Top Reasons to Visit Okinawa, Japan When It's Safe to Travel Again

Why Okinawa Is on Our List of Destinations When It’s Safe to Travel Again

Say "haisai" to amazing nature at every corner!

Ichariba choodee is a popular Okinawan expression that means “Once we meet and talk, we are brothers and sisters”. It’s perhaps the best way to describe how I felt about this lesser-known Japanese destination the first time I set foot on it. From Okinawans’ (Uchinanchu) exceptional hospitality to the restful ambience offered by its many attractions, most of the reasons to visit Okinawa prove one thing — it’s a great place to be home away from home.

Specifically, if you’re planning a post-pandemic holiday that will allow you to destress from months of being on lockdown in Singapore, get away from the crowd, or reconnect safely with nature, then consider Okinawa: The Oasis of Japan. Believe me, the following reasons to visit Okinawa once it’s safe to travel are just the tip of the iceberg!

Also read: 15 Interesting Souvenirs You Can Only Get in Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa is the closest Japanese prefecture from Singapore

Comprising 160 islands of all shapes and sizes, Okinawa is Japan’s southernmost prefecture. It lies in the picturesque waters of the East China Sea, just northeast of Taiwan. Among the more popular cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo, Okinawa promises you an authentic and distinct Japanese experience with less travel time.

Currently, Japan remains closed to international tourists. When it reopens, you can choose from direct flights from Singapore to Okinawa. From Singapore’s Changi Airport, you will reach Naha Airport, Okinawa’s main international hub, in approximately five hours.

Connecting Okinawa flights via cities like Taipei and Tokyo are also available with China Airlines, Japan Airlines, and ANA. Another route is through Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. Taking varying layover times into consideration, you will land in Okinawa from Singapore in as short as eight hours, one-way.

Even in a post-pandemic world, the quicker the exposure to airports and planes, the safer and more at ease you will be. That being said, the fact that Okinawa is the quickest gateway into Japan from Singapore makes it a perfectly sound choice for your long overdue vacation. With Okinawa’s sub-tropical climate offering soothing temperatures year-round, I doubt you’ll have a hard time deciding when that will be!

A quiet and laid-back alternative to bustling destinations

Okinawa’s effortless charm doesn’t just rest on its unspoilt nature, happy locals, and unmatched local cuisine. But also, on how visibly quiet and laid-back it is. Partly attributable to Okinawa’s remote location and smaller population compared to Singapore (despite it being larger in size), this very appeal can be felt throughout this stunning prefecture.

Okinawans are also known for being friendly and kind, qualities that are well-reflected in their day-to-day lives. From their modest road and driving culture to their highly maintained public spaces (including the famous Makishi Public Market), Okinawa will make you feel as though you’re travelling back in time, if not experiencing it at a much slower pace. For someone used to big cities like me, this was definitely a breath of fresh air.

With endless views of the mountains and coastlines, Okinawa’s islands will invite you to kick back, reflect, and take in the scenery as they are. Otherwise called the “longevity islands”, Okinawa constitutes one of the famous Blue Zones, wherein the locals take pride in a lifestyle and environment that are enriching for the elders.

Thankfully, you don’t have to venture far from Naha, the Okinawan capital, to experience such an environment. An hour drive away is Ou Island in the city of Nanjo. Here, you can have your fill of tempura and other Okinawa delicacies while leisurely watching locals fish, play, and camp at the local beach. Nakijin Castle Ruins in the district of Kunigami is another great place to unwind. At the top of the castle’s vast grounds is a viewpoint overlooking the expansive Pacific Ocean. It’s an ideal spot for when you want to take time out while surrounding yourself with rich Okinawan history.

These places, among countless others, are basically Okinawa’s way of saying Nankurunaisa, which means “If you put in the effort, don’t worry, it’ll be alright” — something we all need to hear at this time.

