How To Explore Okinawa
The first question that I am asked when people find out what I do is almost always “How do you find these interesting places?”
When I first started getting asked this question it through me for a little bit of a loop but then after evaluating some of my practices and realizing that they may not be common practices for others. That being said I started to think long and hard about what has allowed me to find the amazing places that I have found so that I can share them with the others who may be wanting to find them as well.
Although I know I should start with the beginning I think that it is important to make mention of something that really changed the way that I saw not only Okinawa but the world around me. Over a year ago I started getting into watching YouTube videos on a bunch of topics and I happened to come across a video of a man who was filming his young daughter eating mizuame (water candy: a stickey treat served on similar to chopsticks) at a school festival. I honestly don’t know how but I ended up watching some of his other videos and found myself hooked. That week I watched every video that he had ever posted on both of his channels. This person was Kurt or as many people who enjoy videos about hiking in Japan may know as Softypapa or YTBullettrain. In one of the hundreds of videos I watched he mentioned something about looking “through” and seeing what amazing things you will find. It was this comment that truthfully changed my way of thinking. The concept is that we as humans generally look at what lies closest to us for example seeing the fronts of the buildings without taking a moment to look through the area between them and therefore see the beautiful things that lie just behind them. As if like magic the area which I walked every night changed into something even more exciting. I had started to notice beautiful japanese gardens in the middle of the city which I had walked past hundreds of times but had never taken the time to see. My outlook, which was now completely changed, left me thirsty to get out and see what treasures were hiding just beyond where I had been looking. I simply could not believe the things that I was finding within walking distance of my house let alone what the rest of the island had to offer. This is when it all started.
Of course I was not perfect right off the bat and it did take me some getting used to but I am hoping that if you are reading this and interested in doing what I do you can take some of the information that I have for you and get out there even sooner and with less road blocks than I had.
1. Put the watch away: It can be difficult but exploring Okinawa and really enjoying it can not be done on a strict schedule.
2. Prepare yourself: Just because you are planning on going for a short adventure does not mean that you should not prepare yourself. Personally I always bring a backpack, plenty of water, map and wear clothing that is fit for a hike. The backpack and water may be simple enough to bring but why the map and hiking clothing? I personally find the map helpful because I like to keep track of where I am when I find something. It is helpful in trying to find it again if I want to and also allows me to document where I have been. Hiking gear is important to ensure that you don’t find yourself on a 6 mile walk in a polo and your best pair of slacks. It may sound silly but I have seen a lot of people in their Sunday best climbing up a mountain not thinking that this “trail” was going to be as “intense” as it was. Not being prepared in my opinion only sets your limitations lower than they would be otherwise.
3. Look through what you see: I spent a lot of time explaining this above and it is a simple enough concept to grasp but it is the most important of all. Take the time to slow your pace just a little and look at your surroundings. Look through the trees, over the guard rails and into the areas where you were never looking before. Although it takes some effort at first you will find it becoming more natural over time.
4. Go ahead. . . turn back: Who says that you can’t double back when you see something that interests you, even if it’s a few paces before you realize that you want to see whatever it was that caught your eye? Who cares? (See #1) I can not tell you the amount of times that I have turned back to see something that struck my eye and realized that it was something absolutely amazing.
5. Stay close then move your way out: Now I am going to be honest, some people misunderstand what I mean when I say this. I am not trying to make any type of statement about physically preparing yourself or trying to prevent you from going and exploring different parts of the island (if I wanted to keep these things secret I would not post them on Youtube or write about them). I think that staying close to home for your first times exploring like this is important because it gives you the chance to see what changing your perspective can do. All of a sudden you are looking at the things you see regularly in a completely new way and this will help you understand the concepts that I am talking about. Not only that, but it will also allow you to learn about your area. Believe it or not if you are like so many others who live on Okinawa at one of the military bases or in that area you are smack dab in the middle of some amazing history that I bet you never even knew about.
Now what are you waiting for? Go out and explore!
Kitakeisen – Sushi, Noodles and Pizza? (RESTAURANT) – A restaurant featuring various types of food. Perfect for families that would like to try Japanese cuisine but have picky eaters in their party.
Making Goya Chanpuru (RECIPE) – A traditional Okinawan stir fry dish including various vegetables, tofu and eggs.
Double Decker (RESTAURANT) – A pub style restaurant featuring various types of cuisine. Choose to eat in a standard restaurant setting or a refurbished double decker bus.
Double Decker – Heathy Options (RESTAURANT) – A pub style restaurant featuring various types of cuisine. Choose to eat in a standard restaurant setting or a refurbished double decker bus.
