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The second weekend in March, we took a trip with ITT1 here on base. We had never taken an ITT trip before, so we figured now's a good of time of any. Being new on the island we got a 10% discount on tours (offered to people here 90 days or less), which was even better. A little before 9am we met the bus, and boarded for a little over an hour. Our tour guide was great! She was Okinawan working with the base for years, and had some really funny stories to tell along with history of places we were driving past and other events and places she recommended us to go to.
Located on the East coast of the northern part of the island about 45 miles away (see map below), is an amazing little hill top with over 50,000 azaleas grown and taken care of by the village people of Higashi. With a great view of the ocean, there were tons of trails winding in and out of azalea gardens and mangroves.
There were some great viewing areas all around, and actually, my favorite spots were down in the valley walking along the mangroves being able to look up at the azaleas.
Love these trees!
The festival lasts for about 3 weeks, and along with beautiful views and trails, there is a small area (that doesn't interrupt nature) where they have food stalls, flower demonstrations, a small farmers market and live music. Of course we had to try some things while we were out. Lunch time after all, don't want anyone getting a case of the hangrys.
We split an order of nikumaki onigiri, which, if you love onigiri like I do, this will blow your mind. It's simply a rice ball wrapped in meat. You can't go wrong with this, trust me. Mine was pork, but they come with beef also. It's a thinly sliced piece of meat marinated in a delicious sauce, wrapped around a rice ball and then baked or fried, it's then coated in more sauce.
We also split some takoyaki. This is a go-to snack/street food in Japan, you'll see takoyaki stands EVERWHERE. It's delicious so no wonder why. It's a doughy ball filled with octopus (tako), green onion, and ginger which is cooked in this special grill pan. After it's done cooking, it's coated in a takoyaki sauce which is like a bbq sauce with mayonnaise and bonito flakes. There are a lot of variations of this, but the dough and octopus stay the same, otherwise it would be a different dish. I really enjoy takoyaki, but with a little less sauce. This guy was drowning in it. Just my preference though.
More adventuring. Aaron had a good time trying to read all the Japanese signs. He was able to pronounce a lot, but we had no idea what the translation was. That didn't bother me at all, I was busy taking in the views and taking pictures.
I have never seen this many azaleas before, it was awesome!
Once we made it to the lower area, there was a small stream and a boardwalk around the mangroves and some beautiful trees. I could have stayed here forever.
Towards the end of the trail, as we were making our way back up to the entrance, we spotting this elderly couple taking photos of themselves. It was so cute the way the man was pushing his wife up the hill (which was pretty freaking steep to be pushing ANYONE up, never mind doing it at that age). They reminded me a little of my grandparents, how sweet they were with each other, and I really love this picture.
1ITT (Information Tickets & Travel)
A service offered on our base (and many other bases) that supplies information and tickets for events off base. Trips usually include transportation. They also offer discounted tickets to many things including special events/activities/hotels, and can make reservations for flights and hotels off island.
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