This time I want to take you along to Okinawa which is a Japanese island located somewhere in between the mainland of Japan and Taiwan. I have never been to Japan before so I was very curious how this would be and whether I would like it or not.
The reason for picking Okinawa over the Mainland is simple. Here in Europe, Japan is a rather exotic destination but Okinawa is even more exotic and fairly unknown. Another reason is the weather because throughout winter season it is not freezing cold there, in fact, temperatures are very mild and perfectly suited for traveling.
on the way to Okinawa
After arriving, I was really surprised how different it felt compared to Korea for instance. Everything felt really relaxed and the streets were dominated by small hybrid cars. Driving a rental in Okinawa and getting a local drivers license without speaking any Japanese at all was an adventure itself. 😀
Before flying to Okinawa i checked the weather forecast and I was a little disappointed because the week before the weather was very nice but just one or two days prior to the trip it changed dramatically and it looked like we would face stormy and rainy weather. We arrived there after dark and I was really curious how the island would present itself the next morning. To our surprise it wasn’t that bad and even though it was very windy the sun came through from time to time.
the beach just in front of the apartment
We picked an AirBNB on the northwest coast of the island and the beach was only a couple of meters away from our apartment. After checking out the area we decided to drive southbound to check out Shurijo Castle. It was built in the 15th century and it served as the political, economical and cultural heart of the Ryuku Kingdom. After checking out the castle we then went to the nearby Shikinaen Royal Gardens. It is a World Heritage Site and more than 200 years old. Even though the sky turned really dark I absolutely enjoyed this place and I would highly recommend going there if you ever come to Okinawa.
the entrance to Shurijo Castle
Japanese Tourists on their way to Shurijo Castle
a traditional play in Shurijo Castle
a random business man in Shurijo Castle
the wall winding its way like a snake
Shikinaen Royal Gardens
window with a view at Shikinaen Royal Gardens
The next day started with sunshine and we drove up the coastal road northbound to see if we could find some interesting places to explore. The ride was incredible and we had to stop several times just to enjoy the beauty of nature there. Later that day we finally made it all the way up to the north to a park called Dai Sekirinzan and we wanted to give it a try. The park basically consists of a couple of hiking routes and one of them leads to a very scenic view over the northern tip of Okinawa. If you’re planing to go there you should bring enough time because you can easily stay there for 2-3 hours. After leaving the park we drove to the most northern tip of Okinawa and while hanging out there and enjoying the scenery we spotted some whales out in the sea, what a nice surprise…
people taking photos at a flower field next to the road in the northern part of Okinawa
the rough but beautiful north eastern shore
exploring Dai Sekirinzan Park
visitors xxxx through the rocks at Dai Sekirinzan Park
beautiful view on the northern tip of Okinawa
Dai Sekirinzan Park was absolutely amazing
the most northern tip of Okinawa
Korean couple taking wedding selfies 😀
…Speaking of Whales… A must watch on Okinawa is the famous Churaumi Aquarium. There they have one pool that is so big that there are even two Whale Sharks swimming in, hard to believe but true. Even though it was nice to see I felt sorry for those majestic creatures. I would rather watch them swim out in the ocean and not in a man made aquarium. This was especially true for the dolphins since they are held in an aquarium that is basically just a water tank and seemed far too small for them.
Just in case you wonder, I wasn’t really swimming with Bull Sharks, just watching them swimming past me behind a very thick glass window. 😀
checking out the Churaumi Aquarium
one of the two Whale sharks
the infamous Bull Shark
unfortunately, the beaches were still closed
the coastal line is just beautiful
Located In the south east of Okinawa are a couple of Islands that we wanted to explore. These Islands are connected through bridges and therefore easily accessible, how convenient. But before we took off for the first island we came across some medieval castle ruins on top of a hill. The place is called Katsuren Castle. I absolutely loved it and the best thing about it was the lack of hordes of visitors.
Katsuren castle ruins
Katsuren castle ruins
Even though the small remote islands are a part of Okinawa, the vibe there felt even more relaxed. The roads were very narrow and there was not much traffic going on. There you can also find some really nice beaches which, unfortunately, are not free to enter but at least they usually have all the facilities you might need to spend a couple of hours there or even the whole day. The place I enjoyed the most was located on Hamahiga and it was basically a lagoon covered with massive rock formations. Especially in the late evening sunlight that place looked amazingly beautiful.
Unfortunately, time often flies too fast and our days on Okinawa came to an end way too soon. It was a pleasure to be there and I definitely wanna go there again one day!