10 Reason to visit Okinawa

As a military brat I have moved the majority of my life. By the age of fourteen, I had attended about eight different schools (or the ones I am able to remember.) And for about two years of my life I traveled between the U.S., Japan and Okinawa.It was my first time stepping foot out of the U.S., and my first time traveling alone. Okinawa is an island off the coast of Japan. Here’s a bit of history about the island.

Before becoming part of Japan it was an independent kingdom known as the Kingdom og the Ryukyus. It was a small, but powerful kingdom, even defending itself against the Japanese military in the 1400s.   It’s capital city is Naha and is a very busy part of the island. The locals speak Okinawan or Ryukuan language, but during WWII they were forced to speak Japanese.

And because I loved the island and my weekly adventures. I would like to share with you 10 reasons you should visit the small, but powerful island in the Pacific.

1. Beaches

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Okinawa has some of the clearest waters in the Pacific. Many of the beaches on the island are man made and located near resorts.

2. American Village

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Despite its name you will find many Japanese gadgets, clothes and food here. It’s kind of like an outdoor mall. It’s where many military and locals hang out to exchange cultures, languages and traditions. If you’re looking for a place to grab dinner or go on a date this would be the place to go.

3. The Okinawa Purple Sweet Potato

It’s a potato. It’s purple. It’s grown on Okinawa. They are mildly obsessed with this vegetable. They sell it in Kokusai street in the form of bread. It’s as if a sweet potato went on a diet and changed it’s hair color. But it has a lot of nutrition and vegetarians around the world swear by it.

4. Busena Underwater Observatory

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The underwater observatory is located in Bankoku Shinryokan in Nago City. The observatory is 5 to 7 meters below the surface of the water.

5. Scuba Diving

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Okinawa is known for its open ocean and deep sea scuba diving. There are many places to get licensed to scuba dive. But, be careful you can find yourself swimming with poisonous sea urchins.

6. Coco Curry

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One of my favorite places to eat at on Okinawa It is not native to the island but it is a must try. In the U.S. Coco Curry is only located in the west (boo!) The first time I touched down in Tokyo I was told about the flavorful awesomness and how delicious and budget worthy this place was.

7. Kokusai Street

IMG_20150208_132524182[1]Kokusai has been compared to parts of California.  Every Sunday they shut Kokusai St. down for tourists and those who would like to get their shop on in an Hollywood like environment. The Japanese word Kokusaidori translates to International Road.

8. The Okinawans

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The native Okinawan boys.

They are some of the most friendliest people in the world. While roaming the beaches with my friend, we were invited to join in on a traditional wedding. They invited us simply because we walked by, waved and smiled.

9. The food

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Japanese dumplings and Fried Rice

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Bakeries on Okinawa.

Specifically, the bakeries. Bakeries on Okinawa are located everywhere but to be more specific you can find them in the local malls Aeon or the local farmers market.  They are yen-friendly as well. You can purchase about 10 items under 3 U.S. dollars or 300-yen.

10. It’s history

As a history buff I made it one of my goals to visit historical monuments, museums, shrines and temples at least once a week. Places I recommend include:

Shurijo Castle:

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The kingdom’s political and ceremonial center, with government and artesiana residing in the surrounding areas.

Zakimi Site:

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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.

Rukyu Glassware:

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The 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.

 

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Kokusai Street

Kokusai haIMG_20150208_132940071[1]s been compared to parts of California. After
being here for a little over 8 months I decided to see what all the talk was about. Every Sunday they shut Kokusai St. down for tourists and those who would like to get their shop on in an Hollywood like environment. After doing a bit of research on the Japanese word Kokusaidori, it translates to International Road. That is even more the reason to check this street out. I recommend going on a Sunday. Sundays are known as “Fun Days”, normally they have different events and sales going on. I decided to try the infamous Okinawa Purple potato. Which is similar to sweet potato. Below are some photos I took throughout the day. 
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Restaurant Review: Coco Curry

coco outideThe other day I finally caved in and tried the infamous curry powerhouse in Okinawa, Coco Ichibanya known better as Coco Curry. The first time I touched down in Tokyo I was told about the flavorful awesomness and how delicious and budget worthy it was. My military friends brag constantly, some even go as far as to eat at this place once or twice a week. In the beginning I was skeptical of these reviews. My first thoughts were, “Maybe they have never had Indian curry?” You see a couple of weeks prior to departing for Okinawa I had my first taste of Indian curry and shortly after I feel in love. My other thought was they are most likely not use to fine cuisine. I went to the Coco’s closest to the Marine Corps base Foster. Prior to departing my own home I researched more reviews on the best Coco location. It is quite funny actually. While we have a Mickey D on every corner, Okinawa has a Coco Curry on each corner of the tiny island.

