September 25, 2012

The Haunted Hotel on Okinawa

 The Haunted Hotel - Full of Mystery

The Haunted Hotel on Okinawa is an incredible structure filled with mystery, many stories, and even more questions.

It is located on a hill right next to Nakagusuku Castle. The pictures in this post were all taken while touring Nakagusuku Castle.

Note: Before I go any further, visiting the Haunted Hotel is probably illegal (there are lots of signs), and certainly dangerous.

Thus, I do not suggest anyone actually go to it, and I may or may not have ever been there, and I have certainly never climbed to the 5th floor and thrown a toilet off of it.

Now that that's cleared up...

Many Questions, Few Answers Surround the Haunted Hotel on Okinawa

The Haunted Hotel is one of those places where you can't help but wonder what it was really supposed to be, and what it would have been like if it were completed.

It is a huge structure that sprawls on top of, and around a hill in Nakagusuku village. The construction does not seem to have been very organized; it seems to have been built adding a section at a time, with no master blueprint to guide the builders.

The Haunted Hotel does not seem like a normal hotel.

There is no viable parking anywhere near the Haunted Hotel. Where would the guests have parked?

There is no easy way to get to the Haunted Hotel. Perhaps over time the original road that led to the hotel has been closed or removed, but even the road that runs through the middle of the structure is small, and unlikely to be used as a real road.

There are no main hallways or straight paths. In most hotels, the layout is very simple to keep guests from getting confused or lost. But at the Haunted Hotel, the walkways are anything but straight. They circle around, go up, go down, take sharp corners, and even end in a dead end.

Some hallways are even stranger in that they get too small for an average person to walk through. One has to bend over to continue walking through. And these hallways connect to major portions of the hotel, so why would they make it so only people under 4' 10" could easily walk through?

And let's not even get into the odd shaped guest rooms, and stairs to nowhere.

The Story Behind the Haunted Hotel

It is hard to tell for sure what the real story behind the Haunted Hotel is, but based on many different peoples' responses, including several Japanese native to that area, it goes something like this:

Sometime in the 1970's a Japanese Business man from Naha (or somewhere other than Nakagusuku) decided to buy the land on the mountain next to Nakagusuku Castle, and build a hotel there.

He planned for an impressive hotel, and it was going to be called The Royal Hotel.

Plans seemed to be falling in place, he had a great location with a beautiful view of the ocean (some say it is the best view on Okinawa) and plenty of money to get the project underway.

Unfortunately, the locals in that area strongly warned the businessman to stop his plans because the ground was sacred and filled with spirits. .

The proximity to Nakagusuku castle and a sacred Buddhist cave and shrine as well as many old tombs on the hill should have been enough to convince the man to build his hotel elsewhere, but he did not.

The Nakagusuku Castle dates back hundreds of years, to around the 14th century AD. Who knows what could have occurred in all that time on the hill next to the castle? Perhaps it was the burial ground for the castle.

As construction got underway, strange and scary things began to occur. Workers began dying in odd construction accidents.

Some workers quit, others stayed on, but construction slowed after these mysterious deaths.

It is hard to know the exact sequence of events, but at some point the businessman's son died and the father went insane.Perhaps possessed by spirits.

I believe construction continued for a little while after the businessman went insane, which would explain the haphazard design and confusing layout.

Eventually all the workers who had stayed around decided to quite before they too were killed, and construction was stopped.

The businessman had used millions on the hotel, and all that was left was a half completed gigantic sprawling structure.

Some say the businessman lived at the hotel for several years and even died there.

It is a strange and eerie story with plenty of room for myths and legends to get mixed into the facts.

But the hotel that is left behind from the story says a lot as far as confirming that it has a mysterious and unsettling history.

Experiences at the Haunted Hotel

Many people have visited the Haunted Hotel over the years and one could probably write a book about the various experiences. Some people claim to have seen ghosts in the form of the businessman, workers or even the child while others suggest seeing ghosts from hundreds of years ago.

Many pictures have been taken at the Haunted Hotel that contain ominous orbs in the photos which indicate some sort of energy at that location.

Some visitors have said they heard very unnerving sounds that followed them through the hotel as they explored it, sounds that were unlike anything they had heard before.

Others noticed flashlights and other electronic devices failing when entering certain rooms.

One thing is sure, if anyone is looking for an adventure, the Haunted Hotel has enough mystery to last many adventures.

Other Extremely Odd Facts About the Haunted Hotel

A Favela in Brazil looks similar to the Haunted Hotel By Natecull
  • There are piles of unused construction materials that have simply been left behind.
  • There is a water park that was going to be part of the hotel on one side of the hill.
  • There is a zoo with very eerie cages and bars that have been bent and broken.
  • One could spend en entire day walking around and through the hotel and still not see everything.
  • The walkways, steps and hallways tend to be uneven, as if built by inexperienced builders or at the direction of someone who could have been insane.
  • The sprawling construction and haphazard placement of connected buildings and rooms looks more like a Favela in Brazil than a planned structure.

