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Dispatches from Japan: Day 8

Wow. I've had another great day today! That's two out of eight so far—not bad by my standards. Anyway, the weather in the morning was gorgeous, so I began the day by heading back to the Art Museum to check out the gift shop (yesterday, it was already closed by the time I was ready to leave). Unfortunately, the whole place shut down from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3. I did not despair, for I decided that today will be a 70-300mm day. True, I have been giving the 24-70mm too much attention these past few months, having forgotten the small pleasures of stalking one's prey from great distances. Despite the fact that the lens is f/4-5.6, and has (to my ever-developing eye) a little ghosting and some chromatic aberration, I've had a lot of fun with the quotidian goings-on of the Okinawans.

I then proceeded to the Sueyoshi-en, which turned out to be an expansive garden-park, the pleasures of which I sampled in moderation, owing to the steep inclines of some of the paths. There, I also saw the incredibly-rare Japanese homeless, that small and curious tribe that mastered the contrary arts of grave courtesy and sartorial disarray.

Satisfied, I realised that I was in the vicinity of Shuri-jo, and decided to proceed to Shurikinjo-cho, a steep stone-paved path proceeding down the hill from the castle. Indeed, never do I walk so much (and with such vigour) as I do when I am on holiday. Whenever I ask for directions, I am always pleasantly surprised by the locals' reactions to my perambulatory commitments. However, when I plot a route, I stick to it. Indeed, after waiting for a gaggle of gaijins to pass me, I enjoyed a rather pleasant descent down the path.

When I reached the bottom of the hill, I pressed on, and begun to climb another hill, towards an observation deck I had spotted earlier. On my way up, I saw a woman in a yellow shirt. At first, I thought that she was photographing the jumbled cityscape of the populated hillsides. However, I soon realised that she was photographing my person—through a traffic mirror! I do not consider myself to be particularly photogenic. However, although I initially shrank back at precisely my own brand of optical intrusion, I soon acquiesced to the overtures of the Nikon woman, and reciprocated with my own burst of shots.

After I reached the observation deck, I walked back down the hill, and then up Shurikinjo-cho once again. Large beads of sweat rolled off my forehead, but I was undeterred, for I remembered seeing a small cafe overlooking the hillsides on my way down. Indeed, when I was close to the top, I entered Madama Cafe and ordered mango kakigoori (マンゴかき氷). Ladies and gentlemen, such earthly delights are not often found on this lowly orb—and all for a mere ¥600! Imagine: a dish piled with large chunks of fresh, chilled mango, covering a mound of shaved ice mixed with (what appeared to be) a little vanilla ice cream. To quote Burgess, oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh!

After my little gustatory rapture, I decided to proceed to the Shureimon, a gate of some apparent renown that I had missed during my first visit to the Shurei-jo. Alas, this rather small gate was under repair, and so, after viewing the Sonohyan Utaki Stone Gate, I proceeded to walk down a now-familiar route towards Gibo Station. I dropped by Makishi, checked out some djembe music at Saion Square (and saw one of the few black men in Okinawa), ate some specially-prepared fried chicken with green beans, and finally headed back to the hotel, thoroughly satisfied.

Mein Gott! These octopus balls are amazing.