10 Things NOT TO DO In Okinawa

... According to my experience/According to my mistakes...

(Shouldawouldacoulda ?)

1. DO NOT enter Okinawa without a driving licence or a friend with one. 

* Okinawa is an awfully expensive island especially in terms of public transportation. By all measures the most clever choice is to rent a car: You save a fortune in money and time and you can discover places you would totally miss by using the buses (which, if not yet clear, costs a fortune or two). E.g. A bus ride from the capital (Naha) to the central Okinawa (Nago city) costs about 40 euros return. I probably should not recommend hitchhiking, but that's what I did and it worked out quite well. 

2. DO NOT fall into a trap of purchasing a nice & cheap weekend-ticket to the local buses (2000 Yen for 1 day: Saturday/Sunday/Holidays)

* Exception: Unless you want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere only to find out that the bus connections during weekends are.. well.. pretty connectionless. They sell this weekend-discount-ticket in order to promote the traveling on weekends when the use of buses is lesser. However, it does not work out perfectly well. This, is personal experience talking. Yes, I did buy the weekend ticket. It promised the freedom to use the local buses during one day as much as I liked (Hop in-Hop off -kind of thing). I ended up hopping in the countryside for two hours or so and was eventually stopped by a local woman who pitied me badly. "Oh poor you, didn't you know that there are no buses in this area in the weekends?" She gave me a lift, so I still kind of saved the money, and on top of that got a good evening exercise. But, erhm, yeah, you get the point. Don't.

3. DO NOT trust the plastic money i.e. any of your bank cards no matter how MASTER or VISA they appear to be.

* Okinawa functions on cash. In Okinawa cash cannot be withdrawn from the general cash machines with foreign bank cards. Period. Experience has talked.

4. DO NOT expect reasonable prices.

* Unless: You want to be negatively surprised. Everything is expensive 'cos this is Japanese territory, which is known for the sky-scraping prices. PS. The only thing I found to be cheaper than anywhere else was tofu. EAT TOFU, dudes! ; )

5. DO NOT expect an English-speaking population.

* Cos it is not.

6. DO NO expect an Earthly paradise with palm trees, super-joyful-people and eternal sunshine. That is Caribbean.

*  Oh yea, Okinawa has it's 'Caribbean-moments', but that's not what this island is about. Okinawa has much more to offer than just white beaches, suntanning and pinacoladas (I don't guarantee that it actually even provides this trio). Okinawa has rough cliffs, hard winds, cold winters, abandoned houses and ruins (including the haunted ones!), caves, rice fields, forests and fish-stinking harbors. On the other hand it also provides possibilities for disappointment possible reasons being: A countless number of US army bases all around the island, US-everything (Casinos, shopping malls, American Village, you name it), many many closed businesses, uninhabited/unfinished buildings and materialism in the form of expensive Tax free-shops and shopping paradises of all kinds.

7. DO NOT automatically think that flying to the capital (NAHA) is the only and by far the best option. = Don't fly to Naha if you have a choice.

* Okinawa's beauty lies in the central and Northern island whereas the South is dry, rough, grey and industrialized. This ain't no opinion but a pure fact. Naha (the capital city with the main airport) lies in the southern island and it's so damn easy to get stuck in there (not least to the crazy pricing of the bus tickets). Sure there are things to see in the South as well, but: If I traveled to Okinawa again, I would defo fly to Nago (central Okinawa), do one day trip to the South and spend rest of my time up in the North. 