Looks Like A Fancy Restaurant. . . . I Paid One Coin (CONVENIENCE STORE) – A cheap option to enjoy fancy food from a local convenience store.
Japanese Restaurant AEON Chatan (RESTAURANT) – A Japanese style restaurant located at a popular department store in central Okinawa.
Finding Reasonably Priced Groceries in Okinawa – Information regarding finding groceries on Okinawa that are reasonably priced.
Foremost Co. – Blue Seal (RESTAURANT) – A restaurant and ice cream parlor featuring various American style foods and ice cream made from high quality dairy.
Plants + Nicoli: It Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This – A small shop offering smoothies, coffee and muffins. The location that was visited in this post which was located in Oyama is no longer open for business.
Discount Grocery Store – AEON Big Express – A supermarket that has a wide variety of groceries including produce, fish, meats, shelf stable goods and much more at discounted prices.
Hotto Motto: Good Food Fast – A fast food counter service location where you can purchase bento boxes that are made fresh to order. Delivery and grab and go also available.
HA HA HA Cupcakes – A shop that specializes in original cupcakes
Hub (RESTAURANT) – An izakaya style restaurant that features a wide variety of Japanese, Okinawan and international foods. Perfect for those who want to try unique foods but have someone that is a picky eater in the family.
Baum Factory Fukugiya – A counter service cake shop location on Kokusai Street.
Kaldi Coffee Farm – An international foods and coffee shop located in a Ginowan’s San A Convention City Shopping Center. Features a variety of shelf stable foods, coffee and wine from around the world.
Tonneau: The Barrel Restaurant (RESTAURANT) – An izakaya style restaurant featuring Japanese food and some other international favorites.
Ramen Linya (RESTAURANT) – A small ramen shop featuring delicious Kyoto style ramen as well as some other foods such as fried chicken, curry and more.
OPF: Okinawa Pet Foods – A pet boutique that features a great deal of items including foods for those pets with special dietary needs.
Jetta Burger (RESTAURANT) – A gourmet burger restaurant located in Depot Island, a shopping center, in central Okinawa.
Jiro’s Bakery – A small bakery located in Kiyuna featuring fresh and delicious baked goods, donuts, bread, sandwiches and much more.
Lotteria (RESTAURANT) -A fast food burger chain that originated in Japan and is now popular throughout East Asia. This location which is one of 2 is located in southern Okinawa.
Okinawa Soba (RECIPE) – A traditional Okinawan noodle dish featuring pork, noodles and fish cake.
Bistro De Mattaka (RESTAURANT) – A cafe featuring various types of cuisine and wine.
“Is that Kobe Beef?” What you need to know before ordering – A guide to understanding what Kobe Beef is and how to know it’s what you’re getting if you see it on a menu.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Okinawa’s Mountains – An area in northern Okinawa. Visit the mountains for various activities such as climbing, camping or simply visiting one of the established parks for a day of enjoyment.
Spring in Gushikawa – One of many springs which was used as a water source throughout the history of Okinawa. Many springs very much like this one are actually still in use today by people in the local community.
Stone Lion of Kishaba – A shisa, or guardian, that is now located in a small park nor far from Camp Foster.
Senaga Island – A small island located just off the coast of Okinawa not far from the Naha Airport.
Stained Glass Bridge – Kitamae Okinawa, Japan – A small bridge located in Kitamae that features beautiful stained glass scenes depicting the local area.
Motobu Abandoned Airfield – A decommissioned airfield located on the Motobu Peninsula.
Family Friendly Hiking Locations – A list of hiking locations that are great for families which children of all ages.
The Road That “Sings” – A road located in northern Okinawa that plays a song when you drive over it.
Wakamatsu Park – A beautiful park which features historic sites, playgrounds for children and a lot of green space.
Nakijin-jo – A castle ruin located in Nakijin.
Ozato Castle Ruins – A castle ruin which has been long since forgotten. The site is located in the middle of an Ozato neighborhood and features various structures and a large green space which is used as a park.
Chibana Castle Ruins – An old and forgotten castle ruin which is located in Chibana not far from Kadena Air Base and the Chibana Housing Area.
Neo Park – Walk With The Animals – A park where you can have an up close and personal experience with various birds and animals.
Just Don’t Get Bit By A Habu – Information about Okinawa’s most poisonous snake, the habu, and how to take care of yourself if you get bit.
Box Jellyfish – The Habu of the Sea – Information regarding the box jellyfish, how to ensure you don’t get stung and what to do if you are.
Okinawa Zoo and Wonder Museum – A zoo featuring a wide range of animals from all over the world and a children’s museum which is not to be missed!
