Due to an unforeseen technical problem, we started a bit late to the hotel to find the Shurijo castle, fortress of the king of the Ryukyu Islands.
The castle still has beautiful stone fortification, not uncommon from what Turin or Vauban could do at home: the massive walls that seem almost smooth, and yet forever resist the invader. The architecture and the decorative style are clearly of Chinese inspiration. This is remarkably normal in Ruykyu islands at the crossroads of maritime routes between Japan, China, Korea and throughout Southeast Asia.
The walls are bright red, as passed to the lacquer. The halls of Seiden (corresponding to keep, if compared to Western architecture building, that is to say the places to receipt and exercise of power) are fully painted bright red, adding solemnity to these places of power. We watched a video of the restoration of two pillars decorated with two dragons, one open clogged, another mouth shut. The komainu, these temples guardian lions, seem to be a local Okinawan specialties: they are absolutely everywhere, in the castle, on the tickets, and I do not even talk about souvenir shops where they occupy half of shelves.
Touristically, there is something quite remarkable and exemplary, we had already experienced the last time at the Tokyo National Museum: the stamps or seals of collections. Normally it’s for children, who have a map of the site, with pre-printed designs watermark. Over the course of the visit are stamps with ink, which can mark the seal of the place on the map. If the child has any seals or stamps, he earns a small toy in relation to the place (we have won a small book and stickers). Isn’t fantastic? It’s extremely playful. All the children we saw wanted to put the pads on their card, so do the entire route, to “win”. They do not drag their feet during the cultural visit, on the contrary, they push their parents in places they would not have thought to go sightseeing (buffers are cleverly distributed in all remarkable places on the entire site ). Children busy, happy parents, happy visitors. I find it absolutely brilliant.
We went then for a walk to the market of Naha, where you can find anything. There are many shops for tourists, with lots of little lions komainu, the worked shells, beads and other trinkets that are offered to the tourists for coax. Obviously, I was catched by a lady from Naha tourist office (it’s not like I could pass for a native) to complete a questionnaire, which made me win a small trinket (a door key with starry sand of Okinawa, I think it’s micro-shell). The atmosphere reminded me a lot that from the covered Kyoto market.
On the way back we passed a shop that sold Gundam. I said no. Xim tried to bribe me (with ice and kisses). I held: he can buy Gundam when he has mounted everyone he bought last time.
We also tasted what must be the typical dish of Okinawa: the fried bitter gourd slices with germinated soybeans, omelette, tofu and three pieces of pork (very small), all jumped at the stove. It’s really very good, although the photo left me a little dubious (it looks like a green octopus tentacle). I wondered (given I gather some seeds of this famous bitter gourd) if I would grow them on my balcony for the nostalgic cuisine. I think that Okinawa is perfect, but in France, the squash will be too bitter.
Tomorrow we get up early to catch our bus to a very mysterious destination …