Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Our Day on Ie-Jima

**Warning - This blog covered a very long day with many pictures so it is a pretty long post. Just wanted to give you a heads up before you started reading!

The first weekend in May, we decided to take a ferry to another island (Ie-Jima, pronounced i.e.) close by to see the Ie Lily Festival that is held for a very short time, as well as some other "popular spots" you must see while you're there. We decided to take a tour that's offered through the travel place here on base and make a day of it. We had to be present by 7 AM and it takes about 15 minutes to get there, so we had to start our day around 5:30 AM. Caleb got up at 6 AM and we all had breakfast. We packed a lunch and tons of snacks because we wouldn't be getting back to our car until around 5 PM. We would literally be gone ALL day!! We weren't sure how Caleb would do, but I was pretty confident that he'd be fine seeing in how well he did on our trip back.

Caleb loved looking over into the water. He liked the "bubbles".
The view of the water from behind the boat.
We started by stopping by the memorial of Ernie Pyle who was a war correspondent that died in WWII on Ie-Jima by enemy fire. Every year there is a memorial service held in his honor on or around April 18th. This is one of the three monuments that were allowed to stay up once the Japanese took power back over the island. Pyle won the Pulitzer Prize and was also one of the few American civilians that died in the war that was awarded the Purple Heart medal. He also wrote a column urging that soldiers in combat get "fight pay" just as the airmen were paid "flight pay". Congress passed a law authorizing $10 a month extra pay to combat infantrymen. The legislation was called "The Ernie Pyle bill". It's more now, but men still get paid "combat pay" once they've been deployed over a certain amount of time.

The second spot we visited was the Niya-thiya Cave. The cave was used for shelter for roughly 1,000 people during the Battle of Okinawa. The cave is also famous because it is home to a large rock which is known as the "fertility rock" to the locals. Yes, you read that correctly, a fertility rock. The Japanese superstition is this: if you are having problems conceiving or "making baby" as they put it, you pick up this rock, kiss it, and sit it back down. If it's heavier than you initially thought, you're having a boy. If the rock is lighter than you thought, you're having a girl. This is a place where many barren couples go because nothing else seems to work for them. There are also various praying spots around the island where infertile women go and pray to be blessed with a baby.

A view from inside the cave.

The famous "fertility rock".

Waji Point was our third stop. This is a cliff that is a well known look-out spot. We were able to take some amazing pictures and this place couldn't be more amazing. It's so peaceful and relaxing. You could literally see for miles and the water is crystal clear. You're also so far up on the cliff that looking down and around is breathtaking. The pictures do not do this place justice.

The last spot we stopped at before making it to the Lily Festival was Mount Gusuku. This mountain is located near the middle of the island. The idea we had to climb this mountain was great in the beginning, but by half way up I think we regretted our decision. You have steps all the way up, which seems pretty simple and a chain to hold on to as railing. Although this mountain wasn't huge, the steps were awful and very steep. The steps are pretty narrow and not very long so you had to tip-toe up some of them. At times it felt like you were walking straight up! Daniel had the pleasure of carrying Caleb more than 3/4 of the way. 315 steps later we made it to the top, which was nice, but not worth it to me. It was great to say we did it, so for that I'm thankful, but I'll never do it again. You could see all around the island, but mostly all you could see was the farm land (which was a nice change) and also the ocean in the distance. There's also a story the tour guide told us that goes along with this mountain. You'll see this plaque with Japanese writing (kanji) on it in the video with Caleb. My interpretation of the story is this - which has obviously been revised - There was a "bad guy" and this giant was fighting him to protect the people and the island. The giant was the underdog because he was going against someone so big and powerful. He won this fight and defeated the enemy. He protected everyone from the harm of this bad guy and "they" say this "dip" in the mountain at the top is the giant's footstep. There was yen (Japanese money) in this "footstep" and the tour guide said it's because the people are basically paying the giant for protecting them from harm and doing a good job in beating the enemy. It wasn't a lot of money just a lot of "pennies" basically. Here's a video of the view from the top and some pictures we took along the way.

Going up

A view from the top

I know the video isn't great. It's windy and kind of fast.

This is the footprint I had referred to of the giant. If you look past the stone Caleb's pretending to write on you can see the little dip along with the silver coins. I also read that this is a place that the farmers will come to pray for good crops for the upcoming year.

At the end of 630 steps - we were up to the top in 10 minutes and back down about the same. We had a 30 min. time window and couldn't be late. My legs were no longer functioning at this point, they could only manage to shake.

Another view from the entrance of the mtn.

Finally, the Ie Lily Festival that is held at the end of April and the first of May. There's well over 100,000 lilies planted so it was pretty cool to see the different types of lilies and enjoy the different colors all around. Towards the end of our time there, there was a lady singing, in Japanese of course, and Caleb was so drawn to her. He's never been so content or persistent in staying and watching something like that. Daniel and I could care less, but he was loving her. He went up to shake her hand, but he "needed" to sit down in the front so he could see her and watch her while she preformed. He was so funny with it all. We had a great time and Caleb was amazing throughout the entire day. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

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