Bait and Tackle in Central Okinawa – Information on some bait and tackle shops located in the central Okinawa area.
NEOS: Outdoor Recreation Supply Store – A store featuring various goods and equipment used for outdoor activities. This includes camping gear, hiking gear, bikes and kayaks.
Ocean Expo Park: Oceanic Culture Museum – A museum featuring information about Oceanic Culture in the Pacific. See various types of ships, clothing, fishing gear and other artifacts that are used by people today from all around the region.
Prefectural Road Construction Marker – A marker and small road in Nakagusuku.
Nakagusuku Cosmos Field – A field of flowers that was planted to make the area more beautiful after a large landslide.
FOR DAY TO DAY LIFE
Practicing My Religion in Okinawa – A guide with those from various religious affiliations about place to worship, how to find others to worship with, stores that sell religious goods and much more.
Car Modification – Information regarding car modification here in Okinawa.
Buying A Car In Okinawa (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A guide to not only buying a car in Okinawa but also making the right choice for everything that you want to do.
How Not To Stick Out In Okinawa. . . . At Least Not As Much – A very basic guide featuring information regarding how not to stick out during your time here in Okinawa.
Beating The Heat – Information about how to stay cool in the hot Okinawa summer.
Celebrating Non-Japanese Holidays on Okinawa – Information about what it’s like to celebrate non-japanese holidays in Okinawa.
Making Friends in Okinawa – My views on making friends here on Okinawa including some of the challenges that I have faced and you might face too.
Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap – A program made by military members for military members where you can swap the clothes your kids have grown out with others. This is a great way to save money and of course be sure to continue to use good quality items without simply tossing them away.
Don Quijote – A Second Look (Ginowan Branch) – A department store that features food, clothes, pet section, car section, electronics, jewelry and so much more. Perfect for finding items at low discount prices.
Bus Lanes: How Not Get Pulled Over On Your Way To Work (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A guide to understanding the laws for bus lanes in Okinawa, how to use them and of course how to avoid getting a ticket.
What Kind Of Address Will You Have in Okinawa? (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A breakdown of the types of addresses that you will have if you come to live on Okinawa. This post features both information for military members and those who are moving here and will have a Japanese address.
Itoman City Market – A farmer’s market, fish market and store that features a variety of locally made goods in southern Okinawa.
6 Things NOT to Do in Okinawa (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A guide to some things you should avoid doing during your time here in Okinawa.
The Okinawa Expressway (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A guide explaining what the expressway is, what you need to know and how to use it.
Where Expat Kids Go To Learn (Okinawa) – Information regarding education options for expat children who are in Okinawa.
Ashibinaa Outlet Mall – An outlet mall that features a wide range of high quality shops, a food court and various restaurants.
EMERGENCY ROOM FOR PETS: Animal Hospital 22 – An emergency room and veterinary services in Okinawa.
Finding Work in Okinawa (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A basic guide to finding various times of work on Okinawa.
10 Ways To Save Cash While Living on Okinawa (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A list of 10 simple things you can do to save some money during your time living on Okinawa.
So You’ve Only Got One Weekend in Okinawa – An outline of everything you should do if you only have one weekend in Okinawa.
Myth vs Reality: The Us Military Presence Will Ruin My Trip To Okinawa – This is a post that addresses the common misconception that the US Military Presence on Okinawa will make a trip here less than desirable.
Pineapple Park – A small tourist trap featuring pineapples and a large variety of pineapple related goods.
Islands of Okinawa – Information about Okinawa Prefecture and the islands other than Okinawa Honto.
Jump Station Okinawa – A shop featuring goods from popular Jump manga and anime. Perfect for the anime lover in your family.
American Village and Depot Island – A large shopping and entertainment area located in central Okinawa. Features piles of shops, restaurants, live entertainment and more.
Fukushu-en Chinese Garden – Located in central Naha this beautiful Chinese garden is a great place to escape the city and enjoy the day.
Visiting Okinawa: Weather in June – What you need to know if you’re planning on coming into Okinawa in the month of June.
Okinawa Summer Weather – A breakdown of what the weather during the most challenging months in Okinawa, the summertime, is like.
A Look Back: Typhoon Season 2012 – A quick view back at the typhoon season 2012.
Summertime Tips: Tattoos – A guide for those with visible tattoos. Information in this posts will help you keep your ink bright and your skin from burning.
TYPHOON PREP: Preparing Dogs for a Storm (FOR NEWCOMERS) – Information for those with dogs who are preparing them for the upcoming typhoon season.
