15 Mar Yonabaru, Okinawa
As soon as we finished clearing into Japan and drinking our champagne toast, we set out on foot to explore our new neighborhood. Yonaburu Marina is located in Yonabaru (pop. 19,000), on the southeast side of Okinawa.
The marina is spotlessly clean, with excellent floating docks, good shore power (60hz, 200v), and potable water. The staff is friendly and helpful. The price–about $53 USD per night–is exceptionally reasonable for such a nice facility.
The marina has two giant lifts. These aren’t travelifts like are common in much of the world, but fixed hoists. The larger of the two can haul boats to 60 tons. When operating, they play a pleasant melody to warn people in the area. No annoying beeping here! Actually, we’ve found Japan to be remarkably quiet, especially compared to Honolulu. No blaring music, no honking horns, no unmuffled motorcycles.
A shopping center with grocery store, hardware store, and several restaurants is just across the street from the marina. In Japan, cars are right hand drive. Crossing the street requires a bit of care for those of us used to looking left-right-left.
We didn’t need anything right away, but walked through the supermarket anyway. The produce and prepared food is extensive and excellent looking. Prices appear high, but after a little math are actually quite reasonable. 1 USD is about 135 Yen.
Akiko recommended a restaurant a few blocks from the marina for our first meal out, which turned out to be excellent.
Here’s an example of the helpful marina staff. We’d ordered some heavy-duty Polyform fenders to the marina (barnacle encrusted seawalls will shred our lightweight Prostock fenders). Rather than simply hold the package at the marina office, Akiko and a marina worker opened the boxes, disposed of them, and inflated the fenders for us.
We took a taxi to Shurijo Castle one of the days. Neither Uber nor Lyft operate on Okinawa, but a Chinese competitor called DiDi works wonderfully. The driver was polite, the car clean, and the 20 minute ride only cost about $12 USD. We are finding that credit cards aren’t widely accepted, but ATMs are just about everywhere and are easy to use.
Okinawa was once its own country, part of the Ryukyu Kingdom until the 1870s, when it became part of Japan. Shurijo Castle was the Ryukyu Palace.
The castle was constructed of wood and burned down in 2019. A huge, modern building has been built so that the castle can be rebuilt inside. Once the castle rebuild is complete, the new metal building will be removed. Locals are using this as an opportunity to teach younger generations traditional woodworking techniques. Watching the process was fascinating, perhaps more interesting than simply seeing the castle!
The attention to detail was impressive. The wooden walkways were beautiful built. The concrete work was flawless. These intricate roof tiles are apparently unique to Okinawa.
After touring the castle grounds, we wandered through town searching for lunch. We found this little restaurant tucked away on a side street.
It’s a traditional Japanese restaurant, which meant we left our shoes at the door and sat on mats on the floor. Almost everyone inside was Japanese. They only had a few “set” choices and all were excellent! Portions are smaller than we’re used to in the USA, but prices are much more reasonable.
Cleanliness seems to be a strongly-held Japanese value. Every public restroom we’ve seen has been super clean. Many have bidets. Restaurants have slippers for diners to wear when using the loo.