Ryukyu Wild Boar
Favorite thing: Ryukyu wild boar are native to Okinawa and some neighboring island, and have long been a staple of local diet. In fact, pork is more common to traditional Okinawan diet than fish. Okinawan soba is one of the island's most famous dishes, and it includes a nice slab of pork on top of the buckwheat soba noodles. In fact, author Naomichi Ishige claims the consumption of pork is part of the secret to the historically long lives of Okinawan people, because it "permits the absorption of balanced amounts of animal protein and fat."
U.S. Military in Okinawa
Favorite thing: On 1 April 1945, the U.S. military launches Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa. About 183,000 Americans landed to begin the largest amphibious assault in history, against about 120,000 well-entrenched Japanese. Despite the U.S. advantage in numbers, the battle still lasted some 11 weeks, with tremendous casualties on both sides. While the Americans suffered 12,000 killed, it is estimated that Japanese forces suffered about 110,000 killed. About 40,000 to 150,000 Okinawan civilians were lost, including many who were forced into service with the Japanese military.
Following the war, the U.S. military occupied the entire island of Okinawa until 1972, using the island as a staging point for the Korean War and the Vietnam War. After 1972, the U.S. returned the island to Japan, but even today they maintain a number of bases occupying some 18 percent of the island. These bases include Kadena Air Base, Camp Foster, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab, Torii Station, Camp Kinser, with a total U.S. military presence of 40,000 personnel.
Japanese Naha Air Base
Favorite thing: Not all of the military in Okinawa is American. The Japan Air Self Defense Force operates Naha Air Base, which is co-located with Naha Airport.
The base was constructed in 1933 as a Japanese naval air facility. During the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, U.S. forces took over the airfield and maintained this site as a U.S. Air Force Base until 1971, when it became a commercial airport. The Japanese air base was established in 1979.
When you are flying in and out of Naha Airport, you may notice Japanese helicopters, fighter jets, trainers, and naval patrol aircraft.
Cemeteries in Okinawa
Favorite thing: Cemeteries in the major Japanese islands are certainly different than Western cemeteries, though they do have unique features likes stupas, Buddhas, and wooden prayer boards.
Okinawa has cemeteries that are very different than the rest of Japan. In fact, the above ground cemeteries here closely resemble those in very low areas of the US, like New Orleans. The tombs in Okinawa are typically large concrete crypts with doors for access to the entombment area inside.
These modern tombs resemble the ancient Ryukyuan tombs used by the early rulers of the islands. The old tombs were built into hillsides as caves, but were still fashioned with roofs and entrances in the front, often facing west.
Favorite thing: Okinawa, while cheaper than Tokyo, is still very expensive compared to other Asian countries. Here are some of the prices I paid for things in Okinawa:
Dragonfruit -- 850 Yen (US$8)
Draft Orion Beer -- 600 Yen (US$5.50)
Beer from Vending machine (!) -- 250 Yen (US$2.25)
Coke, 12 Oz, from vending machine -- 110 Yen (US$1)
2 Apples at grocery store -- 240 Yen (US$2.25)
Big bowl of soba noodles -- 800 to 1000 Yen (US$7.50 to 9.25)
Small (4 inch long) Shi Shi dog ceramics -- 4000 Yen (!) (US$37)
Traditional Okinawan Court Dress: a Blend
Favorite thing: Shuri castle is staffed by men dressed as if they were traditional Ryukyu courtiers, while outside the castle grounds, women dressed as court attendants try to get tourists to by photographic sessions in 19th century clothing. Meanwhile, in fancy hotels and resturants, you'll see displays of Okinawan kimonos. All of this brings one to realize that Okinawa has, and is proud of, their own distinctive traditional dress, separate from that of Japan and China. To the untrained style eye (e.g. me), the style looks to be a cross between Chinese and Japanese, though there are hints of Korean thrown in. In fact, the idea to have tourists pay to dress up as ancien regime courtiers is one I first saw in Seoul.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Okinawans Live Long Lives
Favorite thing: Okinawa is has one of the highest concentrations of 100-year-old people in the world, and in general, its people enjoy some of the longest lives on the planet. A climate that keeps peole outdoors and active, a diet rich in rice, vegetables and seafood, low rates of smoking and shunning of midday sunshine are all factors in the puzzle, though genetics must also play a role. Maybe even the sake-like liquor of awamori has something to do with it, though a sip of that stuff almost killed me! Unfortunately, like most of Japan, Okinawa has coupled its longevity with a low birth-rate, which means the working population supporting the retired population is relatively small.
