My upcoming holiday to Japan will concentrate more in the southern area, I think, and while putting together a rough plan of the route this time, the subject of Okinawa came up.
The Okinawan islands are situated far to the south of Kyushu, the southern-most of the main islands of Japan. Sparsely arranged in the East China Sea, it is said to contain some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife in Asia. Showing the diversity in the ecology of Japan, its southernmost extremes are subtropical in climate.
The capital city is Naha, which conveniently has an airport, and from there, access to the other islands is a lot easier than trying to come from the southern tip of Kyushu by boat, which due to the shrinking price difference and choppy seas, has become less popular recently. Doing a little digging, it might be prudent for me to invest in a 'Welcome to Japan' pass, which similar to the extremely useful Japan Rail Pass, allows foreign travellers to get pretty hefty discounts (maybe two thirds off) air flights all over Japan. For my particular situation, that potentially means chopping a 50,000 yen (~£250) ticket into 13,000 yen (~£80).
So it is worth the kerfuffle getting all the way over there? Well, this definitely got me interested:
It's the main tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, boasting the second largest (although I think the term doesn't quite fit here) 'fish tank' in the world. It puts the Kaiyukan aquarium distinctly in the shade. Of course, going that far just for a big tank of fish would be a bit crazy and I'm not the sort of person to do crazy things, am I? So it's also good that Okinawa is also going to have a good few interesting nooks and crannies to explore while I'm there.
For a start, Okinawa is currently mired in a controversy that has recently forced the prime minister of Japan to resign, after his promises of removing a long-established but unpopular American outpost at Futenma went down the plughole. These bases often have small townlets springing up around them, and of course the 'locals' all speak English.
Okinawa is also a good place to go to explore the wildlife (some of the islands are barely inhabited) and being islands, a lot of the tourism is centred around water sports. Going scuba diving is a distinct possibility.
But then, there's these:
A fecking huge spider. Now over the years I've gone from screaming and crying in the presence of a spider to running away quietly to watching them nervously to blatting them with whatever came to hand to using the old glass and paper rescue method, to even holding small ones in my hand and throwing them out of my house, but a spider that actually guards the toilet and is considered by the tenants of the house to be a pet, that's just going to regress me back a few stages. That's not the worst of it either, at least this one isn't even poisonous. A bit of digging however reveals that some creatures over there are, including some spiders and snakes. Lovely.
Sooooooo.. I really want to go to Okinawa for a few days to see the beauty of the place and its people and nature, but I also don't want a spider on my face in the morning or a snake attaching itself to my extremities. I guess I'll have to make my mind up quick. There's only 2 and a half months to go....