Ruined Shuri castle and izakaya 首里城
From the Naha airport, we take the monorail to Shuri Station and, after dropping our bags in a coin locker, walk to the famous castle. On the way we have a Family Mart. Picnic in a small park by a pond with many demanding ducks, snapping turtles, a mongoose? And a cat.
It is hot, in January, much hotter than we expected but when we get to the castle hill there is a pleasant breeze.
Even though it is not really tourist season and the main building recently burnt down, there are a surprising number of people at the castle but not crowded by any means. We view some impressive walls, gates and sadly charred remains. There are also splendid views over the town below.
From the castle remains we follow a narrow, cobbled lane down a steep hill. We are enjoying this wander through the houses with tropical gardens thinking we would take the return monorail from a different station. Too late, we remember that we have to retrace our steps, climb back up the hill and return to the same station to retrieve our bags from the coin locker.
From the station we take the monorail, a dinky affair, back to Miebashi station to find our hotel. This is, in fact, a one room mansion. Adequate enough but I miss the frills.
From this less than salubrious accommodation, we set out to find an Okinawa Minyo (folk song) izakaya and dinner. After wandering a bit, we select one but on entering find it absolutely empty but for 5 or 6 staff hanging around. As we are shown to a prominent table, two elderly ladies, one of whom is tiny, break into song.
This is fine as far as it goes. The music is great but there is an uncomfortable feeling as if the recital is for you personally. One feels obliged to pay attention and clap. As a member of an audience, I prefer to be part of a crowd.
The food is OK, but limited, and the Orion Happoshu is pretty dire. As we eat and drink the ladies play away but no other customers enter the bar. Feeling too scrutinized and ill at ease, we move to another place.
The next bar is a little more lively. Two young men are playing but they talk too much and play too little. The food is much the same. And we switch to genuine beer.
Despite these drawbacks it was an enjoyable evening but our fantasy of a night in an Okinawan Izakaya remains largely unfulfilled.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.