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Okinawa 2014

29th August Friday

posted Sep 1, 2014, 12:20 AM by Andrew Glover

Another slow start to the day. We decided to have a quite day and head to Hokama Sensei's Dojo and Karate Museum. You have to book ahead to get into the Museum, so I called him and we arranged for 1130hrs. Last year we had a real hard time finding it, well the taxi driver did. So I got it up on Google Maps, however the taxi driver pretty much knew where it was. He got us most of the way there and Google did the rest. Did I say the vodafone $5 a day International roaming was a win. We were a little late getting there but fortunately he was training a guy from Belgium, who it turns out is a rather famous guitarist. He spoke very little English but it was really nice to meet him. 

As Always Hokama Sensei was very welcoming and friendly. After greeting him, he kind of recognised us but we went to the pole were Adam was measured last year and pointed it out. He immediately remembered us and was even more happy to see us. I also reminded him of Sensei Bob and he remembered him too. He is the epitome of a Gentleman and a Martial Artist. We sat down to tea and cakes and a chat. We had a very interesting discussion about the state of Okinawa and how the Americans treat the Island and Japan in general. What I found interesting was the 3 major tourist attractions on the Island, the Aquarium, Shuri Castle and Peace Memorial are all owned by the Japanese and all the money goes to Japan. Okinawa seems to get a rough deal from everyone! It was a very educational and interesting conversation. Hokama Sensei also told us how the Japanses oppressed the Okinawans until about 40 years ago. Okinawa has its own language but if kids spoke it in school they had to wear a sign around their neck saying they were "A bad person and very naughty!" They had to keep wearing the sign until they heard someone else speaking the Okinawan language and gave it to them. Fortunately this has now stopped and the Okinawan language and customs are starting to be revived. It is so amazing sitting and being entertained by a 10th Dan who is so down to earth and humble, he is a real inspiration.  

Hokama Sensei does calligraphy, he was a professional sign writer and he still sells the most beautiful pieces of work. Adam had bought 2 of his pieces from the Dojo Bar and when Adam showed him we has so happy and was so appreciative that Adam had bought his work. He told us he was going to Russia for a Seminar and that he had already been overseas 3 times this year and had another trip after the Russian trip. He is in real big demand around the world. It is amazing that he still keeps going,he is in his 70's now!
Somehow the weather in Russia came up and he said he had packed summer clothes! We told him it was nearly winter in Russia, so I looked up the weather in Russia, today is was 7 - 16 degrees. He said he would have to repack his bags! Good job we mentioned it. 

While we were having tea another couple arrived, they were Swiss and practiced Go-Ju Ryu that comes from South Afirca. Their Hombu is in Cape Town. I have heard of the guy who set it up. We went up to the Museum and this year Hokama Sensei was much more relaxed. Last year he lamented that someone had stolen some of his stuff including his Isshin Ryu badge, which was one of the original ones. Sensei Bob had sent him a replacement and I was very happy to see it on display.  

The museum is a place you can visit over and over again, there is just so much too see. I am even more determined to learn Japanses so I can read all the stuff. However I think that is still many many years away! I wearing a shirt I had bought in the markets and he said that is was his writing on the shirt. He then said he had better shirts for sale and Adam and I both bought one. He was even more excited. The Swiss guys bought his book and Sensei kept saying how he was now a rich man! He was so pleased. We landed up being in there much longer than we expected and finally left at 1330hrs.  

Hokama Sensei called us a taxi and made sure the drive knew where we were going. It HAD to happen eventually, the guy got totally lost and after 41,000 Yen on the meter he pulled over at a Super market to ask the way (it had cost us 35,000Yen to get there). Well out came Google Maps and it turned out we where still 20 minutes away. I sat in the front and gave him directions! 

At the hotel we started packing and getting ready for training. Andy came and picked Celina, Angela and I up at 1745pm to take us on another tour. This time to Kyan's house and his monument. I have finally found out why people think that Chinto Kata is for fighting on a bridge, it is because Kyan's house was right by a bridge and he used to practice Chinto on it! Amazing how people get things so mixed up. We got the Uechi Sensei Dojo at 1850hrs for training at 1900hrs. 

