Nothing gets me more excited than an authentic Okinawan experience. Living, working and shopping on base has me occasionally forgetting that I live in ASIA of all places... Due to overly American weeks, Ben and I have recently been more and more interested in Okinawan and Japanese culture. That desire brought us to Naminoue Shrine in downtown Naha (Okinawa's largest city) this past weekend. Unfortunately, like most other historic sites in Okinawa, Naminoue was completely obliterated during the Battle of Okinawa. Fortunately, like most other historic sites in Okinawa, it was rebuilt! The new and improved Shrine is absolutely stunning (as you'll see in the pictures). The bright red structure was a shocking contrast against a rare bright blue Okinawan sky. Gold ornaments shimmered in the bright sun and the intricate details of Naminoue were as clear as day. Okinawa spared no attention to craftsmanship when rebuilding this shrine
Naminoue was obviously beautiful, but to Okinawans it is much more than a pretty tourist attraction. This shrine is still actively used by locals; we saw many people praying on the day we went. In addition to prayers, visitors can pay for a number of different spiritual talesments and items at the visitors window. Ben and I sprung for the "Family Peace" transcript. We also bought the very popular ¥100 ($1) oracle fortunes. They are ranked from 1-25, 1 being the most lucky fortune and 25 being the most unlucky. Ben pulled an "Excellent Luck" number 1 fortune... Pretty typical considering he always has the best luck.... I, on the other hand, pulled a number 24 aka VERY BAD LUCK. For someone who is very superstitious, I was definitely a bit bummed... Since my fortune was bad (very, very, VERY, bad) I tied my it to a line of other bad fortunes so that I could "get rid of it" in hopes of better luck. So far I've managed to avoid any catastrophic incidents this week so it seems to be working..
There are a couple interesting cultural customs that were practiced at this site which I've included in my pictures. Japan takes their shrines and temples very seriously, so Ben and I did our best to respect these customs.
Our second stop this weekend was at a particularly unusual place. In the 50's and 60's the US military began to build standard on-base housing for us military folk. As I've said before, military housing is not pretty, and apparently that has been the case since at least the 50's!
The location was eventually scrapped, but the houses the were already built were kept standing. Since these buildings were now owned by Okinawa, they were turned into shops and restaurants (with few remaining as homes). It's quite an interesting site to see the identical, bland military style houses painted in bright and fun colors and decorated uniquely. You can definitely tell that the military had a part in constructing these abodes, but the Okinawan locals gave these cookie cutter structurs some serious soul.
My favorite part about this little town are the address plaques that are found at the head of each street. It looks as though the streets were going to be named after states, which is now an odd site considering these address plates are in the middle of a Japanese town. Only seven states are represented, so it looks as though they stopped constructing this site pretty early into its development.
Although Ben and I couldn't stay for lunch as we had planned (the parking was INSANE and we were definitely going to get a ticket) we truly enjoyed getting a glimpse of some old American history mixed with a bit of modern Okinawan flare.
We've got many more adventures in the works so stay tuned!
We're Kara, Ben and baby Zoe also known as the Lesniaks. We’re a Marine Corps family currently stationed in Yorktown, Virginia after a three year tour in Okinawa, Japan. Enjoy our adventures, travels, photos, thoughts, and life together!
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