My trip to Okinawa was rather on a whim, and I wasn’t planning on visiting Japan in the next two years or so. I guess sometimes plans we make tend to have a mind of its own. I knew after my last trip to Phuket, I would be traveling again and it didn’t matter where the next destination would be and as long as I can see different places every once in a while, I’m game.
Despite never having been to Japan before, I was excited to find out what Okinawa was like. Okinawa is just one of those places in Japan where people don’t really talk about or even recommend to go. Some even suggest that there is nothing to do in Okinawa and that places like Tokyo, Hokkaido, Osaka or Kyoto are the “dream destination”. Well, I think Okinawa can be the “dream destination” too, for someone who enjoys a mellow, laid-back life away from big city chaos. And if you look deeper into Okinawa, you might just love it.
So, what’s worth to love about Okinawa?
As you can tell from many of my travel posts, I appreciate nature at it’s best. It views like these that gets me sitting on my butt somewhere, just happily enjoying the air and the breeze for hours. Most time’s I wish they were my back yard.
The west coast of central Okinawa is home to Cape Maeda where huge rocks lie at the tip of the cape, formed by raised coral reef, and beneath it, is clear emerald green ocean where coral reefs lie. It’s definitely a snorkeler and a scuba diver’s playground. If you snorkel or scuba dive, discovering the “Blue Cave” (Kumagaa Gama) will be the highlight of your trip there.
Or you can walk and enjoy the scenery with the ocean breeze in the air, which I did. Another way to enjoy the Cape is by kayaking, where you can access into the “Blue Cave” and later on soak up the scenery. Unfortunately, I did not research enough to know that we could kayak to go into the blue cave. I only found out about it after I returned to Malaysia. Then again, I loved Cape Maeda from where I was standing in all the pictures I post here.
Go Zip Lining!
Before I arrived in Okinawa, I had a list of things to do and places I wanted to visit. I was mostly looking forward to visiting castle ruins, visit as many capes as I can, enjoy coffee at a local cafe, maybe go mangrove kayaking, which unfortunately I did not have the time to do and well, all in all, I wanted to experience what Okinawa is like and it didn’t really matter as long as I’m there.
On that note, thanks to a good friend of mine, who did a good job at hosting me during my stay, thought that it would be fun to have a forest adventure on the island, and perhaps experience seeing an ocean view from over 40 meters high using zip lines. Mind you I was excited. I was ready. Although as soon as I got on the second platform, I panicked – quietly. I tried not to make it too obvious and hoped that it went unnoticed. The height was definitely something I wasn’t used to and I was a tad bit cocky in the beginning thinking that I’m fearless!
Zip lining is one other way to explore Okinawa. I was fortunate to stay close to the zip lining park and it wasn’t hard to find. If you are from Naha Airport, it will take you 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach. If you are coming from Ishikawa IC, you will reach in 20 minutes.
Some information on Forest Adventure in Onna:
Opening hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (although best to make reservation to avoid disappointment)
Rates: Y3,600 for an adult; Y2,600 for kids under 18 years
Have An Oreo Party At The Shack!
Stroll Through a Botanical Garden
What I love most about the botanical gardens is that they grow Alexander Palm trees up to 25 meters. In mainland Japan, it can only grow in greenhouses. As you walk through the trees, the cool atmosphere will surely be felt and the sense of calmness as you breath in the air brings out your appreciation for this exotic plant. Truly a sanctuary for nature’s lover.
Before we entered the botanical gardens, it had rained and to no surprise, I had an episode of mosquito attack, like I always do. Ironically my friend strolled through the gardens without a single bite. If you plan to visit, it is best to apply a mosquito repellent or bring along the tiger balm ointment. You’ll be thankful that you did.
The botanical gardens is not just home to palm trees, but it is home to farm animals and many other exotic plants like the lotus. We were fortunate enough to witness the white and pink lotuses blooming in the ponds. At night, if you’re lucky, you may enjoy the gardens when it’s lit up so beautifully. I say lucky because they only light up the place at night twice a year.
Go For a Breezy Stroll Along Sunabe Seawall
There are several occasions when I travel, my body magically breaks down with a slight fever and frustratingly I’m forced to let it rest. On the fourth and fifth day in Okinawa, I experienced fluctuation of body temperature from normal to cold and cold to hot, accompanied with body aches, constantly feeling thirsty and loss of appetite to eat. This isn’t the first time I experienced it. I knew I had to let my body rest and drink lots of water to bring my body temperature back to normal. It took me two full days to recover. By the end of the fifth day, I took a stroll along the seawall and in the evening around 6 pm. I loved every minute of it because I knew my energy was coming back and that I can resume exploring Okinawa.
Casually taking a stroll with a cup of caramel macchiato from Starbucks in hand, I see dykes aligned along the seawall stretch which was structured to prevent flooding from crashing waves. It was a refreshing walk coupled with sounds of the ocean waves, the salty smell of the sea breeze and people with their dogs running and walking side by side. Occasionally stray cats will appear from the roadside and then disappear into the dykes as I walk closer to them. And with all that, watching the sunset is an event not be missed.
Some Fun Facts About Okinawa:
1. Okinawa was the birthplace of Karate. Remember Mr Miyagi from the 1984 movie “Karate Kid”? The character is from Okinawa.
2. Okinawa has a language of its own called the Uchinaghuchi along with another Okinawan language that was born on the islands. Uchinaghuchi is most notable Okinawan language. After World War II, Japan took over the Ryukyu Islands and Okinawans were forced to only speak Japanese, as mainland Japanese were not able to understand the language at all.
3. It’s known for its tropical climate, broad beaches, beautiful coral reef and it’s World War II sites.
4. Okinawa is the largest island in the Ryukyu chain of islands south of mainland Japan.
5. The Shisa dogs usually come in pairs. One dog has its mouth open to keep evil spirits out of homes and business buildings. The other dog has its mouth closed to keep the good spirits in homes and business buildings. It is a common site to see a Shisa dog statue at every house and business buildings in Okinawa.
6. Okinawan is known for its longevity myth. There have been many types of research and debates about Okinawans having the highest life expectancy. The myth, however, have yet to be proven.
The above are several of the many places I visited and activities I did while in Okinawa. There are more I wish I could have experienced and I hope to visit Okinawa again. I hope I have given you a reason to love Okinawa and enjoy your stay there in whatever ways you can think of. My expectation of Okinawa was on point, which was to explore with the flow and spend my time there the way I know how to.