Tonight is was my turn with him and we went through Chatanyara no sai, tokumine no kun and Urashi bo. Just like with Sadao there were few things. Fortunately I had remembered most of them, so I did sort of OK. My first run through Chatanyara was terrible, for some reason I was really nervous! Anyway we was happy enough with my performance, which was a big relief. It was a really good session, he is really such a great teacher. After training we sat around and chatted. Ohara Sensei, who is often the official translator for Karate events and he is a high ranking Shorin Ryu practitioner. I learned even more about Okinawa, we had a really great chat. After an hour Uechi Sensei had to go so we all said our good byes.

We went to the Ramen house for dinner, all the others took awhile to join us so we ordered dinner. I finally got to have the crumbed chicken, it was a little oily but still very yummy! I was very tired and decided to head back to the hotel and get a shower and pack up, before I got roped into the drinking with Mistsutada Sensei. Marina got to drink the most of a beer mug of saki! Everyone was egging them on with "Kampai" and making Marian drink. 

Last full day in Okinawa, many mixed emotions. 

28th August Thursday

posted Aug 28, 2014, 5:29 PM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 29, 2014, 12:18 AM ]

It was not a late start today, about 9 am.  Adam, Renee and I headed out to Katsyren Castle.  Once again we got a taxi driver who knew where he was going.  Maybe we just had really bad luck last year.  They have been working on the Castle in the last year and got a lot done.

The front wall that was being built is now complete and they have put a road in up to the castle and a new set of stairs. It is a really magical place.  The view from the top is amazing. We just wondered around soaking in the view and the atmosphere.  As expected it was very hot, we found a tree and took a rest.   There was a lovely cool breeze blowing off the sea.  

We played photographer for a couple of groups and some of them returned the favour.  Everyone is so friendly and polite, it makes a refreshing change compared to back in Australia.  We could certainly learn a thing or two. 

After being on the top of the Castle, we headed down to the 2nd level and sat under another tree.  I broughta bunch of fruit with me so we had a snack and chilled out.  Mainly so that we could cool down before we had photos in our Gis and did some kata.  We headed back to our first tree on level 3 and waited for a gap in the tourist traffic and so we could quickly changed into our Gis.  

Doing kata on the grass in front of a Castle, where you are pretty sure people would have trained for battle and where we know people definitely fought in battle and many died is a very sombre and movingexperience.  Knowing that the kata we perform today have their roots all the way back to this place yet many treat them as "sport" and "fun" today is an odd thing to my mind.  Still I guess that is the way the world changes over time, but just like Sensei Andy, I believe it is important to remember the roots of our fighting system now called Karate.

We were quite the attraction in our gi's and more that one group of people stop so sneakily take photos of us.  It was really hot doing kata in the midday sun and there were a number of retakes!  We started to all get a bit silly and decided that before we melted it was time to head home.  Renee asked a chap to take a group photo, he was very accommodating.  He is a Kyokishin practitioner and was really nice.  His mother did Go-Ju Ryu when she was younger.  It was nice to finally meet some Japanese people who did Karate!

We sheltered again under our tree to change and recover, did I say it was hot?  Down at the information center we had a drink and asked them to call a taxi for us.  We got a chap would must have wanted to be a racing driver!  At one point he suddenly ducked off into a the side alleys, weaving around all these little roads.  Adam and I though he was trying to up the cost.  Turns out he was taking shorts cuts and the fare was 270yen less!  

I wanted to try the pork dumplings at the restaurant in the shopping centre, so the 3 of us headed down there.  They were so tasty, I will definitely be going back there next year.  Adan and Renee wanted to go to the Stamp shop and do other stuff.  I needed a rest before my training, so I headed back to the hotel to relax, catch up on this blog and photos.  I had one "scare" moment, I couldn't get the video off my GoPro.  Fortunately John is a tech head too and he was able to use his laptop to get them onto my hard drive.  BIG relief.  

Sensei Andy picked us up and took us onto the Base.  Again it was a really easy process.  Thursday is apparently bag work day and I got to play with Sadao.  Gee the guy hits WAY above his weight.  Especially his right side.  I would definitely not like to be hit by him.  If any of my students are reading this, I have some nice new stuff to show you!   So after about an hour of solid bag work I was feeling a little tired.  We then did about 30 minutes of Kata.  Again it was  really great evening and Celina got another one on one class with Uechi Sensei. 

