Sharks, sunshine and tacos: Service members island-wide safely enjoy relaxed COVID-19 restrictions

Okinawan Locals and U.S service members enjoy loosened COVID-19 pololicies on Okinawa, Japan June 24, 2020. The Churaumi Aquarium is one of the many great ways to spend time on Okinawa.(U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Francesca Landis)
Okinawan Locals and U.S service members enjoy loosened COVID-19 pololicies on Okinawa, Japan June 24, 2020. The Churaumi Aquarium is one of the many great ways to spend time on Okinawa.(U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Francesca Landis)

Sharks, sunshine and tacos: Service members island-wide safely enjoy relaxed COVID-19 restrictions

by Cpl. Nickolas Beamish
III Marine Expeditionary Force

OKINAWA, Japan – Walking through the dimly lit hallways of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Lance Cpl. Kevin Landis, a military policemen with Marine Corps Installations Pacific, gazed intently through the thick glass of a display as the fish inside glided effortlessly through their underwater world.

Landis and his family, along with military personnel across Okinawa, were able to enjoy some of their favorite activities this weekend after Marine Forces-Japan lifted some of the off-base restrictions affecting Marine Corps-affiliated personnel on the island.

“My wife and I had a great time exploring the aquarium and seeing all the cool displays and fish” Landis said. “I noticed that the aquarium was requiring everyone inside to wear a mask, and they had their staff ensuring people were social distancing.”

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is part of the Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, and is currently the second largest aquarium in the world. They reopened their doors to visitors June 1, with new COVID-19 protective measures.

“My favorite part of the aquarium was the exhibit where they show all the fish that can glow in the dark,” said Landis “and my wife loved the shark tank.”

With summer months bringing warmer weather to the tropical island, service members and their families are looking to get out and enjoy the diverse opportunities Okinawa has to offer.

“The weather was great this weekend, so I couldn’t wait to get out and enjoy the island” said Landis. “The drive up highway 58 from our home on Camp McTureous is amazing and gives you a really great opportunity to see how blue the water is here.”

Service members are also now allowed to dine-in at restaurants, enjoy both indoor and outdoor off-base recreational activities, and patronize off-base personal services as long as they can continue to practice social distancing.

“After the aquarium, we got to stop off at one of my favorite taco restaurants” said Landis. “It’s been really nice to get back to some of our favorite spots on Okinawa.”

While exploring the island, Landis said he could see the smiling faces of other service members and families enjoying the new liberty regulations.

III MEF reached out on its Facebook page this weekend to see what other service members were doing to enjoy the unique experiences Okinawa has to offer.

“I went around Okinawa looking for bakeries and coffee shops to try out different local products,” one respondent said.

Another III MEF member spoke about enjoying a scuba diving trip over the weekend, while another replied about participating in the 2020 Futenma Bike Race.

As service members across Okinawa continue to enjoy the new policy and reduced restrictions, MARFOR-J urges personnel to remain vigilant and take precautions to keep our community and our Okinawan neighbors safe from COVID-19.

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