The island nation of Japan is known for its beautiful cities with metropolitan landscapes and natural setting. One of Japan’s most unique locations is Okinawa Island and my stay there was amazing (read more about the island here)! If you’ve never been there, and you’re looking to experience Japan like you never thought possible, here are four reasons why Okinawa should be your next stop in Japan!
1) There is a mythical vibe to Okinawa
As the southernmost prefecture of Japan, activities in Okinawa revolves around attractions and the ocean. I was greeted with a laidback lifestyle throughout my holiday. Okinawa has one of the highest number of longest-live people in the world, and with that in mind, you know you’re going to discover the secret to longevity!
Tip: Staying at these hotels was a great experience for me: the Rihga Royal Gran Okinawa and Mercure Okinawa were great value hotels. Hilton Chatan was a fantastic experience – this hotel is only a couple of months old and everything was perfectly pristine!
2) Amazing attractions
Okinawa comprises of about 160 islands stretching 1,000 kilometers to Taiwan. But island hopping isn’t the only thing to do here – in fact there are amazing shops, villages and attractions to visit! While the island is not as scenic, it offers more water-based activities such as water sports, diving and snorkeling that you can do.
A great time to head to Okinawa is between March to October, when you can enjoy water-based activities such as diving, swimming, snorkeling and games. Outdoor pool is closed during the same period due to the winter season but indoor pools are the perfect alternative.
I had a wonderful time at the huge Ocean Expo Park. The park stretches 3 kilometers along the beach! The Chaurami Aquarium is the place to be when you’re in the park. The vast tank with thousands of fishes will struck mesmerize you; it is indeed an amazing underwater world. This is a great attraction to visit especially between November – March when water sports activities not as preferred (the water is freezing cold then!).
Here in the huge Kuroshio Tank, from which you can easily view the gigantic whale sharks and mantas, which hold the world records for longest time kept in captivity! The world’s first successful births of manta pups in captivity also happened here.
The Mihama American Village is a large entertainment complex located in central Okinawa Honto. The most recognizable feature of the American Village is the large Ferris Wheel and everything was essentially “American” here.
3) Good food, good life
People here are warm and cheerful, and life seems simpler and laidback compared to mainland Japan. One of the most popular foods here is pork, believed to be introduced to the island from nearby China. All parts of the pig are consumed – from the head and tail to the organs. The way food is prepared here is also quite similar to the Chinese way of cooking. It is a fantastic gastronomical experience that also might shed some light on whether the food here is the secret to a long, healthy life. And of course, I loved the Japanese food I had throughout the trip – below are some images to whet your appetite!
Tip: I recommend the Zusuran Restaurant for its ramen and Mifuya Restaurant for its pork soba. Delicious! The ambience is amazing, the service was excellent and un-intrusive. The staff were attentive and very polite (typical of the Japanese culture!). If you haven’t tried pork soba here, you haven’t been to Okinawa!
4) Culture, history and tradition
While you’re in Okinawa, visiting the local spots such as its supermarkets, souvenir shops and enjoying local snacks are mini adventures in themselves!
The supermarkets are amazing:
You can also continue to shop around at Depot Island:
And after a little shopping, you’ll definitely want some snacks (like I did!). We had delicious snacks from the stalls. You may wish to note that Shopping in Okinawa isn’t cheap compared to Tokyo, but some local goods unique to Okinawa are worth buying.
A place that I enjoyed in Okinawa was the Makishi Market, also known as “the kitchen of Okinawa”. This famous Naha market started as a black market after World War II. Today, there are more than 400 shops on the main floor. You can buy many of Okinawa’s traditional foods like dried sea snake (イラブー irabū), pork (a main part of Okinawa’s diet), special vegetables not found on mainland Japan, colorful tropical fish, edible seaweed and many other tasty and unique treats!
A floor above the market houses many restaurants some of them will cook the items you’ve bought from the market below for a small fee. This is unique to this market in Naha. The same restaurants also serve delicious traditional Okinawan home cooking – you’ll feel at home as you tuck into a delicious meal.
One of the local attractions to the souvenir shop is to see first-hand the black sugar! I was impressed by this – we’ve always seen sugar as brown or white, but never black!
You can also visit the Ryukyu glass village. Creating Ryukyu glass is a traditional craft that dates back to post-WWII days. Okinawans started making glasses and cases using whatever old bottles they could find. There is a glass museum, a glass shop and glass-making factory that you can visit and appreciate this traditional Okinawan craft.
Okinawa is a beautiful world of its own – if you’re looking for an amazing natural display set in a traditional, culturally-rich society, this is a great vacation spot for you and your loved ones. Find out more about Okinawa on CNN’s featured articles.
Check out more of Okinawa tour packages and remember – the best trips are always planned in advance!
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