Angela and Celina were tired so want to go back to the hotel.  Sensei Andy and I went to a curry place.  It was nice to have a really hot (chili) curry and good company.  Back at the hotel all the others had returned from training and Iha Sensei's had just arrived for drinks and food.  I was really tired, in need of a shower  and had to do washing so I didn't join them. 

Another great day in Okinawa, can't believe its been a week already.

27th August Wednesday

posted Aug 27, 2014, 5:32 PM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 28, 2014, 5:32 PM ]

Today was supposed to be Katsuren Castle and the American Village.  We had made rough plans to meet at 1000hrs.  At about 930hrs I went to chat with Sensei Bob, next thing Renee was at the door and it was 1100hrs.  They has just woken up.  So we decided to make today a rest day, we have all been going at it full tilt since we got here and we are all starting to feel the strain. 

So I relaxed in my room catching up on photos and this blog.  At 1200hrs Sensei Bob and Iwent to A&W for lunch.  I had the Aloha burger, it was OK, but Sensei Bob loves the burgers.  After that we both needed supplies, so we headed to the shops and wondered around.   I bumped into Adam and Renee and wondered around in the nice cool air with them for awhile then headed back to the hotel. 

There was no training for me tonight, but there was a possible plan to take Uechi Sensei out for dinner. Andy got off work early and just as Celina and Angela got back from Naha he arrived at the hotel.  They had a quick freshen up and then Andy took us on a tour of the important Isshin Ryu places.  One thing thatI missed last year was Shimabuko Sensei's tomb, was it was really good to see that.  We got caught in the usual mid afternoon down pour and had to wait it out in the car.  The rain made the smell from the pig slaughter place over the hill even worse!

It seems that his family is not too diligent in the up keep of the tomb though.  It looks likes it could do with a really good clean and polish.  We got some pictures in our Gi's, wich was really nice. After that we drove around to Shimabuko Sensie's old house, which is a really run down old place now.  Looking at the picutres back in the day, it has really been let go to rack and ruin.

After that went back to the American Village, to the same restaurant and had another excellent meal.   The pattern seems to be the same, we got back just as the others were from their training.  So again it was beers and a chat and bed.

Another brilliant day in Okinawa!

26th August Tuesday

posted Aug 27, 2014, 8:31 AM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 28, 2014, 5:31 PM ]

It is Aquarium day today!  Very excited, it is one of my favourite spots.  Adam and I had to try find a Post Office, so we rushed up to the Gushikawa one, only to find it was not open till 9 am and we were being picked up at 9 am.  So we abandoned that idea and headed back.  James from the Dojo Bar was our tour guide.  He is a fantastic guy, so accommodating and friendly.  He has a great knowledge of Ojibwa and the Japanese. 

We all piled into his van, it turns out it only takes 8 not 9, Sensei Bob was not joining us.  So I had to sit on the  ledge behind the front seat.   It was not the most comfortable trip in the world.  My butt will be sore for a few days i think.  It took about an hour to get to the Aquarium, it is a very nice drive despite my butt getting very warm.  The bays along the way are just so spectacular.  It is no wonder they call this the Gold Coast of Japan!  I reckon it would be great to spend some time up North just kicking back and relaxing. 

Once we got to the Aquarium, James gave us an orientation and we all headed in.  Having been there before I was happy to move quickly through to the main tank with the whale sharks.  I could sit and watch them all day. It is a really relaxing experience, the only thing disturbing it was the 100's of kids running around and screaming.  Seems we picked the holiday  period to come out.  Still it was spectacular to see the whale sharks.  Once we had got through the crowds, Adam and I sat and had a coffee and waited for Renee.  There are 2 dolphins in the tank now and they were rushing around like kids,  causing havoc.  It was so much fun watching them play around. 

The coffee was surprisingly good and I could have sat there for the whole time but I really wanted to see the Old Village.   Renee needed to do more gift shopping so I left them to it and went wondering.  It was so hot,  the moment I walked outside I started sweating.  At every water station I drank as much as I could and still couldn't get enough.  At one point I had to sit down and rest, it felt like I was getting heat stroke.  It was a good opportunity to go through all the little fixes in my kata and kihon.  Which is something I wanted to do.  

