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22 Reasons Why Okinawa Should Be On Your Bucket List

April 2, 2015

Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture in Japan, is truly a beautiful Asian subtropical utopia that will awestruck you in so many different ways. From its enchanting cherry blossoms to its world-famous aquarium, Okinawa has a plethora of joys, goodies and delights to offer to its visitors. While Okinawa as a tourist destination isn’t as popular as Kyoto and Tokyo, it is still a wondrous haven that you should visit at least once your lifetime. Trust me, a visit to this Japanese nirvana will give you an enchanted and extraordinary travel experience.

Whether you are a history buff or someone who’s overly fond of sightseeing, there are tons of good reasons to visit Japan’s southernmost prefecture. Here are a few good reasons why Okinawa should be on your bucket list of places to visit.

Reasons to visit Okinawa, Japan

1. Home to one of the world’s largest aquatic museums

Known as one of the world’s largest aquariums, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is a gigantic aquatic museum that boasts 77 tanks containing over a million gallons of water. An absolute delight for animal lovers, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium dazzles with its fascinating collection of sea creatures that include mantra rays, dolphins, an 8.5-meter whale shark, and many more.  Furthermore, this aquatic museum showcases kaleidoscopic corals that encapsulate the flourishing underwater world and seas of Okinawa.

2. World-class diving sites

Okinawa is, without a doubt, a paradise for experienced and seasoned scuba divers. Deemed as one the world’s top diving destinations, the Okinawa archipelago is quite known for its abundance of marine animals and coral species. As you dive into its waters, you will be able to find more than five kinds of sea turtles and 400 kinds of coals. What’s more, Okinawa’s underwater world is teeming with amazing sea animals like hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, mantra rays as well as different types of tropical fish.

3. A trip to Okinawa is not as expensive as you think

We have, for years, heard tales suggesting that Japan is an expensive place to visit. From expats and travelers, there have been an awful lot of people saying that the “Land of Rising Sun” is a high-priced destination. But guess what? A trip to this East Asian destination doesn’t necessarily have to be extravagant. There are plenty of money-saving tips that can help you save a fortune during your trip to Okinawa and the rest of Japan.

4. Blooming cherry blossoms in January

Want to escape the inflated prices and buzzing crowds of mainland Japan’s cherry blossom season? To me, cherry blossom watching is definitely a lot more relaxing, rewarding and affordable in the southernmost prefecture in Japan. In Okinawa, there won’t be throngs of people taking picnics below the blooming cherry blossom trees. The thing is, locals and tourists in this destination prefer to get a load of these trees by strolling along paths and streets lined with flourishing trees.

Are you a foreign tourist who is eager to get an early close-up look of the national flower in Japan? In mainland Japan, the cherry blossom season generally starts in late March. But in Okinawa, you can catch sight of these gorgeous bell-like flowers as early as January.

5. Learn how to live long

Did you know that Okinawa has four times more centenarians than anywhere else on the face of the earth? Yes folks, people from Okinawa have the highest life expectancy in the world, as recent studies have confirmed. Whether you are chatting with an old fellow in a local bar or talking to a tour guide, a trip to Okinawa lets you discover the secrets to living a long and fruitful life.

If you are really serious in knowing the secrets of having a long life, I suggest that you head off to Ogimi Village, home to some of the oldest women in the world. Here, you get a chance to meet and greet these fabulous people, as well as ask them for a few words of advice on how to live longer.

6. Marathons and rides

Okinawans, in general, love to ride and run, which is probably why some of them live over a hundred years. And for fitness junkies like me, Okinawa has a bevy of heart-pumping events and competitions to offer, such as the Ishigaki Triathlon, Strongman Triathlon, Okinawa Marathon, Naha Marathon and Tour de Okinawa.

7. A romantic sailing experience in Okinawa

Traveling with your one true love in Okinawa? Sail off to Ishigaki Island, and spend an unforgettable romantic evening with your partner. With this romantic escapade, you’ll get a magnificent view of the sunset from a yacht as well as go on a sailing escapade under the light of a thousand stars with your favorite drink in hand.

8. An opportunity to hone your skills in karate

Are you a big fan of Karate Kid? Did you know that the Mr. Miyagi character from the Karate Kid flicks came from this part of Japan? As far as I’m concerned, Okinawa is one of the best places to learn the art of karate-do. As the birthplace of this Japanese martial art, Okinawa is, for most martial arts practitioners, the ultimate destination to learn authentic karate.

