Okinawa Travel Guide - Explore Japan's Hidden Gem Island Okinawa

Okinawa Travel Guide - Explore Japan's Hidden Gem Island Okinawa

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Hello my name is Kengo. I'm introducing Japan  travel information based in Tokyo. Today I'm at   the southernmost island of Japan, Okinawa. Okinawa  is a southern island of Japan that is known for   beautiful beach resort. Okinawa has a unique culture  and history that is different from mainland Japan.   During your travel in Okinawa, you can enjoy the  beach, resort hotel stay and also the deep island culture of Okinawa in sight seeing and cuisine. You find  the castle ruins where you can get a glimpse of  

the history of Ryukyu Kingdom that used to be  here and various tropical attractions, amazing   and unique Okinawan cuisine, Okinawa local liquor  called awamori. Okinawa is for everyone who visits   from budget traveler to who likes to enjoy the  luxury resort. I visit Okinawa at least once   a year and I know nobody wants to see me lying  down by the poolside so today I'd like to drive   around Okinawa's main island from the southern tip  to the northern tip so that you can get a travel   idea, what you can expect in Okinawa travel and how  you can visit and get around Okinawa's main island.

Okinawa is a group of islands located in the  south of Kyushu Island. The chain of numerous   islands continue to south of Kagoshima Prefecture  including iconic island Yakushima, the big island of Amami   to the southernmost island of Kagoshima  Yoron and continue to islands of Okinawa. Okinawa has 37 inhabited islands that actually people lives  and there are three major island groups that are   popular for tourists. One is Okinawa's main island  called Okinawa Honto where I traveled in this video.  

The island is separating East China Sea and  the Pacific Ocean. You can access to the several  different small islands such as Kerama Islands  either by airplane or ferries depend on the island.   The second area that is popular is Miyakojima  that are about 300 kilometers southwest of main island. Miyakojima   island and the surrounding islands are connected by  bridges. Miyakojima area has two airports that have direct flights   from Tokyo. The island is famous for the white  sandy beaches and a beautiful ocean color called  

Miyako blue. The area was lacking the hotels for  a long time but Hilton has just opened the resort. About 130 kilometers farther west is Ishigaki island.  Ishigaki is the main island of Yaeyama Islands   and it's a hub for island hopping around the  area. You can take ferry to sounding Islands   such as Iriomotejima that has precious  species of animals. All of these three   islands have direct flights from Tokyo and some  other major cities in the main island of Japan,   and there are shuttle flights between islands too.  You might wonder which islands are better for you.   You can choose the island based on several factors.  Usually Okinawa's main island is easier to find  

flights for reasonable prices. Also Okinawa's main  island is full of budget hotel and luxury resort   and it has a big Naha city so you can enjoy  both beach and city. It also has a lot of fun   attractions so if you are not the type of the  person sitting by the pool or beach, or if you are   visiting with small children I recommend Okinawa's  main island. If you like to enjoy the small island  

atmosphere with white sandy beach and convenient  at the same time I recommend Miyankojima Island. When it come to the sandy beach Miyakojima is the  winner. From here let's focus on Okinawa's   main island that probably the biggest number  of travelers visit. There are some international   flights directly goes to Okinawa. Right now there  are several flights from Taipei, Seoul, Hong Kong  

and Bangkok. From Tokyo's Haneda airport there  are about 50 flights every day to Okinawa's   Naha International Airport. It's the third busiest  route in Japan after Tokyo to Sapporo and Tokyo   to Fukuoka. I took ANA this time and other  major flights are Japan Airlines and Sky Mark Airline.  From Narita Airport you can also use LCCs such  as Peach and Jetstar Japan. All of these Airlines  

do campaign sale time to time so you might want to  check the price early if you put Okinawa into your   itinerary. The flight from Tokyo is about 2 hours  and 30 minutes. I got shumai bento box near   the gate and it was my breakfast. The bento box  for train's called Ekiben; for the airplane it's   called Soraben. The flight was very smooth  and I started to see the island of Okinawa. Now it's time to enjoy Okinawa. Okinawa  doesn't have a train so you can either get a   rental car or use the bus or taxi. If you  are staying at the hotel and doesn't get  