September 15, 2012

Shopping at Jusco on Okinawa

One of the largest shopping stores on Okinawa is called Jusco. 

The stores are scattered throughout Okinawa in most of the larger cities. These shopping locations have the variety of a store like Walmart, but the atmosphere of a department store.

The Large Pink Sign is Hard to Miss!
Jusco stores are often located near or attached to malls which really connects it's department store feel.

What makes shopping at a Jusco store fun and interesting is the variety of Japanese style clothes and products. One can find many fun engrish t-shirts (poorly translated English words) or even a light summer Ukata (a traditional clothing style).

Jusco is often a fun place to go during typhoons and many Japanese do this. I have had first hand experience going to a Jusco while a typhoon was raging outside, and finding the store not only open, but very busy.

Shopping at Jusco is an experience that one doesn't quickly forget because of the differences between American shopping stores and Japanese. These differences tend to be subtle, but are much more noticeable after returning to an American shopping store.

One difference I'll mention is the height of the shelves. 

Most Japanese are shorter than the average American, so the shelves of items in a Japanese store are around 6 feet or a little less.

For me, at 6'2", I can easily see over all the shelves making it convenient to spot friends or family who might have gotten lost wondering the store.

The Ferris Wheel next to Mihama Jusco

Finding a Jusco Shopping Center

There are at least 5 Jusco shopping stores scattered throughout Okinawa. One of the more popular locations is just outside Kadena Gate 1 in the Mihama American Village shopping area.

This location is just a few hundred feet from the beach, and has tons of other shops and activities within easy walking distance. One of the most iconic structures on Okinawa is just across the street from the Mihama Jusco - the Ferris wheel. . (See Picture -->)

And just behind this Jusco is another important structure - the tallest building on Okinawa at 25 stories.

Jusco - A Snapshot of Japanese Culture

Jusco offers an afternoon of entertainment and many souvenirs or interesting items can be found while browsing. The often attached malls give even more things to do ranging from 100 yen stores to unique Japanese Arcade rooms. (You've got to try the sushi slicing game)

So don't be shy when visiting Okinawa, take a trip to your nearest Jusco and enjoy a unique cultural and shopping experience.

September 5, 2012

Unspoken Traffic Rules on Okinawa

A normal residential street on Okinawa.  Source GoogleMaps
Driving on Okinawa is a different experience.

There are many differences, both obvious and subtle, to how people drive on Okinawa.

One of the obvious differences is that people drive on the left side of the road, compared to driving on the right side in America. The steering wheel is also on the left side of the vehicle, making it sometimes a little strange and unfamiliar.

Upon traveling from Japan to the States, or the opposite, I have often tried to get into the wrong side of the vehicle, often to the amusement of those with me.

The Three Car Rule

A more subtle driving rule on Okinawa is sometimes called the 'three care rule'.

At almost any intersection on Okinawa when the light changes to red, one can often notice about three cars continuing through the intersection. It is hard to tell where this started, or why it is done, but police rarely stop people for running red lights. (that doesn't mean they won't!)

Typically there is a few seconds delay between  a light for one direction turning red, and the light for the other direction turning green. Perhaps people started running the red lights because no one was in the intersection anyway.

No matter the source of this interesting occurrence, it is important to be aware of it for this reason: You may not want to stop at yellow lights, because someone could rear-end you thinking you would go through the light.

This is especially important if there is a large truck, such as a dump truck, following behind you. If this is the case, it might be in your best interest to run the light.

The good new is, people coming from the other direction where the light has just turned green, are usually very accommodating and allow late light runners a little leeway.

Stopping on the Shoulder, when there is no Shoulder

An Example of a Car Parked on the Road.   Source GoogleMap
Most roads on Okinawa are pretty tight. if there is a shoulder on the road, it is often very small, like less than half a car width. On some of the busier roads, such as 330 and 58, there is little to no shoulder.

Yet in Japan, it is common to stop in this halfway-in-the-shoulder, halfway-in-the-road position. In fact, it seems that, as long as you put the hazard lights on, you can stop just about anywhere on the road.

Many people will stop and put their hazard lights on if they receive a phone call. A law was passed int he last few years making it illegal to talk on the phone and drive, so it is common to see cars partially pulled over, with people on the phone.

In these situations, simply look for a way to drive around the parked car. If there is no easy route around, then just wait patiently. Okinawan's don't tend to be impatient when it comes to driving, and they are usually very understanding when it comes to unnatural traffic situations.

A busy intersection on Okinawa.   Source GoogleMaps
Merging - A Warning

This isn't really an unspoken traffic rule, but it is something to keep in mind. Japanese, especially Okinawans, are quite bad at merging. For some reason they struggle with the idea of yielding and joining traffic. This is usually not a problem as most roads have long enough merging areas and not too much traffic. But in a few places I have noticed, one should really be wary.

Conclusions - Take it Easy

Traffic on Okinawa can be a bit unnerving with people changing lanes quickly, stopping, and many small streets. But if you avoid trying to be in a rush, and enjoy the tropical island around you, it should be fun and entertaining to watch how people follow some of these interesting unspoken traffic rules.