PCS season brings newcomers to Okinawa
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- (Editor's note: This is the final article of a series of articles about peak moving season on Okinawa.)
The newness of living on Okinawa can overwhelm many people who have freshly arrived to Kadena.
Newcomers here have many options available to explore the island and take advantage of base programs.
Part of living overseas is finding out what resources are available on base, as well as braving the foreign surroundings. Life on Okinawa is different from any other country, and it may take time to adjust to the difference in mission needs, weather and culture found here.
If outdoor activities are preferred, Okinawa has an assortment to choose from.
The crystal blue waters surrounding Okinawa are home to sea animals, living corals, and the underwater wrecks can also be explored, according to Travis Scurlock, Kadena Marina lead recreational assistant. He spoke about the amazing visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving, and the plethora of choice dive sites around the island. Most are just minutes outside of the gates and others a short drive or boat ride away.
Scurlock mentioned the opportunities to knee or wake board, parasail, or surf the reef-break waves. On public access beaches, anyone can relax while sunning or beach-combing crushed-reef sands.
Regardless of which water activities are chosen, everyone should take precautions against sun exposure and cuts from razor-sharp coral, and remember proper safety gear, he said.
Some pursuits available on land include waterfalls and hiking trails hidden in the lush jungles of the island. People can river trek through running waters and hike paths ranging from easy walks to bouldering. Geocaching, a world-wide scavenger hunt using GPS, can be a way to search out more than 900 locations throughout Okinawa. Camping, bowling and golf are available on and off base.
Newcomers here can also explore Okinawa's rich history. There are many historical sites around the island, some well known and others tucked away, from hills and beaches to trails and tombs. Castles and ruins wait to be discovered. Museums for the distant and recent past, and specialty museums for art or technology are available for a learning experience.
To learn about street and facility name origins, Kadena and Okinawa history, and much more, Casey Connell, 18th Wing historian, recommends delving into the Kadena homepage at http://www.kadena.af.mil/library/history. He encourages those with an interest in Kadena's history to contact the historian's office for additional information.
Adventures slightly above ground level can be sought out as well. Cycling enthusiasts can join a group or set out alone to cruise the 65 miles between Okinawa's northern and southern edges. Horseback riding or ziplining can also be found and are opportunities to get some adrenaline pumping. Get a bird's-eye view with sightseeing flight tours over the island, or take lessons to be a pilot.
Information on classes and activities available on Kadena can be found by contacting the Airman and family readiness center or on the 18th Force Support Squadron website at www.kadenafss.com under the respective agencies.
Experiencing Okinawa's culture isn't limited to just off base.
On base agencies have classes for wearing a kimono, Japanese language skills, flower arranging, sushi making, and paper crafts such as washi and origami.
"Our kokeshi doll painting is one of the most popular classes offered," said Ivy Cazier, Crafty Things retailer operations supervisor. She said the kokeshi doll is an iconic Japanese wooden figure that participants paint to give it personality, and the class could be taken as individuals or in a group. Cazier said youth art classes are available, in addition to decoupage, framing, the wood shop, cake decorating and sewing classes are other things to check out.
For those who would like to see Okinawa in a friendly group, there are both free and inexpensive tours and trips to see traditional tea ceremonies, shop at famers markets, and explore local attractions. The AFRC Newcomers' Island Tour offers a "taste of Okinawa" by taking newly arrived military residents and family to several such places, said Elishia Curry, AFRC Discovery Resource Center manager. There are Okinawan pottery, sweet and savory treat and Ryukyu glass factories to visit as well.
Arriving to Okinawa can be daunting, but there are many things to see and do to experience this island. Contact the AFRC or look into the 18th FSS website or their monthly Venture magazine to see what is offered through base agencies, be it classes, tours, rental equipment, or discounts. Newcomers can also check out the "Local Information" section of the newcomer's page on the Kadena website.