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!
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)
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...
(Secret visitor in Waterbird and Wetland Center, Naha, Okinawa)
(Birdie at the temple yard, Shuri)
(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)
+ 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! ;)
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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'! ;)