Last day of diving in Okinawa. I’m glad I decided to pack my dive computer last-minute. Exploring the reef in Okinawa has been an absolute treat—so much life!
On to Kyoto!
Today, I was one of many people picked up to go diving. When I hopped on the van, there was already a lady from Ohio. We chatted it up, and I found out she did software training with doctors. Neat. Next, we picked picked up a couple who spoke french on the way over. After seeing my shirt, they asked me if I was from Alberta. I was shocked to find someone on a dive boat in Japan that recognized Amii: the machine intelligence institute I belong to.
I climbed up to the top deck and chatted with them most of the way to the islands. Serendipity: they were both Canadian diplomats serving in South Korea. The both wanted to know more about AI. Evidently, their work touches on it: Korean investors are keen on Canadian, (and Albertan) AI research. I gave a boat-ride explanation on the differences between different machine learning methods, and how Reinforcement Learning---my favourite branch of AI---differs from many of the more common approaches to machine learning.
Today we did three lively dives: among the spottings were angelfish, clownfish, and sea-snakes. I had never seen clownfish before: one of the sea-creatures on my bucketfish. They were almost whisp-like; sentinels hovering over their anemone, keeping watch.
On our last dive, we went to a location with an abundance of sea turtles. It's always relaxing to watch these graceful creature slip through the currents; however, this dive was shockingly distressing. The dive-sites were heaving with other dive boats, with visitors kitted up to the gills. Almost every person on the other boats had top-of the line cameras with all the external flash-bulbs and lights. Thick gloves; thick booties.
As soon as our group made our descent, we found another group that was laying down on the coral reef. One of the divers was anchored onto living coral to get a shot of a turtle, completely oblivious that he was killing a vital member of his model's ecosystem. Satisfied with their shot, they kicked off the coral, breaking off six inches of stag-horn coral. For all the money poured into their gear, they didn't have even an ounce of buoyancy control.
There were so many disrespectful, dangerous divers. Crowding the marine life, grabbing the coral through the protection of thick, cumbersome gloves. Oblivious to their fins bashing into broad coral fans. If tourists keep treating the reef this way, it wont exist for much longer; ruined for everyone. Most of all, the turtles.
Today was my first day in okinawa. Tetsu picked me up from the hotel and we made our way to a small harbour for the day. I was the only person picked up, but three Thai kids around my age met us at the boat. They were lovely.
We saw so many nudibranchs in every shape and size: my favourite sea creature. Seeing so many was a real surprise. During the summer, these sea slugs make their way into the coral to beat the heat. Being on the cusp of the season, it was a gamble as to whether we'd see them. This was the first time since high school that I'd seen them. Unlike my encounters in the Florida keys, the nudibranchs were so varied in colour: jet black, pale cream, bright blue. Spiky, smooth, and geometric.
It felt good to jump in the pool. To be honest, I hadn't quite relaxed since arrived in Japan. I had a lot of fun, but there was no down-time. Laying back on the boat between dives and letting the sun warm me up provided a much needed breather.
When we arrived back on land, Tetsu asked if I wanted lunch. After spending the morning swimming with the fishes, we ate at a local fish market. We wandered around the stalls and settled on a local soba place: the best soba I've had.
That's it for Tokyo! On to Okinawa for a little bit a scuba-diving and some beach time.
I made my way to Meji-Jinju for Haru-no-Taisui: the spring festival. It's the largest shinto ceremony of the year at the shrine. Rituals include a sacred dance based on a poem for uninterrupted world peace.
Large tori gates lined unmistakably marked the trailhead. The only thing you could smell was lush forest decay. Large trees formed a dense, long walk to the outer courtyard of the shrine.
When I arrived, the service had started. There were many people seated facing inwards. Through the rows of those seated above at the dais, I could barely see the priests.
In the outer courtyard, it was an ordinary day. Devotees arrived at the shrine, making a steady chatter of coins being dropped into offering boxes. So much noise outside while such a somber service inside.
I waited and watched, hoping for a glimpse of the ceremony. A drum sounded. Someone let out a call. A procession made their way down the stairs, walking single file and in unison.
Haneda Airport → Naha Airport