The first test of my newly acquired knowledge in the-art-of-not-drowning was to come only a week after having received lessons in Izu. Armed with only a photocopied "temporary license", the course was set for Okinawa - a large group of tropical islands found several hundreds of kilometers south of mainland Japan. Specifically we were headed for "Miyakojima", which is basically a tiny island inhabited exclusively by people passionate about diving and the sea in general. Even the taxi driver who drove us from the airport said he had moved there just to be able to go scuba diving every day!
Having started my diving career in the muddy waters off the coast of Izu, the Okinawan diving experience turned out to be a completely different one. The warm, tropical water was filled with fish and coral gardens, and had an incredibly transparency that almost gave me vertigo upon descending into the ocean for the first time, as you could clearly see all the way to the bottom, 20 meters below.
Some of the dives took us through labyrinthine cave systems which boasted spectacular "laser light" shows, as sunlight penetrated through the cracks in the ceiling and refracted on surrounding rock walls.
One of the tunnels surprisingly led us to an inland lake that I imagine must be more or less concealed if you approach it from land. Not that anyone would be around to actually try that, since apparently the island was being used by Japan Airlines pilots to practice take off and landing, a fact that was made evident when a large passenger jet passed right over our heads as we were getting ready to return to the boat.
In addition to all the underwater action, some of the most memorable moments from Okinawa actually took place on the surface, eating freshly prepared noodles for lunch on the open sea or having a relaxing float in the warm water while waiting for the other divers to return.
All in all I must say it was a great experience and seeing the pictures from the trip again makes me sure that this won't be my last diving trip, nor my last time to visit Okinawa!