My Paradise: Make a short trip to Okinawa

My Paradise: Make a short trip to Okinawa

by Ian Waddick
Stripes Okinawa archive

The sun on your face. The breeze in your hair. A cold one in hand.

This. Is. Paradise.

It’s my paradise, at least.

Beaches? Na, not much of a fan. I’m talking about America’s Pastime – baseball.

Give me a cold beer and a seat in Wrigley, throw in a Chicago-style hotdog and fly the ‘W’ for good measure, and I’m as content as they come.

Living in Tokyo, Wrigley and Chicago-style dogs may be tough to come by, but baseball sure isn’t.

The game experience in Japan overall is better, in my opinion. The cheering, cheap seats and rules on bringing food and drinks into the game put it over the top. And, just like MLB, the start of the NPB calendar heralds the winter thaw – spring training.

For many of the NPB’s 12 teams, spring training takes place on Okinawa every year. The island doesn’t have its own team, but every February and March, the locals get the brief opportunity to enjoy professional baseball - albeit exhibition games - in person.

Many consider Okinawa a year-round paradise. The island’s got the sun. It’s got the beaches. And for a one-month stretch, it’s got baseball.

Don’t be confused. These preseason games don’t have nearly the same pomp and circumstance as the ones that actually count. There is still cheering and the food/drink rules are lax, but it’s more of a “show up when you want” type of atmosphere. But, if baseball is your thing, and you haven’t had it since late October, you’re certainly not complaining.

Just as I would highly recommend traveling to Arizona or Florida for MLB spring training, I would suggest any baseball fan stationed in the Pacific make it a point to get to Okinawa sometime around March.

The island is full of other activities for you to kill time between ballgames. First and foremost, don’t miss the great opportunity to enjoy fun on the water. The island is full of beautiful beaches and many water activities for those who can’t just lay in the sand for an entire day.

For the kids, Northern Okinawa is home to Churaumi Aquarium, which at one point was the world’s largest.

The island is also home to multiple castles and castle ruins. I’d recommend a tour of Shurijo Castle, in Southern Okinawa, for those looking for a little history. Nearly destroyed during WWII, the castle was originally built some 400 years before the United States became a nation.

My personal favorite meal was Okinawan soba noodles. A tiny, traditional-Okinawan-style building housed a restaurant serving only soba and only for about 20 people max. The place was secluded and hard to find, but I’d suggest any first-time visitor find a way to eat at a local soba joint. If it’s half as good as the stuff I had, you will not be disappointed.

And if you find a place that has a to go menu, grab some soba, a beer and bring it to the ballpark for a truly unique baseball experience.

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