The old style Okinawan houses made of thatch and bamboo are surprisingly cool in side.  At least 5 degrees but somehow they catch the slightest breeze and manage to keep cool inside.

I would have like more time in the Old Village but we had to all muster at 1415hrs to go to the Orion brewery.  An ice cream sounded like a great idea and I met up with Adam and Renee.  I had a coffee float (cold coffee with ice cream on top) and a sweet potato ice cream.  Both were delicious. 

The Orion brewery was really fun. Its beer, what more can I say!  It seems every brewery I visit the bottlingplant is not working.  The tour was the normal thing.  One bit I did find interesting was they put corn starch in their beer. Also all the beer they produce is from the one plant and they only have three mush tanks.  Still they manage to pump out rather a lot of very good tasting beer.

We got 2 tasting samples, but some people only wanted 1, so Greg and I landed up having quite a few.  I didn't want to have too many as I had early training.  Again I could have sat there for a few more hours but we had to get bad and they only allowed us to sit there for 15 minutes, as the next group was coming through.

On the drive back it did the normal mid afternoon down pour.  Boy it sure can rain in this place, but as I said before it is a warm rain. 

By the time we got to the Hotel Andy Sloane was waiting to take Celina and I to training.  We both need to shower, so it was a mad rush to get ready and head off to training on Camp Foster Marine Base. I was expecting to have hassle getting on the base, but it was so easy.  We just had to present our passports and the paper work was done in a few minutes.  

The training was in a huge gym complex.  It was really nice, as is to be expected.  Sadao was there, so I got to workout with him.  We went through all the kata in one go.  He hasn't been able to train much lately as he is still at Uni and working, so it was quite a workout!  After that we got to play with weapons.

We went through Tokumine no kun, Urasi bo, kusanku no sai, chatanyara no sai, bo-bo kumite and bo-saikumite.  All were pretty much the same as we do them in RyuKyu Kobudo (as you would expect) just a few minor differences.  Sadao was a little rushy on the kumite as they don't do it as much as we do, pretty much every week in RyuKyu.  It was great fun to play with Uechi Sensei's sai.

Celina got a 2 hour plus one on one lesson with Uechi Sensei and Andy Sensei work with a brown belt, Byron.  It was a really great class.  Afterwards Andy Sensei was explaining bunkai to seiunchin kata to Byron and I was very pleasantly surprised to see him use the same bunkai as I do, as I have never seen that bunkai done by anyone else.  Apparently we was taught it bu an original student of ShimabukoSensei.

After training Andy took us out to the American Village and I Had the best soba ever,  beef and vegetable, man it was so good.   Andy gave us more of a history lesson,  I really enjoy listening to him filling in all the gaps of our Isshin Ryu history.  We were back in the hotel for about 2130hrs, just as the others got back. 

So I sat and chatted to Adam and Renee and had a few beers and it was off to bed to catch up on my blog.   

25th August Monday

posted Aug 27, 2014, 12:11 AM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 29, 2014, 12:21 AM ]

It's really good to be back in Gushikawa.  Last night Celina, Angela and Mark joined us.  We are pretty big group now.  The plan was to head to Gate 2 Street and then to Agena Castle.  By the time Adam, Renee and myself got down stairs the others had left.  We got a cab to Kadena Air Base at the end of Gate 2 street.  Renee made the bad move of standing right in front of the gate and taking a picture.  A guard rushed out to stop her so she started to run away.  I advised her to stop and the guard caught up.  He demanded that the photo's were deleted. The Americans are very touchy about taking photos of their gates it seems!  Unfortunately  yet again Gate 2 street was mostly closed, the same thing happened last year.  Fortunately the Ippon Karate-do shop was open and Renee got a cool set of plastic Sai for her boy.  It was a big win, I think she is more chuffed than Brody will be.  We walked up the street but with not much too see we decided to catch a cab to Agena.  When we got there we all needed a drink and a bit of a relax, so we headed to the KFC.  

We had a great old yarn for about an hour, talking about Karate, life, more karate and more karate!  It is one of the things I love about being here.  No interuptions and things to do, you can just sit and chat.  Having the opportunity to do it with two devoted students of Martial Arts is just so refreshing.  It is amazing the little things you learn just talking to people. 

