Eat local: Sushi in Arita, Kyushu, Japan

The exterior of the Sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan, where we had an excellent lunch; fortunately we had requested our local guide to make a reservation for us and she showed us

The exterior of the Sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan, where we had an excellent lunch; fortunately we had requested our local guide to make a reservation for us and she showed us where to walk to – otherwise, we wouldn’t have had a clue what was behind the screen and how good the luncheon would be!

 

We spent an entire day exploring Arita and the porcelains that have given the city its moniker as “the cradle of the Japanese porcelain industry”.  For lunch we asked our local guide to make a reservation at the city’s best sushi restaurant (a table for 8).  Because there were too many of us to sit at the counter at the restaurant and order each piece of sushi directly with the sushi chef, we had a table in a side room that was made private by the placement of portable screens.  As is customary in this case, with a larger group, we had a set lunch which that was served to us as we arrived.  Everything was extremely fresh and quite tasty.  The staff spoke no English, so we were fortunate to have in our group the Australian art dealer, consultant, and lecturer who has lived in Japan for 30 years and is fluent in Japan (his specialty is Japanese art, particularly ceramics) who is lecturing on the ship and was guiding us on this destination experience.

 

The sushi chef-owner of the sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan, was very happy that we thoroughly enjoyed our wonderful luncheon

The sushi chef/owner of the sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan, was very happy that we thoroughly enjoyed our wonderful luncheon

 

Our starters included cuddlefish stuffed with its roe, soft tofu and a Japanese salad at the Sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan; the fruit was a light dessert

Our starters included cuddlefish stuffed with its roe, soft tofu and a Japanese salad at the Sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan; the fruit was a light dessert

 

In addition to a beautiful plate of freshly prepared sushi, we had a pot of Chawanmushi (steamed savoury egg custard) and hot green tea, Sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan

In addition to a beautiful plate of freshly prepared sushi, we had a pot of Chawanmushi (steamed savory egg custard) and hot green tea, Sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan

 

Chawanmushi is a traditional Japanese appetizer made from steamed savory egg custard and full of fillings such as prawns, ginkgo nuts, kamaboko steamed fish cake, shiitake mushrooms and spring onions.  Chawanmushi is traditionally served in a small Japanese tea cup.

 

Shown here are the uni (a sea urchin's gonads), sake (salmon), fatty tuna, maguro (tuna), cooked egg, prawn, himmachi and roe pieces of sushi for our lunch at the Sushi restaurant in Ari

Shown here are the uni (a sea urchin’s gonads), sake (salmon), fatty tuna, maguro (tuna), cooked egg, prawn, himmachi and roe pieces of sushi for our lunch at the Sushi restaurant in Arita, Kyushu, Japan

 

Arita (the cradle of the Japanese porcelain industry), Kyushu Japan

The Kyushu Ceramics Museum has been accumulating ceramics and porcelain from every corner of Kyushu; on display in the museum are the period features and the history of Kyushu porcelain

The Kyushu Ceramics Museum has been accumulating ceramics and porcelain from every corner of Kyushu; on display in the museum are the period features and the history of Kyushu porcelain (Arita ware and Imari ware, in particular), Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

“Arita (有田) and Imari (伊万里) are two towns in western Saga Prefecture [located north of Nagasaki, on the island of Kyushu] that are known for pottery.  They were the first place in Japan where porcelain was produced about 400 years ago after kaolin – the mineral essential to making porcelain – had been found at a local mountain and craftsmen with the necessary skills had been brought from Korea into the country.  The new technology was an extremely valuable resource for the local ruler because porcelain was better and stronger than contemporary pottery and sold very well inside and outside of Japan.  The town of Arita and the isolated mountain village of Okawachiyama served as the two main sites of production, while Imari served as the port from where the finished products were shipped out.” – www.japan-guide.com

 

Jar with pine design, iron-brown and copper-green glaze, stoneware, 1630 ~ 1670, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

Jar with pine design, iron-brown and copper-green glaze, stoneware, 1630 ~ 1670, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

“The Kyushu Ceramics Museum [opened in 1980] has been accumulating ceramics and porcelain from every corner of Kyushu with a focus on Hizen porcelain.  On display in the museum are the period features and the history of Kyushu porcelain.  The museum also showcases the art work of modern day artisans.  The exhibition rooms are separated into five where visitors can acquire a deeper understanding of the character, art work and history of the ceramics of Kyushu.” – www.welcomekyushu.com

The Museum, which is open to the public free of charge, also spreads ceramic knowledge among the general public as well as conductin research activities and studies of ceramics.