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When I first entered the restaurant the smell of spicy curry hit my nostrils and at that moment I knew I was going to enjoy the food. The night before I messaged some of my friends who are known regulars and they gave me advice on what to order and the spice level I should consider. 

 

Chicken cutlet on top of a bed of white, sticky rice with a side of level one spicy curry.

Chicken cutlet on top of a bed of white, sticky rice with a side of level one spicy curry.

 I ordered the chicken cutlet with a spice level of one. And boy when I tell you it was spicy, I mean it was spicy. There is a pitcher of water located on the table which I used quite often. After each bite, I needed to drink a whole cup of water. This is spice level one! How could it be so spicy? And delicious?

 

g&c naanOnline it stated that the meal would come with two servings of rice. It was more than enough. The rice was topped off with the chicken cutlet that was fried Japanese style. I also ordered a side of garlic and cheese naan. I did not have the chance to try their dessert. Maybe next week? Because yes, I am not a regular.

 

Menu you can expect at the restaurant (click here for online)

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 This restaurant takes yen and American dollars. 

Review: Hotspots on Island

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).

Zakimi Site

Built in the early 1400 by architect and feudal warlord Gosmaru of Chuzan,IMG_20140718_103716641 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.

IMG_20140718_103420418 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!

 Shurijo Castle

IMG_20140713_095228933The 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.

 Rukyu Glassware

IMG_20140718_131013979The 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

IMG_20140720_101946020 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

 IMG_20140720_103951986The 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.

Follow my foodgram @onlyherefornakedfood for delicious Okinawan food.

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Life on island.

Quick update on my adventures on island via photos. The first two photos you see are taken near the seawall. My favorite place to relax and enjoy the sea breeze. While getting my financial guarantee notarized I snapped a photo of an old, historical Quonset Hut. This Hut was used for nearly everything, including work offices, chapels and medical facilities. It is also the last of its kind on the Kadena Air Base. Also Mcdonald’s finally got their shipment of fries because they gave us a medium set. (haha)

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Mcdonalds on Island

Just a quick peep into the fast food life on island. I normally post this kind of deliciousness on my Instagram @onlyherefornakedfood but I had to share this with my followers. Beneath is a fried, fatty filled, delicious shrimp sandwich smothered in some kind of shrimp sauce and lettuce. Then topped with a poppy seed bun. Yes I said it. A shrimp sandwich! This Mcdonalds also serves foods from several countries including Germany, Brazil and other Asian countries. But to be honest the texture and the way the shrimp are condensed in the fried goodness is similar to the fish sandwich in America. Underneath this photo I captured a shot of, what I thought was going to be some type of mocha frappe. Turns out they want the customer to make it themselves. I was surprised when she gave me a cup filled with ice cream topped with broken Oreo pieces and a shot of espresso. Let’s get to the devastating part of my trip to the Golden Arches. Due to delayed shipments form America, there are limits on fries! Yes *screams*. The golden angels have a limit, and who knows when the next shipment will come in. All in all the service and food were up to par.mcd

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Ice-y Adventures

IMG_20141222_120023434I never got the chance  to post these photos, but these are from when I took my first steps on a ice rink. This ice rink is located in Naha about 30 minutes away from the air base Kadena. I also took some shots of the concession stand food and the scenery in the background.IMG_20141222_120802667 

A week before ice skating for the first time, I learned how to roller blade with my close friend for her birthday. I can say with confidence that ice skating is definitely easier than roller blading. Surprised? Me too. When my ice skates hit it the ice I expected to slip and fall.

IMG_20141222_145046323I took the tips my friends had given me at the skating rink and applied them with success. It was not only my first time engaging in this ice-y adventure, it was also my little sisters first time skating, on any rink. 

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For lunch we stopped by the concession stand. It was not like any concession stand. It had meals the employees had to prepare. And might I add lunch was delicious. I had grilled chicken with sticky rice that was topped with mayonnaise and a side of *slaps forehead* french fries. 

Stay tuned for more adventures. Happy traveling.

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