Moving to Okinawa? Here’s What You Can Still Take Advantage of Despite the Island Currently Being Locked Down

It has unfortunately been dubbed the nickname ‘OkiTraz’ by many military members. Despite this attitude, it is a tropical island full of lush vegetation and dense jungle. There is more to do in Okinawa than go clubbing and drinking. This island is the perfect destination for anyone seeking adventure, a new culture, history, gorgeous beaches, and amazing food. I was there from 2010-2016, and, despite all the bans, I was still able to enjoy all it had to offer. Get out and explore!

The Politeness of the Locals

As soon as you arrive to Okinawa, you aren’t treated like a foreign stranger, but more like family. Unlike many cultures, Okinawans have been raised to be very respectful and kind. Anywhere you were to go, whether it be a gas station or a five-star resort, you will be treated with the utmost respect. Everywhere you go, you’re greeted with a bow and a smile. While driving, you will continuously encounter other Okinawan drivers stopping traffic completely just to let you on the road, with a smile and a wave. Sometimes it can be a cultural shock to experience such kindness depending on where you are normally from.

The Delectable Okinawan Cuisine

After trying all the different assortments of food in Okinawa, you will never want to leave! From gas station food to top rated restaurants, everything somehow ends up tasting fantastic. There are many common foods in Japan. Of course, sushi is one of the most popular food destinations for anyone. There are sushi restaurants where an order is placed and you receive it, and there are sushi places where the choices come out on a conveyer belt and you snag up the ones you want!

Some of these choices are very rare and you won’t find them anywhere else in the world. Just as popular as sushi, you will see soba noodle restaurants providing the most amazing ramen experience you’ll ever have, and there are stands on the sides of the road that cook in front of you and serve you up some delicious food. These stands will give you yakisoba, teriyaki chicken on a stick, rice, and sometimes ice cream or other sweets. It’s difficult to choose where to start eating in Japan, so a suggestion would be to start eating as soon as you get there, and don’t stop until you leave!

JapanOld Traditions That Are Still Common Today

Don’t be surprised if you enter a restaurant or a store and there is a stand for you to place your shoes. Many places in Okinawa make you leave your shoes at the door, and will sometimes provide Japanese style slippers to wear instead. In any house, you are expected to take off your shoes immediately at the door. Most Okinawans feel very disrespected if you wear your shoes into their home.

Instead of Sunday being the day in which many stores and businesses close, for the Okinawans it is Monday. Monday is their rest day. Leaving chopsticks standing up straight in a bowl of rice is extremely disrespectful, as it is a practice to leave a bowl of rice with chopsticks in it for the recently deceased. There are many Japanese traditions that were set hundreds of years ago and are still respected to this day.

Castles and Monuments

Almost anywhere you go in Okinawa, you will see a plaque of some sort in respect for someone. Some of these have been in place for over a hundred years. You can visit many different castles and shrines. One of the biggest tourist attractions is the Shurijo castle in the city of Naha. It has been taken care of for hundreds of years, and provides many artifacts and displays of ancient Japanese clothing worn by royals and apparel worn by geisha. You will learn a lot about the history of Okinawa in many museums and random sites that you can pull over to check out.

Vending Machines for Basically Anything

When you think of a vending machine, you will probably think of a machine that dispenses a drink of some sort. There is a vending machine in Okinawa everywhere you look. While some sell coffee, juice, soda, and water, there are many other vending machines that sell various items. Don’t be surprised when you walk past a vending machine that sells cigarettes. Usually identification has to be scanned for these machines. There are also vending machines that sell toiletries such as toothpaste, soap, and toilet paper. Others dispense ice cream, and many dispense a whole heated meal!

The Beauty of Okinawa

With crystal clear beaches, cliffs that overlook the ocean, waterfalls that you can hike to, and breathtaking cultural landmarks, Okinawa is easily known for its popularity of being a tourist destination. There are many resorts that overlook the ocean, and beaches that give you popular fun things to do such as kayaking, jet-skiing, surfing, and scuba diving. There are yearly whale-watching tours and fishing expeditions, and one of the largest aquariums in the world – the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. There are countless off-the-road trails and paths that lead to beautiful waterfalls and magnificent rock formations, as well as statues and monuments. You can commonly see parades of traditional Japanese music and women dressed as geishas. The Japanese use fireworks for everything, so expect to see them at least once a month for a different event.

Despite all the strange new cultural changes you will see and participate in, that is all part of the experience. If you have a will to get out and explore, then there is always a way. Lastly, respect the place or the bans will never end!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Natalie Applegate

Natalie Applegate

Natalie is a freelance writer working for multiple websites and is a devoted military spouse to an aircraft electrician. She started in New Mexico then moved to Okinawa for six years, stationed on Kadena where she began her writing career. A mental health awareness activist, she has spent much of her time volunteering with combat vets and writing their stories.
Natalie Applegate
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