 

Dish with eggplant design, underglaze cobalt-blue and brown glaze, Nabeshima official kiln, Okawachi, Hizen, 1670 ~ 1690; The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

Dish with eggplant design, underglaze cobalt-blue and brown glaze, Nabeshima official kiln, Okawachi, Hizen, 1670 ~ 1690; The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

“Nabeshima ware (鍋島焼 Nabeshima-yaki) is a type of Japanes pottery, specifically an unusually high-quality porcelain Arita ware.  It was produced in Lord Nabeshima of Saga Domain’s kiln at Okawachi near Arita in the Edo period for the use and profit of the family.  The name therefore derives from the family.  The Okawachi kiln was already in use, and continued to make other wares at the same time. Production began around 1700, and continued until the late 19th century, with similar wares being produced elsewhere by descendants of the master lineage to the present day.  Unlike most Arita ware, the designs drew on Japanese rather than Chinese traditions, especially those of textile design, and are often marked by a free use of empty space.” — Wikipedia

 

Dish with picture book design, overglaze polychrome enamels, 1690 ~ 1720, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan; this piece looked to us like something from the modern period i

Dish with picture book design, overglaze polychrome enamels, 1690 ~ 1720, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan; this piece looked to us like something from the modern period in the first half of the 20th century

 

Large lobed dish with Mt. Fuji and pine grove design, underglaze cobalt-blue, 1820 ~ 1860, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

Large lobed dish with Mt. Fuji and pine grove design, underglaze cobalt-blue, 1820 ~ 1860, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

A contemporary porcelain, 2012, by the Kyushu artist Tomimura Sigeo, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

A contemporary porcelain, 2012, by the Kyushu artist Tomimura Sigeo, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

The Shibata Collection, exhibited in a large lower level gallery, contains over 10,000 porcelains that were donated to the Kyushu Ceramics Museum at the end of the 20th century by Mr. and Mrs. Shibata.  The exhibition room has a rotating selection of approximately 1,000 porcelains from the collection that is focused on the Edo period (1603 – 1867).

 

From the Shibata Collection, lobed dish with a design of landscape and crane, underglaze blue, 1670 ~ 1690, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

From the Shibata Collection, lobed dish with a design of landscape and crane, underglaze blue, 1670 ~ 1690, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

From the Shibata Collection, lobed bowl with scattered chrysanthemum design, overglaze enamels, 1690 ~ 1710, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

From the Shibata Collection, lobed bowl with scattered chrysanthemum design, overglaze enamels, 1690 ~ 1710, The Kyushu Ceramics Museum, Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

After lunch in the town of Arita, we had the opportunity to visit the studio and gallery of one of Japan’s “Living National Treasures”, appointed by the Japanese government for his contribution to the porcelain art form, Imaizumi Imaemon XIV.   His family’s studio has been producing masterpieces of porcelain since 1644 and each piece is regarded as a “National important intangible cultural property.”   The web site, http://www.imaemon.co.jp/english/, notes: “Iro-Nabeshima (porcelain with multi-coloured overglazed enamel) by Imaemon is created based on techniques dating back to the Edo period (mid-17th century).  These techniques have been preserved for about 370 years.  Characterized by a distinctive gracefulness, the Imaemon colored porcelain is greatly appreciated till this day.  The superb techniques preserved at Imaemon Kiln have been designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan.  The mission of Imaemon is to pass the art of the shogun era down to posterity and make people’s daily lives better and more enjoyable with our colored porcelain.  These are our fundamental philosophies.  Tradition does not just mean maintaining old techniques, tradition also means using old techniques to create new values for modern people.  Always maintaining these philosophies, Imaemon Kiln produces two styles of porcelain: works of Imaizumi Imaemon XIV, which pursue the grace of modern Imaemon, the second, works that preserve the traditional Iro-Nabeshima style of the Edo period.  Day after day, the creative work at Imaemon is continued in the hope that the art will help preserve genuine Japanese culture, which appreciates the four distinct seasons and people’s links with heartwarming hospitality for each other and with objects.