around that much you can take buses. Some  hotels have bus service for the guests.   The buses are not running that frequently so  you might want to check the timetable when you   plan the trip. Also you cannot use the IC card  such as SUICA that are not issued in Okinawa.   So this bus goes to Manza Beach, Moon Beach  and American Village it says to and all the   way to Nago bus terminal. The several bus  route that going to the major resort area in   the west coast of Okinawa. You can purchase a  ticket online or at the counter of the airport. To get around many different places the best way  is to rent a car. If you have a reservation for  

the rental car you can take the shuttle bus of  the rental company you have a reservation from   the island outside the arrival gate. To drive in  Japan you need international driver's license,   and some countries have different conditions. I  personally like to use a major rental car company.   In Japan major companies are Times Car Rental,  Toyota Rent-a-car and Nippon Rent-a-car and some more.   Each of them has English site and also you can  use the site like K-Look and Tabirai that you   can compare the price for the date you like to  get a car. One thing to note is you might want   to make a reservation for rental car very early.  Okinawa used to be one of the cheapest and easiest   places to get a car, but after the pandemic  it became one of the most competitive places to   get a rental car. I couldn't find any rental car  from the major company at the Naha Airport so I  

got one in Naha City Center. So let's get into the  city center of Naha by monorail called Yui Rail.   You can take a monorail - the Yui Rail. It's  the only public transportation in Okinawa that   doesn't use a road. It connects the airport in the  city center and a farther area such as Shuri. You  

can use IC card such as SUICA and PASMO that  you got in Tokyo, Osaka or any other major cities. If you stay in the resort and spend  the most of your time in your hotel   your hotel choice greatly influence  your travel experience in Okinawa.   Most of the resort hotels are in the west coast  of the island, especially from Yomitan Village   to Onna Village and Nago City. There are many  major brands such as Hyatt, Hilton and Sheraton.   Also luxury full service resorts such as  Halekulani, Busena Terrace. If you like to stay   budget there are some hotels and condominiums  along the west coast too. In this trip I chose   one budget hotel by the beach, one resort style  hotel by the beach and one city hotel in Naha City.

The first hotel I chose was  the Best Western Kouki Beach.   They have two locations by the beach and this  one is facing the beautiful long beach of Nago.   I usually like to stay in the big resort but it was so convenient to stay in the   small hotel and have a convenience store  downstairs. The room is spacious definitely   had a feeling of American motel chain, but  they kept the typical Japanese amenities such   as toothbrush and disposable slippers and  all rooms have an amazing view of the beach Wow. And the biggest reason to come to Okinawa is the beautiful beaches. Numerous number of various beaches in different parts of the island. The beach was a little rough. I'm not sure if it's just now or it's  usually like this. The beach and sand 

quality is very different depends on where you go  and it's hard to know until when you get there.   Overall I like this convenience of  the small size hotel of the Best   Western Kouki Beach. I'd like to try  another Best Western in the future. Sunset is also very nice On the second night I stayed at Okuma  Private Resort. It's located in the far   north of the island, but they run daily  shuttle bus from Naha City Center.   The hotel opened 45 years ago by Japan  Airlines after the land of the Voice   of America. The room is all cottage  type and spread all over the property.   Even though it has a long history as a resort  hotel many rooms have been renovated and have modern   style room. You cannot see the ocean from the room  so that could be the only cons for this hotel.  

It's nice and quiet environment away  from the traffic or the city [Music]   The hotel has a large private beach and a small  pool and a public bath overlooking the beach.   I stayed only one night here but it's a good place   to stay for a few nights and enjoy  the great environment and beaches. On the third night I stayed in Naha city.  I found this hotel called Hotel Strata Naha right   in front of Miebashi Station. As I don't  need a car in the city, I dropped off  

the car and walked to the hotel. It's  a great location that you can access   to the airport by Yui Rail quickly and you  can also walk to the main streets of Naha, Kokusaidori.   Other two things I liked about the hotel in  addition to the great location was the balcony. The   twin room is facing the city and has spacious  balcony overlooking the city and the hotel pool.   It was so nice to sit here in the warm breeze of  Okinawa. Also the hotel had a small pool surrounded by nice green and it opened until 10 pm. Many  hotels close the pool with sunset in Okinawa,  

but this one opens until 10 pm with condition  that you have to enjoy quietly after 8 pm.   Now you know how to get around and where to stay  in Okinawa. Let's get around the island now. There are   lots of things to see Okinawa's main island  and it's impossible to see everything in one   trip so I'd like to visit some of them in this  video as I quickly follow the history of Okinawa.  

