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.

 

New Comers: Things to do on Okinawa

To the new comers on Okinawa welcome to this little beautiful island off the coast of mainland Japan. Here is a little fact I learned on the New Comers Excursion hosted by the Airman and Readiness center, Okinawa was originally its own country before becoming apart of mainland Japan. 

There are tons of stuff to do on this tiny island including snorkeling with whale sharks, exploring the castle ruins Zakami, or just relaxing on one of the many beaches on the island. 

Here are some places you can go to have an on-island excursion or to easily adapt to the Okinawan culture:

  1. the Airman and Readiness Center on Kadena Air Base hosts events including the New Comers Island Excursion (which I took the other day), they have it every third Friday of the month, it is a yearly thing. They also have cultural events including learning how to play the sanshin, learning the Japanese language and dressing up in the traditional garbs
  2. The Kadena ITT located in the Schilling building also hosts different island excursions both on and off the islands, for example you can have an off-island excursion by going to mainland Japan or Australia. An example of their on-island excursions include going to Thai in the Sky a famous Asian cuisine restaurant on island known for its delicious food. You can also visit Shuri Castle or the ocean observatory, if you have small children you can visit the Butterfly Park or Nakagusuku Park. For more information on the on-island or off-island excursions through Kadena ITT visit their website here.
  3. The Outdoor Recreation center located on Kadena, it also hosts different on-island excursions including sea kayaking at the Kadena Marina, snorkeling with whale sharks, scuba diving, cave exploration and more.

Last but not least the Kadena Marina offers you the chance to receive your boating or jet skiing licenses for 30$ (each). You can also attain your scuba diving licences for around 240$ at the Kadena Marina and it can be used all over the world.

Any questions? You can ask me I have been on the island for about 2 months now and I consider myself somewhat of a pro with finding good deals on and off base with excursions.