Over the Fathers Day weekend and newly minted Juneteenth federal holiday we were able to get out and explore the island some more. We took a drive around Senaga Island, a very small island accessible from Okinawa by bridge from Naha, one of the larger cities on the island’s south end. One can drive around the perimeter of Senaga Island in less than 5 minutes. Covid is still very much a thing here on Okinawa, so many of the shops and eateries on the island were closed. However, it has some nice beaches and a crab-themed park that the kids enjoyed.
In the central region of the island we visited the location where the U.S. Marines and Navy made their initial landfall on April 1, 1945 to start the battle of Okinawa during World War II. This small memorial marker overlooks the beachhead and river wash where the amphibious vessels delivered their soldiers and loaded casualties to be returned to the ships off the coast for treatment.
Heading north on the island we found the Cape Zanpa lighthouse, some pretty impressive cliffs along the ocean, and the self-proclaimed largest Shisa on the island. A Shisa is a traditional Ryukyuan decoration which is a cross between a lion and a dog and is supposed to ward off and protect from evil. They can be found on the rooftops or flanking the entrances to homes and businesses all across the island. Even the military commissary has a pair of Shisa out front. Typically the one with an open mouth is on the right while the closed-mouth creature is on the left. While I am not so sure about their protective powers, I did purchase a set to place above my desk as a decoration and keepsake from the island.
Speaking of these Shisa figures, I found my set at a local pottery village. This grouping of pottery shops and storefronts feature handmade dishes, tea sets, Shisa figures, and other items for sale. We liked that they are all locally-made and not commercially manufactured. We spent about 2 hours looking through all the shops. Along the way we also found a steel-roofed shelter where we found local glass tradesmen at work. We watched them start by extracting molten glass from a blast furnace and then shaping, blowing in the end of the metal rod to expand the center of the glass bulb, and re-firing and re-working the hot glass for almost 30 minutes until they had completed a multi-colored glass vase. The final step was to place it in a special kiln for annealing over an extended timeframe. The kids (and adults) were entertained and impressed by the skill of the tradesmen in the shop. While it may not be on the tourist bucket list, we were very happy we got the opportunity to watch them work.
Our last stop along our journey for the weekend was to visit the Zakimi castle ruins. This green space and park contains the ruins of castle walls which was once a great castle. It was impressive to see how tightly the stones of the wall were fitted together, even without the use of mortar to form a tight, flat wall to protect the castle. The view from atop the castle walls was equally impressive and the breeze was a welcome change to the hot and humid weather of the day.