An Okinawan Odyssey: 6 days to explore a beautiful island
Okinawa is a kaleidoscope of colors, from the aquamarine seas to the vivid reds and indigos of its Bingata textiles. It is also home to some of the world’s oldest and healthiest people, with 34 centenarians per 100,000 people. Previously part of the Ryukyu Empire, Okinawa was and remains a cultural melting pot, a center of trade between various ports in Asia. These islands had their identity shaped by centuries of contact, influencing everything from food to music. If you have six days to spare, drop in to this blue water paradise and make new friends in the most relaxed and warmest part of Japan.
Here is the definitive guide to Okinawa, covering the very best this sub-tropical island paradise has to offer. Over six days you can taste, see and feel what makes this place so special.
Day 1: Arrive in Naha
On arrival at Naha Airport take the monorail to the hotel in Naha City, the capital of Okinawa. Following dinner, take in one of the many cafes or music venues in Kokusai dori, the island’s “International Street.”
Day 2: Naha markets and gardens
Makishi Public Market is Naha’s kitchen, with dozens of fresh food stalls showcasing local produce. Drop in after breakfast, before heading to a hands-on cooking class using some of the ingredients. This is an insightful foray into Okinawan culture, which will be of interest to active and passive cooks alike. After lunch, visit the Shikina-en Gardens, whose villa was once the second home for the Okinawan royal family.
Day 3: Royal court at Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle, a fort and palace with a fusion of Chinese and Japanese elements from the 13th century, was the seat of power for the Ryukyu kings for 400 years. The tiled surface of the forecourt is striking with its red and white stripes, which is uniquely Okinawan. As the only remaining Ryukyu castle, it is a world heritage site reconstructed to its former glory. Step inside and take a magnificent glimpse of a lost empire. For lunch, head to Ashibiuna, a traditional Okinawan restaurant, while a hands-on folk art and cloth dying experience round out your cultural encounter.
Day 4: Retrace
the relics from the Battle of Okinawa
Southern Okinawa was the epicenter of one of the most intense battles of World War II. Today, you can retrace these events at the Naval Underground headquarters, as well as the Himeyuri Memorial and Peace Museum and Okinawa Prefectural Peace Museum. In 1944, the Japanese Navy Corps established the underground structure as their headquarters in Okinawa. Measuring at a length of 450 meters at that time, the semi-circular tunnels are made of posts and concrete by using pickaxes and hoes. Take a walk through these tunnels as well as visiting the commanding officer’s room and some of the operations rooms. Himeyuri was built to remember the schoolgirls who were conscripted to be nurses during the Battle of Okinawa. It is next to a cave that these women hid and attempted to help the injured and dying.
Day 5: Hiji falls hike and kayaking
Venture to Hiji, home to the highest waterfalls in Okinawa. The 1.5 km trail to Hiji Falls can be hiked in about two hours round trip. Keep an eye for the native wildlife like the Ryukyu robin and the Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle. It is then time to have lunch at a local restaurant and discover the secret to why five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as the rest of Japan. After lunch, take to the water, kayaking alongside mangroves. After that it is time to visit the Nakijin castle ruins which take you back to the 13th century, a time when this island was a collection of three kingdoms, before heading back to the hotel for a traditional Okinawan family meal for a farewell dinner.
Day 6: Trip concludes
This six-day odyssey concludes after breakfast.
ADDRESS: ZIP900-0025 Okinawa Prefecture, Naha, Tsubogawa 3-3-19
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