I’ve wanted to visit Okinawa, the southern island of Japan, after reading about it’s miracle seaweed, beautiful beaches and the worlds highest life expectancy. Just a two hour flight from Hong Kong to Naha City, I jumped at the chance. I really struggled to find any non-Japanese information on Okinawa and you will find the websites are a bit old school and out of date. Hopefully, my recommendations on Naha City and the Karema Islands will inspire and ease your visit.
I had read that Naha City was behinds the times compared to main land Japan. Yet, when I arrived I was surprised how alike Naha was to Daikanyama in Tokyo. Naha has traditional village feels but the same modern Japanese practicalities such as the futuristic skyline metro and heated toilet seats.
One important thing to remember – when you land at Naha airport, take cash out, nowhere takes card. 1000Y was about £7. In my London cashless life, this was quite foreign to me.
The Richmond Hotel– £50 a night, pre booked on Booking.com.
I liked this place instantly – the receptionist was wearing a typical okinawa ‘Hawaiian’ shirt. He was super helpful and called to reserved the ferry from Tokashiki to Aka island as they didn’t understand English. Rooms were basic but the bed was so comfy. It also had all the Japanese touches like a high tech bed board and heated toilets.
Naminoue-gu Shrine – We walked 30 minutes to get here at sunset for that perfect picture, it was a striking sight. It’s best to walk on the motorway path to get the best angle (you will know what I mean when you’re there). We walked around the shrine in the grounds alone in the dark, which was so peaceful.
Shurji castle – Y800 entrance. The castle itself was very busy but the grounds were lovely, green and tranquil. The best part was the traditional wooden clad tea rooms which blew me away. It was Y300 each for unlimited Jasmin tea, traditional biscuits and the ultimate zen.
Tsuboya pottery district – Located about 400 meters south of Kokusaidori Street in central Naha, we started at the top and worked our way down. The pottery was generally more expensive than I presumed, for example, one cup I bought was Y3500 which is about £25 so a set would be £50-100. The scale of quality and price definitely correlated and of corse, I liked the expensive shops. We only visited half of the shops but after an hour in the midday sun I’d had enough and made quick gut decisions. I bought a few sets from a few of my favourite shops, which I carried all the way back to London to keep them safe.
Ukishima Garden Okinawa – Vegan, locally sourced, Italian – Japanese fusion – what’s not to like? Y8000 for three courses plus drinks. Get the okinawa rum and detox coke – delish!
Yunangi – This traditional Okinawa restaurant is voted the best in Naha city, so we had to check it out. We had some of local delicacies; black ink squid risotto, sea cucumber ramen and the chicken stir fry – wow, incredible. We left the sea snake sake for another time, although I heard, it’s a great digestive.
Ball donut park – I kept missing the opening of this place but I was determined to get there before I left just before my flight. We had the savoury taco balls and the tropical. Oh my god, they were incredible. Not only the food was great, the reading material was fab too. If only we had come here first, they had volumes of guides to Okinawa. I took a few photos for my return journey. Oh and this is the only place I’ve seen keep loyal cards at the venue for the customers – why doesn’t everyone do this?
T and M coffee – A Cool, tiny coffee shop that reminded me of the coffee shops in Dykinyama, Tokyo.