8. DO NOT waste (Don't you dare - I didn't). 

* Being an island, Okinawa is vulnerable to environmental hazards and suffers from irresponsible behavior. Recycling and keeping the surroundings clean and well-managed is a serious thing to the people of Okinawa. Be a considerate tourist and keep the island clean : ) 

9. DO NOT block the way in the local buses (if you against my advice number 1 still decided to use the buses) by stopping to buy a ticket. ;)

* WTF? you ask. This: Okinawa may be the only place in the world, where you enter the bus, pull a ticket/note from a ticket machine (located close to the driver's cabin), take a seat and pay for your trip as you exit the bus. Happened to me a few times that I stopped to dig coins from my wallet as I entered the bus and the customers behind me got anxious, but were unable to explain the situation to me in English (see advice no: 5). Only very much later, only trough in-depth observation of the local dudes I realized how it's done. Also: Happened to me that I forgot not having paid for the journey and reaching the destination waited for the doors to open, but they didn't. The driver was waiting for me to pay before opening me the doors. Wow, realization, kabuum! No trouble, no worry, just a moment of stupidity and embarrassment, which I want to help you to avoid :) So: Enter the bus, pull a note from the machine (follow the locals) and find a seat. When exiting the bus, pay for the journey accordingly. 

10. DO NOT stick to an idea of Japan just because of all the manga-stuff around you. 

* Although a Japanese island, Okinawa is Okinawa. It differs greatly from Japan due to it's unique history. This applies to everything from the traditions to the food. Food: On top of all the sushi and tempura you will munch, don't forget to try out the actual Okinawan specialties including goya (a bitter vegetable served in many local dishes), tofuyo (soy bean cheese -dish/dessert), Taco rice (taco ingredients on top of a mountain of rice), soba noodles and umibudo (sea grapes). Drink local beer (Orion), spirit (Awamori) and macha-tea. Traditions: Do not forget to familiarize yourself with Okinawan unique past, which should absolutely definitely completely be distinguished from the Japanese

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 Arigatooo kamshamidaa namasteeeee xiexieee  ! ! !


10 + 1 Things to Do in Okinawa

Hellooo dear fellas ! I seem to be moving so fast from place A to place B that I keep falling behind myself. Currently, I am staying in Jeju island (aws, back to South-Korea). But as I promised, I will now take you guys back to Okinawa island (Japan) by providing some tips about what to do and not to do in there according to my 1-week experience. So, lets start with The To Do's =) 

Heip ystäväiset ! Olen siirtynyt paikasta seuraavaan sellaista haipakkaa, että alan jäädä omista liikkeistänikin jälkeen. Paraikaa sijaitsen Jejun saarella Etelä-Koreassa. Mutta kuten lupasin, vien teidät vielä takaisin Okinawalle ja kerron mitä -minun kokemukseni perusteella- kyseisellä, maailman terveimpien ja pitkäikäisimpien ihmisten asuttamalla saarella kannattaa tehdä -ja mitä ehkei. Aloitetaan positiivisista: Mitä kandee tehdä ?  

*** 10 Things To Do In Okinawa, Japan ***

1) Go away from Okinawa island (e.g. take a ferry to the Kudaka island) ! / Häippäse Okinawalta (ota lautta esim. Kudakan 'pyhälle' saarelle) !

I know, kind of a rough way to start marketing the destination, right ? Well anyway: I highly recommend taking a ferry to any one of the islands surrounding Okinawa. I visited Kudaka island, which is known as the 'Island of Gods'. It is considered as the holiest island of Okinawa dating back to Ryukyu-era, when the Ryukyu-kings and their fellows had to make pilgrimage to this beautiful island. Kudaka is rather small; Circumference roughly 7 kilometers which makes it very easy and convenient for a day trip. In Kudaka; Rent a bike and cycle around & if brave enough, try out the speciality of Kudaka; The sea snake soup. ;) * How to get there? Take a bus nro 38 from Naha bus terminal to Azana port (takes about 1 hour). The port is just 5 min away from the bus stop. You can buy a ferry tickets from the port. Take the ferry there & back! Tadaa! 