I needed to find a Post Office, so Adam and Renee went into the Stamp shop and I went for a wonder.  The Post Office had moved and when I got back, after about 10 minutes, all the others had caught up with Adam and Renee.  It turned out the group had decided to walk from the hotel!  They were all exhausted and decided to check out the Stamp shop and then head back to the hotel.

We were feeling refreshed after our sit down so Adam, Renee and I headed off to check out Agena Castle.  Adam and I managed to navigate our way there quite successfully. We had expected them to have cleared more of it, but it seems to be more over run with weeds than last year.  They had cleared more of the wall though, which is really great to see.  While we were on the top of the hill, the weather started to turn ominous, so we headed back down.  As were we walking around the base and checking out some tombs, the rain started to pelt down.  We sought shelter in the eves of a tomb and waited it out for about 20 minutes.  Another great opportunity talk about life, the Universe and 47.  The rain only made it more humid and steamy!

We were all very hungry, so decided to head to an A&W for lunch.   I had a burger and chips followed by a Chicken Aloha burger, it will definitely be my next choice, it was very nice.  I am not a fast food fan at all, but the A&W curly fries are really nice.  We all felt we need a bit of a relax before our first nights training, so we decide to head back home.  Adam wanted to check his bearings to Iha Sensei's Dojo and I walked up the street to the Post Office we passed on the way.  We then caught a cab back to the hotel. 

At about 5.30pm Celina, Angela and I caught a cab to Uechi Sensei's Dojo.  I remembered the way, but the taxi driver knew mostly where he was going.  Without wanting to jinx it, we have been very lucky with Taxi drivers knowing where to go this year.

It was really great to see Uechi Sensei, he is just about the coolest guy.  A total Gentleman and fantastic teacher.  He had a few young kids and watching him work with them gave me a whole new perspective on him.  Not long after the class started Sensei Andy Sloane came in.  He had just moved back to Okinawa for work, he is in the Navy.  So while he took Celina and the young kids, I got to be taught by Sensei one on one for two hours!  What a real treat.  

I got go through all the kihon, there were a few little things to clean up but nothing major. Uechi Sensei has added a kick, which will be fun to teach to the Students. 

The I got to go through all the Kata.  Fortunately is was not as "traumatic" as last year.  It seems I have managed to get pretty much all of the adjustments from last year right, so there were only a few little things that needed fixing and cleaning up.  BIG thing is my thumbs being out, now I know where the Students get if from.  Oops, that will be fixed when we get home.  Bit of a "show off" moment (sorry).  At the end of my kusanku I got a "prefecto" from Sensei! I ended up on the exact same spot! I was, as you can imagine, very happy with myself.

The young kids left after an hour and then Celina got to be taught by Sensei Andy.  He is also a really fantastic Teacher.  It was so hot and humid, I must have sweat out about 2 KG's.  

After class Sensei Andy offered to take us back to the hotel, in his van that he had just picked up that day.  Having not driven for about a year and now driving on the opposite side of the road must have been a bit of a challenge. It did not seem to take him long to get accustomed to the van though.  Celina and Angela decided to get a shower before going out for dinner but as Sensei Andy needed to be back on base by 21:00 hrs, the two of we headed to my favourite Ramen place for dinner. 

He is has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Isshin Ryu and it was really great to hear some of the old stories and also getting some facts sorted out.  It was a quick dinner, as he had to get back to Base.  Not long after I got back to the hotel, the others got back from their training. So we put our Gi's into wash and sat and drank beer while we waited for them to finish.  It sounded like the guys had a great time at Iha Sensei. 

24th August Sunday

posted Aug 26, 2014, 5:26 PM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 28, 2014, 6:51 AM ]

Today we head up to Kasuga and tomorrow the training starts, can't wait.  We had to be out the hotel by 10 am.  Unfortunately there was a communication break down and no one had booked the mini cab taxi and they were all booked out, so we had to get 3 taxi's instead.  It was a bit of a pain AND cost more than it should have but on the plus side the taxi drivers did not get lost!  That is 2 cab ride in a row now, this winning streak can't last for ever.  

Despite the delay we still could not get into our rooms, so after we had checked in we left our bags in the lobby and when for a walk to the shops for an hour or so.  Adam and Renee found a very lovely ring.  Once again I am very grateful to have the $5 a day Vodaphone overseas plan, as Renee need to do some quick Internet  banking.  The marvels of modern technology!  Having the Internet while we are out and about has been very good.  Google Maps is a total win!

