Despite all the traveling I did, I never got the opportunity to travel to Okinawa, so I asked my friend Sarah about her time there. Before she returned home, her family came to Japan and traveled around the country with her. Their first four days of their stop was Okinawa, where they spent a majority of their time in Naha.
Although there are many tourist packages travelers can take advantage of, Sarah decided to organize the trip itself, so they visited the more touristy locations like the aquarium and Shuri Castle, where they learned about the Ryukyu Kingdom and the Queen. She particularly enjoyed the tea room, as it brought together aspects of mainland Japanese culture and Okinawan culture.
One of the main differences Sarah noticed was the difference in the atmosphere. Okinawa was definitely more geared towards tourists and markets itself as a paradise getaway location. Compared to Tokyo, where the streets are pristine, and the buildings look new and industrial, Okinawa was a bit more run-down and grungy, but not in an off-putting way. It made it feel off-the-beaten-path. The open air and rustic charm of the island reminded her of the Caribbean.
In the same vein, one of my personal favorite anecdotes from Sarah was about the traditional markets. There, she found a beautiful, hammered gold bracelet that had been hand-crafted by a local Okinawan man. It was her favorite souvenir from the trip because of its uniqueness and authenticity. When traveling around Japan, often the souvenirs you find turn out to be mass produced and available in any of the tourist locales, despite the fact they might look unique to that area. Of course, you definitely can find unique and interesting souvenirs anywhere, you just might have to look harder for them depended on where you are. That’s why Sarah’s bracelet strikes such a chord with her- she remembers exactly where she got it and who she bought it from.
Featured Image from ajari on Flickr