4 Reasons You Need To Visit Okinawa This Holiday
Okinawa - our holiday destination
With Dragonboat festival coming up in a few weeks it’s absolutely imperative you take time to get out of Shanghai and travel somewhere. The next official Chinese public holiday isn’t until October 1st, so if you don’t get many vacation days we suggest you hop on a plane and head out to the subtropical paradise that is Okinawa. Here’s why.
While we love Shanghai, we’ll be the first to admit that with a population of 25 million people the city can be suffocating at times. Okinawa is the complete opposite. While it has several small cities, none of them seem to be any larger than Pudong and once you get out to the smaller islands it feels like you’re the only person for miles around.
The view from one of Zamami island's hills
If you’re looking for a spot of peace and quiet we recommend you fly into Okinawa’s Naha airport and then take a ferry out to Zamami island. There are a number of small villages and beaches here, but unless you go during peak season the island feels pretty deserted. At 24km across and with plenty of hills it’s also a great place to go for leisurely hikes before cooling off with a swim in the ocean. Oh, and if you’re a history buff, you should know that Zamami is the first Japanese island Americans landed on during World War 2.
Sunset from Zamami port
If you’re not someone who enjoys spending their vacation lounging around all day then Okinawa also has you covered. As a cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean, Okinawa is home to huge range of water-based activities. All across the main island there are places that’ll take you fishing, diving, snorkelling and whale watching (winter only).
Personally we recommend heading over to Aka island for snorkelling or scuba diving. Aka has wild deer roaming all over the place and Seasir diving school also has their own accommodation that you can spend the night at after a day in the ocean.
The dojo at the Okinawa International Karate Study Centre
If getting out on the open ocean leaves you feeling a little queasy, then we recommend hopping in a car and heading up to Yomitan where you’ll find the Okinawa International Karate Study Centre. Here you can book in to do short-term classes, or, if you really love karate, spend several weeks or months studying one-on-one with the dojo’s sensei, a passionate friendly guy called Kevin.
Same, Same but Different to Japan
While Okinawa is officially part of Japan, its history as the Ryuku Kingdom, its location along many of the old South East Asian trade routes and the fact that it was occupied by American forces for 27 years after the end of World War 2, means that Okinawa is actually as different from Japan as Hong Kong is from China.
Sure you’ll see a lot of the same companies, adverts, foods and goods that you’ll find in mainland Japan, but you’ll also experience a far more relaxed culture, a preference for pork over seafood, an odd fixation with spam and overall just a completely different feeling from that which you get in Japan. If you’re a Japanophile you’ll love it, if you don’t care for Japan, you’ll also love it.
SHEX Editor Dan at an Okinawan Pig Museum
Okinawan food is also vastly different from what you’ll find in mainland Japan. Don’t panic, if you’re a sushi lover Okinawa still has great seafood markets for you to check out, most notably, Nara’s Tomari Fish Market, but there’s also a range of home-grown and US-influenced dishes for you to try.
Fish so fresh the fins were still flapping
The people of Okinawa have one of the longest life expectancies in the world, a factor that many scientists attribute to the Okinawan traditional diet. When you visit you’ll notice a prevalence of pork dishes as well as many menu items containing purple sweet potato and bitter melon. If you’re looking to go local, try out the Goya Champuru, a stir-fry dish containing bitter melon, tofu, eggs and pork. Alternatively, we recommend trying Rafute, a pork dish made from Okinawan Aguu pork that tastes like a nicer, less sickly version of China’s hongshaorou.
Traditional Okinawan cuisine, including tempura, sweet potato, tofu, rafute and fish.
If your palette is looking for something a little more western then check out Okinawa’s famous taco rice. It’s essentially all the filling you’d have in a taco, but served on a bed of rice instead. It’s actually really enjoyable. Be sure to wash it all down with an Okinawan-brewed Orion Beer before enjoying a Blue Seal ice cream.