Saburo


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.

Saburo-kun: Miracle Dog - Itoman City Okinawa, Japan

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!

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Itoman City Market


 

In a recent trip to Itoman City to observe some of the Lunar New Year celebrations we stumbled upon the Itoman City Market. The market place consists of 3 or 4 buildings all featuring various goods. There is a fish market, farmers market, souvenir shop and food. I was quite surprised to find the location so I thought that it would be something interesting and fun to add to the blog if you happen to find yourself in the area.
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There’s no denying that the Itoman City Market is out of the way unless you happen to live in the immediate area. The only other scenario that may lead you in this direction is if you happen to have a late flight and are looking to kill some time or are just exploring in the southern part of the island.Either way I hope that this information will help you decide whether or not you want to make a stop here if you happen to pass by.

Itoman City Market – Souvenir Shop 

The first shop which is likely to catch your eye is pictured above. This shop contains various souvenirs from around Okinawa. Everything from pottery, shirts, salts and soaps can be found. There are also a variety of child friendly items which you may also find at convenience stores in the resort towns on the island.

Although there were a number of products which I have seen a million times between convenience stores and Kokusai Street alone there were also a variety of other goods which were unique. Like many other places where you can pick up something to remember your trip on Okinawa prices vary depending on what it is that you want to purchase. There were items for every budget ranging from the child on a school trip successful business men.

Fish Market 

Itoman is known for being a fisherman’s town and so it seems like a great place to pick up some fresh fish. Like other fish markets here on Okinawa it’s hard to say what to expect because one day the market could be overflowing and the next not so much. What I can say is that there was a relatively large selection at least on the day that I was there.

Food

No market place would be complete without a nice helping of some local quick service favorites. The Itoman City Market is no exception. Here there are a variety of food stands serving up different options to enjoy. Unfortunately, between being on a diet and the large crowds enjoying their early dinner, I did not get a close look at what was available for food options although I do distinctly remember Okinawa Soba and rice bowls of various kinds.

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Farmers Market 

The last building that we visited was the farmer’s market. Farmers markets here in Okinawa tend to look very much like this with wooden shelves holding plastic bind of produce and other goods. They also tend to be set up like a standard grocery store with aisles as pictured above. There was a large selection at this particular market although being there at the end of the day (any time before 4PM) means that the shelves were almost picked clean of many items.

We strolled through the aisles to see if there was anything we needed for our dinner table. Produce looked very good however we found that although some items were selling at a lower price then we might find at a grocery store in our area some prices were significantly higher.

Other Offerings

Aside from what was in the buildings there were a great deal of vendors outside as well. One of the most notable was a flower and potting supply vendor. They were selling a variety of goods to include various flowers such as hibiscus and orchids. They were also selling potting supplies and flower care products. The prices were certainly reasonable and I would have purchased from this vendor if I had the need. The flowers themselves were also in great shape and well maintained.

The Important Stuff

Now that we’ve talked about all those things that the area has to offer let’s talk about those important details. First and foremost the Itoman City Market has a great deal of parking making it easy for you to avoid wasting time driving in circles. There is also a restroom area in the event that nature calls. On hot summer days you can enjoy a cold drink from one of the many vending machines in the area. For those families which stumble on this market there are grassy areas for the kiddles to play while mom or dad goes to grab something from inside a shop and even tables to rest and enjoy a snack.

Should You Go

If you happen to be in the area and are either looking for something to remember your trip to Okinawa or want to get some fresh veggies for tonight’s dinner I say “GO FOR IT”! However, I would not necessarily say that this is a sight to see on it’s own so if you want to check it out but aren’t already in the area I suggest planning to see some of the surrounding areas as well so that the trip is worth your while.

Lunar New Year In Okinawa


 

 

When most people think of the new year the first thing that comes to mind is “December 31” which is the end of what is known as the Gregorian Calendar. In other parts of the worls, however, the year is determined by the cycle of the moon. The end of the year as per this type of calendar is generally referred to as the “Lunar New Year” or the “Chinese New Year”.

So why talk about the Lunar New Year on a blog which focuses on Okinawa? Well, that’s because at one time the Lunar New Year was also celebrated right here on our tiny little island and in some places still is.

Before “Okinawa”: 

Okinawa has a long rich history but not all of it is as “Okinawa” and a lot of it isn’t as “Japan” either. Before Okinawa got it’s modern day name it was known as the Ryukyu Kingdom. This probably sounds familiar to you as the word “Ryukyu” is still used often. These islands which make up the Ryukyu Kingdom were what one might describe as a nation of their own which was heavy in trade. This is why many people today refer to Okinawa as the “Other Japan” and are often baffled by the cultural differences between Okinawa and Mainland Japan. One of the very many differences between the Ryukyu Kingdom and what we know as Okinawa today was the celebration of the Lunar New Year rather than the Gregorian New Year.

Misplaced or possibly misunderstood history:

As with many things throughout history a transition had to have taken place between the Ryukyu Kingdom celebrating the Lunar New Year and Okinawa celebrating the Gregorian New Year. Researching this aspect of history became a bit difficult as does researching any part of Okinawa’s history, in English, which is not WWII related. I started to get mixed results. Some of which mentioned that the transition came following WWII others stating that it came before that time.

My assumption based on what I read is that this transition really started to take effect at some point during World War I. Although Japan had annexed Okinawa well before this time this is when some of the transition started to take place from being Okinawa to actually being a “cohesive” part of Japan. With the knowledge that I have regarding other transitions that happened during the Word War I time frame I feel as though it’s an educated guess to say that this transition happened during thins period as well.