9. A taste of America

Tourists, in Okinawa, can enjoy a small taste of America by swinging the Little America. Of course, Little America is loaded with delights that would remind you of America, such as taco restaurants, home-made apple pies, grilled cheese, and drive-thru Starbucks. Plus, it is a host to dynamic nightspots and tattoo parlors with American-inspired names like Wall Street and Chicago.

10. Beautiful world-class beaches

Okinawa is a host to some of Japan’s highly acclaimed pristine beaches, such as Okuma Beach, Sunayama Beach, Aragusuku Beach, Nirai Beach, Nishi no Hama Beach, Yonaha Maehama Beach, and Kondoi Beach.

11. Iriomote Island

The Iriomote Island is a secluded rustic refuge that offers a myriad of outdoor adventures to its visitors. Here, you can take a plunge into its cool waterfalls as well as trek through its uncharted jungles to catch sight of rare wildlife species like the endangered Iriomote cat. Not to mention, you can take a Stand Up Paddleboard trip, and delve into the island’s mangroves forest.

12. An aerial adventure that will blow your mind

Paraglide Okinawa’s stunning blue skies and fly like an eagle over the archipelago’s beautiful emerald corals.

13. Breathtaking river treks

Okinawa’s sea is undeniably gorgeous and mesmerizing, but the natural beauty and charm of this Japanese archipelago goes beyond its clear azure waters. Okinawa’s river, for one, is a thriving natural ecosystem that lets you experience awesome treks and discover a wide array of plants, fishes and insects.

14. UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Do you love taking pictures of historic sites? As far as I know, Okinawa is home to nine splendid UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Katsurenko Castle remains, Sefa-utaki, Zakimijo Castle remains, Nakagusukujo Castle remains, Nakijinjo Castle remains, Shikinaen, Tamaudun, Sonohyan-utaki Ishimon and Shurijo Castle.

15. Shikuawasa Juice

More than just an ordinary fruit drink, the Shikuawasa Juice is a delightful lime juice with a tastefully tangy after-taste. You can find this extraordinary fruit juice in most vending machines across the region.

16. Cool vending machines

Speaking of drinks and vending machines, the archipelago also has cool and top-notch vending machines that serve a variety of drinks. From familiar brands and large size machines to Japanese exclusives (like Calpis, Pocari Sweat and Aquarius), Okinawa indeed has a fabulous array of blissfully sweet vending machines.

17. Convenience stores that epitomize convenience

Have you tried buying stuff from a Japanese convenience store? From food and movie tickets to kiosks and ATMs, the Family Marts and convenience stores in this Japanese archipelago seem to have everything a traveler needs.

18. Mouthwatering food

As with the rest of Japan, Okinawa is also a heaven for foodies, offering an endless selection of unique and mouthwatering goodies, such as the ultra delicious sea grapes (umibudo), sashimi, soki soba, gurukun, and sataandago donuts.

19. Awamori

When foreign travelers think of Japanese alcohol, the first thing that usually comes to mind is either soju or sake. But, have you heard anything about a drink called awamori in Japan? For those aren’t familiar with it, awamori is a unique alcoholic beverage distilled only in this Japanese archipelago. Made from long-grain Thai indica rice, awamori is a certainly a flavorful spirit has been a sought-after drink in other parts of Japan due to its relative rarity, and complex flavors.

20. Shopping at the Ashibinaa Outlet Mall

In Ashibinaa Outlet Mall, shoppers get to buy casual clothing and designer labels, with big discounts that can go as far as 80 percent.

21. A galore of festivals

From the beer festivals to vegetable festivals, there is no shortage of dynamic and colorful festivals in Japan’s southernmost prefecture.

22. Be a part of the biggest tug-of-war in the world

Visit Okinawa in October, and be one of 15,000 participants in the Naha Great Tug of War, the largest tug-of-war in the world, according to Guinness Book of Records.

 

With its interesting culture, delectable food, charming people and spectacular attractions, Okinawa is absolutely a magnificent destination that every travel junkie should visit. So, plan a trip to Okinawa now, and delve into a world full of joys, fun and adventure.

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Ashley Thompson
A fun size lass born in rock and roll who dreams to become a rock star, or a world traveler, or both.