Okinawa’s Rainy Season – Information about the monsoon season in Okinawa, when you can expect it, what to expect and how to prepare.
Summer Savings Tips – A guide to saving money during the summer months in Okinawa.
TYPHOON PREP: Stocking Up on Supplies (FOR NEWCOMERS) – A guide to preparing for typhoon season by purchasing supplies that can sustain you in the event of a bad typhoon.
TYPHOON PREP: TCCOR System (FOR NEWCOMERS) – Information about the TCCOR system, what it is and what everything means.
TYPHOON PREP: Where To Get Typhoon Information (FOR NEWCOMERS) – Information about where to get the most accurate information during a typhoon.
Another Summer in Okinawa – A post where I talk about Okinawa’s summer.
30th Peaceful Love Rock Festival – A two day festival featuring bands from around Japan as well as classic bands from around Okinawa.
First Cherry Blossoms to Bloom in Japan – Yaedake – A mountain on the Motobu Peninsula that features that first cherry blossoms to bloom in the entire country.
600,000 Twinkling Lights Itoman Peaceful Illumination – A yearly event that features thousands of lights. Perfect for those far from home and looking for something “Christmas spirit”.
Peace Prayer Park Illumination – An absolutely beautiful display of lights shooting up into the sky. The perfect event to visit following a trip to the Itoman Peaceful Illumination.
Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival – A mountain on the Motobu Peninsula that features that first cherry blossoms to bloom in the entire country.
Butting Heads in Okinawa: Goat Fights – A cultural event that still takes place today in the mountains of northern Okinawa. Features a small town festival perfect for those wanting to experience a part of Okinawa many don’t often see.
C1 Gourmet Challenge – A food festival where local businesses bring their best dishes in order to earn the crown of C1 Champion.
Sunflower Festival – A small festival where you can walk through fields of sunflowers.
An Enjoyable Bike Ride Through Oyama – A trip through the small neighborhood of Oyama located in Ginowan.
Just Like A Horror Movie – This small New England style neighborhood located in northern Okinawa is so quiet that you can hear a radio playing in the distance. . . just like a horror movie.
Protection and Awareness of Endangered Species in Okinawa – An example of Okinawa’s effort to make people aware of the various endangered species here in Okinawa.
Landslides: A Real Danger In Okinawa – A quick look at the power of landslides here in Okinawa. A must read for anyone planning on exploring northern Okinawa following rainy and typhoon season.
Yaedake vs Yaetake – Basic information and my thoughts on why some people say yaedake and others that say yaetake in when referring to one of Okinawa’s mountains.
Springtime Flowers in Okinawa – A quick look at some of the beautiful flowers that can be found around Okinawa in the spring.
MCAS Futenma Relocation: My Thoughts on Recent News – My thoughts on the MCAS Futenma, a controversial military base in south central Okinawa, and it’s potential relocation out of congested Ginowan.
Never Doubt Obaasan – Why you should never doubt an obaasan and my funny looking hat.
Tis The Season . . . . For Awkward Tan Lines – It’s time to break out the sunscreen so that you can avoid looking like I look right now!
The Language of Okinawa: A Common Misconception – Information about what language you will find yourself hearing (and using) while in Okinawa and a little bit of a clarification on a common misconception.
Mysteries of the Hair Salon Revealed – A look into the hair salons that you will find here in Okinawa.
Coo & Riku: The Most Disgusted I’ve Ever Been At A Shop In Japan – My thoughts on an absolutely horrible experience that I had at a local pet store (chain) here in Okinawa. Please read if you have pets.
Tombs, Rotten Fish and Rain. . . . Lots of Rain – A blog post ranting and raving about some less than desirable experiences I was having.
Okinawa Sakura – A post about Okinawa’s sakura.
Okinawa Sakura 2 – Another post about Okinawa’s sakura.
Chemicals On The Playground Part 2 – My views on the response of Kadena Air Base after barrels which were speculated to contain Agent Orange and determined to have actually contained other harmful chemicals were unearthed just outside a school playground.
Okinawa: A New View of a Familiar Place – My thoughts on Okinawa after having visited Mainland Japan and coming back with a new set of eyes.
Okinawa: What You Need To Know (FOR NEWCOMERS) – Information that you should consider if you’re moving to Okinawa or if you have family who is moving here.
Okinawa’s Family Mart and Mickey Collaboration – A look at some fun selections of food that are available at FamilyMart locations in Okinawa for a limited time.
Where Are You From? – A Simple Question With A Complex Answer – My thoughts on the confrontation that can stem from the very simple question of “where are you from”.
Saburo – A three legged dog surrounded by a whole lot of love!