Meeting with the sea creatures of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Thursday January 28 I leave Kiyuna Farm early to visit the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, located on the Motobu Peninsula northwest of the city of Nago. Located within the Ocean Expo Park, the aquarium houses the world’s largest pool of 7500m3, featuring species (including whale sharks and giant manta rays) found in Okinawa waters. These are particularly prolific due to the benefits of “Kuroshio” (“black current”), the second largest marine current in the world after the Gulf Stream. It is the Kuroshio </ em>, hot current, which allows the existence of the coral reefs that surround the Ryukyu Islands.

Initially I had not planned to visit it but Kristin (the young German I met on the island of Aka) convinced me to go. Better to get there in the morning to avoid hordes of tourists arriving around noon. It’s still 10am when I arrive, the time to take the bus Ôgimi-Aquarium and the park is already filled with tourists. Fortunately it is still possible to move relatively easily within the Aquarium. I walk in the different basins (coral sea, sea of tropical fish, the world of corals, travel in the reef of coral) eyes dazzled by so many color and strangeness …

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – Okinawa – © Claire BlumenfeldSmall jellyfish - Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa - Okinawa - © Claire Blumenfeld

The largest basin of the Aquarium: The Kuroshio Sea is a huge reservoir of water filled with fish, rays of different sizes and sharks including three whale sharks! Perfectly harmless for the man and feeding on seed, they can reach 20 meters long. I stay a long time watching the ballet of sharks and fish impressed and hypnotized by the majestuousness of the animals.

Once out of the Aquarium, I take a tour of the park. I attend two shows with really nice dolphins and orcas, go see the manatees (impressive creatures, all cute swallowing carrots) and finish my ride on the Emerald beach, beautiful little stretch of white sand. Some fishermen snorkel and a group of high school girls have fun on the beach.

Emerald Beach - Churaumi Aquarium Okinawa - Okinawa - © Claire Blumenfeld

Sounds of Aquarium Churaumi Okinawa – Emerald beach :


The end of the day will be less friendly since I am completely out of cash money (all transactions are made in cash in Japan, they use almost no credit card to pay), I spend more than two hours in Nago with my two bags on the back, looking for the post office (the only place with a distributor able to handle foreign bank cards) without finding it. I’m going a little crazy, since without money I do not know how I’ll take the bus to my hotel tonight (still an hour’s drive from Nago), how to pay the hotel, how to eat the next days … in short, I’m in deep shit. Finally I found the place, completely soaked (the weather being very hot and wet) and tired. But my problems do not stop there, since I can take the last bus leaving in the direction of my hostel (this one is at the edge of the road connecting Nago to Naha), but I fall asleep in and miss my stop. When the driver realizes that I did not get off at the stop I had indicated, we are already (according to the estimates of the driver) five bus stops further. It is 8:40 am, it is dark and I am starting to worry about the check-in at the hostel again (generally check-in times are 3 pm-9pm). So I walk away in the other direction. Nobody on the road, some street lights on the right and left … with just a plan not very detailed. Forty minutes later, I arrive at the place where I think my hostel is located but nothing. Big panic, I venture into various places but no sign of my accommodation. A big moment of depression falls on me. I’m going to have to sleep outside. I leave in the other direction praying with all I have to find someone and miracle, a group of five okinawans are here discussing in a small shack on the side of the road. Some language difficulties later, they tell me that yes, they know where my hostel is, they will drive me there! Mother and son invite me to get in their car. A little embarrassed to annoy them I apologize but they reassure me with a smile that it does not bother them. It takes 10 minutes by car to reach my hostel! All alone I would have never found it. The bus driver had crashed into his estimates and I was not at all in the right place on my plan. During the trip I discuss with my saviors, very friendly and interested in my trip. The kindness they show me instantly lifts my spirits and I thank them warmly when they drop me in front of my hostel. The owner accepts me without problem (despite being past 10 hours) and it is with great relief that I collapse on my bed.


The next day, my kilometers with bags on the back of the previous day are felt and I am in pain everywhere. I spend a quiet day resting at the hostel and taking a walk around. Not much to do anyway, the hostel is surrounded on one side by the highway and on the other by the sea. A beautiful white sand beach is a few steps from the hostel. I take my breakfast there.

Saturday, January 30 I leave the hostel early to catch the bus that drops me off at Naha airport around 1pm. My trip to the Ryukyu archipelago comes to an end, I fly at 15:30 to return to Japan. I drop my bag, go through the security procedures and wait for the departure.

My next stop on my trip is in the city of Tajimi. Located in the center of Honshu (Japan’s largest island), Chubu region and Gifu prefecture, the city is famous for its clay. Gifu prefecture is also known to be the center of the creation of ceramics in Japan. Many craft or industrial enterprises are located in the region. Including the TYK factory located in the city of Tajimi where I will work for the next two months. Yes, the trip is costing me money and I have to feed my bank account to continue the rest of my journey. TYK is a factory creating refractories and technical ceramics. Refractories are materials capable of withstanding very high heat, especially used in the iron and steel industry. I do not hide it from you, it’s my dad who works at Arcelor-Mittal (the biggest steel producer in the world), at the factory of Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches du Rhône) who has contacts with TYK, who found me the job. In the end, it’s more of an “internship” than I do a real job. Which is logical since I have zero experience in the field.

Okinawa specialties - Okinawa Airport - © Claire BlumenfeldI go to the souvenir and specialty shops at the airport to buy a little gift for the people of TYK. My choice will be small donuts made with Kokutou (a syrup made from sugar cane). The packaging is very pretty.

A few hours later I arrived in Nagoya, one of the largest cities in the country, located in the Chûbu region. There I find Mr. Susuki, one of my contacts at the factory who drives me to Tajimi. Along the way we pass the city of Toyota housing the famous car factory. 1h30 drive later, here we are. This is the beginning of the mountainous region of central Japan, it is very cold. The shock is harsh compared to the pleasant temperature of Okinawa, just a few hours ago. Mr. Susuki takes me to the TYK dormitory where a small studio has been prepared just for me. Hallelujah, I have my own bathroom. I meet the owners who manage the dormitory, a couple of little old people very friendly but who do not speak a word of English. Then Mr. Susuki offers me to eat together, which I gladly accept. Mr. Susuki is very kind and particularly impressed by my trip to Japan. He tells me that I will work in the Research Center & amp; Development and that the fact that I have no knowledge in the sector does not pose a problem.

I spend a quiet Sunday resting before attacking the job. So here I am for two months of factory work in central Japan. I hope to be able to sympathize with Japanese people and to integrate a little more in the culture. I will also enjoy my weekends to visit the area. See you soon for a return on my work and my life in Tajimi!