This year I booked my Golden Week tickets early and managed to catch a few moments in paradise. I took a short ferry ride to Aka island, and my good friend Mr King showed me and Tim around his little island in Japan’s newest National Park. It would be my second visit, but my taste-buds were still not ready for what was about to hit them!
To start with, we feasted on the freshest katsuo sashimi I’ve ever had. It was plucked straight from the crystal blue waters of Aka island and filleted right before our eyes. There was far too much for us to eat alone, and we happily shared with some kids from Kobe. We weren’t sure whether they were more excited by the delicious flavors, or the unexpected free fish!
After filling our bellies we wandered around the island and took in the sights. Aside from the unbelievably beautiful beaches that we are usually spoiled with in Okinawa, Aka island is also home to wild deer. Supposedly brought from Kagoshima about 200 years ago, Kerama deer have developed into a subspecies of Japanese Deer and now roam the island freely.
Feeling peckish again we explored the island’s hatake (small farms). Goya is another island delight, and is a staple part of the summer diet on Aka island. Although the bitter taste is not to everyone’s liking, I love goya champuruu (stir fry) washed down with Orion beer.
Just looking at this plant makes me thirsty…….
The next morning, after a few too many glasses of awamori (local liquor) we stumbled out in search of more food. First of all we ran into the excited children from yesterday. They quickly offered us small chocolate bars as thanks, and told us about the sea turtles they swam with yesterday. Next we visited Mr King’s good friend Tofu-obaasan. Chatting with her about making tofu soon put wide smiles on our faces. She even treated us to a fresh slice of shima-doufu (island tofu) and a free bag of yuushi-doufu (Okinawan tofu soup).
It’s not bad living in paradise!!
Heading back to the concrete jungle in Naha it’s hard not to feel the calming effects of a glimpse of the simple life. This island has so much to offer but it feels like a shame to rush through everything so quickly. To get the best out of a holiday on Aka island, one really has to resign themselves to uchinaa time (island time). Sometimes doing nothing is just as important as seeing all the sights.
But, there is still time for one last slice of island life!
It’s tradition on Aka to farewell guests by jumping off the seawall and into the ocean as the last ferry pulls away, and with crystal clear oceans and a view like that, who can blame them!
As my ferry departs a young man does a front flip off the wall and I realize I’ve missed my last chance to swim in paradise. Until next time, I’ll just have to take a deep breath of Kerama Blue and savor my memories.