If you’re traveling through Japan, you should definitely add a stop in Okinawa to your itinerary. I spent a year living in Okinawa, and it was a great experience for me. Not only did I get to embrace a completely new culture, but it was my first time away from home and really helped me grow as a person. Here are some things I learnt while I was there to help you plan your trip to this beautiful part of the country.
The Japanese culture prides itself on their etiquette, from how you are expected to behave at dinner to everyday conversation. So when you visit, do your best to be polite and friendly and learn about the local culture.
Okinawa is a traveller hotspot and a major location for the U.S. military based in Asia, so don’t be surprised if you run into a lot of non-locals there. The downside to this is that there have been past issues between the Japanese and those visiting, so there can occasionally be a little friction even if you are on your best behavior.
There are lots of fun activities in Okinawa (either to watch or participate in) and you can always find something to do there, no matter what day of the week it is. Go to the nearby beach and see the amateur dragon boat racing teams. Or, if you'd like something more hands on, try your luck at spear fishing where your catch will be cooked and served in authentic Japanese style right by the water.
The capital of Okinawa, Naha City, has amazing festivals you don’t want to miss. One of the best ones I was able to participate in was the Naha City Tug-O-War, an annual Guinness record breaking event. Another great festival is the 10,000 Eisa (Drum) festival. You will find the streets covered in traditional Japanese clothing with plenty of arts and crafts, live music, and delicious food.
Anyone who has traveled through Japan will tell you to come with an appetite and openness to try new things. Of course, you have the standard foods of ramen and sushi. It’s hard to pick a favorite spot so visit a few different places in the region and ask the locals for their own opinion on where to go.
Nothing beats the authentic cuisine of a hole-in-the-wall ramen spot very few know about. You may also be surprised what the local street vendors have cooking for you as you make your way through the local markets. Try a bowl of delicious noodles with a pairing of Habushu, or Okinawan snake wine. Made partially from fermented snake venom, don’t be surprised if your host has a jar with a huge snake in it, with its fangs out staring right back at you. It’s got a kick but is definitely worth trying and makes a great story when you get home.
I cannot stress enough the humidity you will need to deal with while traveling through Japan. If you have been anywhere in Asia, you know what I am talking about. If you haven't, just imagine taking a shower, just to get sweaty again as soon you dry off. It’s enough to drive you a little crazy.
Okinawa is the one of the warmest regions with an average of 60-80% humidity throughout the year. Make sure to consistently hydrate. It takes at least 30 days to acclimate to a new area with different weather conditions to what you are used to. So, unless you plan on staying for a longer period you may have a little discomfort at the beginning.
Expect to get more bang for your buck in Okinawa than in other places in Japan. Okinawa is the cheapest prefecture in Japan and a budget traveler can expect to live on US$116 or less a day here. That includes food, transportation, and lodging. Of course, it’s all relative on how you want your stay to be while you’re here. You may want to splurge on bigger accommodation or treat yourself out to a nicer restaurant.
Whatever you decide to do in Okinawa you won’t be disappointed. It’s a great place to visit when you’re travelling through Japan. Explore and experience everything you can, chat to the locals, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.
Last Updated 13 June 2022