Earlier this month I went swimming in the sea during a 4 day break in Okinawa. The sea was on superb form, a warm, welcoming temperature with the waves in the turquoise shallows gentle and teasing.
Further out to sea, in the deep, dark blue water, it looked more threatening. I was told that great white and hammerhead sharks lived in the deep blue, where white walls of water incessantly rumbled and tumbled. The collapsing waves were astonishing and terrifying to watch.
Splashing about in the shallows, I felt completely at the mercy of the sea, threatened by its waves, its current and its invisible residents.
I hardly dared to go of my depth. If the ocean was a football pitch, I barely stuck my big toe over the touch-line.
In my defence, I am a weak swimmer.
And I am a wimp.
Except for the sharks, I was swimming alone.
Our Nagoya-raised guesthouse owner said that Japanese tourists only swim in April if wetsuits are available. Foreigners will swim without though.
I have discovered since that Okinawans don`t swim in the sea at all; there are too many dangerous things to tread on.
For 3 nights we stayed on tiny Sesoko island, one long and one short bus ride from Naha airport. Since a bridge connected the island to the mainland 20 or so years ago, tourism has taken over.
Tourism earns more money for Okinawa than its American airbases. But increasing the number of tourists brings its own problems.
Next to the beach stands the concrete carcass of a 360 room hotel, abandoned halfway through construction after the Lehman shock. It was a miserable sight and a criminal waste of precious land on such a tiny island.
You can see a photo of the hotel here.
I caught a cold after my swim. I don`t regret it though. A few days sniffing was worth those few minutes of bog standard breaststroke, Grandad Orsman sidestroke, and infant doggy paddle in the shallows of the East China Sea, a 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, in an extraordinary extremity of Japan that I had never been to and may never go to again.