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!

Patreon Banner June 2014

Ocean Expo Park: Oceanic Culture Museum


Chances are you’ve never heard of the Oceanic Culture Museum. This is undoubtably because it sits in the shadow cast by two other tourist attractions; the Churaumi Aquarium and Tropical Dream Center.

The Oceanic Culture Museum is located at the Ocean Expo Park closest to parking area P3 and P5. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you may just miss the entrance even though it’s right under your nose. What’s important to remember is that when you walk down the main staircase towards the outdoor water fountain it will be on your left. While we’re talking business it’s important to note that there is an admission fee for this museum which was less than ¥200 for adults and only ¥50 for children. There is also a strict NO PHOTOGRAPHS unless you’re in the designated areas policy which we will talk a little bit about later.

Oceanic Culture Museum: Boat

The focus of the museum is oceanic culture (no surprise there hah?) in the Pacific region. Throughout the rather large sized museum you can explore methods of fishing, cooking, making boats, tattooing, dancing and much much more. There are videos playing and multiple displays that look like you should be able to reach out and touch them to experience textures and feelings of materials. . . . . . but wait there is a do not touch sign there. Past the displays you will find huge boats which are on display. These are the boats that I feature in my video and the photos here mainly because they are the only pieces of the museum that you are permitted to photograph, but we will talk about that a little bit later.

Oceanic Culture Museum: Long Boat - Okinawa, Japan

Moving towards the back side of the museum building you will come upon information related to Okinawa’s oceanic culture. This is the part of the museum that I have to admit was a bit disappointing. Some of the items on display were the same items you can see and purchase at a local fishing shops. Of course there were a few traditional items but in my personal opinion there were a few things left out like Nago’s history of whaling which would have added a nice element to the museum as it seems to be unique compared to the other locations featured in the museum. The route then leads to an open room with a very different feel. There is a great place to take a photo of you and your friends and also features information about Expo 75. This includes some great pictures and models from the expo.

The museum’s second floor features information on how boats are made with both Japanese and English descriptions. Although much less interesting than the rest of the museum there were some great areas of interest to include boat models from all around the Pacific in a display case.

Walking through the museum was an opportunity to experience some beautiful displays and learn the oceanic culture of the Pacific region. However, I had a hard time getting past the very unwelcome and policed feeling we were getting from the staff members. This might seem like a really strange thing to say so let me elaborate a bit. We started our journey off as bloggers, photographers and videographers usually do. . . . by inquiring about what limitations we would have while inside the facility. Most of the time when taking this extra,  yet necessary, step  you are likely to be met with enthusiasm. This was not the case today. It was explained to us where we could and could not take photographs. We were also given maps in which these locations were clearly indicated. At this point everything that we had experienced was pretty much what you would expect. You’re not always going to be granted special access to every location (specifically museums) and that’s ok. In fact the limitations wasn’t really the problem; it was what happened next.

Once we got into the museum and took a moment to regroup (which included taking off our jackets because it was horribly cold outside and a sauna inside). Then we all went our separate ways based on what we wanted to experience. We read a little of this, photographed a little of that. . . . then I start to feel like I am being followed and/or watched. I brushed it off must be my imagination. Nope! Not my imagination. . . . . I was photographing a boat and I see two members of my group walk one direction and in a hurried walk the security guard follows close behind. Shortly after I move to another part of the museum and out of an area behind a large display another staff member hurries to adjust himself in order to keep an eye on my husband and I. Now. . . . maybe it’s the Bostonian in me but I do not like being followed and I do not like being treated like a criminal, which is how I felt. The way that the staff conducted themselves around us (and I am only speaking for myself and my husband here not the rest of the group because I do not know how they felt) put such a sour taste in my mouth that I feel as though I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy some of the displays.

Despite that experience (which I credit simply to the fact that it was 5 of us all wielding cameras although still feel that it was an unacceptable way to treat paying customers) the museum is a wonderful one and a great place to visit on a rainy cold day (like today) or in an effort to enjoy the entirety of the Ocean Expo Park. I could certainly go again. . . . . although this time I might leave the camera in the car.

