So it is October and that means the summer is over although on some days it seems no one told the weather that it was time to change, it as hot and sunny as usual. Summer means beaches and beer and if there is one beer that more than any other is connected with the summer it is Orion Beer. In mainland Japan it is tiny, with only about 1% of the market but in its homeland of Okinawa it has about 50% of the market. Since Okinawa is a very popular summer destination for traveling Japanese Orion is almost like the unofficial beer of summer. You can get it almost anywhere in Tokyo since a few years back, but it is still best on location in Okinawa!
I was inspired to write this after a friend asked me to recommend minor beer breweries in Japan. Orion is also the major American style beer in Japan so it tends to be popular with American military and tourists in the country.
About near the north-middle of Okinawa, on the main island’s western coast lies the Busena Cape (Busenamisaki) stretching out into the ocean and sheltering a large coral reef in its shallow bay. I visited there in 2011 and took these photos of the 760m long white beach. These days the cape has a resort park, with the obligatory resort hotels and tourist attractions. Many of these are left over from the 2000 G8 Summit meeting. I wonder if any of the visiting world leaders got to see any of the natural beauty of this little piece of paradise? Tellingly, the only of the eight leaders who attended who is still in the same position is Russia’s Putin. Also tellingly, the most interesting part of the summit was the hockey game between a Canadian and a local Okinawan team. Ice Hockey in Okinawa? Who would have imagined it. If you are ever lucky enough to get handed a 2000 yen note, that was issued first in 2000, you can see the commemorative back side featuring Shuri castle from Okinawa.
One of the main tourist attractions of the cape is the glass bottom boat tours. Having never seen a coral reef before it was interesting, but for people who are braver than me I guess that the real action is underneath the surface, diving and snorkeling. Like in all the oceans of the world, the coral reefs of Okinawa is most likely heading towards extinction. There are volunteer and government programs to restore the reefs but without tackling the larger problem of ocean acidification it is unlikely that we will be able to show our grandchildren any corals apart from the ones grown in aquariums. Okinawa also regularly suffer from overpopulation of starfish that feed on corals and there are local volunteer diving teams that spend weeks every year removing starfish or even killing them to save the coral. As always in these problems, without addressing the causes the symptoms are unlikely to go away.
Still, to uneducated visitors like me, this part of Okinawa looks like a little piece of paradise. You can find the homepage of the Busena Marinepark here.
Oh, and this is the 1800th post online (not including deleted posts). Time flies!
On my last trip to Okinawa I visited the relatively new Chura-Sun beach (美らSUNビーチ) right to the south of Naha Airport and saw this group of wedding photographers doing their best to capture a young couple in the classic “groom getting blown away”. If you have ever been to a wedding in Okinawa, you know this pose! I was there in the winter and the beach was quite deserted, not least due to the cold winds. Even Okinawa gets chilly in the winter. I always thought of Okinawa as Japan’s own paradise. It is quite expensive to go there from the mainland but I am sure the locals are happy to keep it that way. I wouldn’t mind spending a few months there in spring or summer!
In January I visited the furusato matsuri at Tokyo Dome and saw, among many other things, these Okinawan drummers perform! I have been twice to Okinawa but never seen anything cultural so this was a treat. Scores of drummers and dancers showing us their traditional high stepping dance complete with a very un-japanese drum rhythm, slow and methodical, with high pitched singing voices and the almost drone like string instruments they use. Almost hypnotic. Any man looks better with a drum but I guess these handsome men wouldn’t look bad even without their drums.
I’m posting quite a few photos to give you a sense of how the movement looks like, not sure if it works! The performance took place on a massive stage and I was nowhere near the dancers, luckily though I had my Bigma with me (a Sigma 50-500mm 3.5-6.3 super tele), also known as “Dr. Backercracker” and the “Widow Maker”. A huge lens I bought second hand that I almost never have the energy to carry around with me. My back is thankful to me for not using it too often. It was dark and with a dark lens like this I had to crank the ISO up to almost unacceptable levels to bring the shutter speeds up and above 1/500 (for handheld photography). Enjoy!