The afternoon was spent unpacking, relaxing in our rooms and chatting. There was a massive rain storm which also helped to keep us in doors.  Seems that is is the pattern.  Lovely clear hot and humid in the morning, torrential dowpour in the afternoon and then it clears up to more humid and hot.  It was a very pleasant and enjoyable afternoon. The storm however just made the humidity worse, at least the rooms have air conditioning. 

Sensei Bob wanted to have Soba for dinner, so we headed to the Isshin Restaurant, where we had goodSoba last year.  Much to Sensei Bob's great disappointment they no longer do Soba! I was also looking forward to it as well but landed up having a rather good meal anyway.  After that is was some late night shopping and we all headed off to bed.

23rd August Saturday

posted Aug 25, 2014, 3:55 PM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 25, 2014, 4:24 PM ]

Sensei Bob is still recovering from a very nasty virus and decided to have a relaxing day by himself while the rest of us headed to Shuri Castle via the monorail. It was nice to approach the Castle from a different angle this time. Having seen it before took nothing away from the magnificence of it. As this was the only thing on the agenda for the day, it was really nice to take a very leisurely stroll around the place.   

They have been doing some restoration work and there was a whole new section completed this year. The wood still has that fresh cut smell and look. It is really spectacular. There is a new section where you can have tea and Okniawan cakes. It was too good an opportunity to past up so Rene, Adam and I par took.   

We had planned to be done by 1 pm, but we were having so much fun we decided to stay longer. Alex and John headed off, while the rest of us stayed and soaked up the beauty and tranquility of the place. 

On the way back to the visitor center, where we had agreed to meet, Adam said he wanted a "moment" with Renee under the Shorimon gates, I knew pretty much instantly that Adam was going to propose. About 15 minutes later a very stunned Renee and very relieved Adam joined me. It was is fantastic to see such a lovely couple and they will make a really great team as husband and wife.  

The 3 of us headed into the visitor center to have some lunch and meet up with Greg and Marina. Renee wanted to let her son Brody know before she told anyone. We had a really great time chatting over a few beers but it was very hard sitting there and not let the cat out the bag! 

As we had a one day rail pass, I decided to ride the monorail from one end to the other, Shuri Castle being the start and Naha Ariport the end. It was a really great way to see the City and it only took about and hour to get back to the hotel.

That night Adam and Renee wanted to go ring shopping and have dinner together, so the rest of us all picked some random restaurant and I certainly had a very nice dinner and a great chat to John. Sensei Bob needed to go the Dojo Bar to meet up the James, the owner, to arrange the tour we are going on. We all decided to join him, you can never have enough of the Dojo Bar. Adam and Renee joined us too and while we were celebrating their engagement we noticed Jessie from Karate by Jessie.

 He is a really great guy and it was fantastic to meet him nd have a chat. He was very accommodating and happy to have his photo taken with us. While all this was going on a film crew came into the Bar and started interviewing Jessie and then us! It was rather daunting just been interviewed with out any preparation or idea of what you were going to be asked. Anyway, maybe we will make it onto Okinawan TV!

After quite a few drinks, and then a few more we headed back to the hotel. Another brilliant day in Okinawa!

23rd August

posted Aug 25, 2014, 3:21 PM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 25, 2014, 3:21 PM ]


22nd August 2014 Friday

posted Aug 25, 2014, 7:56 AM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 25, 2014, 3:48 PM ]

Day 2 in Okinawa, wow the humidity is something that takes a while to get used too.  I love it!  Shopping day!  After a not so early start, we all headed out to the main shopping street of Naha.  It is always interesting to remember that about 2000 Japanese tourists visit Okinawa every day and only about 1 come to train in Martial Arts! Okinawa is the Gold Coast of Japan and it seems to be getting more touristy.   We all split up and wondered around the markets for a couple of hours, occasionally bumping into each other. 

The Okinawan doughnuts are amazing!  There are a lot of stalls that sell them and I found one that did sweet potato ones, it was delicious.  At one point, around lunch time, I meet up with Adam and Renee as we were walking past Jeff's Hamburger place, which Adam and I both remembered from last year.  Not far from it is a really nice Okinawan Soba house, so the three of us went for lunch.

