Monday, May 10, 2010


One of the big pluses to living overseas as a military family is the "hops" you can take to various parts of the world. These are free flights where you are essentially on a stand-by status, and they can be on any type of plane the Air Force has (including cargo,etc) but if they are flying somewhere and have room, you can hop on. From Yokota, they fly down to Kadena Air Base quite often. Kadena is located in Okinawa, the island at the very southern tip of Japan. A few friends and I were talking about trips around Asia, and decided, what the heck, let's go! So, we packed some stuff (including 3 suitcases, 3 pack-n-plays, 3 carseats, etc) and off we went to the terminal.
Mallory had fun playing with my Coke bottle while we waited to see if we made it on the plane or not. (She didn't drink any, I promise, although she looks hyped up on caffeine.)
We did indeed make it! The flight is short, only about 2 hours. After landing we made our way over to the lodge on base. Here is Lynn, the 3 babies- Mallory, Kirsten, and Nathan, and Karen as we waited for our rental car and hotel room check-in.
We rented a 6 person van- and literally filled EVERY square inch of that thing with all our stuff.
After settling into the room, we went over to the Kadena BX (think wal-mart sorta) to check out what they had and get some food. Miss Mallory tried out a high chair in public for the first time! Such a big girl!
We found these gigantic hats in the store. I have no idea why they were really so funny now, but at the time we were dying laughing. We are dorks.
The Easter Bunny was visiting the Kadena BX, so of course the kids had to get their pictures taken. Funny side story- the bunny was actually a high school kid and they were raising $ for their after prom party or something. There was a sign that said "donations accepted". We thought that meant that the pics were free and we were going to throw in a few dollars to support their cause. As we walked up with the babies, the girl says, "Pictures are $5, please". Uh, ok....

Before we left Yokota, we had gotten a few recommendations on things to do/see and places to eat. One of the places suggested was "the barrel restaurant". After a wee bit of confusion over the directions (they weren't exactly translated the best) we found it. It literally is this place that looks like a huge keg.
Karen and Lynn at the table inside the barrel. They served all kinds of food, and we tried a bit of everything. It was pretty tasty actually!
The barrel bar
Cheers! Kampai (as the Japanese would say)!
The next morning we had plans to get up, get ready and head over to the Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters from WWII. We did not realize their was a marathon on base, and lots of the roads were closed. We sat in the car for 1.5 hours as people ran by! It was really annoying after a while, but there were a few interesting costumes along the way. (See the dude dressed as a gold mouse?)
The guy in red's shirt says "I heart sex". Silly Japanese.
We FINALLY made it off base, and drove a bit south to the Headquarters (only getting slightly lost on the way). Here is a view of the city from the top of the hill where the headquarters were located.
The 3 kiddos in their strollers. We had friends tell us we didn't need strollers, so we didn't bring them. We decided pretty quick that was a dumb idea to not have them, and bought these for $12 at the BX. Thank God for cheap umbrella strollers!
The monument outside the headquarters.
We learned that about 4000 men committed suicide in the caves underground, once they knew they were going lose their battle eventually . Kinda weird to be in the same spot were lots of men died, several years later.
Can you see the shrine in this picture? It is actually made up of hundreds of rows of folded paper cranes.
A close-up of the cranes. In Japanese culture, the crane brings good luck and good fortune.
The stairs going into the underground headquarters. (The only place we were cursing our newly bought strollers).
A map showing the various hallways and rooms located underground.
This is the room where the men let off a hand-grenade to commit suicide.
The writing on the wall is a message left by the Japanese commander before they all killed themselves. It basically says they tried as hard as they could to fight, but knew they wouldn't or couldn't make it anymore. It also says that the people of Okinawa were very supportive and helpful and deserve recognition for their efforts during the war.
Mallory and myself in the hallway.
Outside after our tour. This "dog" is one of the symbols of Okinawa.
The 6 of us- 5 lovely ladies and Nate-Dawg!
After the Underground Headquarters, we headed over to a castle to tour it. There are several on the island. The one we went to is supposed to be one of the bigger ones. This Japanese lady was dressed in her traditional kimono.
The castle gate.
Outside the castle walls (we traded the strollers for the carriers- look at all the stairs!)
Inside the castle
For dinner that night, we headed to another highly recommended spot, "Sam's Anchor Inn".
They gave us little aprons to wear. Mallory is modeling mine.
It was a "traditional" Japanese steakhouse. Now, I find that term funny because in the USA, when you think Japanese, you think of the hibachi grills where they cook in front of you and put on a show. I have not seen one of those places actually IN Japan. This was the first one since moving here. However, there are a LOT more Americans living in Okinawa, so I'm not sure if hibachi is Okinawan or they are just trying to please the Americans.
The entry/exit hallway was lined with thousands of business cards.
The next day we drove north and went to the aquarium. It is the second largest in the world, and was really quite neat to see. Outside were tons of beautiful flower arrangements, done in all kinds of shapes. Here are the kiddos in front of an octopus.
The Japanese LOVE babies, and ours were no exception. It took us 20 minutes to get into the aquarium because people kept stopping us and wanting their picture with the babies. They should have paid us to visit the aquarium! This was a whole group of Japanese guys, who all stopped and were being silly in pics with the kids. It still makes me laugh that they take pictures of random strangers babies, but whatever.

The steps leading down towards the aquarium- look at all the awesome flowers! It is very tropical in Okinawa.

