Obserbitorting Oki Island

A week ago I took a delightful trip to Oki island off the Northern coast of Japan, above Shimane Prefecture. The resident JET on the island, Liz, organized a weekend worth of sightseeing and activities. Heather and I went together and met 12 other girls for the weekend at “camp.”

Our first stop of the Okitour ’11 was making and eating our own soba noodles. From there we were taken around the island to see the various sights. We arrived at our loding for the night, a pair of log cabins with fire pits out front. It was just like camp!

 

The next activity on the schedule was “making bamboo dixie.” None of us knew what dixie was, we figured it was just some native Okian dish that we hadn’t heard of. We were then handed machetes and saws and directed to a stack of bamboo that had been cut down. Our challenge: make the plates and chopsticks for tonight’s dinner. Go! hahaha, then we found out they weren’t joking…..dixie was the english word they found for disposable plates.

The process may have been a little messy and bloody at times, but the end result was pretty good. PS-none of the injuries were serious enough to require more than a band aid.

The island was larger than I expected with a population of about 3,000. There are 2 ALT’s on the island, and that’s about all the foreigners that most of the residents have ever encountered. When not just 2 but 12 white girls were spotted walking around town, it was enough to stop most people in their tracks. When word had circulated that there were 12 additional young ladies on the island we were invited to the opening of Oki’s new “night club.” In a town that small the term night club is used rather loosely. The “club” ended up being a small cafe that pushed aside a few tables and added a DJ behind the counter. Not a typical night club experience, but it was fantastic. There was just enough space to get my dance on and small enough the the DJ didn’t have to play top 40 songs,  I even got to hear some Vampire weekend. That’s right Vampire Weekend is known across the Pacific on Oki island. Although jammin’ to VW was a great night, it didn’t make for a great Sunday morning, winding through the small mountain roads.

But the motion sickness was well worth the sights.

We were taken to an incredible forrest shrine. It was so wet and green that is could probably be considered a rainforest.

Complete with a waterfall.

The next stop was a sake factory tour. Not exactly the first place I wanted to be at 10 in the morning. Despite the strong smell of alcohol, it was interesting, and almost educational. (the tour was given in japanese)

40 year old tanks of sake

Then it was festival time. I had no idea what the festival was about but I didn’t care because festivals mean one thing: Japanese street food. I love Japanese street food, similar to the unhealthy offerings at many american fairs, but with japanese flair. My current favorite is the Taiyaki. A fish-shaped crispy pancake filled with cream or anko. I may or may not have had 2 or 3…

After I was done stuffing my face, then getting seconds, I found out the basics of the festival, well everything except the name. Eight of the shrines around the island have sacred horses, and once a year all the horses are brought to the largest shrine and raced down the road. Instead of riders men run along side the horses, it is said that the gods or spirits are the only thing that can ride these horses.

first the horses are blessed..

then its time to run

Sadly it was time to leave Oki, but the trip was a great time and well worth the 7 hour trip home. (boat -> bus -> train)

 

 

 

 

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