 

A stunning cylindrical porcelain from the studio of Imaizumi Imaemon XIV (one of Japan_s “Living National Treasures”), Arita, Kyushu Japan

A stunning cylindrical porcelain from the studio of Imaizumi Imaemon XIV (one of Japan’s “Living National Treasures”), Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

A beautiful rectangular porcelain with an unusual glazing design from the studio of Imaizumi Imaemon XIV (one of Japan_s “Living National Treasures”), Arita, Kyushu Japan

A beautiful rectangular porcelain with an unusual glazing design from the studio of Imaizumi Imaemon XIV (one of Japan’s “Living National Treasures”), Arita, Kyushu Japan

 

Eat local: Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

The interior of Kazami Restaurant, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, known for its incredibly fresh fish, shellfish, sashimi and rice bowls

The interior of Kazami Restaurant, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, known for its incredibly fresh fish, shellfish, sashimi and rice bowls

 

There are basically two types of Okinawan dishes: the elegant cuisine prepared for the Ryukyuan Kings and his court during the Ryukyu Dynasty and the more economical and reasonable dishes developed out of the sensible wisdom of commoners’ everyday life.  Both are influenced by Chinese and Japanese culinary cultures

 

One of the chefs at the woks at Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, preparing individual orders with fresh ingredients

One of the chefs at the woks at Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, preparing individual orders with fresh ingredients

 

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Kazami Restaurant in Naha, known for its incredibly fresh fish, shellfish, sashimi and rice bowls. The menu changes daily based on what fresh ingredients the chefs can buy at the local markets.

 

A delicious, crispy fried fresh Guruku fish purchased a few hours earlier at the local market, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; we ate almost the whole crispy fish, including the tail and m

A delicious, crispy fried fresh Guruku fish purchased a few hours earlier at the local market, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; we ate almost the whole crispy fish, including the tail and most of the head (skipping the mouth and eyes), except for the skeletal bones

 

Showing some Chinese influence, the stir-fried beef and tofu with vegetables was quite tasty, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Showing some Chinese influence, the stir-fried beef and tofu with vegetables was quite tasty, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Excellent shrimp-flavored noodles with vegetables and slices of pork, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Excellent shrimp-flavored noodles with vegetables and slices of pork, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Ryukyu Arts, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Two women at the Shuri Ryusen workshop photographed creating traditional Ryukyu Bingata textiles created by an unusual type of textile dying that uses sea corals, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Two women at the Shuri Ryusen workshop photographed creating traditional Ryukyu Bingata textiles created by an unusual type of textile dying that uses sea corals, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Okinawa has ceramic and lacquer arts, dyed-woven textiles, glass crafts and dance which originated during the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom (from the 14th to the 19th centuries) that have been carried on since then. The heritage of the Ryukyu Kingdom has been steadily handed down from generation to generation.

 

Natural fossilized corals are filed flat to become “molds” for “printing” textiles by rubbing the fabric with sponges filled with colored dyes, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Natural fossilized corals are filed flat to become “molds” for “printing” textiles by rubbing the fabric with sponges filled with colored dyes, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

We stopped at Shuri Ryusen to see traditional Ryukyu Bingata textiles created by an unusual type of textile dying that uses sea corals. The fabric is placed on top of flattened natural coral “molds” and then the surface of the fabric is rubbed with a sponge that contains a single color of dye. The artists move the fabric around one or more corals and use different colors of dye to “print” fabric designs. The workshop had excellent examples of Bingata textiles – a style unique to Okinawa — that they produce.

