March 7th was our first real day in Naha. We met with Yuichiro, a friend of someone from our dorm in Tokyo. Together with him we first visited Shuri castle, the palace of the Ryukyu kingdom back when Okinawa was still independent. Like many things in Okinawa, it was almost completely destroyed during the battle of Okinawa in 1945 but was restored. After this we visited the Tama-udun, the royal mausoleum of the Ryukyu dynasty. Next we visited the Shikinaen royal garden, and lastly another garden, Fukushu-en.
On March 8th we first visited an underground naval base, which was one of the last holding points of the Japanese army during the battle of Okinawa. This underground system of tunnels had been carved out of the rock entirely by hand (pick-axes and stuff, no machinery), a sign of how little resources the Japanese army had left by this point.
Afterwards we went to the Gyokusendou cave, the largest limestone cave in Japan. The Japanese have taken the opportunity to build an incredibly touristy theme park called Okinawa World around this cave, which was mostly pointless and consisted mainly of souvenir shops (and of course, in true Japanese style, it was set up so that you had to pass through the shops to get from one part of the park to another). They had some performances (see the second video attached to this post) which, while sort of nice, were presented like they were for a children's TV show. And the girl who was presenting it seemed to be trying to break the world record for how often you can cram the particle "ne" (which loosely translates as "isn't it?") into a sentence. :)
Also at Okinawa World was the Habu Park. Habu are poisonous snakes that live in Okinawa. They had several variety of Habu, a snake show (which we didn't see), and of course a distillery for the famous Habu Sake, which is basically sake with snakes in it. They literally sell bottles of sake with Habu in it, you see them all over the place in Naha. Whether this does anything to the taste or if it's just for aesthetic purposes I don't know.
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