Say haisai (hello) to amazing nature at every corner

As Singapore is to state-of-the-art buildings and recreational experiences, Okinawa is to bountiful natural attractions and outdoor activities. I know I’m not the only one longing to indulge in all that nature has to offer as soon as international borders have reopened. And for that, Okinawa promises pristine destinations that are sure to cure any lasting anxiety you have because of the pandemic.

From majestic cliffs, white sand beaches, and diving sites to mangrove forests, towering waterfalls, and spectacular wildlife — you’re spoilt for choice by all the natural wonders of Okinawa. The prefecture is also home to a type of downward-facing cherry blossoms unique to Okinawa called Kanhizakura. Sporting darker pink petals, these flowers bloom earlier than in any other prefecture in the nation. Between January and February, you can see them in plenty throughout areas like Nago, Nakijin, Motobu, and more.

While you can find many of these natural attractions in mainland Okinawa, others await at Okinawa’s outer islands. Some of them, like Tokashiki, are reachable by ferry from Naha. Others, like Ishigaki, will require about an hour’s flight from the same city. Regardless of the distance, know that the healing power of nature is strong in this side of Japan. Thus, your reasons to visit Okinawa post-pandemic won’t be complete without experiencing this reputed healing energy!

Travel the world safely through Okinawa’s unique culture

Okinawa boasts an intricate dyeing craft called bingata and an authentic dish consisting of a wheat flour noodle bowl known as the Okinawan soba. Castles and shrines also abound in the prefecture, a few of which make up Okinawa’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are testaments to the preservation of the Ryukyuan culture of Okinawa, considering it was once an independent land and China’s tributary state referred to as the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Apart from food, architectural, and religious influences from the Chinese, Okinawa owes its prevalent identity to the fact that it is a melting pot of other cultures, too. These include Malay, Thai, and American.

Around its time as the Ryukyu Kingdom, Okinawa formed a trading relation with countries in Southeast Asia. This led to remnants of Southeast Asian culture being introduced to the Ryukyu Islands. Among them is the making and consumption of chanpurū, which comes from the Malay word campur, meaning ‘something mixed’. Today, this bitter gourd stir-fry dish is one of Okinawa’s most coveted dishes. Okinawans likewise adapted their famous liquor Awamori from Ayutthaya in 15th-century Thailand. Although, you can get just as much satisfaction from drinking their locally made Orion beer.

Also a former American colony for nearly 30 years, Okinawa is often considered the “Japanese Hawaii” as Western footprints linger in the archipelago. The American Village in Chatan has many diners, shops, and other establishments that are American-themed and owned. Thanks to this unusual mix of cultures, which is one of the more unique reasons to visit Okinawa, the prefecture guarantees you the best of multiple worlds in a single destination. That is, without the added exposure and expense.

Also read: Only in Okinawa: Things & Places Unique in This Japanese Prefecture!

Okinawa sends you its kanasa (love) wherever you may be

As Japan has yet to reallow foreign tourists, many attractions have reopened but for shorter times and with stringent health and safety measures. As it is customary for the Uchinanchu to welcome visitors regardless of circumstances, the tourism board of Okinawa has made it possible for you to experience this one-of-a-kind tropical paradise from the comforts of your home.

Showing you more wonderful reasons to visit Okinawa, the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau official website provides you with Okinawa-themed short videos, movies, blogs, photos, and even virtual activities so you can keep that Okinawa love alive. By acquainting yourself with all the fantastic things that the centre of the Ryukyu Islands has to offer, planning that Singapore to Okinawa itinerary will be too easy.

While Okinawa is remarkable in many more ways as Japan’s best-kept secret, we’ll save the rest for when you can finally hit the road. Until then, keep Okinawa in mind and we’ll see you in this gorgeous island prefecture all in good time. Hopefully, with a bottle of Orion beer and a bowl of Okinawan soba while greeting each other a festive karii (cheers).

For more information, please visit Okinawa tourism’s official website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Brought to you by the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau.

About Author

Joser Ferreras
Joser Ferreras

Joser is a senior writer for TripZilla based in Manila, Philippines. He mostly covers travel, people, and business.