Naha, Okinawa – Formerly the Ryukyu Kingdom, the island of Okinawa is located Southwest of mainland Japan. The island is often compared to Hawaii due to it’s tropical weather. When flying into Okinawa, you’ll find yourself at Naha Airport that is shared between commercial airline companies and some military planes. Okinawa is a popular tourist attraction for people from local Asia countries such as Korea, Chinese, and Taiwan. The main language spoken is Japanese but some locals still speak the native language of Uchinanchu. For marital artists, Okinawa is best known as the birthplace of Karate and many people venture here to learn directly from the source. Others come out here for the food, beaches, and many historical landmarks to see.
- Okinawa is really humid compared to mainland Japan so bring lighter clothing and sunscreen.
- Naha has a monorail system that runs directly from the airport. You’ll most likely use this line a lot so be sure to pick up a multi-day pass at one of the machines to save time.
- Naha is the main city of Okinawa but there are plenty of great spots to visit north of the island. To go here, you’ll either have to rent a car or take one of the buses from Naha bus terminal.
- A lot of the more famous attractions are about a 2-hour bus ride out from the bus terminal so plan accordingly. It may be a good idea to spend a day or two in northern Okinawa so you can visit the famous aquarium and beach resorts.
- If restaurants are not your thing, check out the markets around Naha. MaxValue is a good market that is open 24 hours and has everything you would need.
- Like mainland Japan, many of the indoor tourist locations such as Shuri Castle and Budokan have a no shoe policy. Staff will either ask you to remove your shoes and will provide you a plastic bag or will ask that you leave your shows at the cubbies by the entrance.
- Try to book a hotel or room near Kokusai Dori, the main shopping street of Naha so you can experience different foods, bars, while being close to the monorail.
- If you plan on training in Karate, reach out to an instructor you already know to potentially be introduced. Unlike Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate schools (dojos) are not as open with guests without a proper introduction. If you don’t know any instructors that can introduce you to a school, you can reach out to the Okinawa Traditional Karate Liason Bureau (http://okkb.org/).
Places to Visit as a Tourist
Tokyo is a huge city so there’s so much you can do depending on what you want to see and do. Below are just a few of the areas and hotspots that I would highly recommend where you can easily spend hours or even a whole day at each:
- Manza Beach – One of the famous beaches of Okinawa that is located north of Naha. This beach resort can be access by bus from Naha Bus Terminal. For those who are not staying at the resort, you can purchase entry into the beach area (Note that many beaches in Okinawa charge some sort of fee).
- Dojo Bar – A famous Karate-themed bar that attracts people from all over the world. You can find signatures from Karate practitioners from all over the world on the bar’s walls. On certain nights there are free concerts from local musicians.
- Kokusai Dori – Long strip of shops and restaurants. You can experience a lot of Okinawan culture here. Every five years they also hold a parade on this street to celebrate Uchinanchu (Okinawan) culture. Along this strip, you can also find Heiwadori which has small stands where you can get juices, pastries, and souvenirs.
- Budokan – Large facility dedicated to fitness. Many martial arts classes take place here along with other sport-related activities.
- Shuri Castle – The historical palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Take the monorail to the Shuri station so you can hike up the path. When leaving the castle though, it’s actually quicker to get to the Gibo station by walking through the nearby neighborhood.
- Yaeyama Islands – Great location to go scuba diving with the tropical fishes of Okinawa.
- Churaumi Aquarium – Famous aquarium home to the world’s largest tank filled with whale sharks.
- Okinawa World – Theme park created to imitate the lifestyle of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Part of the park is actually in a tunnel underground.
There are so many more suggestions but if you’re looking for specific recommendations such as restaurants, shops, or sights please shoot me an email (http://bjjbug.net/contact-us/).
Okinawan food is unique and has a different flavor compared to mainland Japan. The food has somewhat of a Chinese and Hawaiin influence. Some recommendations include:
- Okinawan Soba
- Okinawan BBQ
- Goya Chanpuru
- Umi Budo
- Orion Beer
- Taco Rice
- Rafute (Shoyu pork)
- Habu Sake (Okinawan Snake Wine)
- Okinawan Dango (Fried Donut)
- Muchi (Mochi)
- Blue Seal Ice Cream
Photos from Okinawa:
This is a great trip to add to your agenda if you are visiting another country in the area. The island is not too big so you can explore most of it in 4-5 days. Aside from the humidity, Okinawa is a great place to visit. The beaches are beautiful and the culture is rich. There’s not too much BJJ on this island but I would like to return in the near future to train in Karate.
Naha, Okinawa – November 2016
Tokyo, Japan – http://bjjbug.net/2016/10/12/travel-tokyo-japan/
Kyoto, Japan – http://bjjbug.net/2016/11/07/travel-kyoto/
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