(Kudaka island)

2)  Get to know the Ruykyu-culture / Tutustu Ryukyu-kulttuuriin

Woa, what a culture. I was for some reason very much astonished by this ancient culture/kingdom that existed in all of the Okinawan islands (of which the Okinawa is the main one) from the 15th to the 19th century. The kingdom was destroyed by the Japanese as they forced the Okinawan islands to adapt to Japanese culture. Today, Okinawa is full of historical sites, museums and traditional villages where the Ryukyu-kingdom's and Okinawa's history is demonstrated to the public.

 (Last two pictures: From the Naha airport gallery lounge!)

3) Visit: Okinawa World / Vieraile Okinawa Worldissa

Being one of the main touristic attractions, this place made me hesitant and suspicious in the first place. Although I wasn't sure about whether it would be worth visiting, I decided to go for it due to very appealing advertisements. Yes, victim of marketing, eh. However, turned out that Okinawa world (located in the Southern part of the island about 1 hour's bus drive from Naha, the capital) had a lot to offer even for a also solo-traveler like me. Okinawa world has the most beautiful caves I have ever visited (800 meters long in total) with spectacular stalactiles. The place also provides a good insight into the Ryukyu-kingdom and culture as well as the Okinawan flora and fauna. There is also a snake-museum where the island's most popular snake species 'Habu Snake' is being introduced along with some other special animals such as tortoises and mangoos. Habu Sake is a Okinawan famous sake enriched with the actual snake poison. 

4) War&Peace Memorial-Sites / Sota&Rauha-Muistomerkit & Lokaatiot

In the end of the second world war Okinawa became the battle field for one of the most horrific battles and one of the biggest killing fields of the Japanese war history. Okinawa was actually the only location in Japan, where there was an 'on-ground-fight'. Thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed or driven to suicides in the 1945. Thus, there are many sites all over Okinawa in a memory of those who died during the battle definitely worth seeing. Since the main battle took place in the Southern part of Okinawa, most sites are located in the south coast including Peace Memorial Park (with the names of all the victims), Suicide Cliffs (wherefrom thousands of soldiers and civilians jumped to their deaths), Navy Underground Headquarters (The underground base of the Japanese soldiers during the war times  where many of them died) and the Peace museum (in the same grounds with the Peace Memorial Park). 

(Peace Memorial Park)

(Army Underground Headguarters)

(Suicide Cliffs)

5) GET LOST ! / EKSY !

Okinawa is a perfect location for wandering, exploring and getting todally lost! I was lost and found by locals who offered me rides to the next cities 'cos they were 'worried about a lonely woman walking at the back of beyond'. By getting lost (okay, quite consciously but anyways) I got a chance to meet some local dudes, have chats about life is this island and see places I wouldn't otherwise have seen. Highly recommended ! ; ) 

"No clue of my location, but there is a beautiful rice field and horses and sheep over there and then there is the sea wind in my ears..."

And then there is the omnipresent 'god' Shi-sha 
taking care of me all over the place ! 

And very poignant signs about what to do if sh*t happens...

6) Buy a 1 or 2-day monorail-pass in NAHA-City and surf around the capital! / Osta 1 tai 2-päivän tiketti 'monorailiin' (metrojunaan ;)) ja surffaa ympäri pääkaupunkia!

* 1 day pass: 700 Yen (n. 6 euros), 2-day pass: 12000 Yen (n. 11 euros). Monorail is the easiest way to get around the capital city (also the number one option for getting from the airport to the city). It has only 15 stops so it's a very convenient and quick means of transportation as well.  

7) Now when you have the monorail pass, I suggest you stop at... / Nyt kun sulla on sitten kädessäsi monorail-kortti, niin pysähdyppäs...

i) Shuri. Shuri is the most important area in relation to the history of the Ryukyu-kingdom. Shuri-castle is located  just a 10 minute walk away from the monorail station and all other sights (eg. beautiful stone pavement way) are also within walking distance from each other. ii) Oynoyama Koen station: Just 10 min walk from the station there is the 'Waterbird and Wetland center', nature site in the middle of the city. Admission: Free. Open until 5 pm every weekday. I went there at 5.30 pm and erhm, got in by climbing over the fence. Oh. Well. Although it was possible, I still suggest you visit before the closing hour...  