I hope you can pick up your favorite one when  you visit and there are a lot more than what   I show in this video. One thing good to know  is Okinawa's main island is not that small.   There's about 100 kilometers from north  to south and attractions are spread out.   It takes time to move from places to places so  it's better to plan in advance. In this video I   explain in four different areas Naha City, south of  Naha ,middle of the island and north of the island.

Okinawa used to have a Ryukyu Kingdom and  before the whole island was unified as   a kingdom in 14th century there used to  be three Kingdoms - North, Middle and South   and where they used to rule the northern  part of the island was the Nakijin Gusuku. I'm at Nakijin Gusuku. "Gusuku" means castle in Okinawan ward. This is World Heritage site that you  can see the site of Nakijin Castle.  

It's in Nakijin Village, not far from the major  tourist destination of Okinawa, Churami Aquarium. From the castle you see the beautiful island  shapes of Izena Island and Iheya Island. The castle was attacked by the famous warrior  and professional of making castle, Gosamaru   and finished its glory, but after that the castle  stayed as a hub to monitor the northern part of   Okinawa but it was burnt down by the attack of  Satsuma which is current Kagoshima Prefecture in 1609. Gosamaru served to protect the king and the castle he built  and lived until he killed himself is Nakagusuku. He was betrayed and both Gosamaru  and Nakagusuku was burned down in   1458. Nakagusuku is another World Heritage  Castle site that is closer to Naha City.   You can see both Pacific Ocean and East  China Sea from the top of the castle site.

The Ryukyu Kingdom continued 450 years until  19th century. Where the king of Ryukyu lived   and rules the politics is Shuri Castle. You can  walk from Shuri Station of Yui Rail.   The castle that was built in Ryukyu Kingdom was  burnt down during the World War II and the new   castle that was rebuilt after that burned down  again recently and now they are rebuilding again. The castle site is a registered  as the World Heritage site but   it's just site and not the building. Shuri Castle  is now under construction so you can   either wait until 2027 or you can come  to see how they are reconstructing.   Ryukyu Kingdom officially finished when its  name was changed to Okinawa in 19th century.

During the World War II Okinawa became the main  battleground between Japan and the United States. I'm at the Peace Memorial Park of Okinawa located  in the southernmost tip of Okinawa's Main Island.   Okinawa became is the main battlefield  between United States and Japan and   there was a lot of loss of lives in  the local people and military people   and this is a place to wish for world peace  and also to remember the loss of the people.  

And there are 250 000 people's name who lost  their lives in Okinawa is here no matter they're  Japanese or American who are known other  nationalities their name is here together. And no matter what happened to the human history  what is always there is a beautiful nature of   Okinawa. Okinawa has beautiful beaches and islands  is filled with warm island breeze. One of the place   you can enjoy the beautiful color of Okinawa ocean starts from right next to the Naha Airport.

Between two runways of the Naha Airport there is  a little island with hotel, shops and restaurants.   It's called Umikaji Terrace in Senagajima Island, and you  can see airplanes landing and taking off. There is   a hotel with natural hot springs and from its room  you can enjoy the view of the beach and runways.  

Each room has a bath with view of runway and also  a large public bath facilities that you can enjoy   the natural hot springs. If you want some different  experience in Okinawa, it's good place to visit. You   can also just enjoy the public bath with day  visit. Lots of beaches are in front of the resort   hotels. If beach activities are important for you  I recommend to stay by the beach. It's much easier   and less stress than driving up to the beach. There  are also some nice beaches that you can visit. Zanpa Beach has a white sandy beach that is hard to  open eyes on sunny days without sunglasses. This is Zanpa Beach in Yomitan Village. This beach has a very white sand and very beautiful.

Right next to the beach is a Cape Zanpa that  you can see the rough landscape with lighthouse.   it's not a great place for marine leisure and  water activities. I dropped by the cafeteria   called Cape Zanpa Drive-In for a cake and  coffee. It was a nice place to stop by.

I also visit the Cape Hedo, the northern  tip of the Okinawa's main island.   You see the dynamic view of Okinawa's northern mountain called Yambaru Forest   and also the dynamic ocean wave. The view  of the northern part of Okinawa looks a   little bit different from the southern part  of Okinawa which seems more tropical. We see  

the southernmost island of Kagoshima Prefecture  called Yoron Island which is 22 kilometers away.   If you like more activities, a good place to  visit is aquarium called the Churami Aquarium in the west edge of the Motobu peninsula.  I arrived at Kaihohaku Park in the northern part of Okinawa island.   And here there's a big aquarium which is  probably the most popular tourist attraction   in Okinawa's main island so let's go see how it is. Lots and lots of people from all over the world.   It's known for a massive kuro shio sea tank which  is one of the largest aquarium tanks in the world   containing the diverse range of marine life  including whale sharks and manta rays.

