DAY TWO: OKINAWA Friday September 6, 2013
Our gracious host drove us to a wonderful historical site today. The site is part of the World Heritage system on the island that strives to preserve the culture and history of the Island of Okinawa. This is the Zakimi-jo Site which is a castle ruin of the Ryukyu. Upon arrival we went into the interior museum section were no photos were allowed, but we did have to remove our shoes (slippers were offered if you could find ones that fit).
In these pictures you can see the explanation of the funerary urns that are pictured next. These urns were from the archaeological site around the castle ruins. Inside the museum there are explanations and descriptions of life during the time period. In regards to the funeral practices, tombs were constructed above ground and were usually facing the sea. After death a person would be laid to rest in a traditional "coffin" until decomposition was complete. Then the family would wash and clean the bones and place them in the funeral urn. Many tombs can be found on the Island of Okinawa and are seen in a variety of locations. There are some areas were there are several together and others were there may be only one or two.
The Shisa statues can be found outside the gates or entrances of many buildings on the island of Okinawa. According to " The Art of Architecture on Okinawa and Japan" "originally placed at the entrances to castles and temples and at tombs of nobles, later at approaches to towns and villages, and finally at gates and rooftops of every home" (Daley, 31). According to our host, the legend states that the male Shisa bares its open mouth to bite/ eat evil spirits and the female Shisa is closed mouth because it stores these evil spirits captured by the male. An example of these lion-dog statues are pictured next.
On the grounds there was an example of rice/grain storage towers that are like thatched huts pictured next.
Next it was a short hike uphill to the actual castle walls, which is unfortunately all that remains. Though is is easy to imagine what the castle might have been like. The pictures below show you the exterior wall and arch opening as you approach the exterior of the castle. The second picture is from on top of the second interior wall of the castle. The third picture is a close up of the stone work. Unlike other civilizations there was no squaring of the stone, but rather a puzzle like formation from natural stones.
The next picture is one that is for knowledge sake. First let me state that not all bathrooms are like this. The majority look no different than the ones back home (although some have seat warmers). However, in older sites many have these types of toilets (I do not know if the men's are similar). It is an experience and one I thought you might find interesting. I know I did!
The next picture is taken from the Ferris Wheel above American Village in Okinawa. This giant wheel does not stop. It is a slow moving wheel that takes about 15 minutes to complete one rotation. The operator opens a door and you load and unload while in motion. I included this picture in my blog for a couple of reasons. First, it gives you a look at traffic patterns. In Okinawa the drivers side of the car is on the right and you drive in opposite lanes from America. Though I am not driving it still is a bit weird to me as I keep looking at cars and think no one is in there driving (as I look to the left side of the car). Second, I love the cross walk patterns at this particular intersection. This is not necessarily typical of the area, but I love the diagonal walks. Oh and then there is the ocean in the background as well.
The last two pictures are just fun. On the island if you are seeking tourist destination spots, they are often identified by an "Island Fairy" statue along the road ways. In the American Village there is one sitting outside trendy "American" shop that is painted in a bit more "rocker" fashion. The second picture is of a mannequin display in a department store. This is typical of the mannequins that are found in most stored in Okinawa that I have encountered so far. I will say this, they look like they are having a heck of a lot more fun than the mannequins I remember in the states.
Well, that wraps up day two. Tomorrow is Saturday and I am sure it will be a full day of fun and new experiences! More to come- stay tuned!