Where the tradition is preserved:

Even though some of the history remains unclear as to when the Lunar New Year fell out of fashion one fact that we do know is that some of the traditions which were celebrated all those years ago are still preserved today in a place called Itoman.

You may be familiar with Itoman because of some of its World War II related attractions to include Peace Prayer Memorial Park and the Himeyuri Museum and Memorial. Itoman is also known for it’s fishing and being one of the main ports used in trade with China throughout Okinawa’s history. One of the less known facts, however, is that Itoman has had a tight grasp on tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year even when others were strongly against it. Some local news papers and journals at the time (1920’s) even went to far as to call the people of Itoman “barbarians” and “criminals” simply based on their observance and open celebration of this Lunar New Year.

With what I imagine took a great deal of perseverance the people of Itoman continue the tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year although it is without a doubt less popular of a celebration nowadays as it was during the times of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Even so you can still find small celebrations throughout the city to include enjoying foods, especially those which include pork and flying colorful flags off fishing boats.

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The Experience: 

For someone like myself who gets a kick out of being somewhere historically significant making the trip to Itoman was well worth it. As we drove closer to the Itoman Road Station, the location of some scheduled performances and events, you could start to see the fishing boats decorated with colorful flags which seemed to pop against the grey overcast sky. Once arriving at the road station itself we could see where the performance of the PACAF Band (who was scheduled this year to perform earlier in the day) had been and various vendors were along the walkways. Vendors were selling everything from food to hand carved toys and plants.

This event is not for those who are looking for a huge to do with all the fixings of a festival that you might experience during the Gregorian New Year or Cherry Blossom viewing. Even after driving around the entire area we were unable to find anything of the sort. This may be due to bad weather although I gather that this is more of a time to spend with friends and family then out on the streets. Even with this being the case there were people walking along the docks taking photos of the fishing boats and the colorful display of flags.

[EVENT INFORMATION – February 8 through 10]


 

There’s a few reasons to head to the Itoman Street Station this weekend. First there’s the performance of the PACAF Band and there’s also going to be a CERAMIC ART SHUSEI EXHIBITION!

There will be a great deal of pottery to look at and purchase if you’re interested. Time will start from 10:00AM to 6:00PM each day.

I don’t know about you but two cool things happening in one place seems like there might be something interesting and worth checking out over at the Itoman Street Station. I just might have to head down this way and take it all in!

 

CLICK HERE

600,000 Twinkling Lights – Itoman Peaceful Illumination


 

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For a number of Americans the holidays just aren’t the same here as they are in the US. There are, however, some things that can give you a little taste of the holidays while here in Okinawa. One of these things is referred to as “illumination” but you might call it a “christmas light display”. These can be found all over Japan and there are various that happen here in Okinawa however this year I returned the Itoman Peaceful Illumination, where I went last year.

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Located in the southern part of the island this illumination features over 600,000 lights in various forms. Last year there was a large eagle, this year there was a spectacular huge tent of lights as well as an ocean of lights on which a Japanese style ship was sailing. Everyone of all ages can enjoy this illumination. Young and old stare at the lights in awe.

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The highlight of the night is when all of the lights are shut off for a moment and spectators can see just how bright the lights are. Then as the entire crowd counts down the lights go back on and everyone enjoys the rest of the evening. There are food vendors which gives this a matsuri feel as well as pony rides and live performances.

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Admission for the event is 200yen and prices vary for other goodies such as hot cocoa, cotton candy and corn on the cob. For me this is a great place to come each and every year. It puts me in the holiday spirit. The event runs at the end of December through the new year which is perfect for those of you who want to add a taste of home to your holiday here in Okinawa.

This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine! – Peace Prayer Memorial Park Illumination


One of the biggest celebrations on Okinawa (and probably throughout most of Japan as well) is New Years. One of the many ways that you can celebrate the closing of the current year and ring in the new one is to visit one of many illuminations that are hosted on the island. Illumination is basically Japan’s code word for “lights display” and personally I think it sounds better but that’s just me. These illuminations are from north to south, some free others will cost you a small entrance fee. This year my husband and I decided that we would go to the same illumination that we went to last year, Itoman Peaceful Illumination.

We walked through the 600,000 lights taking photos and enjoying ourselves but on our way out we noticed something interesting. In the distance we noticed a large light shooting up straight into the sky. It was amazing how bright this light was and it was coming from somewhere rather close so we put our heads together and made the decision to investigate. We found ourselves at the Peace Prayer Memorial Park. For those of you who do not already know Peace Prayer Memorial Park is basically just want it sounds like. It’s a large piece of land which Memorializes much of what was lost during the Battle of Okinawa and encourages people to learn from the past therefore praying for peace. (I will talk more about Peace Prayer Memorial Park at another time for those of you who are interested in visiting.)

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Once we parked our car it was clear to see where we were supposed to go as the path was lit with paper lanterns. It led us to the Cornerstone Of Peace. At the end of the path is a flame which burns brightly for peace and just behind it was the most stunning light shooting up into the sky. This was clearly what we were looking for.

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Now I realize that to some five beams of light don’t seem to be that big of a deal but the location is dark. Below you can hear the ocean pounding away on the cliffside. The only light is coming from the beams as well as the flame. You can also hear the trickle of the water which comes from the pool of water which represents the oceans of the world below the flame.

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Looking back the view is very different from what you would see during the day. Large zig zag monuments fill in the dark spaces between the paths which are barely lit by footlights. The look and feel reminds me of what it’s like to be on stage. You know the house if full but can’t see much more than the outline of the audience.

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As I am sure you might imagine the experience was poetic for me. Everything was so simple but so effective. I would certainly recommend this for anyone who is in the area! This is free and open to the public. It’s simple to find as well. The only other thing I can say is that the photos don’t even do the experience justice.