Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grilling and Temples and Castles, OH MY!

Last night our neighbors took us out for our first real meal off base. Dear Lord, was I glad we were not alone! I don't remember the name of the restaraunt, but I do remember that it had some very bright sparkly lights flashing all around the sign. Seriously, these were the kind of lights that make a girl feel epileptic! Now, everything in Japan is bright and flashy, but these lights were on a whole new level. I am sure we wouldn't have trouble finding the restaraunt again at night time.
This was one of those all you can eat and "cook it yourself" places. We walked in and paid about 2,000 yen (about $20) each and were taken to our table. Each booth has a small little cooking pit in the middle. The menu was unlike anything I've ever seen. Most of it was in Japanese and had pictures, so we just pointed to whatever we wanted. Turf and I each tried a taco salad (which in Japan is white rice, lettuce, meat, and tomatoes...really different, but not bad), I had a cesaer salad (complete with the smallest crutons I have ever seen), a plate of chicken, a combo plate of steak and chicken, white rice, and drinks. The first few pieces of meat that Turf tried to cook were terribly burnt, but the rest was excellent! We all ate with chopsticks, and felt very accomplished. Ice cream was also included with the price, which made me very happy :)
Honestly, I don't know how we would have fared had we been by ourselves. Our neighbors had been there a couple of times and have also been in Okinawa for a while, so they know more about how to order. Turf and I were completely confused. We did learn some new words that will come in handy: Onegai shimasu (please), futatsu (two of an object), hitotsu (one of an object), and mittsu (three of an object). So, to order two rice bowls, we would point at the rice and say "futatsu onegai shimasu". I have no idea how to say rice yet, so I will stick to pointing.
Here is a picture of our little set up! I did see some vegetables on the menu, so I might try to round out the meal by ordering those next time as well!

He's going to slap me for putting this picture of him up! But we found this random temple/shrine as we were driving around looking for this sunflower field that I had heard about (which we never found). Sadly, I don't know what the name of it is :( I have no idea if we were supposed to be there, as we didn't see any other Americans around. There was a gate directly in front of this building that had hundreds of little prayer/fortune papers tied to it- omikuju, I'm told they are called. Anyway, we looked inside and saw that in the corner they were selling little trinkets, so I figured they wouldn't mind us going in. We walked in, took off our shoes, and sat down in front of the shrine. At that point, we really weren't sure what we were supposed to do, and Turfy was feeling insecure about us being there, so we waited a few minutes and then left. As soon as we left, we heard drumming and chanting, so we went back to the entrance and looked in on the little ceremony that was going on. A sweet little Japanese lady motioned for us to come in, so off went the shoes and this time we sat a little farther back from the two ladies in front. It seemed like some sort of blessing or something, because they waved this thing over their heads and the ladies left with something. Just goes to show how educated I am on this stuff. In any case, the inside of the temple was beautiful and elaborate. There was a definite sense of peace and calm within the temple, and even though we don't practice that religion, we appreciated the serenity of it. I have heard it is a big deal to visit a temple/shrine on New Years Day in Japan, so that's on my To-Do list.

Our last stop of the day wasthe Nakagusuku Castle ruins. Again, this was a really beautiful place with a lot of history and great views. One thing we really liked was that we were able to climb the steps of the castle and explore most of it. The legendary Ryukyuan commander, Gosamaru, built the fortress in the early 15th century to defend against attacks from the east by Lord Amawari of Katsuren Castle. The six courtyards of this fortress with stacked stone walls make it a prime example of a gusuku.

This is one of the pictures we took from the 1st enclosure of the castle. Behind me is a great view of the Pacific Ocean.
Once we were done exploring the castle, we ordered some apple-mango ice cream as we were leaving. I practiced my new words by pointing and saying "futatsu onegai shimasu" and was pleasantly surprised when the girl understood me! Now that we are home, I have learned that apparently there is an abandoned, haunted hotel right below the ruins. We just may have to go back to check it out!

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