What to Do in Okinawa

Okinawa Prefecture is a strange and amazing place even for Japanese.

Forget all your ideas about Japan. In Okinawa, you will see beaches and palm trees instead of stone gardens, small houses with tiled roofs instead of neon skyscrapers. There are also no pale office clerks – only vigorous old people, long-livers in colorful shirts.

Okinawa

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Some people say that Okinawa mostly looks like the illegitimate descendant of Thailand and Hawaii –  brought up by Japan.

Initially, the territory of Okinawa was the separate state of Ryukyu. But at the end of the 19th century, this archipelago became part of Japan. After that, Okinawa turned into a sleepy region, and it remains the poorest Japanese prefecture till this day.

But at the same time, it is the warmest one. The archipelago is located on the same latitude as The Bahamas. Sakura blooms here in January, temperatures do not drop below +15 or 20 °C, and its golden sand beaches are considered to be the best in the region.

Okinawa

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The locals are very positive old people. They have the highest life expectancy in the world: according to statistics, there are about 20 centenarians per 100,000 people in the United States; in Okinawa, there are more than 60 of them.

These words are carved on a big stone near the village of Ogimi,: “At 70 you are still a child; at 80 – a young man; and when your ancestors call you in your 90s, ask them to wait until you turn 100 – and only then, perhaps you will think about it.”

The concentration of centenarians in Ogimi is especially great. Local residents rarely suffer from strokes, sclerosis, Alzheimer’s syndrome or other common age-related illnesses.

At a hundred years old they are cheerful as they were at 20; many continue to work and to participate actively in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Shuri Castle Gate

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Scientists still do not know the secret of this phenomenon.

The locals have their own maxims:

– To live long, you should work more in the open air!

– It is necessary to eat properly and not to overeat: a cup of rice a day, tofu and some seafood – that’s the recipe for longevity.

– All illnesses are caused by regrets and sadness about the past. We must be able to enjoy life, whatever it is.

The morning view from my apartment balconey

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The concept of joy is fundamental in Okinawa. There is even a special word for this: Ikigai. It means – something that makes you wake up every morning with joy.

Tourists mostly go to Okinawa to enjoy the sea. The archipelago is considered to be the best place in Japan for a beach holiday. It is also perfect for diving – the largest coral reef in Japan (about 20 kilometers) lies here, on Okinawa’s shores.

The underwater world is incredibly rich, and the sea is transparent to a depth of 50 meters. Additionally, you can even observe whales, who also love these waters.

There is one important local culinary rule – do not overeat. They even have a saying, “hara hachi bu” – “eat to satisfy 8/10 of your hunger and get up”.

The best time for a beach holiday is from the middle of June to the end of August. January and February are also great: the islands start to bloom with cherry blossoms, and there are a lot of whales in the coastal waters.