Also features similar other exhibits such as sea  turtle and dolphins showcasing the unique marine   ecosystems and species. If you like animals  another place to visit is Neo Park in Nago.   There are several different animals  but the most notable ones are the birds.  Not all Okinawa oriented birds, but it's a fun small zoo that   you can enjoy walking through various themed areas and even feed the birds. It's a snack for the birds. Let's try.

Okay, this video is not about the animals so let's  move on. Naha City is the prefectural capital of   Okinawa and where more than 300,000 people live. The  great thing about Okinawa's main island is that   you can enjoy the city scenes too. You can drop the  car and enjoy walking around the streets of Naha   and enjoy shopping and dining . Naha's Main Street is  this Kokusai Dori which means International  

Avenue. It's continuing from Yui Rail's Kencho-mae Station to Makishi Station so you can access from   both stations. It's a walkable area and you can see  several side streets. Makishi Market and Yachimun Street   that extend from the near Hyatt Regency Hotel. It's  a street that you can find lots of pottery shops.   The statue you see a lot everywhere in Okinawa is  called shisa. Shisa is a guardian that protects the   house from evils and it's a popular souvenir from  Okinawa that you can see in almost all souvenir shops   in Okinawa. There are a lot of souvenir shops and  restaurants that you can enjoy steaks and Okinawan  

cuisine. Now let's drop by one izakaya and try  Okinawan cuisine and local liquor called our awamori.  Okinawa cuisine is unique with local  vegetables, tofu, seaweed and lots of pork.   Goya Champru is a stir fry to enjoy the bitterness  of goya. Umi budo which means sea grape is a seaweed to   enjoy the texture small balls along the stem  explode as you bite and it's interesting to eat.  

Awamori is a traditionally distilled  alcohol beverage from Okinawa that   is made from rice. You can enjoy  the different flavor of awamori. This is Okinawa's special spirit called awamori. The store person gave me two. This one is sweet and soft, and this is more fresh.

As usual, I turn red so quickly. On the way to the hotel, I dropped by the   small shop to eat Okinawa soba  it's a must eat food in Okinawa. There are plenty of soba shops in Okinawa that are different depending on the regions in Okinawa. It's raining today. There are some  things to know when you visit Okinawa.   Okinawa has warm weather year-round but it can be  chilly in winter. The best time that you can swim  

in the ocean is from late March to October, but it  goes into rainy season from mid-May to June and it   gets strong typhoon during summer so it's a little  challenging to predict the weather for Okinawa. The popular souvenir is Ryukyu glass that has a beautiful color that looks like the scene you just saw at the beach. When I saw the Ryukyu glass for the first time during Okinawa trip,  I was excited with the beautiful gradation of   the colors that looks like it to pack the color  of the ocean of Okinawa. It's a perfect gift  

to bring home the fun travel memory of Okinawa.  Recently some products are not made in Okinawa so   make sure to check the label. It's your choice, but  I don't want you to get sad when you arrive home.   Even though Okinawa has a beautiful beaches  some islands are not developed as a resort and   there are tons of hidden gems and off the beaten  pathways in Okinawa especially in small islands,   but it doesn't mean you can swim everywhere.  Even if it looks peaceful, it can be a dangerous  

spot with fast current and some beaches can be  sanctuary places for the island residents that you   cannot swim so it might help to ask a hotel person  before you go. I hope you could get a snapshot of   Okinawa trip. You might not consider visiting  Okinawa when you think of visiting Japan. There are   tons of beautiful beach resort in the world and  probably that is not what you expect to Japan.   You are right. It's definitely not a place to  visit instead of Tokyo or Kyoto for the first   time visitor to Japan, but if you have been  to Japan before or you have a few weeks   or a month in Japan it's definitely worth putting  in your itinerary. Okinawa is not just about the   beautiful beaches. You can experience amazing  local culture in foods, art crafts and there's  

something about the island breeze of Okinawa  that makes you a repeater of the island. Thank   you for watching. Have a great trip to Japan. Have  a great week until the next video.

2023-05-16 16:46

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