Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Whale Watching

Okinawa is made up of the main island of Okinawa-honto, where Naha is located, and many outer islands.

Map of Okinawa Prefecture

This trip we spent part of our time in Naha and part of our time on Aka Island in the Kerama Island group.

While staying on Aka, we took a ferry to Zamami Island, where the whale watching association is located and went on an afternoon whale watching trip. The whales are in this area from late December to early April.  As with many things in Japan, we didn’t know what was going on until it happened.  The trip was scheduled to go out at one o’clock, so we took the 11:45 am ferry from Aka, arriving at the Zamami port a little after 12 noon.  It was windy, so the whale watching desk person said a decision would be made at 12:45 pm about whether the afternoon trip would go out.  We went out looking for a place to buy lunch and ended up buying something from a small store nearby.  We got back to the port and had to rush our lunch because at 12:45 pm the trip was ready to go out. There were eight “watchers” plus the captain and the guide on our boat.   We went out in the ocean at a fast speed, then slowed down to look for the whales.  It was very exciting to see these huge animals and I was surprised by how close we were to them. I could see the scars on their skin, we were so close!  There were a couple of other boats like ours in the same area.  Ted went up to the top of the boat to take pictures, while I stayed in the front lower area. The guide told us that the baby whales stay with the mothers for almost a year.

This was an interesting experience!

This was another boat, but ours was like it.


Here is some information from the whale watching brochure:

Humpback whales circle the northern hemisphere and come back to Zamami in winter to breed in the warm waters here.  Their breeding activity brings fierce fights among the males trying to get newborn calves around Zamami or seek mating with female whales.

Humpback whales typically grow to between 13 and 15 meters long and weigh from 25 to 30 tons.  Their bodies feature the long fins measuring one third of their body length – the longest of all whale species, and a lump on the head.  They can be individually identified by the markings on the back of their tails. This is how we are able to confirm that many of these whales return to Zamami each year.

Whale watching around Zamami first begins with the search for these humpback whales from the island’s observatories by our staff, who contact the cruise captain upon confirmation of whales.  Once the boat departs, the crew will be guided to the location where the whales are spotted through radio or other devices.  In order to ensure that you can get to meet the whales, any burdens on the whales are being reduced, such as making sure not too many boats gather in the same area or get too close to the whales.  You will be able to enjoy a whale watching experience that is both humane and whale friendly.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


We’ve returned home from our week long vacation.  If you’ve been reading my posts this last week, you might have guessed we went to Okinawa.  Again.  We really like it there.  I took about 600 photos, so it’ll take me a few days to go through them, but I hope to post about the trip soon.

I did get a little stitching done.  Nothing on the silk ribbon kit because I realized I didn’t have any scissors with me.  I did work on the other two, cutting the floss with a little thread cutter.

Here’s a taste of our vacation.  More soon!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Garbage Changes - Phase 2

At the beginning of the year, the garbage rules for our town changed – I explained what I knew about it here.  On the 1st of April, phase 2 of the changes start, where we have to pay for each bag of trash.  Last week, we found this in our box, with a sample bag for burnable and one for non-burnable trash.  We’ll have to start paying 300 yen for non-burnable trash bags and 80 yen for burnable trash. I should probably have someone translate this paper for me, so I can be sure to follow all the trash rules.

Friday, March 27, 2015

University Graduation 2015

Before we left on our trip, the university held its graduation ceremony, followed by graduation parties.

The ceremony was held in the new gymnasium.  Many of the women and some of the men wore the beautiful traditional Japanese kimono.

The ceremony is followed by a university party for all the graduates.

This party is followed by individual department ceremonies to give out diplomas.

There is a tradition at this university to throw the graduates up in the air.

In the evening, the women change to party dresses and there are several consecutive dinner and drinking parties.

Congratulations to all the new graduates!