 

Brightly colored dyes are used in printing the traditional Ryukyu Bingata textiles, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Brightly colored dyes are used in printing the traditional Ryukyu Bingata textiles, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Brushes and natural barks and plants that are ground for making dyes, Shuri Ryusen workshop, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Brushes and natural barks and plants that are ground for making dyes, Shuri Ryusen workshop, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Traditional Ryukyu textile on display (for sale) at Shuri Ryusen workshop, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Traditional Ryukyu textile on display (for sale) at Shuri Ryusen workshop, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

A pottery designer carving an unfired piece of pottery in a style that is unique to Naha, Okinawa, Japan

A pottery designer carving an unfired piece of pottery in a style that is unique to Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

After lunch we toured several pottery workshops located on Tsuboya Yachimun Street in the famous Naha pottery district. Pottery is called “Yachi-mun” in Okinawa. All pottery made in the various parts of Okinawa have a simple warm texture and hue which give them an additional charm. The representative production areas of today are Tsuboya in Naha City and Yachimun Pottery Village in Yomitan. Pottery is fashioned into jars, shisa lion figures as well as plates, bowls and coffee cups.

 

Beautiful finished pottery for sale at a gallery on Tsuboya Yachimun Street in the famous Naha pottery district, Okinawa, Japan

Beautiful finished pottery for sale at a gallery on Tsuboya Yachimun Street in the famous Naha pottery district, Okinawa, Japan

 

An award winning local dance troupe performed several Ryukyuan dances on board our ship before we sailed from Naha, Okinawa, Japan

An award winning local dance troupe performed several Ryukyuan dances on board our ship before we sailed from Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Ryukyuan dance is the traditional dance of Okinawa. The graceful dancers wear vividly colored bingata fabric costumes, which evoke the graceful court life during the Ryukyu Dynasty.

 

One of the local dancers wearing vividly a colored costumes after the Ryukyuan dance performances on our ship, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

One of the local dancers wearing vividly a colored costumes after the Ryukyuan dance performances on our ship, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Ryukyu Kingdom Castle and Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

A view of the town and port of Naha from the upper level of the west side lookout (IRI-NO-AZANA) of the reconstructed Ryukyu Castle located in the hills of Naha, Okinawa, Japan

A view of the town and port of Naha from the upper level of the west side lookout (IRI-NO-AZANA) of the reconstructed Shurijo Castle located in the hills of Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Sailing up to Japan from Melanesia and Micronesia, our first port was the western group of Islands that now are part of Japan – Okinawa.  These islands, annexed by Japan in the 19th century, were an independent dynasty for centuries, known as the Ryukyu Islands, with a rich culture and long history of textiles and other crafts, particularly on the largest island of the group, Okinawa.

Okinawa Island is to Japan what Hawaii is to the United States.  The tropical island is surrounded by calm waters, thanks to the protective coastal reefs.  Naha, the island’s capital and former seat of the Ryukyu kings, is home to the restored Shurijo Castle.  After centuries of wars and fires, visitors can once again admire Seiden, the castle’s main hall, and Shikinaen Garden, formerly the Ryukyu kings’ second residence.  Kokusaidori, Naha’s main street, pulsates late into the night with bars, cafes, restaurants, department stores, boutiques and hotels.  The city is quite spread out, with mostly low rise, unattractive concrete buildings in the built-up areas, supporting a population of approximately 325,000.

 

The reconstructed Ryukyu kings_ second residence at Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, originally built at the end of the 18th century

The reconstructed Ryukyu kings’ second residence at Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, originally built at the end of the 18th century

 

Originally constructed in the 18th century for a member of Ryukyu royalty, Shikinaen Royal Garden – a UNESCO World Heritage Site — features classic Japanese and Chinese gardens.  Stone bridges lead to elegant pavilions and refl ecting ponds, all painstakingly rebuilt following their destruction during World War II.

