Well, I'm back from Okinawa. It was a great vacation but tomorrow it's back to work. Of course, I've got many pictures to show you all. In total I took over 500 pictures so as I said earlier it will take some time to sort it all out.
I plan to do it much the same way as my earlier pictures of Nikko, with multiple posts. Each post will span one or more days, depending on the number of pictures for each day.
On the first day, we left in the morning for Tokyo International Airport (Haneda). Haneda is an incredibly busy airport. It ranks among the busiest airports in the world (in 2006 it was number four, much busier even than Schiphol) despite the fact that nearly all the flights there are domestic flights. We went there by monorail, which was slightly more expensive than the alternative (Keikyu line) but a very scenic route. We were easily in time, and the flight departed 13:35, twenty minutes later than planned.
After arrival on Ishigaki island we were picked up by Masako from the Umicoza diving club who took us to the small town Kabira where the club is located (about 30 minutes drive from Ishigaki city). We met with Satoki and Aki at Umicoza and discussed the diving plans for the day after. Then we went to our hotel (a minshuku, Japanese style inn), "Koen Chaya". We had dinner there and spent the evening reading, not much else to do in Kabira at night. :)
The next morning we got up early and walked to Umicoza. They took us to their boat, and then we went to the first diving point, Yonehara East. Because I have no diving experience whatsoever I briefly snorkeled so I could get used to the fins etc. (Danny has a license so he didn't do this). After that we split up into two teams, Satoki and Danny in one team and Aki and me in the other. We dove to a depth of five metres to view the coral. It was a bit disorienting at first and I especially had trouble getting my legs to go where I wanted, but it was incredible. Aki had an underwater camera so you can see some pictures of that as well.
We dove for about 30 minutes and then got out and went to the second diving point, the manta ray point, with the obvious intention that we might see manta rays. This spot was too deep for me so I only snorkeled, while Danny dove. Either way, there were no manta rays, but it was still a beautiful spot.
After getting back to the diving club we had lunch there, and spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the surroundings of Kabira.
If you're wondering why it's even more silent than usual on my blog, it's because I am, as I previously announced, on vacation in Okinawa. So far I have visited the islands Ishigaki (where we dived to see corals, my first time diving ever, which was great), Iriomote (jungle), Taketomi (traditional Okinawan architecture) and Hateruna (southermost point of Japan) and yesterday we took the ferry from Ishigaki to Okinawa Honto, which took 14 hours. So today is our first day in Naha, the capital of Okinawa. The remainder of our vacation will be spent on this island.
I have seen so many beautiful views I can't begin to list them. When I get back next week I'll have a lot of photos to sort through, so it'll take time, but rest assured they will be published here.
See everyone later!
It's easy to forget that Tokyo is in a mountainous area. Although Tokyo itself has a lot of hills and half the place names seem to end in the kanji for "valley" (including where I live: 世田谷 Setagaya and 祖師谷 Soshigaya both end in "valley") there is little real evidence. Tokyo is so densely populated that there's always something obstructing your view.
But from the 5th floor of the IIS building, where my lab is, when the weather is really clear you can indeed see mountains. Here are two shots in the same direction, one taken without zoom and one with 4x zoom (the maximum optical zoom for my camera).
The big mountain in the middle is Mt. Fuji, I think. It's about the right direction, and there's not much else it could be.
I woke up this morning to find that it was snowing. It's not a lot, and it pretty much melts as soon as it hits the ground in most places (creating that dreadful slush everywhere), but it's snow nonetheless.
Seeing is believing, so here's two pictures.
We've been talking about it pretty much since I arrived in Japan, and the original plan was to do it last autumn but obviously that didn't happen, but now it's finally going to happen: we're going to Okinawa in the beginning of March.
Okinawa, for those who don't know, is a group of islands south of Japan. They're quite far from the main four islands of Japan (so far that they're actually closer to Taiwan and the Phillipines). It's in the tropics, which is why it's a bad idea to go there in the summer.
Today I've booked the flights. On February 28th we'll fly to Ishigaki, an island to the southwest of Okinawa Honto (the main Okinawa island) and the southermost city in Japan. At some point we'll go by boat to Naha (the capital of Okinawa prefecture) on Okinawa Honto, and from there we'll fly back March 11th.
Should be a lot of fun!