FC Ryukyu Match at Tapic Kenso Hiyagon Stadium

I love soccer, playing and watching. I have a lot of die-hard Timbers fans back home and my social media is always full of pictures on match days. I haven’t been to a live soccer game in forever, so when I found out Okinawa has a team I knew we had to go. I absolutely love going to any kind of semi-professional or professional sports games. The energy of the crowd is always so contagious and I’m already an excitable fan so it’s even more fun in a crowd.

I knew parking was going to be a chore so we got to Comprehensive Park an hour before match time. It was awful! Comprehensive Park is huge and full of a ton of athletic fields, playgrounds, a campground…like so much stuff packed into one huge park. Add on the soccer match, it was hectic. We got lucky and scored an actual parking stall in one of the lots and the walk to Tapic Kenso Hiyagon Stadium wasn’t too bad.

We were able to buy tickets at the stadium and there were a dozen or so vendors with food, drinks, and fan gear. I wanted a jersey, but we weren’t sure if they took card and Cass said, “We don’t have jersey kind of cash today.” Boo. The unassigned seats (aka cheap seats) are on the back side of the stadium so we made our way around. The stands on the side were packed so we had to sit behind the goal…which was fine. But we definitely want to sit on the side next time so we’ll definitely have to arrive much earlier.

Sidenote: Kids are free!

At first the sun was out in full force and had us melting in our seats. But the clouds rolled in and it was actually pleasant. But at the end of the match, it started POURING. We stuck it out until the time ran out and the players came over for their bows.

I was slightly worried some of the experience would be diminished since we don’t understand Japanese, but nope! The only thing we couldn’t figure out was what the chants and songs were.

Next time, we’re either going to arrive super early when the gates open or catch a cab to the stadium because the stress of trying to find parking was too much. They had a band in the stadium during the pregame so we could stake out seats, grab food, enjoy the entertainment, and just chill before kickoff.

Tedako Festival 2019 | Urasoe, Okinawa

We almost always use Kadena’s ITT for festivals because we hate dealing with parking and traffic. We happily pay the bus fee to avoid the hassle. The Tedako Festival was described as a country fair, which is partly true, but it’s also a celebration of Urasoe and its beloved King Eiso. His honorific name is Tedako which means “Son of the Sun”.

To be honest, we almost ate the cost of the tour and blew it off because it had been raining on and off all day and the forecast had a couple thunderstorms predicted for the time we’d be at the festival. We went back and forth and made the decision to go at the last minute. I’m so glad we did! It was such a fun night and it ended up being a perfect night for it.

There were stalls lining the path that wraps around the stadium as well as in the parking structure. The vendors sold food, beer, shave ice, ice cream, cotton candy, toys, masks, and light up everything. There were carnival games, a few rides, and a small haunted house that every single group came sprinting out of screaming at the top of their lungs.

From what we were told, this is one of the last festivals to wear a yukata at. Yukatas are lightweight and made of cotton while kimonos are heavier because they’re made of silk. I loved seeing all the varieties of prints everywhere we went.

We thought about sitting down on the tarps on the grass, but they were wet so we went up to the stadium seating. It was a lot farther away, but we still had a great view of the performances. There were bands, eisa dancers, taiko drums, martial artists, historical reenactments, and dancers. Some of the performances were modern, some were traditional, and some were a mix of both. It was so much fun seeing the variety! They closed out the night with a big fireworks show.

We definitely want to go back again next year. Next time we’ll bring our vinyl bottomed picnic blanket and sit down below to get a close up view of all the festivities. Since the vendors used the parking structure, there is no provided parking so we’ll definitely be utilizing ITT again.

Okinawa Island Hopping

We’ve been on Okinawa for almost a year now and we haven’t explored nearly as much as we normally would. The main reason is Cass was selected for promotion so he has a lot more responsibility at work and we’ve been more focused on that than anything else.

But I don’t work and I’ve been itching to get out more. I really need to work on my driving skills so I can take the car and go on my own. I just get too in my head about driving on the left side of the road and I start getting anxiety; so for now my adventures are limited to Cass’s days off.

During the long 96 weekend, we decided to get out. We pointed ourselves toward Ikei Island and stopped at anything that caught our attention on the map.

Our first stop was Churatokaido Information Center (美ら島海道案内所)

We grabbed onigiri from Family Mart on our way out so we sat next to the water and ate our lunch. Next time, we definitely want to try out the food stands. If you’re on Instagram, you know how popular BEAPA is with their swings overlooking the water.

Next we visited Nuchi-masu Salt Factory

This was a quick visit because it’s not big at all. There are few viewing windows with info placards in Japanese. I used Google Translate to read them and the translation was good enough to get a decent idea of the process. Everyone who worked there was so incredibly nice and made sure we got general info sheets and uses for the salt in English.

We hit up the gift shop and grabbed a couple salt bath bombs to try out and some bottles of salt. Their salt is supposed to taste different because of all the minerals in it and they boast that their salt is healthier for you because there’s less sodium chloride in it. The info sheet has a lot of science-y stuff on it with tests and graphs and things I don’t really fully understand because I’m terrible at science.

