Since being stationed on Okinawa I have tried my best to go on weekly adventures across the island. I would like to share with you some places I have gone to in the past month or so. A few things I would like to say are I book some of my trips via ITT on Foster or Kadena. This company organizes trips locally and internationally. Say for example you would like to visit Australia, which is quite common; you would talk to an ITT representative so they can tell you their options. However, if you would like to plan these trips on your own go right ahead. I personally believe ITT is useful and convenient. You sign up for a trip and from there you wait until that day comes and board a bus to the destination of your choosing.
With that being said, allow me to give my personal experience on some of the hotspots on Okinawa. If you are familiar with the festivals on island you know that the Cherry Blossom festival in Nago began this weekend. I will be attending the festivities with ITT next weekend. Watch out for my review on that event.
If you are a history buff (like myself) then you would be interested in visiting historical sites such as the Zakimi ruins and Shurijo Castle (check out my time at Shuri Castle here).
Built in the early 1400 by architect and feudal warlord Gosmaru of Chuzan, this site was used by the Japanese army as a missile base during WWII. It has been recognized as a National Treasure since 1972. The castle’s double wall and stone arch gate are the oldest on Okinawa and they’re still standing strong to this date.
I went to Zakimi with the Airman and Family Readiness Center on Kadena. It was apart of their newcomers tour, but most importantly it was free. This is just one of the perks of being new to Okinawa. Parts of the Zakimi wall were off-limits. It is quite high up and you can look down and see the rest of Okinawa.
Location: Yomitan Village
Family friendly: Yes!
The actual construction date of the castle is unknown, but believed to be built between the 13th and 14th centuries for the use of king Satto of Urasoe Castle. After the unification of the Ryukyu, Shurijo Castle became the kingdom’s political and ceremonial center, with government and artesian residing in the surrounding areas. It remained the center of government until 1870 when the Meiji emperor annexed the Ryukyu Kingdom, naming it Okinawa Prefecture. During the Battle of Okinawa the castle was destroyed, but it was rebuilt in 1992 and became a national park.
Visitors are allowed to see this castle for free, except for the main compounds and where the Ryukyu kings laid to rest. I visited the Shurijo Castle with the ITT group. The castle is quite large. Before you reach the beginning of the castle you will see a large clock, with no numbers. This is because the sun was used to tell the time during this period.
Location: Naha City
Family Friendly: Yes
If you have an appreciation for the fine arts and cultures of Japan think about visiting the Ryukyu Glassware and viewing how the unique and colorful glass is made or take a drive back in time to Ryukyu mura. The Ryukyu Mura is a place to see how their pottery is crafted.
The Ryukyu Glassware was created with the use of old soda cans from World War II. It is a popular go-to glass gift for many tourists. My family and I had the chance to see how this unique glass was created. I can not exactly tell you the process. I believe they melted glass in a oven that was extremely hot and created the design themselves. It is quite a view and the product comes out beautiful. If you are interested in pottery you should check this place out. Their products are budget-friendly and homemade.
Location: Itoman City (Southern Okinawa)
Family Friendly: Yes, children enjoy watching the material being made
The Ryukyu Mura
The traditional Okinawan design and lifestyle are replicated in this miniature theme park. To take a blast n the past and see how the Okinawans used to live, visiting this place is a must. Towards the back of the theme park you can see how their pottery were originally made and you can purchase goodies form a tiny shop.
Location: Central Okinawa
Family Friendly: Yes
Resort and Paradise Up North
If you want to take a break from traditional and historical visit the Northern area of Okinawa. It has resorts and man-made beaches. Yes, I said it man-made beaches! *gasp* but they are still beautiful. The water is crystal clear and if you take the Busena Underwater Observatory tour you are sure to see everything down under. Including unknown species….or at least unknown to me.
Busena Underwater Observatory
The underwater observatory is located in Bankoku Shinryokan in Nago City. The observatory I situated 5 to 7 meters below the surface of the water. It is where I found Nemo and his father! And saw a couple of star fish.
Location: Nago City
Family Friendly: Yes
Join me next time as I review the Cherry Blossom Festival.
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