Three little ladybugs
Mommy and Mallory and a big, floral shark
This was just outside the aquarium entrance. We held the kids up and a Japanese lady took the picture. When we looked out afterwards, there was a whole crowd watching and saying "kuwai" (cute)!

It's a new-born! The first ever in Japan! The wall has pics of newborn animals that live at the aquarium, but I thought our 3 qualified too!
cutie-pie in her stroller
touching the sea cucumbers (squishy) and starfish (boring)
taking a lunch break- Kirsten, Lynn and Nathan
It was rainy and cold, so we watched the dolphin show from the window while eating lunch. The rest of the aquarium is inside so it worked out just fine.
beautiful fish
Mal and Mommy in the huge shark jaws. aaaggghh!
Karen and Nathan check out the fish
Mallory and Kirsten slept thru the first half of the tour
In front of one of the huge fish tanks
Some sort of worm that we thought looked an awful lot like Slimy the Worm from Sesame Street. These guys just made us laugh so we all bought a magnet of them and it is hanging on our refridge now.
front=mal, behind=gigantic manta ray
the 3 kids and some huge fish
This aquarium is world famous for having whale sharks in this huge tank. There were 3 of them, and we caught them during their afternoon feeding. They are HUGE!
All the Japanese taking pictures are so funny!
the manta rays and whale shark
huge whale sharks

Mallory really enjoyed all the fish
We caught the end of one of the dolphin shows as we were leaving.
We also were "adored" a bit more....
Outside the aquarium by the whale shark statue
One of the most popular restaurants here is A&W RootBeer. It says "American Style", which made us laugh as there are things like curry, gyoza, soup bowls and various other non-American items on the menu. Oh well. We ordered burgers and weren't very impressed.
After A&W, we went over to the Orion Beer Factory. (Originally we planned to have a day or 2 at the beach. But the weather was cold and rainy, so we quickly found some indoor plans instead). Luckily, Lynn was about 1.5 months pregnant at the time, so we had our built-in DD! Sweet!
Drink up kids!
Beer is pretty funny Mom!

Watching them bottle the beer
It's a little beer oompa-loompa!
This is a very interesting process...
They had some tiles on display that are made out of crushed up glass from old bottles.
We can't drink beer- we prefer stroller seat belts instead!
After the tour, you got free beer and beer nuts!
Apparently, the theme of this trip is "cheers!"
Glad to know this drink is refreshed...
lost in translation...
this car was parked outside. hilarious...
We went to the glass factory, where they hand make and blow all sorts of glass items- stemware, vases, pitchers, decor, you name it. It was really neat to watch them.

After the glass factory (again, think inside activities) was the pineapple farm.
It is basically like Disneyland, only much smaller and pineapple themed. You get into these electric golfcarts with a giant pineapple on top and it drives you thru the "farm".
In the giant pineapple
On the road again...
The most hilarious part of the tour was the lady explaining everything to us on a little tape recorder playing inside our pineapple cart. The translation went something like "Do you know what a pineapple is? Well, I'll tell you. It is a pine...and apple". hahahaha
The best part was after the tour, where they make literally EVERYTHING you can think of out of pineapple- pickles, candy, cake, chips, vinegar, ginger...and wine!
the pineapple gift shop. they had samples out of everything.
There was also all-you-can-eat pineapple!
Outside the pineapple park- cold and wet, but still having a great time.
The next morning, the weather was finally beautiful again. I had to get some pictures of the awesome beach.

I wish we could have enjoyed it longer, but we did take the kids out on the beach before we drove back to Kadena. Here is Mal and myself on the beach.
Mallory and her cute sun hat
This is Okuma, the military resort at the north end of Okinawa Island. It isn't great, but it is right on the beach and super cheap to stay at. We had fun, just wish the weather had been nicer. We stayed up here, since it is on the north end of the island, for a few days while we did the aquarium and other things.
Mal's toes on the sandy beach of Okuma.
Look at that sweet chubby profile
I wish there wasn't water on the lens to make this picture a bit blurry, but here is Mallory on the Okinawan beach.
Hmmm...what is this sand stuff?
sandy feet and sandy fingers
She loved the sand. She wanted to eat it and started to cry when I wouldn't let her. I'm such a mean mom.
We went back to the glass factory again to watch them make glass again, and decide on our purchases. The first time we stopped by we didn't all have enough yen, so we stopped back by later, knowing we'd want to buy some things.

Some fun pictures of the guys blowing glass. It was so interesting to watch. I ended up buying a set of wine glasses and water cups, and I also got a cute little vase and some chopstick holders (being in Japan and all).

Outside the glass factory, in the parking lot, was this goat in a little goat house. He was just hanging out, waiting for people to pay attention to him and pet him. So, of course we had to get pics of the kids with him.
There was a basket of leaves near him that he liked to eat. As I went to fed him, he snatched the leaves right out of my hand. I was afraid he'd rip my fingers right off too, hence the hilarious look on my face!
After all the fun, our trip was coming to an end. We had an awesome time and I can't wait to do it again. We packed up and got ready to go home. Mallory was a helper as I put on my makeup and did my hair.
We were supposed to fly back on the rotator (like we flew to Okinawa on). However, it was full, so we stayed an extra day in Okinawa waiting for another plane out. It just so happened that a few of the C-130's with our hubbies on them were coming through the next day, so we were able to catch a ride on one of them. It was kind of a fun way to end our adventurous trip, as well as both Mallory and my first ride on a C-130!
Me and baby Kirsten on the plane
Mal and me smiling on the way home

1 comment:

  1. Your pictures are so fun! I love keeping up with all your adventures. Glad you guys are doing well!