The Okinawa Zoo and Wonder Museum


Tucked away in an area known as Goya (not far from Gate 2 Street by Kadena Air Base) is the Okinawa Zoo and Wonder IMG_2577Museum. This is one of the many places that I have known about but for one reason or another never visited until today.

One of the main reasons for visiting, other than my quest to fulfill the needs of my inner child, is because I have received many questions about the Okinawa Zoo and Wonder Museum in the past few months. Most of the questions that I received had a very similar tone; people were concerned about the reviews and comments left on other travel websites. Although some were positive and expressed that the Zoo and Wonder Museum made a great day trip for the family others painted a pretty nasty picture of unhealthy animals in dilapidated cages. With such mixed reviews the only way to truly gain perspective on what type of experience the Zoo and Wonder Museum had to offer was to visit and see for myself.

The first thing you will notice when you enter the large (and extremely adorable) gate to the zoo is a decent size parking lot. Since I arrived right as the zoo was opening there was plenty of parking but it is important to note that as the day presses on the parking lot can fill up quickly. Once you have parked the car and gathered your gear follow the IMG_2473signs to the entrance which is down a large set of stairs (elevator is available). Once you purchase your tickets you’re on your way. At this point you have the option to visit the zoo first or the Wonder Museum. I strongly recommend (especially in the summer months) saving the Wonder Museum for the end.

 

Now that you’re in it’s time to determine the route you want to take. I suppose that if you visit during a time when there are a bunch of people it becomes very obvious which direction you are supposed to go but I was one of about 5 people in the entire zoo at the time which had me lost within about 100 feet of the front gate. (That’s right I’m not ashamed to say it.)

The Okinawa Zoo starts you off pretty easy with some of the animals you probably have seen around Okinawa to include flying foxes, osprey and buzzards. Down the path a bit are various monkeys, IMG_2502emu and even a bear from Hokkaido. The bigger most impressive animals are in the deepest part of the zoo to include elephants, deer, hippos (I really liked the hippos) and giraffes.

Near the end of the zoo itself is the petting zoo. This area has various animals for your kids to pet and play with including goats, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs and turtles. There was even a dog named “Chunky” but he had not come out to play so early in the day.

Once you’ve washed your hands you’re pretty much done with the zoo. At this point you can head back to the main gate and enjoy the Wonder Museum (extra fee), ride on some kiddy rides or just head out for the day.

After spending a good chunk of time enjoying the zoo and seeing all the animals (at least all the animals who were awake that is) I can say with confidence that those who made such negative comments about this zoo don’t have a leg to stand on. First and foremost it’s important to understand that the Okinawa Zoo is not Disney’s Animal Kingdom; it’s a zoo on the small island of Okinawa. There are animals in cages and enclosures made of concrete to withstand the harsh conditions that we get here in Okinawa. This is not always the pretties thing and can sometimes look old and beat up (much like every other concrete building in Okinawa) but everything was in good shape and most importantly clean. Another thing to note is that although the animals were not in the wide open spaces they may have in their natural habitat they are allotted plenty of space to move around.

IMG_2557

Once I was done with the zoo and found my unconventional way back to the main gate I figured I might as well check out the Wonder Museum. The Wonder Museum is an additional ¥200 for adults, less for children of course, and I have to say worth every penny. . . . although I have to admit I was a bit out of place being a grown adult without a child playing with the various toys and exhibits. After about 45 minutes of channeling my inner child (and resisting the urge to ask a nearby dad to take my picture in an oversized egg shell) I can only describe the Wonder Museum as a place where the line between science and fun is blurred. Sure there was some scientific reason that when I waved my arms various colors were created on a screen in front of my but it wasn’t important. . . . . I was watching myself dance in some sort of psychedelic light show! Groooooovy!

Worn out and knees aching it was time for me to head back home. By this time (roughly 11AM) the parking lot was full and there were many more people just entering. Overall I think this is a great place to spend the day. . . and you certainly can spend the entire day here if you wanted to. There is food, vending machines and even a theater where various shows take place throughout the year. If you’re here in Okinawa and looking for something fun to do one weekend why not give the Okinawa Zoo and Wonder Museum a shot!?