(Google Images)


(Secret visitor in Waterbird and Wetland Center, Naha, Okinawa)

(Birdie at the temple yard, Shuri)

8) Visit Sefa Utaki / Käy Sefa Utakissa

This was the holiest place for the people in the times of the Ryukyu-kingdom and it still has a holy value for the Okinawans of today. The site consists of a beautiful forest route along which there are  ancient stone formations, caves and other holy spots with explanations on what happened in these particular places in the past (e.g. the queens of the Ryukyu-kingdom were crowned etc). The nature here is simply breathtaking and you can feel the holiness in the air partially thanks to the local people who come to the site to meditate and give prayers.  Sefa Utaki is located in the southern island, in the east coast close to the Azana port. The most convenient and economic way to visit Sefa Utaki is before or after the ferry tour to Kudaka island. Sefa Utaki is located just up the hill from the bus stop: Azana port (see number 1) and takes roughly 15 minutes to walk up there. The admission fee is 300 yen (2.8 euros).

9) Visit a fortune-teller and/or buy a fortune-cookie-note / Käy ennustajalla ja/tai osta ennustuslappunen ; )

Okinawan people are extremely superstitious (they believe in ghosts, spirits and all sorts of gods) whereby there is also a market for fortune tellers, wish wells and other methods of predicting one's future. When you see a staple like this (in the picture), simply, just go for it! It's fun to think about and doesn't cost neither a fortune or your life. All safe, all good ; ) Mine said: "You are moderately lucky. You will have good luck and nice surprises in traveling." I decided to trust only this one since the points about love life and personal economy were not as promising...

10) Travel to the Central Okinawa & North: Nago city, Okinawa city etc. /Matkusta keski- ja pohjoissaarelle: Esim. Nago ja Okinawa city. 

Okinawan people call the central Okinawa 'the northern island' because the actual north is rarely visited. The actual north is, well, up in the north, but is quite uncommon among tourists and no tourist guide advises anyone to go there. However, there it is: The true Okinawa <3 In the actual North there are the Hiji waterfalls among all other natural sites as well as Cape Hedo, the most northern point of the island with its spectacular views over the ocean. In the 'fake-north' (=central Okinawa) there are for instance i) Nago city: There are pineapple gardens and pineapple wine factory (Okinawa is famous for pineapples!), fruit gardens as well as the Orion beer factory. West from Nago (West coast) there is one of the biggest aquariums in the world and some other nice stuff to see ;D ii) Okinawa city: Massive gardens (with unique plant and bird species), Ryukyu-kingdom village etc. Shortly: Go Further North from Naha City because there is Nature (!) that the Southern island unfortunately lacks. Personally, I was very disappointed in the first impression of Okinawa; I arrived in Naha city (south), traveled around the southern island and everything was grey and miserable. But do not lose hope: Up north there's the beauty ! : )



("Driving" through the pineapple gardens)

Nago City:

+ 1: The last but definitely not the least: EAT AND DRINK! You are now in the island that produces the healthiest longest-living poeple on Earth! Figure out HOW! ;) / Vikana, muttei todellakaan vähäisimpänä: SYÖ JA JUO! Olethan sentään saarella, josta tulevat maailman terveimmät ja pitkäikäisimmät ihmiset! Selvitä MITEN! ;)

Okinawan FOOD:


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Now, I walk away. More precisely: I walk straight to bed in order to be able to walk a 25-kilometer-bit of Olle trail in Jeju island tomorrow morning. Hopefully my body hasn't forgotten how to 'Ca-mi-nooo'! ;)

Something for you to ponder for the next time: 

"Life is simple. Happiness is simple. 
Happiness is: Work walk eat and sleep."

- John, my South-Korean friend 
from the Camino (living in Jeju)