Okinawa – places to visit

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Kokusai Street
This is the main shopping street in Naha, it was a 15minute walk from our hotel (The Mercure). It mostly consists of tacky holiday shops, which I love. You can stock up on plenty of omiyage and trinkets. The main ones were Beni-imo tarts, Taco Rice spice, Awamori, Okinawa glass, Shi-sa statues and the usual One Piece/Hello Kitty/Rilakkuma prefectural items.

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In between the shops and above them are restaurants, offering traditional cuisine to tacos and steak, Orion beer and entertainment with shamisen and local folk music.
Off the Main Street there is a market area with more tacky tshirts and omiyage but I found a great shop selling American import goods where I got some decent deodorant for only ¥300!
We ended up visiting for a bit almost every day as it was so close and we got most of our evening meals and entertainment there.
4/5

Shuri Castle
After being at the beach we jumped off the bus to take a connecting bus to Shuri Castle. We waited but all the buses that came said they didn’t go there. Even though it was the Shuri bus route. So we decided to walk, uphill in the scorching heat….for an hour.
I was less than impressed with the walk, and even so when we entered Shuri castle to see it was being renovated!

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We went inside to follow the route and cool off, and we saw some nice decorative areas inside. I was disappointed again at the end to find I couldn’t go back to the main area at the beginning to take more photos I had to leave.

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Our visit was short and cost ¥800. I wish I’d known about the renovation first, perhaps I wouldn’t have visited, but then again it is a pretty famous place in Okinawa so I probably would have still gone.
2.5/5

American Village
After scuba diving on my birthday we stopped here as the bus went right past it. I was hoping to treat myself to some outlet price shopping for my birthday. What a disappointment. There really wasn’t anything there, we had some Blue Seal ice cream and went to Aeon Mall which was taken up 95% by an Aeon supermarket.
0/5

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Okinawa World
We couldn’t decide what to do, and James happened upon Okinawa World, why not we thought. We had little or no expectations and reviews online described it as a tourist trap. It certainly seemed that way when most of the bus there was filled with American, French and Chinese tourists! We got an open pass for ¥1600 and visited the cave first.

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Woah it was amazing, so many stalagmites and stalactites. It was also the longest cave I’ve ever been in! Very cool.

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Afterward we walked around the small traditional Okinawan village where you could do some crafts. First we saw glass making, I wanted to do it, but it cost ¥2800 for the glass I wanted and an additional ¥1200 to get it posted to Osaka as it takes a few days for the glass to cool.

The next area had much more, tie dying, Shi-sa painting, paper making, fabric printing, bead making and even shamisen lessons! I decided to make a tie dye handkerchief for James!

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The lady who worked there was really kind and spoke a little English, I was scared about getting dye all over my top but I didn’t spill a drop. It was really quite interesting. In total it took about 15minutes, and she ironed it dry for us to take right away. You could buy handkerchiefs pre made for ¥490 or make your own ¥1100.

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James decided to paint a Shi-sa, you could choose from a selection of types and sizes starting from ¥1000 and sit and paint them for as long as you wished. James took about an hour!

I wanted to try paper making (in particular one that went into a drinks container) or fabric printing (you could make an iphone case) too but decided I didn’t need the items (have a drinks cup and no iPhone).

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There is a small brewery on site so we stopped at their cafe for a drink and had a quick look at the brewery. Then at 4pm the next dance show started. Pictures weren’t allowed for the show, only the audience participation at the end but it involved lots of clapping along, dancing, singing, taiko drums and shamisen.

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Finally we ended the day with the snake area, there was lots of information on snakes in Okinawa including specimens and skeletons. At the end there was a python you could touch and get in bed with.

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We had lots of fun at Okinawa World, probably more than most people! 5/5

Ocean Expo Park aka the aquarium
The aquarium is pretty famous in Okinawa and is recommended by everyone who goes to Okinawa! We wanted to go, but by local bus would cost ¥6,000 return each! ¥12,000 just on buses didn’t seem worth it. We tried to hire a car, which would have cost under ¥5,000 for the day but I only had a UK driving license and they wouldn’t accept it. We came across another option – a bus tour. ¥5,400 each including 4 stops, lunch and entrance to pineapple park, the aquarium was ¥1,800 extra (but we got 10% off with the company too). We decided to go for it seeing as it was our last day, with the current exchange rate it came to about £46 each, so we used the last of our birthday money from my parents to go! We set off at 8.45am and returned at 6pm, the tour guide was lovely and talked the whole journey and even sang a couple of times, it was all in Japanese but felt like a free Japanese lesson!

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We had 2 hours in the aquarium but it went so quick! We rushed around the displays to get to the main attraction, the giant tank!

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We stood watching the massive whale shark for a while. The dolphin in the last picture shows just how massive the others are!

Then it was time for the dolphin show!

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After that we had just a few mins to rush to the beach area, as I wanted to dip my toes one last time, we grabbed a beer on the way too.

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I enjoyed the aquarium even though I went to the one in Osaka in Jan and Fukuoka last summer.
4/5

Pineapple Park
I don’t really like pineapple, I can manage a little on my gammon or pizza but normally pick it off. That was until I tried pineapple in Okinawa, wow it’s so sweet and delicious! I was excited to visit Pineapple Park as I heard you can sample a lot of pineapple products. We didn’t have long here, only 45mins or so, first we were guided around a small garden.

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Then allowed a few mins to sample fresh pineapple.

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Next we were ushered through the winery area and pineapple gift shops, where we could try everything! We had tiny medicine cups to sample dry pineapple wine, sweet pineapple wine, red pineapple wine, passion fruit wine, pineapple juice, shikuwasa juice, and mixed juice. Then we could sample all the omiyage, pineapple cake, pineapple wine cake (yum!), chocolate pineapple, pineapple biscuits, sea grapes…the list goes on!

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By the time we finished that we only had 10mins until the bus left, James wanted to go on the Pineapple train which took ten mins but had a queue. We didn’t want to miss the bus so reluctantly we left.

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I wish I’d eaten more fresh pineapple when I had the chance, and had time to take a train tour of the park, but I still enjoyed the quick visit.
4/5

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4 thoughts on “Okinawa – places to visit

  1. I didn’t know there were so many awesome things to do in Okinawa until these posts of yours (WOWW at the whale shark) – thanks so much for spreading the word, the Okinawa tourism industry should be paying you hahaha

    • Hehe wouldn’t that be great?! :D I’m sure there is much more to do, but just what we came across. I’m glad the size and epicness of the whale shark came across!! Makes me happy!x

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