Happy new year! I’ve just come back from a short getaway to Okinawa so get ready for a long wall of photos from my four days in the southernmost bit of Japan.
Most people have an image of Okinawa as a sunny resort island to go to for a summer vacation—so did I, which is why I didn’t know what to expect going there in the winter. But just like the rest of Japan it must be beautiful in all seasons because Okinawa in winter was amazing.
There definitely aren’t any cliffs like this in Tokyo.
It was my first time discovering Okinawa for myself; they have their own traditional Ryukyu culture and it gave the place a whole different vibe from Tokyo. Still bustling, still bright—but in a very Okinawan style. Plus I get what people mean now when they say it’s like the Hawaii of Japan (I wouldn’t say it’s that heavily influenced by American culture, but there were a lot of steakhouses).
In any case, the streets and shops were full of weird and bizarre things and I loved it. What’s Tweety Bird even doing in the jaws of a shark?
No doubt Okinawa is a fruit paradise. I felt oddly at home seeing all the tropical fruits that appear in Southeast Asia too, but I’ve never seen a mini pineapple. They were smaller than the palm of my hand! How do people grow those?
And of course we ate as much Okinawan food as we could (over multiple meals and snacks every day). I stayed in the capital city Naha, and it was easy to find a good breakfast anywhere. I had yushi doufu twice, which is basically soft fluffy tofu in hot broth with the essential bowl of rice on the side.
They also have their own special tofu which is made with peanuts. Peanuts! I’m not sure how it works but it tasted good (if a bit too chewy).
Getting that Okinawa soba in our stomach early in the morning. It’s called soba, but it’s really made of wheat and more like flat udon.
And if you’re looking for a more Hawaiian breakfast (it’s Okinawa, after all), C&C Breakfast is a highly popular cafe that serves a good acai bowl
On our first night we fell into a tourist trap at Kokusai-dori and had dinner at a restaurant that had traditional Okinawan performances. The place had a great set-up and it was nice getting to listen to old-fashioned music—except you have to pay an extra cover charge so watch out for that! (It was fine trying it once but it gets pretty expensive)
We had delicious local cuisine anywayI really liked goya chanpuru—bitter melon, egg, meat and tofu all stir-fried together into one hot dish. I don’t even like bitter melon usually, but somehow they made it taste good.
And desserts. Of courseThis was zenzai, sweet red bean soup with mochi, but surprisingly in Okinawa they used kidney beans instead of red beans. No wonder they looked bigger and redder than usual. I honestly still prefer the red beans, but I already love anything with mochi in it anyway.
Okinawa is also famous for their purple sweet potatoes! Beni imo is such a quintessential Okinawa food that I almost feel bad burying it in the middle of my post. There was so much sweet potato everywhere—in the streets, in the food, even in soaps.
We did occasionally take a break to go sightseeingThe Ryukyu villages are heritage spots with lots to see if you’re interested in the old Okinawan culture, with all the preserved houses and artifacts right there in one place.
They have this lion-dog creature called Shisa, which appears in pretty much every corner of Okinawa as a traditional decoration. Except sometimes it also comes in slightly modern forms like this Doraemon one.
Okinawan snacks! Sata andagi (fried donuts) and chinbin (brown sugar pancakes).
And Okinawa soba again, just because.
We moved on from the villages to the natural wonders of OkinawaThe ocean was SO BLUE. Capitals can’t express my excitement enough over how blue it was.
We ate a seaside cafe called Cafe Curcuma in the south and sat there for a long time just looking out at the scenery over the cliff.
And then we drove up to Cape Manzamo, one of the most popular tourist spots with a view of the elephant trunk-shaped cliff hanging over the sea. How does the sea even have two tones of blues?! The wind was so strong it could’ve blown me right off but I would’ve stayed there as long as I could to look at this scenery straight out of a postcard. And since a still photo can’t do it justice I turned into a (very shaky) gif so you can see how strong the waves were.
Basically anywhere in Okinawa is a photo-worthy location.
There’re beaches everywhere (I mean, the whole island is like a giant beach) but my favourite was Azama Sun Sun Beach just because they had this cute heart-shaped bell stand for me to use as a huge prop.
Umikaji Terrace is also another exquisite landmark that looks a little like a seaside town in Greece, thanks to the pure white terrace overlooking the blue sea. How very photogenic.
We went below the surface for a bit too, to see the caves. This was Gyokusendo Cave at Okinawa World, and we basically walked underground for half an hour looking at stalactites and deer fossils. It’s also apparently the second biggest cave in Japan (I actually read those pamphlets).
Is there anywhere else in the world that has a postbox in the cave?
It was just four days, but I left Okinawa incredibly satisfied and impressed (and a few kilos heavier too, probably). It’s not the typical destination in winter since people usually go in the summer, but it looks like I just have to go again. Go to Okinawa, everybody! Eat some fried donuts at the beach!