 

A small island gazebo – a hexaganol Chinese-style building (ROKKAYU-DO) -- in the pond in front of the residence that is part of the Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

A small island gazebo – a hexaganol Chinese-style building (ROKKAYU-DO) — in the pond in front of the residence that is part of the Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the property was used by the Ryukyu kings to entertain royal family members and foreign guests

 

A classical Japanese arch footbridge on the pond at Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the circular landscape garden design at Shikinaen became very popular among Japanese feu

A classical Japanese arch footbridge on the pond at Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the circular landscape garden design at Shikinaen became very popular among Japanese feudal lords (Daimyo) during the modern ages

 

Beautiful roof tiles on the guard house (BANYA) at the entrance to the Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Beautiful roof tiles on the guard house (BANYA) at the entrance to the Shikinaen Royal Garden, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

The Shureimon gate is the lowest (and first) gate into Ryukyu Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the castle served as the proud and dignified center of the Ryukyu Kingdom and its politics, fo

The Shureimon gate is the lowest (and first) gate into Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the castle served as the proud and dignified center of the Ryukyu Kingdom and its politics, foreign affairs and culture

 

Originally built in the 14th century, the hilltop Shurijo Castle was the heart and soul of the Ryukyu Kingdom until the 19th century.  Completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the castle was later reconstructed to exacting standards and named an UNESCO World Heritage Site for symbolizing the pride of the Ryukyu people.

 

These castle buildings (all reconstructed in 1992 following the castles destruction in the battle of Okinawa in 1945) served as offices for the King_s retainer and government officials

These castle buildings (all reconstructed in 1992 following the castles destruction in the battle of Okinawa in 1945) served as offices for the King’s retainer and government officials, Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

The Seiden was the center of Ryukyu Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, and was the King_s residence; this restored building was completed in 1992 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of

The Seiden was the center of Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, and was the King’s residence; this restored building was completed in 1992 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the return of Okinawa by the United States to Japanese sovereignty

 

Details of the front entrance to the Seiden at Ryukyu Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the Seiden is decorated with a variety of carved art (including a golden dragon), two great dragon pil

Details of the front entrance to the Seiden at Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; the Seiden is decorated with a variety of carved art (including a golden dragon), two great dragon pillar sculptures and beautifully painted wooden columns

 

One of the interior guards in traditional dress in the reconstructed Seiden (the main King_s residence), Ryukyu Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

One of the interior guards in traditional dress in the reconstructed Seiden (the main King’s residence), Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

This splendidly decorated area in the Seiden (called the Usasuka) is where the king presided over the political and ceremonial activities in Ryukyu Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

This splendidly decorated area in the Seiden (called the Usasuka) is where the king presided over the political and ceremonial activities in Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

This king_s seat is restored from pictures and references of the seat used by King Sho Shin, who ruled from 1477 to 1526, Ryukyu Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

This king’s seat is restored from pictures and references of the seat used by King Sho Shin, who ruled from 1477 to 1526, Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

A view of the castle from a window in a room near the Usasuka where the king conducted business, Ryukyu Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

A view of the castle from a window in a room near the Usasuka where the king conducted business, Shurijo Castle, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Koror, Republic of Palau

With 584 islands, The Republic of Palau has limestone islands with lush vegetation ranging in size from tiny to moderate in southern Micronesia

With 584 islands, The Republic of Palau has limestone islands with lush vegetation ranging in size from tiny to moderate in southern Micronesia

 

Sailing north from Baluan Island in Papua New Guinea to Japan, we made a two-day SCUBA diving and snorkeling stop at Koror, The Republic of Palau.  Generally called “Palau”, the country is an archipelago of approximately 580 islands (some of which are quite small specks of rock on the Pacific Ocean), part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean.  Only eight of the islands are populated and the population of the entire country is around 18,000.  Koror Island is home to the former capital, also called Koror, and is the islands’ commercial center.  Babeldaob has the present capital, Ngerulmud, plus mountains and sandy beaches on its east coast.  The islands are renowned for having some of the best (and some say, the best) SCUBA diving and snorkeling sites in the world.  We can certainly affirm those accolades after two days and six sites.

