Tatami Beach

On the second day, after a hearty breakfast (probably the best meal at the hotel,…), we decided to vist a few parts of the island by bicycle. Most visitors to this island book a rental car or motorbike, but as neither of us drive, we opted for the cheap and healthy way. We could gone by bus, but the stopover options would have been greatly restricted.

Like in any city in Japan, if you keep an eye open you might discover a few interesting signs. This one is found above a “convenience store”!

It is also a good idea to keep another eye (how many do you have) onto the local roofs as they are often surmounted with “shiisa”, or lion guardians. Some of them are real beauties as we are going to discover them on the way!

In daytime, most of the izakayas are closed, but it is never a bad idea to find out what food they specialize in. Well, this one does serve goat meat, a local delicacy!

A laughing shiisa?

Sugar cane is the main crop in this island. They are everywhere. Interestingly enough, no rice is grown on the island (well, that is what our taxi driver told us last night…)

Sugar cane ready to be taken away. The Missus dissuaded me from pinching one!

Even in the remotest island, they play baseball!

As we rode over the bridge to the next island, we couldn’t help stop and take pictures of the beautiful cobalt blue waters and white sands!
Kume Island is one of the most famous spots for snorkeling and skin diving in Japan!

I don’t know the name of that tree, but I can assure you those rock hard fruit would be deadly if were unlucky enough…

The island is also replete with artists and their creations!

We finally reached our fist destination, the Tatami Beach/Mat Beach. Easy riding so far.

This rock pattern, unique in Japan, was formed when volcano lava hit water under the sea a long, long time (eons, actually) ago. Have you heard of the Giants Steps (or is it Stairs?) in Wales? The same, but different shape!

That is we were extremely lucky to find this sweet local lady who was harvesting “aosa”/green laver seaweed for her own consumption, although she told us locals were selling them for quite a hefty price in Tokyo! After paiinstakingly picking them from the rocks, she would first wash them in seawater and in clear water back home, a process that would take days. Her family mainly eats it in miso soup!

That “shiisa” might turn into a laughing ghost at night!

Just next to the Tatami Beach is another must visit: the Sea Turtle Museum of Kumeshima!
Unfortunately they don’t have a website, but it is compact with great information in spite of the relatively small size (ridiculoulsy cheap entry fee of 300 yen!) with TV video show.
The picture above represents a celebrated legend figure welcoming visitors. A bit tacky.

Great corals, but do not forget that picking live ones is prohibited!

This little museum boasts an incredible collection of almost all the shellfish (and some impressive corals9 found around the island!

Live sea turtles (there are three other types, small ones)! But not easy to take on pictures. I should have taken a video!

And it was back on the road!
I doubt that Jack Kerouac would have followed us, even with the help of the local fiery spirits!
Can you guess who is cycling ahead of me?

Now, it took us more than an hour of tough riding on a single-gear rusty bicycle over really nasty slopes to reach Ajimakan for lunch.
Ajimakan has a website in Japanese. it is a place worth the visit for tourists who want to learn local crafts!

Now the full lunch was 100% local! Very healthy! Apart of a little local char siu called rafute, it could have made for a vegetarian meal!

After luch, it was another tough ride up aninterminable slope to reach the Kumeshima Shizen Bunka Centre/Kume Island nature & Culture Park, another comparatively small park lost in the midst of a beautiful park. Another visit though as it is packed in a little space with history and natural information.
The boat above was used until WWII when there were little communications with Okinawa mainland.

A natural model of the island. Sorry, terrible picture. We found a similar one in Yakushima last year. Same artist obviously. Very instructive.

Great corals there, too!

A religious cortege dating back to the Meiji Era.

A collection of funeral ash vessels.

And then it was rolling down the slopes on our way back. easier, but a bit dangerous for my other alf!
Now, this “building” is a typical Okinawan cemetery/funeral crypt, completely different from those found in the main Japanese islands!

The great thing abou cyacling you can double back to take a picture of still well-preserved old tradtional Okinawan houses.

One of my favourite “shiisa” at the entrance of a house whose roof is also guarded by a lion!

With some time to spare and legs in need of relaxation, we visited another local supermarket to check on the local food. These are goya!

This gourd (not a good pic, sorry!) was longer than my whole forearm (and a lot thiscker!)!

Local red-fleshed satsuma imo/sweet potatoes.

Local fish: no name, but ridiculously cheap price!

The Okinawan char siu, or rafute. Delicious and so cheap! Oknawan markedly eat more meat than the average Japanese.

The local ham, another beauty!

Sushi meals. Not so local, mind you!

Maki sushi. Not so local, either, but this is a cheap supermarket!

The local spirit, awamori.
Our taxi driver last night told us that the local policemen are very lenient, except on drunken driving!

And then it was back to the hotel and a somewhat light dinner.
Great sunsets to be expexted in this very dry part of Japan!

This time we were prepared to go outside for more food (and drinks) as we knew beforehand than the fare at the hotel would not suffice.
We chose to enter this very local izakaya called Takaya.
The service was disappointing, but the food was worth the try!

Albacore tuna and cuttlefish/squid for sashimi. Eminently eatable!

The local set of kakiage tempura was also a good morsel and i had the merit to be very local.

To finish, a set of the local pickles to go with the awamori and the beer!

And that was it for the day!
Next and last time, we were going to spend almost a full day walking around back to the tatami beach, but that is for the next posting!

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