Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Circling Naha. The weather in Okinawa this past New Year’s Eve was a cool 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a picture-perfect winter day, with blue skies and a light breeze. The Noharas, my hänai family here, had invited me to join them for traditional New Year’s Eve Okinawa soba that night. I didn’t have any plans until then, so I decided to take a walk around Naha — not cruising through the neighborhood, but actually walking “around” Naha.
Geographically, the major streets circle Naha. They total about 25 kilometers, or about 18 miles. Some parts are hilly, some are major streets and still others pass through neighborhoods. It took me about five hours to complete the entire circle, which is about the same distance as walking around East Honolulu, if you include Kaimukï in the route.
I left my apartment at 1:30 in the afternoon and headed east on Route 82. I used Jimmy’s Super Market as my start and finish point. Route 82 separates Naha City from neighboring Urasoe City. Part of the track for Yui Rail, Okinawa’s monorail system, travels above Route 82. Also on Route 82 is the hospital that I went to when I had the runs — it’s about two miles from Jimmy’s. Most of this three-mile section to Shuri, Okinawa’s ancient capital, where historic Shuri Castle is located, is uphill and very steep.
The next three-mile section is downhill and offers a picturesque view of Haebaru Town. I walked along Route 329 for another three miles. It borders Tomigusuku City, south of Naha.
I turned left when I reached Lake Manko and its mangroves and walked along the Noha River, entering an area that I was walking through for the first time. I walked through a neighborhood for about two miles before reaching a major street. It was a wide street that made me feel like I was in Arizona with new apartments and a wide road under construction.
By then, I was nearing the halfway point of my walk, approaching Naha Airport and Route 58. I passed Nakachi and Senaga Island to my left. I could see planes taking off and landing and passed under the monorail once again, this time in Akamine after walking another three miles. As I walked uphill, by the Japan Self Defense Force Base, I could see Naha and the Okinawa Cellular Baseball Stadium, also known as Onoyama Stadium, when I reached the top of the hill.
I was now four hours into my walk and was feeling relieved, as I could see the end in sight. I continued on for another hour along the Naminoue Seaside Road, crossing over the Tomari Bridge and ending up back on Route 82 and Jimmy’s parking lot.
I had completed my walk around Naha! What a memorable way to end 2014!
Serious road rage! I just learned that not everyone is merry at Christmas. On a morning drive to the market, I was stopped at an intersection and could see a taxicab across the street. It was facing me, but was stopped, as well. I could see a young man pounding on the front passenger windshield with a hammer fist. He was yelling at the driver while his girlfriend (I think she was his girlfriend) tried to stop him. He managed to shatter the window and then moved to the window of the passenger door, which he punched and broke. His fist went completely through the glass! I’ve never seen anyone punch a car window and have their fist go through it completely. I’m almost certain he broke several bones in his hand. Then he left. I had to move with the traffic so I don’t know what happened next.
On my way back after shopping, I saw that the taxi driver was outside of his car, talking with the police. He was bleeding from his forehead. I don’t know if the glass had cut him or if the young man had hit him.
This incident was one of the few I have seen here that is contrary to Okinawa’s reputation as a peaceful society.
My walk around Naha will be what I remember about this past holiday season — definitely not this taxi incident.
Okinawan word of the week: Atchun, meaning walk. In Japanese, it is aruku.
Louis Wai was born and raised in Hawai‘i. He practiced law in Honolulu for many years before earning a master’s degree in English as a Second Language in 2008. In 2010, he decided to move to Okinawa, where he now teaches English.