As we motored around the archipelago from our anchorage at Koror, Palau, we discovered many scenic islands and excellent diving and snorkeling sites

As we motored around the archipelago from our anchorage at Koror, Palau, we discovered many scenic islands and excellent diving and snorkeling sites

 

In the center of the Coral Triangle, the reefs and ocean floor were covered with a spectacular array of varied corals – different species, colors, forms, shapes and sea life swimming a

In the center of the Coral Triangle, the reefs and ocean floor were covered with a spectacular array of varied corals – different species, colors, forms, shapes and sea life swimming around them, Palau

 

Politically, Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding, and access to social services.  Legislative power is concentrated in the bicameral Palau National Congress.  Palau’s economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product (GNP) derived from foreign aid.  The country uses the United States dollar as its currency.  The islands’ culture mixes Micronesian, Melanesian, Asian, and Western elements.” — Wikipedia

 

While not visible on the surface, this snorkeling site was full of sea life living in the corals, Koror, Palau

While not visible on the surface, this snorkeling site was full of sea life living in the corals, Koror, Palau

 

The limestone islands with lush vegetation reminded us of many of the islands in the northern portion of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, half a world away, Koror, Palau

The limestone islands with lush vegetation reminded us of many of the islands in the northern portion of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, half a world away, Koror, Palau

 

Being only about 400 miles north of the equator (in the Northern Hemisphere), the sun in Palau is intense and hot – as seen in the reflections of the ocean at the beach where we stoppe

Being only about 400 miles north of the equator (in the Northern Hemisphere), the sun in Palau is intense and hot – as seen in the reflections of the ocean at the beach where we stopped for a Bento box luncheon midday

 

From the beach where we stopped, islands small and large were scattered across the horizon, Palau

From the beach where we stopped, islands small and large were scattered across the horizon, Palau

 

In the late afternoon we sailed out from Koror, Palau, to the north and our next ports of call -- Japan

In the late afternoon we sailed out from Koror, Palau, to the north and our next ports of call — Japan

 

Baluan Ceremonies, Papua New Guinea

The first ceremony we watched was the making of kava drink from the roots of the kava plants, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea; the drink has sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant and entheige

The first ceremony we watched was the making of kava drink from the roots of the kava plants, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea; the drink has sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant and entheigenic properties and is local to Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands

 

Our welcome to Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea, called by the locals “The Rocky Island of Fruits”, was detailed in our previous blog post, “Our Welcome to Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea”.  During our visit we watched the last of the traditional ceremonial festivities on our three week expedition through Melanesia.  The first ceremony was the making of kava drink from the roots of the kava plant.  We had tasted kava a few years ago in Fiji (where it is also popular) and also earlier on this trip.  Kava drink has sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant and entheigenic properties and is local to Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.  We were treated to several dance performances where the music is the rhythmic beating of the local slit-gong, or garamut, drums (pictured, below).  Our final ceremony was the formal ceremonial wedding of a young couple (a “demonstration”, complete with the traditional costumes).

 

The first ceremonial dance was put on by children of the island, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

The first ceremonial dance was put on by children of the island, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

The drummers carve the slit-gong, or garamut, drums from hollowed out tree trunks, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

The drummers carve the slit-gong, or garamut, drums from hollowed out tree trunks, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

A group of the children dancers, after the dance, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

A group of the children dancers, after the dance, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

The lead boy dancer, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

The lead boy dancer, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

Two of the older girl dancers, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

Two of the older girl dancers, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

The men canoeists then put on a dance with their canoe paddles, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

The men canoeists then put on a dance with their canoe paddles, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

A small group of the canoeist dancers, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea--

A small group of the canoeist dancers, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

The final ceremony was quite special – a reenactment of a Baluan marriage with traditional ceremonial costumes for the bride, groom and two bridesmaids, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

The final ceremony was quite special – a reenactment of a Baluan marriage with traditional ceremonial costumes for the bride, groom and two bridesmaids, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

The bridal dress and headdress, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

The bridal dress and headdress, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

A close up of the young bride with her pipe, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

A close up of the young bride with her pipe, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

The groom and a bridesmaid, Baluan, Papua New Guinea

The groom and a bridesmaid, Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea

 

As we sailed away from Baluan Island and Papua New Guinea and Melanesia, we reflected on how fortunate we had been to visit these wonderful islands and to be so warmly received by the islanders, many of whom have very little contact with Westerners over the course of a year.  Our memories of the people, the islands, the natural surroundings, the culture and the welcoming spirit of the region will remain with us for a long time.  Appropriately, we came across this quotation from Margaret Mead who spent much of her early adulthood doing research in this region, including Manus Island — next door to Baluan Island:

“as the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.” — Margaret Mead