We got to Ikei Island, but there wasn’t much for us to do but do a quick drive around the island. We didn’t want to lie on the beach, we didn’t want to stay at the resort, and we didn’t want to go fishing or diving. So we headed back.

Our next stop was a sacred site on the side of Prefectural Road 10.

I wasn’t going to go up to the shrine (or whatever it was) because I know some of those places are only for those who worship there or for locals to visit. Instead I took pictures from the road next to some fishermen. They had set up their rods in the rocks and had a nice little hang out spot in a van to wait for the fish to bite.

There was also a ice cream van set up right in front of the sacred site marker. While I took pictures, I sent Cass to grab a cone for me. The man running the van insisted we go up to the rock and take pictures from up there. He came out and pointed at the path. I wasn’t going to tell him no, so we went up.

At this point we simply drove back to the main island of Okinawa. I love that we can drive to these little islands and explore. We definitely want to make more drives like this soon.

Misato Park | Okinawa City

Cass and I felt like getting out of the house. We didn’t want to go too far because it was getting dark so we ended up at Misato Park in Okinawa City.

Misato ParkMisato Park

It’s a little, but busy park. There are multiple play structures (which we stayed off of because the runners would curiously watch us as they passed by and I wasn’t trying to look like an idiot in front of an audience), a small skate park, a full basketball court (one side was missing a rim though), a big grassy area, a very well-used walking/running path around the perimeter, nice looking bathrooms, vending machines, and small parking lot.

Misato ParkMisato ParkMisato Park

Since it had just stormed earlier in the day, there were no kids playing. But there were lots of walkers and runners. There aren’t a lot of benches though, but there are some covered sitting areas.

Misato Park

We almost brought Gambit, but I’m glad we didn’t because he would’ve been in the way of the runners and there was only one other path straight through the middle of the park that he could’ve walked on. I also saw signs saying to take pet feces home to dispose of. They do a lot of trash sorting so I guess that’s why.

Misato Park

Pin: https://goo.gl/maps/QRwVr17BkYu

Kuwae Park | Chatan-chō

cherry blossoms

I heard through Facebook that there were cherry blossoms at Kuwae Park in Chatan so I had to check it out. The rumors were right! There were some blooms! But not a lot. But lots of buds so maybe soon! But maybe not because the storms have been making the temperatures go up and down and the rain has been really intense some days. So the poor flowers don’t stand much of a chance and the blooms aren’t happening all at once.

cherry blossomscherry blossoms

Cass and I decided to wander down random paths and we were pleasantly surprised. There were lots of winding paths, stairways, and features all over. Whoever designed the park did a really good job because they packed a lot in there for such a small space, but it doesn’t feel packed in.

Kuwae ParkKuwae ParkKuwae ParkKuwae ParkKuwae Park

I’m terrified of snakes, so I always balk when I see those snake awareness signs. All the trees and bushes and flowers were so pretty, but I was so paranoid in the heavily vegetated areas. I swear the trees were extra creaky and the wind was extra rustly when we walked through those areas.

Kuwae Park
Kuwae Park

This is a great park to walk and wander. Paths led through and around the park so you’d really get a nice run in here, especially with the inclines and stairs. There’s also a lot of benches and shade so this is also a great park if you want to just relax and people watch or take in the scenery. The parking was tricky. Technically we parked in the adjoining community center lot. But it was midday on a weekday so it wasn’t full and no one cared. There was some street parking on a super narrow street with room for maybe 4 cars.

Kuwae Park

There’s also some extensive construction going on in the park. It’s contained to one area, so you can easily avoid it or get away from it and still enjoy the park.

It would be a great park to take Lexi & Gambit for walks. There are lots of signs (in English) reminding dog owners to pick up after their dogs and to keep them on their leash. We always pick up after our dogs and are too paranoid to let them off leash in non-dog parks so that’s not a problem for us.

Kuwae ParkKuwae Park

Pin: https://goo.gl/maps/qWYyyRgiJFz

Lucky Bags | Fukubukuro | 福袋

Lucky bags or fukubukuro (福袋) is a New Years tradition in Japan. It’s a grab bag businesses will put out for a huge discount. It’s a way for businesses to clear out their shelves for new inventory and for customers to get great deals. You’re not supposed to look in the bags, but I saw a lot of people (both US and Japanese) peaking in or digging around.

2019 lucky bag

I remember seeing these bags at Sanrio stores in Hawaii, but it wasn’t a thing. We got up late on New Years and were super lazy, but we decided to wander over to the Aeon in American Village to see if we could find any good lucky bags.

When we first walked in, I was tempted to snatch every bag I saw. But then I saw a Starbucks and I had been wanting to try the limited edition Black Sesame Frappuccino so Cass and I got one to share. I really liked it! Cass didn’t care for it.

Cass and I did a lap of the first floor and I decided to go with a range of bags. First I got one of the bags from the beauty/skincare section. To be honest, I chose it based on the cuteness of the bag. I didn’t look into the brand…I probably should have, but it’s too late now.

