As the new year sets in, whale-watching season has taken hold in Zamami. In addition to the actual whale-observation activities, the Whale Watching Association undertakes many other responsibilities necessary to provide visitors with a pleasant experience.
Immediately following the beginning of the season in late December, whale-watching and tourist-information staff teamed up to create this year’s rendition of the annual “flower whale.” Those who have visited at other times during the year may have noticed a large, black, whale-shaped object next to the Zamami Port Terminal. That object is actually a large structure built to hold hundreds of begonias.
More recently, the Whale Watching Association recruited small boats and staff to “reapply the makeup” of the whale statue in the port. An icon of Zamami year-round, this hearty whale battles the elements, from mega-typhoons to the scorching summer sun. Understandably, her makeup calls for a slight touch-up every twelve months or so. While her designated spa day seemed like it might require a rain check, the clouds cleared enough to allow staff to throw on a fresh coat of paint. Along with her colorful sibling, the whale statue is ready to greet Zamami visitors on their way too and from paradise.
For the Whale Watching Association, safety comes above all else–after all, “safety first!” In addition to employing veteran captains and adhering to strict safety guidelines for battling the rough winter seas, Zamami whale watching covers all bases by holding a full-fledged day of traditional Okinawan prayer. Throughout the day, a priestess offered prayers for safety at various sacred sites (known as utaki in Okinawa) throughout the island, culminating in a final spiritual round with all of the boat captains in front of the whale monument. Whale-watching participants can rest assured; it’s going to be a great trip!
In other news, Aka Island held its annual “trim marathon.” While actually only a few kilometers in length, local runners tell officials their expected finishing time, and the winner is the one who can run as close to their predicted time as possible. This year saw over one hundred participants. Athletes enjoyed working up a sweat over this beautiful course including venues such as the Aka Bridge, Geruma Island, and the Aka School.
Finally, throughout Japan, young adults who had reached the age of twenty in the previous year celebrated their newly gained status of adulthood as a part of the national Coming of Age holiday. Twenty-year-olds return to their hometowns for their locally sponsored ceremony and extravaganza. The Coming of Age day and ceremony is one of the main opportunities in a young Japanese person’s life to enjoy wearing a full-fledged kimono. Wherever you find yourself in the country on the second Monday of the year, you will likely have the chance to view traditional Japanese fashion alive and well in the present.
Zamami too celebrates the coming of age of its young adults. Over the course of the past year, six young men and one young woman from the village took on the full responsibilities of adult life. Following the ceremony, a large party was held for all in attendance, kicked off by a round of cheers from the deputy mayor.
The Zamami Times too wishes them congratulations and good luck!