest hill in Naha overlooking the port and the city, lies Sueyoshi Koen, a beautiful park with walking trails into the hills, and a small red temple that you can ‘hike’ to. I say hike because my 3-year-old did it with only the slightest whinging,…

Room with a View

Now this I could get used to waking up to. I confess, I did not grow up beach camping, despite spending the first two decades of my life on an island. In Trinidad we may have spent millions of hours on the beach, but it was 15 minutes from home so we never camped out….

Now THAT’S service

Gas stations in Japan are AMAZING. When you start to pull into the station, immediately you will notice that two people run — not walk — RUN, over to where your car is pulling in. They then guide you into the spot next to the pumps, and cover your side mirror with a little red…

Playtime, all the time

Okinawa is an amazing place to raise kids. Lots of room to stretch your legs, low density ‘cities’, no pollution, beaches, and above all, PARKS. I don’t just mean a green patch of grass and a few benches. I’m talking giant parks, with trampolines, roller slides, jungle gyms, rope mazes, ziplines, and all kinds of…

Southern style

Far removed from the amusement-park feel of the areas surrounding the US bases and the relative hustle and bustle of the ‘bigger’ cities on the island, the southern part of Okinawa remains strangely, and pleasantly, rural. While the central area of the island is chock a block with giant Hiltons dominating the coastline, if you’re willing…

Shikinaen Gardens

Up in the hills, just outside of Naha, lie the Shikinaen Gardens, the summer house of the last kings and queens of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. Destroyed during WWII (like most of Okinawa’s historical sites), but carefully restored, the Gardens are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a beautiful example of traditional Okinawan…

Weakness for Sweetness

It was a beautiful hot day, so I decided to take the kid out for one of Okinawa’s most popular desserts, zenzai. And a good place to sit down, eat some zenzai, and soak up some local vibes is the Makishi Market and Shopping Arcade in downtown Naha. Desserts in Japan, and other parts of Asia,…

Special Delivery!

I like it when communities retain a personal, small town touch. For example, in Mui Wo, the tiny town in Hong Kong which was home for three years, every week or so a woman would walk through the rows of village houses singing a song. I never knew what it was until a half Chinese…

Seifa Utaki, the sacred spot of the high priestesses

In the quiet south west corner of the island, along a curving coastline, is the place where the story of all creation, according to ancient Okinawan folklore, begins. An ancient sacred site, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Seifa Utaki is the spot where Amamikiyo, the all powerful goddess, came down to earth, and created the…

Fukushen Gardens

If you have some time in Naha, and want to do something free, I highly recommend visiting the Fukushen Gardens which is not too far from Kokusai Dori (International Street), in the downtown area. Okinawa, being so close to China rather than mainland Japan, has a very strong Chinese influence that you would not see…

Robot Golf

Chupid little me, country bookie! I didn’t know such things existed. But in a country where toilets have just as many functions as a smart phone, I should not have been surprised to see that in Japan, there are robotics even for golf courses. Bashofu Course is a funky little par-3 course in Nanjo, in…

Get up and go

When the dust settles, and you have had enough time to lick your wounds and wallow in self pity and self doubt (oh god… what have I done?! is it too late to go back?), it’s time to get your shit together, mentally say goodbye to your previous life, and get on with the story….

Sayonara, Hong Kong

When you live somewhere long enough – even if you don’t like it when you first arrive – time has a way of forcing you to allow that place to grow on you. The things that used to drive you mad eventually no longer fill your heart with rage. The surroundings that you thought you’d…

Tai Yuan Market – Toy Street

Once in a while I leave the refuge of Lantau and venture into the city. This time it was to go to the famous ‘Toy Street’ (proper name in Cantonese, Tai Yuan Market) to take a look around and see if I could find some cheap, fake Lego. Toy Street was, to my surprise, chock…

What pollution looks like in Hong Kong

Pollution in Beijing has been a hot topic in the mainstream media for the last week or so, but air pollution is something that affects us here in Hong Kong too, even though we’re quite far away from China’s capital city. The fact is, China remains the world’s producer of damn near everything, including the…

Let’s go get lost

Many people think I must be brave because I have moved around a lot, but the truth is I am a big fat scaredy cat. Seriously. Case in point – when in Okinawa, the day came when I had to take The Kid out on my own, in the car, and navigate the streets while…

Okinawa – Here We Come!

I woke up a few nights ago to the distant sound of a bell ringing a deep, slow gong… gong… gong…  The sound echoed up the valley and into my ear drums, making its way to my brain. Slowly I opened my eyes and look around at my surroundings and realised, this is not my apartment…

Vancouver Family Reunion

“Blink and you’ll miss it,” my brother in law joked. He was referring to the sun – something that we saw very little of in Canada’s most popular, least cold, and most rainy city. Indeed, during a 9-day trip where the family members residing in Asia (myself and my father), and the family members still…

Two days in Osaka – The pumped up KIX

For our sixth wedding anniversary, my husband gave me the best present ever — he buggered off and took The Child with him to visit his family in Tokyo, giving me four precious days of complete freedom to go on a trip to Osaka and Kyoto with my long time travel buddy and old time…

Trip to Nanjo, Okinawa

Dear readers, you must be getting sick of post after post about Okinawa. Yeah yeah, another beach, another bowl of delicious looking noodles, another day in paradise. But I just can’t help it. Okinawa has become our second home. When we arrive in the airport and step out into the sunshine and take a deep…

Mums & Maids – A Few Thoughts

There is a great video going around online titled ‘Mums and Maids’, and it really struck and chord with me because although the video was filmed in Singapore, it is the same situation in Hong Kong. The issue of mums and maids and child rearing is something I’ve been avoiding writing about, because it is…

Yomitan, Okinawa

I think we have interrupted the first stage shooting of a porn. Or perhaps they’re working for one of those websites with flashing banners that say “Asian brides are waiting for you!” The young, lithe Japanese girl in a bikini with long, flowing black hair and a winning smile has been bouncing on an inflatable tube for the good part of 20 minutes.