 It is always a challenge eating in a foreign country were you have no idea what the menu says.   Despite studying Japanese for a while, I am still so much out of my depth.   However having been here last year Adam and I are both much more confident with everything.  The Soba was just as good as I remembered it.  It might not look overly appetising, but man it tastes good! 

Traveling in a large group is always a challenge, with everyone having different things they want to do. Thankfully we all are happy to do our own thing and amuse ourselves. It makes things so much easier! We had all agreed to meet at Starbucks at 1 pm, this is the secret of group travel, have a meeting point and a time! As it was the three of us were the last to arrive. I have discovered that honey makes Startbucks coffee taste half decent.

Next stop was the best shop in town, Shreido.

Not only does it have fantastic staff, but it is full of fun things to play with.

Sensei Bob bought half the shop and then Alex anf John cleaned them out!  Not to mention there is a huge box of stuff for Mark too. It took ages to get through eceryone and after awhile some of us headed down to the old China Gate.

We all headed back to the hotel, with a slight detour via the post office for some of us. Not surprisingly there is still a huge lack of ATM's in Okinawa. The Post Office is one of the few places you can get money out. Loaded up with money I headed to the local super market for my breakfast fruits and stuff.

After a relaxing afternoon, I headed out for dinner with Sensei Bob, Greg and Marina after which we got some much needed sleep. 

21st August Thursday

posted Aug 25, 2014, 6:13 AM by Andrew Glover   [ updated Aug 25, 2014, 7:38 AM ]

We all made our separate ways to the airport. Adam and Rene where the fist to arrival and scored a huge win. It is Renee's birthday and they go upgraded to Premium Economy. Very lucky indeed. Checkin was a slightly eventful affair, I had done an e-checkin and was expecting o breeze through. Unfortunately it was not to be! First the fellow at the quick checkin counter had run out of tags and couldn't print more. So I was directed to join the queue, which was huge. I think the look on my face said it all and I was moved to the front of the line. Much to others annoyance I'm sure! 

As I had not checked in for the Narita to Naha leg, the website would not let me, I had to be unchecked and then rechecked in! The fellow behind the counter was friendly though, so not too much drama. At the customs check through the scanner of the line I was in broke down, so we all had to be redirected to a new queue. Oh the fun of airports! I was hanging for a coffee, so bit the bullet and paid up! Boy the airports are a rip off, captive audience though so what do you expect. Anyway before long I joined up with Adam, Rene and not long after Greg and Marina in a café right by our gate. 

We had not seen Sensei Bob and the others and couldn't get Sensei on the phone. Then I heard his name called over the tannoy. As he has been very, very sick over the last week, he almost didn't make it on the trip, we were all a little worried that maybe they had stopped him flying or something. I enquired with the checkin staff if everything was alright, it was for Sensei, he had just been upgraded to Premium Economy too! 

The nearly 10 hour flight to Narita was uneventful, apart from being delayed on our takeoff due to congestion. Apparently Sydney's appalling traffic extends to runways too! Luckily I had an isle seat, with a Japanese lady and her daughter beside me, so plenty of room and the chance to get up whenever I wanted too. Just the way I like to fly. I have to say JAL was excellent, the cabin crew were get, the plane was clean and everything seems to be in working order. I will definitely fly with them again. 

We all finally meet up at Narita, due to our late departure from Sydney we were late getting to Narita. There was a long queue to check through immigration and Sensei Bob was held up twice! Which was rather worrying, we only had 50 minutes between our flights and there were a few anxious moments. However it all worked out fine in the end and we even had a few minutes to spare.

The second leg was 2.30 hrs, the plane was empty and the vacant row of 3 seats in front of me was too irresistible. I sprawled out and managed to get a good hour sleep. 

Naha Domestic airport is a very flash compared to the International Airport, we didn't have to wait too long to get our bags and as we walked out the airport a mini buss was waiting. We all piled in and after a short trip we got to the Best Western.

It being Renee's birthday, we all decided to head to the Dojo Bar, a MUST for any Martial Artist visiting Okinawa. I was really looking forward to their pizza, which did not disappoint!  We all had a few drinks and a meal and then decided to head back to the hotel at about 12am.

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