Louis Wai
Hawai’i Herald Columnist

One activity I’ve enjoyed from my small kid days is camping. We camped at Waimänalo Beach Park, Hanauma Bay (yes, it was permitted back then), Bellows, Sherwoods, Makapu‘u and Sandy Beach, among other places. I looked forward to our annual — and, sometimes, semi-annual — treks to the Punalu‘u beach house. We enjoyed those magical weeks together with the Tengans and the Ihas and all our friends.

So, when the young Noharas — Daisuke and Riemi and their young sons, Yuta and Sota, along with Daisuke’s sister Sugako and nephew Hisa (a Matsuda) — decided at 11 on a Sunday night (it was the Golden Week holiday) to go camping the next morning, I was, of course, excited.

The next morning, they called me at 8:15 and told me they were leaving at 10 — did I want to go with them? I didn’t have any plans, so, “Yatta!” I said, and began packing my bag. With my bag packed and my futon tightly folded, I headed over to the Noharas’ home.

Setting up the tent and tarp. (Photo by Louis Wai)

Daisuke was loading up the car when I arrived. When he saw my futon, I think I heard him say something like, “Oh, no!” Nevertheless, he let me bring my futon. Actually, I think he didn’t know how to tell me not to bring it. After all, we were going to have to squeeze five adults and three kids and all that camping gear into a car smaller than a minivan — gear that included a tent, two folding tables, an ice chest, five folding chairs, a hibachi, swimming equipment, lots of clothing changes for the boys and our food. And, we would be doing more grocery shopping along the way and picking up a tarp from Riemi’s mom.

I don’t think Yuta and Sota understood where we were going, because they wanted to bring their bicycles. Daisuke had to tell them “no,” so when he saw my futon, he muttered something inaudible. Hmmm . . .

We were going north, to a campground at the top of a mountain in Kunigami. You pay a small fee to camp. Traffic was extra heavy due to the holiday, so by the time we arrived at the campgrounds it was about 2 o’clock. Daisuke had bought a new tent, so that was the first thing we assembled. Next was the tarp. It took us about an hour to set up our campsite. There were about 20 campsites scattered around the perimeter of the grass-covered grounds. There were two restrooms on the campgrounds and a playground with slides for the kids. We were lucky — the weather was great, between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

After things quieted down at night, I noticed two distinct sounds. One sounded like a bird chirping, but because of the regularity of its nonstop pattern until 11 that night — and because it was night — I surmised that it must be a sound from a speaker identifying where the restroom was located.

The second sound came from the tent next to ours, and there was no question that it was snoring — loud and constant! They were a young family with three sons and a daughter. The snoring began at 10 and continued throughout the night. I even heard it when I awoke at 6 the next morning!

This was Yuta’s and Sota’s first experience camping. Hisa is already 9. Those three boys have so much energy bottled up in their bodies that it’s sometimes scary.

The campground came with a speaker. It's near the building. See it?
The campground came with a speaker. It’s near the building. See it?

I was cooking on the hibachi, which was standing almost 3 feet off the ground. The boys were playing nearby. In the flash of a second, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Hisa and Yuta running towards me. I could see that Yuta was about to collide with the grill, so in that instant, I pushed him — actually, it was more like I whacked him, because he was running so hard and fast. That stopped him in his tracks and he fell backwards. It was a good lesson for him. If I had hit him this way for no reason, he would have cried, because it was quite hard. But he seemed to understand why I had hit him and just smiled and continued playing. Kids . . .

The next day we headed for the beach. Part of Okuma Beach is occupied by the U.S. military, which occasionally opens its gates to the locals, much like how Bellows in Waimänalo is open to the public on weekends. If it isn’t open to the public, but you can prove that you live in Kunigami, you can gain access to the beach. We had brought along a relative to escort us past security and into the beach area.

There's a reason tourists flock to Okinawa's beach - the white sands of Okuma Beach.
There’s a reason tourists flock to Okinawa’s beach – the white sands of Okuma Beach.

After spending most of the day at Okuma Beach, we stopped at a rocky shore in Ogimi, where locals were digging for clams and crabs in the exposed rocks during low tide.

It was a good outing for all of us and we promised to do it again in the summer!

Okinawan word of the week: Umuti, which means outdoors. In Japanese, it is kögai.

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.


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