Shuri Castle's Una Forecourt at the Seiden Main Hall in Naha on Japan's Okinawa Island

5 reasons Okinawa should be your next holiday destination

There’s not much you wouldn’t be impressed to see in Okinawa, Japan’s tropical southern island prefecture.

Did you know it’s the only place on earth where in excess of 900 centenarians (people over 100 years of age) live? It’s true.

Did you know it’s the birthplace of karate? If you ever watched ‘Karate Kid’, you’d know this anyway.

Did you know it used to be its own, tiny Kingdom from the 15th to 19th centuries? Also true, and there’s a lot of culture and history on the island because of it!

All of this and more lies to be discovered on the little 1207 square kilometre island, which is why there are five major (and many more!) reasons to discover the little island paradise away from the hustle and bustle of massive urban sprawls.

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1. Rest and relaxation like nowhere else

Okinawa is one of those places that slows time down. Living and working in a western culture can take a lot out of you, keep your brain and metabolism running at overdrive, leading us to burn out easily and forces us forget to stop, take time and appreciate the world. A visit to Okinawa turns that around provides some pretty incredible opportunities.

As the birthplace of karate and big fanatics of meditation and the mind, Okinawans and their way of life is incredibly centring. Couple that with all the national park space the island boasts, like the stunning scenes at Kerama Shoto national park; talk about relaxation.
Okinawa meditation

2. The world’s healthiest food

There’s a reason a lot of Okinawans live well into their 90s and a lot of it has to do with what they put inside their bodies. Their traditional diet, centred around vegetables and potatoes has since incorporated meats and fats from western influence, however they have two schools of thought: “Ujinee” is food that assists health and supports the body and “kusuimun” is food that can be thought of as medicine for the body.

By eating an array of colourful foods and vegetables, fish, seaweed and wholesome root vegetables to keep the gut healthy, Okinawans are flooded with vitamins and minerals, which when couple with the detoxifying jasmine tea from day-to-day, all help for one long, healthy life.

Known for their mozuku seaweed, fresh fish, brown sugar, purple potatoes and bitter gourd or “goya”, just to name a few, are reasons amongst why they’re so healthy.

Shrimp Lunch Tray at Taketomi-jima Island Cafe in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture

3. Their arts and crafts are so unique 

There aren’t many places in the world whose arts, crafts and method of production of them are completely untouched by outside influence and have lead to some truly stunning collectible pieces for tourists (and pieces for day-to-day use by locals!). Okinawan textiles and pottery skills are like something else.

The patience required to make bingata style textiles is something out of this world, with each thread dyed in a precise way so that when woven, intended patterns join together to make a stunning piece of fabric. It’s insane to watch.

Their hand-blown glassware is representative of the time and energy they put into their handiworks and even meant to represent the people of the island society themselves through small but beautiful idiosyncrasies, riddled throughout the inimitability of each unique piece.

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4. Okinawan islands provide so many sights

Sure, Okinawa is an island, but off its coast lie a trove of sights to be seen and unique island experiences on the Kerama islands to be had you wouldn’t find in many other archipelagos.

There are over 16 other islands you can visit by plane or boat surrounding Okinawa that offer things like the striking home to King Sho En, the second king of the Ryuku dynasty of Okinawa on Izena Island; the legendary sights of the stone gates to heaven on Iheya island; or the stunning coral reefs of Minna island.

Zamami Island beautiful beach in Okinawa islands, Ryukyu, Japan

5. Tradition is still big

They might have been influenced with Western culture and food, but the tradition and history of Okinawa is still going strong.

Take for example the Okinawan Ryuku dance called ‘Kumiodori, which is one of the most archaic and traditional performances that can be done on the island. It is so popular and since become so regularly performed that the Okinawan government has established a special movement to maintain the tradition and practise of this dance to entertain foreign envoys and tourists alike.

It is broken down into four categories, depending on who’s watching and which dancer is performing, but basically tells stories of the culture and history of Okinawa. Their outfits for it are not of this world, too, with silks, hand dyed and embroidered so masterfully it defies belief.

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For more information, visit Tourism Okinawa.

 

 

 

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