Field Report: A Sunny Sunday in Sunny Naha, Okinawa, Japan (06 May 2018)

Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture is famous for its beaches, but what’s a chap to do when he hates going to the beach? No worries – there’s plenty to see, do, and taste in the capital city of Naha, even for someone who loathes the sea and sand.

I’ve already written a lot about our first full day of sightseeing in separate posts, so this one will be fairly short and sweet. Links to the posts I’ve previously published regarding specific places visited on this day will be supplied below, along with a sampling of pictures from each.

Sunday, 06 May 2018. High of 28 C, low of 22. Bright blue skies with silvery wisps of light cloud cover.

In short, fantastic conditions for going out and about.

After breakfast, we started the day with Sunday Mass at one of Naha’s Catholic churches. My preference is for Latin – and more specifically the Tridentine rite – but I’m willing to attend Masses in Japanese if there’s no Latin option within easy reach. In fact, between a Japanese and English Mass I’d actually prefer the former, mainly because of the more reverent and disciplined atmosphere one tends to experience at a liturgy offered in that language.

The venue was the Asato Catholic Church (カトリック安里教会, Katorikku Asato Kyōkai) (Sunday Mass in Japanese at 09:00), just a short walk from Omoromachi Station on the Yui Rail line.

We arrived half an hour ahead of the appointed time. To our great surprise, there were people gathering in the upper parking lot outside the church, and we saw staff members busily preparing for some kind of event. A member of the local community explained that there was to be a short procession in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary before the Mass, and that the local bishop himself would lead the proceedings.

Having fulfilled our sweet and seemly Sunday duty, we walked a few blocks northwest towards our next destination: the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum (沖縄県立博物館 ・美術館, Okinawa Kenritsu Hakubutsukan ・Bijutsukan).

Completed in 2007, the museum’s new home was designed to resemble (at least externally) the soaring stone walls of gusuku, or Ryūkyūan-style castles.

Before heading inside, we paused in the museum forecourt to admire a full-sized reproduction of a local Okinawan house. Note the lion-dog shīsā roof ornaments: a traditional feature of Ryūkyūan vernacular architecture, which (according to folklore) can help retain good fortune and ward off evil.

The core collection is designed to present Okinawa’s history, culture, and geography in a broad sweep, with exhibits organised by theme in a series of interconnected galleries. An audio guide can be borrowed from the museum library free of charge, and I found the commentary quite helpful in appreciating the many artefacts on display.

I was too keen on enjoying the exhibits to bother with taking pictures inside, but here are a couple of shots of the museum’s soaring lobby just to flesh things out a bit.

Our curiosity was satisfied, but our appetites now began to clamour for attention. Off we went to the large shopping centre just across the street, where we feasted on gyōza and noodles – click here to read my separate post about the meal.

Our next stop was Shuri Castle (首里城, Shuri-jō), the former palace-stronghold of the Kings of Ryūkyū. Click here, here, and here to read more about the experience.

And finally, we rounded off the day with a visit to the royal mausoleum of Tamaudun (玉陵), located just a short walk from Shuri Castle. Click here to learn more.

A fantastic start to our holiday in Okinawa, and we still had a couple of days to look forward to. But let’s save those stories for future posts.


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