If you happen to drive past the northernmost part of Okinawa island, I suggest stopping by the Kayauchi Banta viewpoint. Why? You simply will get an amazing view of the coast of Okinawa. This single photo will convince you.
Kouri Island is connected to the main island of Okinawa by a long bridge that stretches over a beautiful blue ocean. Parking lots are located at the two ends of the bridge. I recommend parking at the one on the main island and crossing over to Kouri island using the bridge’s walkway. A small farmer’s market and a beach are located on Kouri island near the end of the bridge.
The Nojiriko Hotel El Bosco has a special concept of ‘a hotel made for reading’ and is definitely a relaxing place. The architecture was designed to blend with the surrounding nature. The lobby and the restaurant feature large windows with a view on the forest. Also, each bedroom offers a view of the Nojiriko lake. The restaurant offers European and Japanese-inspired cuisine with fresh local ingredients. A separate, small and cozy room of the hotel serves as the soba bar where one can enjoy delicious soba noodles, famous in Nagano prefecture, with their favorite drink.
Taking the ferry in Japan is a peculiar experience. Ferries are typically divided in different classes. All classes share the common characteristic that most Japanese try to sleep during the trip, even if it takes only a few hours during daytime. Upper level classes consist in large rooms filled with individual and fully horizontal mattresses on which customers can sleep. Few first class rooms akin to hotel rooms are sometimes available on the upper deck.
I was in the lower class, which is more rudimentary. It consists in carpeted floor area where one can lie down. Customers seemed to consider the carpets dirty since the best majority sleep on old journal paper. While older folks take a nap or watch baseball while lying down, kids feed the marine birds with potato crackers. I personally choose to eat a warm bowl of ramen noodles and to document in photos this interesting experience of Japanese culture.