Okinawa is a surreal chain of semitropical, coral-fringed islands evocative of Hawaii or Southeast Asia. It's Japan's southernmost prefecture. For a week, we escaped the real world to find ourselves in another world, out of time...
We live in a busy, fast-paced world where we are constantly operating at 110% for weeks on end. Don't you want to push the pause button sometimes, and just take the time to live? Imagine a place where people take the time to breath. To grow their own vegetables. Cook each meal homemade. Feel the wind on their face. Talk with strangers -and share a bottle of saké. Watch the waves dancing on the beach... This place is called Okinawa.
Okinawa means 'rope in the open sea', a fairly description of this long stretch of islands between Japan and Taiwan. It consists on 49 inhabited islands and 111 uninhabited. A pure haven of serenity.
Take the best of it: 10 Wonderful things to do in okinawa
To enjoy Okinawa at its best, you need to let it go. Let things happen. Get lost. Meet people. Let the plans change for once. And simply soak up the atmosphere. Welcome in a different world -Japan like you've never pictured it before.
#1. Hit the road
The best way to explore the islands is to drive around. Then you can stop off wherever you like, uncover remote beaches, little cafés along the road, take nice shots, watch paragliders floating in the sky... and simply wander around, in total freedom. There are buses running in the main island, but routes are very limited.
#2. |Step into the okinawan culture
Okinawa is known as the country with the longest life expectancy in the world. The secret to this longevity lies hidden in the relaxed environment and the rich nature and unique lifestyle. People choose to be happy in Okinawa. They do art & crafts with shells, play traditional guitar, wear Kariyushi shirt religiously (floral shirt)... Adopt their habits!
#3. Take Karate lessons
Okinawa is the birth place of Karate. Mr. Myagi from the Karate Kid was based on a real life Karate Master from Okinawa. Practicing Karate in Okinawa is like taking surfing lessons in Hawaii—it's a must do. They are tons of martial arts schools in Okinawa islands, including the most traditional ones.
#4. Go into the blue in churaumi aquarium
The Churaumi Aquarium is renowned as one of the largest aquarium in the world. Situated along the sea, it offers great view, lovely cafés on the sand and great walks around.
#5. Make local friends... And Sing Karaoke
The atmosphere is so laid-back and friendly in Okinawa, it's really easy to meet the locals. We traveled only for a week around Okinawa islands, and made dozens of friends! Including a big group of Okinawan people who invited us for looots of saké and... karaoke party of course! You should see me singing Francis Cabrel a capella in the middle of the restaurant -no actually... you shouldn't.
#6. Savor the local cuisine
Okinawa is pretty serious about food. It's just another level. Well, there's a reason why it's called the land of longevity! It's fresh and organic and thus, absolutely delicious. I had one of the best meal of my life there -who knew beetroot cheesecake would be so good? If you visit Geruma Island, don't miss the restaurant in the orange container (read more about it in this post!). I could go back in Okinawa just to have lunch there one more time!
#7. Kitesurf in the most stunning spots
Did you know Okinawa is well-known as an awesome kitesurf spot? There are many beaches that offer the perfect conditions around the islands. That's another way to meet the locals and get some exclusive informations (hello secret spots!). And, as you can see on the pic, you'll just feel privileged having the beach for yourself...
#8. Visit the shuri castle
Visiting the Shurijo Castle Park is a great way to get to know the people of Okinawa, their arts and culture. The castle might not be the most impressive in Japan, but still lovely to visit, especially if you like traditional Japanese gardens...
#9. Explore the Kerama Islands and time travel...
The Kerama Islands consist of 22 small islands, southwest of Okinawa's main island. It's absolutely stunning, with few people, and an incredible wildlife -at dusk, you can see deers on the beach! Rent bikes and enjoy the most serene islands. Be sure to book a room before taking the ferry -there aren't many accommodations options.
#10. Go snorkeling among the islands
Okinawa is a premier scuba and snorkeling destination, with one of the best visibility on the planet, and some amazing coral reefs. Didn't do that during our trip, and this is our biggest regret (hence our best excuse to go back in Okinawa!).
Okinawa is only a 2.5 hours flight from Hong Kong: a perfect getaway for a long week-end! It's immense, and I've only seen a small part of it. The Keramas was definitely the highlight of my trip , and I definitely want to go back there once I'll have my PADI licence. Next destination in Okinawa: the Yaeyama Islands, known as the Pearls of the Pacific, according to some travelers...