Favorite thing: Finding shisha dogs in Naha is about the easiest thing to do in Okinawa. Just about every sesond store sell them but if you want to know more about the pottery area check this link out
As you will be able to find lots of pottery there or for some of the best pottery in Okinawa you can go to Yomitan
a couple of hours north of Naha by car where you will find some of the best pottery in all of Japan
Favorite thing: Moon beach! Was rated under the top 5most beautiful beaches in the world
Fondest memory: Try not to speak english to the locals! They really hate Americans because there is still a usa airforce base on the island from WWII. So if you know another language... speak it!
There is jungle eveywhere!!
Favorite thing: In case you forgot; this is a sub tropical island...there is jungle everywhere! Just when you thought you are in the woods back home you spot a palm tree. There are bugs you are not suppose to touch and slugs on steroids!
Fondest memory: I love all of Okinawa!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Electric Blue Water
Favorite thing: I love Okinawa's sea, which changes colors with the tides and height of the sun. Okinawa's northern beaches and the outer islands are filled with amazing turquoise water with visibility up to 50 meters (150 feet).
Fondest memory: One of my best memories on Okinawa is swimming at an isolated beach with my wife and there is not another soul in site!Related to:
- Water Sports
- Diving and Snorkeling
Exploring the islands...
Favorite thing: With a kayak you can explore the coastline and other islands with ease.
(You should always kayak with a guide or another experienced local kayaker. Weather conditions can change rapidly during certain times of the year. It is important to know the local sea conditions and hazards before entering the water.)
Fondest memory: Pulling up on a beach with my kayak and knowing that the sand here has seldom felt the soles of human feet.Related to:
Favorite thing: The people are wonderful! Try to learn a few phrases before arriving, but don't knock yourself out - many want you to teach them English. Many women there desire to look American, while we covet their exotic beauty. Some clubs and restaurants will not allow white men to enter, but women of any color are welcome. They do NOT like to be called Japanese. They are happy island folk, who call themselves Okinawans. Scuba, fine dining, rock climbing, sailing, windsurfing, night clubs, etc - it's all there! This is also a cheaper vacation than Hawaii/Tahiti.
Fondest memory: This is an American woman's paradise! I was meeting my friends at a club, Apples, but they took forever to get there. As I was walking back to our hotel to see what was keeping them, 2 Okinawan men in suits asked if I wanted a drink. (Knowing the area & people well) I accepted and they bought me a shot. They invited me into a no-whites-allowed-club, and I met many women who were very friendly, and wanted to talk English with me to learn. One of the men who bought me the shot paid for my drinks all night, as well as offering to open the cigarette machine for me to take my pick. I was not allowed to spend any money at all! At the end of the night, I was asked to please return and have a good night. The next night I returned, and had a great time. They also took me to 2 other clubs where they knew the owners and I received the same treatment. (The men like to be seen with American women so they can act like you're "their woman." It's strictly for status and show.) American men take note!! ;o)Related to:
- School Holidays
- Water Sports
- Women's Travel
Favorite thing: I loved Okinawa and look forward to going back sometime. Feel free to check out my pix and comments on my web page at:
Fondest memory: A solo bike ride around the perimeter of the island. Beautiful mountains up north and the view of the Pacific and East China Sea merging is spectacular!Related to:
- National/State Park
Favorite thing: if you we're here from january to april, one thing you can do is go on a whale watching tour. Humpback whales migrate to this part of the world to mate. I know our tour office on base offers eithera half day or one full day of sightseeing. Some of the boats they use are smaller and able to approach the whales quite close. This tour is quite an experience as long as dont get seasick.Related to:
- Whale Watching
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