I haven’t been to Japan and honestly I’m quite ignorant about it except on Sushi, PlayStation and J-Pop. I’ll be honest, back when I was still a teenager, Okinawa to me was just a small fishing island in Japan.
So what do I know about Okinawa and how did I get to know about it? Well, come to think of it now, it was rather silly. You see, I love the movie The Karate Kid, and in The Karate Kid: Part II, Okinawa was featured. In the movie, main actor Daniel LaRusso and his mentor, Mr. Miyagi returned home to Okinawa to visit Mr. Miyagi’s dying father and confront an old rival. Ever since that movie, Okinawa has been on my mind and although my knowledge of that place is still minimal, I did learn a little bit more about that place over the years.
It is only until recently, when I came across Japan Tourism Board’s Facebook page that I get to learn more about Okinawa. After going through the page, for the first time in my adult life, and let me make it clear once and for all, that Okinawa IS NOT just a fishing island as what I’ve learned from the movie. Okinawa Prefecture is actually the southernmost prefecture of Japan and it comprises hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over 1,000 kilometres long. Okinawa encompasses the southern two thirds of that chain. Okinawa’s capital, Naha, is located in the southern part of Okinawa Island. Now let me share a little bit of what I know of Okinawa and its attractions.
Perhaps the most mesmerizing side of Okinawa is the nature and the beauty of its surrounding. One of such beautiful place is Kabira Bay on Ishigaki Island. The emerald-blue water framed by long stretches of white sandy beach makes Kabira Bay a dream destination for many tourists and one of the most beautiful views in Japan.
Besides the colourful coral reefs, Okinawa’s clear blue sea, deep pink cherry blossom and beautiful blue skies makes it a perfect destination to take a long drive along the beach.
I was once told that the best experience to a great vacation is not the destination; it’s the journey to the destination. And the journey wouldn’t be complete without the people of Okinawa. Okinawa is only as beautiful as its people and its rich and colourful cultures.
Okinawans are generally cheerful, friendly people and ever with a smile on their face. This is perhaps the reason why they are the most long-lived people in the world, with a higher percentage of 100-year-olds than anyplace else. I can only guess that Okinawans live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Many interesting events take place in Okinawa throughout the year and that could be their secret to longevity. Haaree Festival or the Dragon Boat Race festival is held from May 3 to May 5 every year at Tomari port in Naha city. And if the dragon boat race is not tough enough for you, you can always join the Torii Triathlon. This premiere triathlon is a sporting event held TWICE every year in Okinawa during spring and fall. Here, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to compete against Okinawa’s finest athletes.
People of Okinawa love dancing too. The Eisa dance is one of Okinawa’s traditional performance arts, which is equivalent of Bon odori on mainland Japan. The Eisa dance is one of those performances that will keep you dancing to the delightful and uplifting rhythm of the dynamic beating drums.
Okinawa has a colourful culture and even more colourful Bingata. Bingata is an Okinawan traditional resist dyed cloth, made using stencils and other methods. It is generally brightly coloured and features various patterns depicting natural subjects such as fish, water, and flowers. Bingata is worn during traditional Ryūkyū arts performances and historical reenactments.
The Sansen music is rather unique culture of Okinawa as the Sansen, a three-string banjo-like Okinawan music instrument with a snakeskin-covered body.
Nestled on the hill in the northern part of Naha city is the world heritage “Shuri Castle”. It was the palace of the Ryūkyū Kingdom but it was destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Shuri Castle was reconstructed back in 1992 and remained as one of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Okinawa.
Another unique architectural culture in Okinawa is the Shisa. Shisa is a traditional Ryukyuan decoration, often in pairs, resembling a cross between a lion and a dog, from Okinawan mythology. Shisa are wards, believed to protect homes from evils.
Okinawan unique food and intriguing flavours are easy to love. Try the Sea Grapes and fresh Scampi from the ocean around Okinawa. If you’re not feeling so adventurous, you can always go for the traditional Okinawa noodle called “Okinawa Soba”. Or perhaps you can always go for a good piece of steak, which is also a favorite gourmet among the Okinawans.
You’d probably be thinking by now that Okinawa is just another scenic tour destination – there’s nothing exciting and non-traditional. If you’re still thinking that way, then you’re up for a surprise. There are plenty more exciting things to do in Okinawa. You can easily book yourself into a nice 5-star hotel or resort by the beach in Okinawa or hold your wedding ceremony in front of the blue ocean. And when you’re finally done wandering around the ocean front, head over to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, this is one of many popular attractions you must go at Ocean Expo Park. When the sun sets, it’s shopping and eating spree along the International Street, a massive shopping and eating strip that cuts a 1.6 kilometer diagonal across the city center.
So much to see and so much to do, Okinawa is definitely unlike the fishing island image I had in my mind for the past two decades. I will definitely plan a holiday trip to Okinawa soon. If you’re due for yet another great escapade, MATTA FAIR will be here soon and Japan Tourism Board (Okinawa) will be there, remember to go check out the great deals.
If you’re serious about another holiday travel to Okinawa, do visit Okinawa’s official Facebook page. Okinawa is currently running a #ILoveOkinawa contest and you stand a chance win some freebies by following these three simple steps:
Step 1: Go to https://beokinawa.net/my and LIKE the page.
Step 2: Fill up all your details (name, email and etc)
Step 3: Choose your three favourite photos from the five categories that I mentioned above and include your comment (don’t worry, it’s optional).
Contest runs from February 10 – March 10, 2014, you must submit your entry in order to win. Once contest period ends, Okinawa will choose a winning photo randomly and 55 participants who choose the same winning photo will be chosen. An email will be sent to winners and the prize will be delivered later on. Yep, it’s that simple.
So what freebies do you stand to win?
1st prize for 5 persons, “Ryukyu Glass”
2nd prize for 50 persons, “Star Sand”
This is a sponsored post. Although this is a sponsored post, my views are based on facts and I DO REALLY WANT TO VISIT OKINAWA in the near future.