A while ago, I had the opportunity to enjoy a 5-day stopover on Okinawa islands, during a trip in Hong Kong. Surprisingly enough, this japanese archipelago is closer to HK than it is to Tokyo. Okinawa is located southwest of Japan and consists of many islands following Ryukyu Archipelago, south Kyushu (the southern major island in Japan). It was annexed to Japan at the end of the 18th century, then became the prefecture of Okinawa-ken. There are three main assemblies, including the main island: Okinawa-Honto. That's where I stayed, in the center of its capital: Naha.
During my stay, I took the opportunity to visit some tourist spots, shops, castles and temples, beaches and islands... My only regret is not having been able to visit Okinawa 'Churaumi' Aquarium, because it was too far from Naha. The bus ride was about three hours long !
A few key points about Okinawa
There is no direct flight to Okinawa from US or Europe. You'll have to make a stopover in Tokyo, Osaka or other airports in Japan or in Asia. Between us, even if the place is very pleasant, I can not see someone traveling to Japan only to visit Okinawa. So make it an opportunity to experience much more of Japan.
Okinawa is best known as a key area in the Second World War (the famous Battle of Okinawa) and since then, a US military base is still present. But it has also become gradually kind of a Japanese Hawaii, as this tropical archipelago is experiencing a median temperature of 74°F / 23°C. And for the anecdote, you probably view landscapes of Okinawa in Karate Kid 2 or Kill Bill.
The symbol of Okinawa is the Shisa, a mixture of dog and bear. The local dialect, known as Okinawa-ben, is significantly different from classical Japanese. Although everyone speaks the language, Okinawans seem proud of their dialect. Here are two examples :
- hello / konnichiwa is 'haisai'
- welcome / yôkoso is 'mensôre'
Where I stayed : Okinawa Yado Andon Ryokan
As I said, we stayed in a ryokan hotel in Naha. Located in the center of the capital, Andon is a very short walk from Kokusai-Dori, the main shopping street. More precisely, the entrance is on a less touristy street, near the Mitsukoshi and OPA department stores. Within a few seconds walk from the hotel, you can access shopping malls, restaurants, bus stops... And it's located right between two monorail stations.
We were charged 2,500 ¥en per night per person (approx $30). No matter if you're a couple or alone, everyone pays his/her share and the size of the room provided subject to availability. In Okinawa, the tourists have plenty of choice to prefer one of the many big resort hotels with spa and swimming pools. But these are not in the same price range and, generally, these complexes are located on the coast rather far from the city. Given the price gap and easy access to the beaches from the city, we chose a more informal hotel : the ryokan type.
Okinawa Yado Andon is very clean, has regular sized japanese rooms and a welcoming staff. Everything is Japanese style: you sleep on futons prepared on tatami rooms and walk with slippers inside the hotel. There is a small TV in each room, air conditioning (with charge, though) and shared bathroom. Customers are polite and kind of quiet, we didn't hear any noise during the stay.
In short, if you travel to Okinawa and Naha in particular, with a limited budget but without compromising on Japanese service, do not hesitate.