Okinawa is the only place I’ve ever been to that has an international terminal which is smaller than the domestic. It kind of reminds me of the airport in Tobago — one small arrival hall, one small luggage belt, and two customs officers. For a long time Okinawa, the most southern chain of islands in Japan, was a favorite primarily for Japanese tourists coming from the mainland to enjoy the sun, sea and awamori (Okinawa liquor). But in recent years, Chinese and Korean tourists have been coming in droves, so much so that they are almost done building a brand new international terminal to accommodate the influx of tourists.
Lucky for me, my dear husband and I get discounted tickets to fly direct from Hong Kong to Okinawa. You can fly with either Hong Kong Airlines or Dragon Airlines. The flight only takes two hours, and Hong Kong Airlines goes twice a day now, which means you can leave Hong Kong in the morning, and by lunch time be on a beautiful beach.
Okinawa is also relatively cheap to visit, with hotels prices sometimes half of those in Tokyo. Okinawa is Japan’s underdog — statistically it’s the poorest prefecture, but poverty is relative; they may make a lot less than their counterparts in mainland Japan, but their standard of life looks pretty damn good to me. Plus, the water is turqouise blue, as is the sky, there’s no pollution, the food is amazing, and there’s lots to do. If I could, I’d live in Okianwa in a heartbeat.
It was a short trip, but my husband managed to squeeze in some fishing (though he came home empty handed — don’t tell him I told you), and we managed to squeeze in a little sightseeing. First stop was the unfortunately VERY touristy Okinawa World. Generally I’d avoid these kinds of places, but Okinawa World has one attraction I really wanted to see, the Gyokusendo Caves. So, we paid the crappy entrance fee, and made our way through the crappy theme park, and went deep, deep underground into the caves which thankfully were not crappy at all.
All in all I’d give this attraction a 6 out of 10. Or, in better words, it gets a ‘meh’ rating. If you’ve only got a few days, this is one you can skip, unless you really, really like caves. There are lots of artsy things you can do there, like try glass blowing, paint your own shisa (see below), or try traditional weaving, or take a picture in Okinawa kimono, none of which I’d personally pay money to do.
After getting out from the tourist trap, we had an amazingly delicious sushi lunch (radiation? what radiation?). My favorite is the grilled sea eel (anago). Yum.
We then stopped off at Naminoue Shrine to say goodbye to my daruma. What is a daruma, you are surely asking? It’s a Japanese ‘wishing doll’, usually made out of clay. This little round red guy comes to you with no eyeballs — when you get your daruma, you draw in one eyeball in black, and make a wish or set a goal for the year. Then when it comes true, you fill in the other eyeball. When the new year comes, you take daruma to a shrine (any shrine) and add it to the collection of other talismans that people bring. They set up a big fire, and burn them all. I was a bit sad to say goodbye to my daruma, since I’d carried it around for about three years, but in 2013 my wish did come true, and I got a sweet little bundle of joy, so since daruma now had two eyes, it was only right that he joined the rest of the successful talismans.
Here’s a few other random shots from the visit — these were mostly taken in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa.