Tea is to Japan what apple pie is to the United States. There are few places around the country where you won’t find tea and even fewer people who don’t consume it at least twice a day. However, the tea here in Japan is not often like the tea that Americans, like myself, are familiar with. They tend to not be as sweet and lack the elaborate flavorings that you might find from a company like Arizona or Sobe. Of course there are always companies trying to boost sales with new and interesting teas that stand out about the rest. This is where Lipton Japan comes into the picture.
Lipton, a tea company that most Americans are probably familiar with, has a decent size presence here in Japan despite focusing only on tea (unlike Coke, Kirin and other brands which also have juices, alcoholic beverages and more). They sell a variety of tea offerings here in Japan including three main types of containers to include cans, PET (plastic) bottles and cartons.
In my household the favorite type of Lipton tea are the ones that come in a carton. They can be purchased for around ¥100 at local grocery or convenience stores and come in a variety of flavors. Like other companies in Japan it is not uncommon to find Lipton playing with different flavors and themes to include the most recent which is known as “Tea’s Travel” where they sample flavors from around the world.
This creative theme took consumers on a journey through places like Turkey with their “Turkey Apricot Tea” and London with their “Orange Marmalade Tea”. They even went to the good ole’ USA with “American Tea Lemonade”. Each tea is unique and features a distinct taste that is different from the next. Unfortunately all are only available for a limited time.
There are many paths that lead to many exciting and interesting places on Okinawa. Lying relaxed and exhausted at the end of a recent path I had taken was Saburo a three legged dog who is surrounded by a whole lot of love!
I first learned about Saburo in March of this year (2014) while reading an article in the Ryukyu Shimpo, a popular Okinawa based newspaper. It was not the title that grabbed my attention but rather the photo of a joy filled puppy running along the beach. Unable to resist I clicked the link and started reading.
Saburo is far from an ordinary puppy and he has overcome far from ordinary circumstances. Once a stray Saburo was the victim of a hit and run last year which left him seriously injured. When Kiyoshi Oshiro, a nearby sabani (traditional Okinawan fishing boat) builder, heard the loud bang and Saburo cry out he did what he could to help the injured dog. With the loss of his rear left leg and a broken back local veterinarians told Mr Oshiro that Saburo didn’t have a chance of recovery. However, despite the professional opinion he was given, Oshiro didn’t accept this diagnosis and sold his very own sabani in order to cover the cost of Saburo’s surgeries which would ultimately save the dog’s life.
Following the surgery, as one might expect, Saburo could not walk. This is where Tomoko and Kazukai Takara step in. This husband and wife team, who work along side Kiyoshi Oshiro, faithfully took Saburo for walks along the beach twice a day using a special harness to help support his lower back and remaining rear leg. Day after day they continued this rehabilitation until one day it finally happened. . . . Saburo’s rear leg started moving. The rehabilitation continued and now Saburo not only runs enthusiastically along the beach every day but also enjoys daily swims in the ocean.
The article, which reminded me of the good in the world, put a smile on my face. I shared it with a few of my dog loving friends and then, like sometimes newspaper articles do, it went out of my head. It wasn’t until months later when I spotted a sleepy three legged dog in the corner of a sabani workshop that I remembered of the article and exclaimed to the man who graciously was showing us around: “That’s Saburo!”
Immediately the room filled with love and the men, who just seconds ago were making a beautiful sabani by hand, came over to greet me and introduce Saburo. Kiyoshi Oshiro quickly informed Saburo that he had a visitor and that he should get up to greet me but the dog, who was clearly worn out from his early morning swim didn’t do much more than glance my direction and accept a belly rub.
Having the chance to meet Saburo was purely chance but I have to say I am very glad that the opportunity presented itself. He is such a wonderful dog who is surrounded by a whole lot of love!
There is an entire category of tourist that includes only people who prefer to stay off the beaten path and avoid cities at all cost. Unfortunately for these tourists they end up missing out on absolutely beautiful locations just like the one I am writing about today. Nestled in the center of Naha City’s hustle and bustle, just moments away from the types of hot spots this category of tourist is desperately trying to avoid, is the Fukushu-en Garden.
The Fukushu-en Garden is not what you would expect to find in Naha. In fact it’s more like the places that you would find off a nameless road of northern Okinawa. The wide open spaces, intricate architecture and free admission make this an oddity for central Naha to say the absolute least. Nonetheless Fukushu-en is the prefect place to transport you to Fukusyu City, a Chinese city that along with Naha flourished as a center of trade.
Built as a symbol of the friendship between the two cities Fukushu-en uses materials and architecture which was brought over directly from Fukusyu City. This not only makes the park look authentically Chinese but also makes it feel that was as well. It’s a challenge to describe but having been on Okinawa for as long as I have you can tell that what you’re looking at is distinctly foreign.
Strolling through the Fukushu-en Garden is a very unique experience. The garden itself does not cover a notably large space but the use of the space is done so well that you feel as though you are covering much more ground than you actually are. Skillful placement of plants, stones and structures divide the park up into sections which make each area feel secluded from the next. This makes it possible to enjoy each of the distinctly different landscapes.
Making the most of your trip to the Fukushu-en Garden means taking it slow. Those who walk through the garden as though they are just trying to complete a chore are likely to miss most of the amazing things that the garden has to offer. The beautiful paintings, sculptures, plant life, and architecture shines brightest when you take a moment to really look at it and not just glance as you’re walking by. Taking that moment to stop, sit and enjoy a few sips of water in the gazebo near the pond is really all it takes to see the little gems hidden around this garden.
Although this garden is an absolutely beautiful place to visit it does have some minor downsides. The biggest downside to this garden is the combination of it’s free admission. This makes it incredibly appealing for tour groups who want to squeeze in another location at no extra cost to the business. This can sometimes mean that you find a lot of people pushing and running through the garden which ultimately makes it much less a pleasant experience than desirable. However this can be avoided by keeping some of these very basic tips in mind. If you find yourself arriving at the Fukushu-en gardens and there are tour busses outside take some time and explore the nearby park which is immediately across from the entrance. The park is beautiful and includes some historic sites as well. Then when the busses of tourists have passed stroll inside to enjoy your visit.