Okinawa, Japan November 2017

I’ve arrived in the most southerly islands of Japan now, Okinawa, about 400 miles south of Kagoshima.

Okinawa had a rather peaceful local populous that had somehow avoided the civil war years that Japan had endured. That ended when Japan invaded in the 1600s and easily conquered the islands. It bears some similarity to Hawai’i, where the US overthrew the Hawaiian government and annexed it. As with Hawaii, there remains some sentiment that they are an occupied territory.

I’m back to staying in AirBnB apartments, in Naha for 3 days. Hotels are ok, but I prefer a nice comfortable apartment.

The first thing I did was take out my trusty reuseable shopping bag from Ireland, and go fetch provisions from a market. Now I can have my favorite breakfast, a green and red pepper & onion omelette with bacon. Plus fresh fruit and other veggies. I like this better than eating out all the time.

I’ve come to Okinawa to see where some of our taxpayer dollars are being spent. Our military base here is home to more than 30,000 US personnel. Few Americans are aware that the US currently maintains over 800 military bases and installations abroad, with more than 250,000 troops, at a cost of about $150 billion dollars a year.

Okinawans are unhappy about the impact of our base, and would prefer to not have it here. However, Tokyo has the say over this, and want it. So it stays. The question of whether we need 800 bases abroad is complex, and I will not try to address it in this blog. What is certain is that defense contractors are making a huge amount of money thereby, and contributing a percentage of that back to Congressional members.

On my last full day in Naha, Okinawa, I took a ferry ride out to the Kerala Islands, about 1-1 1/2 hours south, taking along my snorkel mask and lycra body skin. My destination was the small island of Aka-jima.

I walked about 2 km to a snorkeling beach which part of a reef protection area.

It’s just past summer season here, and the beach was deserted.

I slipped into my lycra and mask, a bit worried that the water might be icy. Wrong! It was a comfortable 76°F, Hawaiian temperature, and quite comfortable without a wetsuit.

Coral bleaching (coral death when the water temperature gets too high) has taken a toll. Large amounts of dead elkhorn coral debris was most of what you saw, although there were a few dozen species of reef fish, some of which live in Hawaii. I drifted with the outgoing tidal current. Not all that compelling underwater, but still fun to be back in the warm salt water after about two years absence.

A 2nd Amendment bar? I thought it best to not go in and find out.

I decided to go even further south to the reputed ‘best snorkeling’ in Japan.

As you can see, this is almost to Taiwan!

To get there, you go on a comfortingly ocean-worthy ferry:

With four engines! I suppose it’s better if you don’t think too much about why you need a boat quite this ocean-worthy!

Unfortunately, I’m here after the summer season, and into the typhoon season. The ocean where I am staying is a bit rough:

Not being inclined to stay inside and mope, I went out the next morning to kayak and snorkel.

It was cool and windy, with a fair chop on the water. We paddled a two person kayak that was ocean-worthy. The snorkeling was not at its best, as we could not go to the outer reef with waves crashing over it. But there were lots of beautiful fish to see, up close, in fairly clear water. My guide recommended that I come back in the summer when it is warmer, and calmer.

This is a picture of what the coral here used to look like before coral bleaching and typhoon damage. I saw nothing this good, unfortunately. I would not recommend coming to Okinawa just to go snorkeling.

My last hotel room back in Naha had a traditional onsen-type bathing area to sit and wash yourself thoroughly before having a tub bath. So meticulous, I came to like the idea and the process. I may never be this clean again!

Now it is time to heqd further south, to the Philippine Islands. First stop: Manila.

To put all these places in perspective since leaving September 19th: Korea and Japan, and upcoming Philippines, and later Thailand

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