Sunday, June 19, 2011

Okinawan Bullfights

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Two bulls head-butting.  Both are being goaded on by
their handlers.
Two friends and I drove north today to watch a series of Okinawan bullfights.  The bulls on Okinawa don't fight a matador, instead they fight each other - butting heads until the will of one bull is broken and he runs.  It is sort of like an animal equivalent of sumo wrestling where two monstrously huge human bulls struggle to push each other out of the ring.

I didn't expect two bulls butting heads to be a blood sport, but I was quickly disabused of that notion.  There were ten matches scheduled for the day, and we sat through four - which was plenty.  The first match went for about twenty minutes, and the bull that eventually won had a bloody forehead.  Matches two and four were routs in which the dominant bulls (alpha bulls?) quickly managed to stampede their opponents.

The fellows squatting to the left in the ring are other
handlers who "tag" in about every two minutes.
Bull on the ropes.  Victim bull is lying on the ground
next to the wall.
It was the third match that managed to satiate the spectator's blood lust.  The bulls locked horns and pushed each other around for about twenty minutes before one broke and ran.  But the dominant bull wouldn't let him get off that easy.  He chased him to the wall of the pit where they were fighting and somehow managed to get his horns under the two or three thousand pound opponent and raise him about three feet where he slammed him into the guard rails that were protecting the audience.  Eventually the victim bull fell to the ground, but the bull with the killer instinct would not let him get up.  It took several handlers fifteen or so minutes to separate the fighters.  The loser had a big gouge in his lower abdomen.  He managed to hobble out of the arena, and is undoubtedly enroute to a slaughter house as this is being typed.

It was Father's Day, and probably half of the people in attendance were American Dads (and moms) and their kids.

A victorious bull decked out in two victor's blankets
and ribbons on its horns.
I'm glad that I went because now I have a fuller understanding of the Okinawan culture, but I doubt that I will ever do it again.

Young ballplayers rake the arena between bouts.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kadena Marina

People at play at Kadena Marina
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Two young fishermen at Kadena Marina
This past week I made my first visit to Kadena Marina, a popular spot for Americans and Okinawans who like to play and have fun in the sun and surf.  The Marina features a by-the-sea Italian Ristorante where our group gathered for a baby shower for one of the young Airmen and her husband.  The food was as wonderful as the company.   The marina also has a pro-shop of sorts where people may rent boats and those horrid skee-doos,  as well as snorkeling and diving equipment, and also register for snorkeling, diving, or boat operation lessons.  (I signed up with two friends to learn how to operate a twenty-foot fishing skiff.  That happens in mid-July.)  There are also nice beaches for swimming and fishing.

My car in front of the blue waters of the East China Sea
One interesting feature of Kadena Marina is a tomb of historical interest.   (Family tombs are very common on Okinawa, with some even being located on the grounds of Kadena Air Base.)  The tomb at Kadena Marina is the final resting place of Noguni Sokan, the gentleman who brought the sweet potato from China to Okinawa in 1605.

I did visit with two young Okinawan boys who were fishing.  Sadly, they were having no luck.
The tomb of Noguni Sokan

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kite Surfing

Kite surfers at Torii Beach, Okinawa
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

While walking along the beach yesterday I was entertained by a couple of young kite surfers.  Sorry about the quality of the shot, but it's the best I could do with my little Brownie Hawkeye!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yoron Island: Days 3 and 4

The Coral Queen arriving for our ride home!
A Yoron local relaxes while fishing.  He told me that
he attended a small college in San Diego, CA.
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Another beach scene
Flowers and butterflies!
Sunday and Monday.  The storm had passed and the sun came out.  Unfortunately, we all seemed to get too much of the sun!
Nefredia loved to see the island by bicycle!

Yoron Island: Day 2

Nefredia takes a break.
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Our second day on Yoron, Saturday, was rainy.  We spent the day getting ready for the storm, and touring the island in a rental car.  That evening we all met in Nefredia's room for Yahtzee and cards.  Typhoon Songda barrelled through around 11:00 p.m.
A Shinto cemetery

Our rental car - Nefredia is driving.

Kelly (left), me (dressed as a line), and Nefredia.
An unusual Shisa Dog along the road.
The beach behind our hotel.
Shop owner who had just finished wrapping the blooms
on her plants - in preparation for the typhoon!

Yoron Island: Day 1

Preparing to board the Coral Queen
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Last week, Memorial Day Weekend, three friends (Nefredia Covington, Kelly Vought, and Daniel Murphy) and myself took the ferry north of Okinawa to Yoron Island where we spent the better part of four days and weathered a really good typhoon.  I blogged about those adventures as they occurred at and now I am finally following up with photos on this blog.  Enjoy the photos, and if you want more specifics about the trip, stop over at The Ramble and see what I had to say there.

The ferry is actually about the size of a small cruise ship, and although Yoron is the first stop north of Okinawa, the ferry runs to several other islands and goes almost as far as mainland Japan.  I definitely want to ride it further and do more exploring in "the Japans" next time.
Murphy surveys the Port of Motobu.  Actually he was
watching some pigs being loaded into the
cargo hold.

Rows of cots and blankets for  travelers to nap during
the voyage.
We traveled on Friday morning, had a nice island lunch with new friends (the Yoron angels) at noon, explored around our hotel Friday and Saturday, did a rental car tour of the island on Saturday, and hunkered down for the storm Saturday night.  Nefredia and I rented bicycles Sunday morning and rode around looking at storm damage.  That afternoon the four of us did another car tour of the island.  We walked some beautiful beaches, and I came home with a big bag of very colorful sea glass - much more striking than what I find on Okinawa.  Monday we spent the whole day relaxing and waiting for the ferry which did not come until after six in the evening.

The Professor and Mary Ann (Murphy and Kelly) enjoy
a snuggle on the top deck.
Tuesday morning we were back at work!
Our Yoron angels!

A beach on Yoron where sea turtles come to lay and bury
their eggs on full moon nights.