Okinawa is just one of many gorgeous islands that make up the Ryukyu islands situated between Japan and Taiwan. It’s home to beautiful coral reefs, and thus some incredible diving, long white sandy beaches and that kind of blue water that makes you think you’re in a photoshopped postcard – in other words, Okinawa is a tropical paradise. As a place, it’s pretty unique and has a culture that is a perfect combination of sixties America and traditional Japan. Driving around here you’ll have no trouble spotting the military camps and you’ll most likely meet as many Americans as you will locals – one street might have a sixties diner next to a traditional take your shoes off and sit on the floor Japanese fish restaurant and somehow the combination works wonderfully. You’ll also find that Japanese and American cuisines are blurring together on to the same plate nowadays – yes, taco rice is a thing and it should be consumed on a regular basis.
Okinawa is a popular holiday spot for people from Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China as well as Americans and can get pretty packed at times, so I’ve heard. That being said, when I took a little trip there, I was lying on the beach with my partner and crime and nobody else at times – just myself, my friend and the big blue sea.
You’ll need to fly in to Okinawa most likely, but it has an international airport with regular flights a few times a day from neighbouring Asian countries.
If you stay in Naha, where the airport is, which you most definitely shouldn’t, then there are plenty of buses and trains to navigate the city. But if you’re taking the initiative to go and find those oh so beautiful beaches then I’d highly recommend flying in with your international drivers license at the ready, because having a car is the best way to get around unfortunately. There are buses running up and down the coast but you’ll quickly discover that they aren’t the quickest form of transport to be using and you’ll get angsty when the sun is shining and you’re still sat gazing longingly out of the window.
What to do
Sit on the beach
I am not usually an advocate for sitting on a beach and doing nothing for a few hours because I tend to get a little fidgety after approximately ten minutes, but for whatever reason that didn’t happen here. Head to Onna, the beaches around there are beautiful and easily merit you sitting on them, but actually the more north you go you’ll realise that all the beaches are really quite stunning. Around Onna, you’ll find Cape Manzamo, an impressive rock formation and a brilliant place to watch the sunset.
Explore tropical islands
Like I have previously mentioned, Okinawa is just one of the many beautiful islands in this part of the world, and fortunately more beautiful Japanese islands situate themselves very close by. Jump on a boat and go and explore some of the ones with fewer people.
If you like to be below the surface then Okinawa will not disappoint you in the slightest. Its coral reefs are stunning and there is diving available for all levels. There are lots of places that you can dive from as well, so there should be no trouble with you getting into the water even at short notice.
Okinawa boasts a culture that is quite different from anything I have ever experienced – I haven’t yet been to Hawaii but I imagine that it’s the Asian version of it. As a result of the American influence you can find food and architecture that will be a perfect combination of the two of them. If you head to Naha then go straight to Shurijo Castle, which is quite amazing and has a good view over the city. Likewise, you’ll find a lot of unique architecture dotted throughout Okinawa. Nakijin Castle Remains in Nakijin village, Zakimi Castle Remains in Yomitan village and the Shikinaen Royal Garden should be visited if you have the time.
Seeing as though Okinawa has a big American military history and present, there are also an abundance of military monuments that you should see if that kind of thing floats your boat – you should however visit the Peace Memorial Park in the south of the island where the final battle in Okinawa took place in the Second World War.
Make sure you munch on:
Sea grapes – peculiar to Okinawa, this seaweed is unlike anything else you’ve ever put in your mouth. Dunk it in soy sauce, put it in your mouth and experience the tiny little bubbles popping.
Shabu shabu – is a traditional Okinawa hot pot. If the weather is hot, you might not put this at the top of your list, but I assure you that you should eat it anyway.
Agu pork – Okinawa is famous for its agu pork and you’ll find it on a lot of menus cooked in various ways.
Okinawa donuts – these donuts are unlike any other donut you’ll have had I imagine and they are pretty much to die for. Add a bit of ice cream and you’re laughing.
Taco rice – This is an example of America and Japan coming together on one plate. It’s essentially a plate of rice, with meat and taco seasoning and a whole lot of cheese. It’s quite simple but is a real comfort food and will do terrible things for your beach bod diet so I recommend that you try it and stop thinking about your body image so seriously as to deny yourself it.
Pancakes – Once again, I know this is much more American than it is Japanese, but Okinawa has a lot of pancake houses residing all over the place and they’re really quite delicious pancakes. Start your day off the best way.
Benimo something – Now, benimo translates to sweet potato and you might stop and think why am I eating sweet potato ice cream. But actually, as with everything that this part of the world creates, it’s very delicious and I highly recommend that you try it.