Monday, April 25, 2011

(on our way) To Okinawa

Golden Week is coming up, and we're going on a real, true, no-work-at-all-honest holiday in Okinawa. How real? I don't bring my laptop, that's how real it is. I will bring only my phone, a change of clothes and enough cameras to club an elephant.

We're flying directly to Ishigaki island, and we'll mostly be staying on Taketomi island and Iriomote island. These islands form the westernmost part of Japan, closer to Taiwan than to Okinawa island and are about 2.5 hours away from Osaka.

We're going to stay in small lodgings, eat local food, read, sleep and drink beer. Probably spend a fair amount of time walking on the beach, and perhaps try a little snorkelling. Should be sleepy and relaxing. Unless we're stung by box jellyfish or blue-ringed octopus, bitten by habu snakes or brown recluse spiders, gored by moray eels or sharks, washed away in underwater currents, or hit by a typhoon, earthquake, tsunami or flash floods1.

Our plan, other than dodging the venomous parts of the animal kingdom, is to spend two nights on Taketomi, then three nights on Iriomote where we'll try to catch a jungle cruise or guided tour, and finish with one night back on Ishigaki before we return to Osaka. I take one of my vacation days on Thursday so we can leave the day before the Golden Week holidays begin; the flight is cheaper and easier to book, and we'll avoid much of the holiday rush.

My main concern (apart from survival) really is what cameras and what film to bring along. I'll bring my Pentax K10D for casual shots, and I got a waterproof Fuji single-use camera for the beach. The Yashica TLR has been my travel camera, but the winder is getting too unreliable (frames now sometimes run into each other and it has jammed a couple of times). The Pentax 67 is great, but it's pretty heavy and bulky to travel with; I'd have to get a separate backpack. In the end I decided to support the Japanese post-earthquake industry2 and bought a Fuji GF670, a camera I have lusted for ever since it was announced a few years ago; I'll write more about it at a later time.

As for film I'm torn. On one hand I prefer black and white over color. On the other, if there's any place that cries out for color it's Okinawa (the warning patterns on poisonous predators are very colorful if nothing else). On the third hand, I do bring a digital camera along that shoots color. On the fourth (all hands on deck!), it's hard to beat a big medium format negative for clarity and dynamic range. In the end I'll bring rolls of both Kodak Ektar 100 and Ilford Delta 400, and decide later. I'll probably add a roll of Astia slide film too, just for the pure pleasure of seeing MF slides on a light table.

The flight leaves early on Thursday morning - really early; we'll have to get up before five in the morning to catch the first subway train. Here's hoping we don't sleep late. It'd be embarrassing if we did.


#1 Don't google for dangers in Okinawa. I'm sorry I did. I was looking forward to a great holiday, but now I just want to lock myself up in the center of a brightly-lit bunker with a sharp stick and a can of industrial-strength animal repellant. After a few hours on the internet I'm amazed Okinawans even manage to reach adulthood before the local wildlife kills them off, never mind the islands having the longest-lived people on the planet.

#2 It's a convenient excuse, yes, but with a basis in reality. The quake and tsunami and the consequent power supply problems have hit the manufacturing industry very hard, and people are understandably reluctant to spend, which is making things worse. The slump makes it even more difficult for industry in Tohoku to rebuild, and one of the things the badly hit communities need is a return of work so that people can stay and begin rebuilding their lives.

So yes, I bought the camera mainly because I really wanted it, and we're going on holiday because we want to. But in a small way both help alleviate some of the economic aftereffects of the disaster. My comment is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but not only so.


  1. HAHAHA! You made me google about the danger in I see what you meant, dear God, you are close to having killer leaves that when floating with the breeeze can cut your aortha!

  2. Ahhh!! Sharp leaves!!! Must... have... neck protector...

    But seriously, for someone with snake phobia, like me, reading about habu and sea snakes really takes the holiday mood right away from you.

  3. Long time reader first time poster.

    I did a similar vacation to yours two years ago staying with my friend who was a teacher on Ishigaki.
    Taketomi and Iriomote are very lovely. There are numerous jungle cruises you can take. At the ferry terminal you will see a number of options, you can buy the tickets there and reps will be waiting at the ferry docks with signs and cube vans.

    The star sand beach on Iriomote is NOT to be missed. The sand is gorgeous and some of the most incredible snorkeling I've ever seen was just meters away from the shore. It's worth it to shell out for a cheap underwater camera. have fun!
    Orion Beer Campai!


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