2019 lucky bag

I haven’t tested any of it out yet. I’m making my way through some Tatcha products for the first time so I want to finish those out before trying something new.

Next, we got a bag from a section that looked like household cleaners and such. We kind of blindly chose that one. I didn’t realize until after we paid that the back of the bag was see through. But that’s okay, we specifically wanted bags that were a true blind grab bag.

2019 lucky bag

I tried out the detergent on our sheets and I liked it! The scent was on the floral side, but not overly done. I don’t think Cass even noticed a difference.

The last bag we got from Village Vanguard. I had seen some of the unbagging pictures on some Facebook groups so I knew it was really hit or miss. They were color coded by category, but there were no descriptions in English. Some people said the Rycom Aeon had English signs and some people said they just asked at the checkout counter. I left Cass to pick while I walked through Daiso.

2019 lucky bag

We put the pillow on the couch and the dogs use it every once in awhile as a head rest. We put the towel on the front door so we can wipe their paws after rainy walks. Everything else is going to our nieces and nephews.

Our strategy next year will to go more practical. As fun as the Village Vanguard bag was to open, the other bags had things we’d actually use. If we do go with something more fun next year, it’ll be from the Studio Ghibli store or Sanrio. Maybe we’ll go to Rycom Aeon or to Naha for more of a variety. Or maybe we’ll skip it altogether and save the money on something we know what we’re getting.

Okinawa Zoo Lights – Snow & Light Winter Story

zoo lights bokeh

As soon as ITT announced zoo lights tickets, I sent Cass to pick a pair up. I didn’t go to the zoo lights when I was in Oregon and I wish I did. But I also hate crowds and driving at night so…I guess I don’t regret that decision.

food stands

If you like light tunnels, you need to check out the Okinawa Zoo Lights. Tunnels over stairs, a Christmas themed tunnel, a snowflake themed tunnel, a heart tunnel…so many tunnels!

Christmas tree of lights

There were also so many interactive displays and lots of fun things for the kids. There was even a snow play area! We timed our visit perfectly so that by the time we were done walking through the zoo we were just in time for the laser light show. Purely coincidental!

Okinawa Zoo LightsOkinawa Zoo Lights

It was a windy night so the fog machines weren’t very effective, but it was still a really cool show. I thought the fireworks were only for Christmas and New Years so it was a surprise when they shot off. I also didn’t know there was a water cannon element…which was fun and all, but it sucked when the mist rained down on the crowd. It was too cold for that.

laser light showlaser light show

Next year we’ll have to go during Christmas week to see the Christmas Fantasy lights. I’m guessing the displays stay the same and the light show and other entertainment changes.

Okinawa Grand Sumo Tournament 2018

Okinawa Sumo Tournament

I grew up watching Akebono, Konishiki, Takanohana, Wakanohana, and Musashimaru so I knew we had to go see the Grand Sumo Tournament at the Okinawa Convention Center. I’m pretty sure everyone from Hawaii knows who Akebono, Konishiki, and Musashimaru are. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole even performed a song about them!

sumo warm ups

We got there soon after the doors opened. The wrestlers were on the floor stretching and doing some drills. At first, the guys stuck to the ring or the pathways leading up to it. But after they did some practice rounds, they started wandering around the venue. They took pictures and chatted with fans or just hung out and talked among themselves.

Ginowan Seaside ParkGinowan Seaside ParkGinowan Seaside ParkGinowan Seaside Park

Because of Cass’s work schedule, we didn’t get much sleep and had to wake up early to get to the venue. We were getting sleepy so skipped some of the demonstrations and took a walk through Ginowan Seaside Park. We ended up at Tropical Beach with some gorgeous ocean views.

Tropical Beach

We came across wrestlers all over the park and at the beach relaxing or stretching their legs. A couple of them were singing and they sounded really good! We found out later that they were practicing for their performance before the tournament kicked off.

Okinawa sumo tournament

There was a mochi pounding so we got in line to get some for free. I don’t know how other people eat it, but my mom always ate it with shoyu and sugar. They had another topping we didn’t recognize, but we tried it anyway. It was like a slightly sweet powdered graham cracker. Confession: I never liked mochi. But the last time I had it was when I really young so I thought maybe I’d like it now. Not so much. It’s a texture thing.

Okinawa sumo tournament

I had so much fun watching the bouts. It was an informal event so the wrestlers were still out and about. Some of them went straight from the ring to stand behind the back seats on the floor to watch. Most of them happily took pictures and signed autographs. They were immediately mobbed though. People were flat out running up to them.

Okinawa sumo tournament

What was most interesting was the evolution of the sport from when I watched in the early 90s to now. My aunty and I had a conversation about how back then it was all about brute strength and size. The biggest guys still made it to the end, but it wasn’t a given that the big guy beat the little guy. During the preliminary rounds, everyone chuckled when a shorter, skinnier guy went up against a much larger opponent. There was a loud gasp when the smaller wrestler dodged around, strategically pushing his opponent off balance and out of the ring. We knew he had a chance, they all do, but the speed at which he won was shocking.

If you ever get a chance to see sumo in person, do it! We loved it!

Want more? Check out my vlog from the day!