Okinawa’s landscape is different from the rest of Japan but its noticeable differences from the mainland don’t end there. Okinawan tradition, culture, food, drink and wildlife assure the southernmost land of Japan stays unique.
Traditional Ryukyu arts performances such as this one was presented near Shuri Castle. At the end of August, during Obon, the city is packed with Eisa performers (Okinawan folk dancers). Be sure to attend an arts performance or a seasonal festival to experience these unique Okinawan traditions firsthand.
You won’t go far without seeing a Shisa statue holding guard on a rooftop or gate. Shisa comes from traditional Ryukyu mythology. Sometimes found in pairs to keep evil spirits away. An opened mouth Shisa is said to ward off evil spirits while the closed mouth Shisa will keep good spirits in.
You can’t go to a foreign country and not try out the local foods. And Okinawa has some dang good food. Here is a short list of some of the more popular eats:
- Goya Champura (mixed bitter melon)
- Okinawa Soba
- Ramen. Never pass up the chance to eat Ramen in Japan.
- Umibudo (sea grapes)
- Mango Kakigori (shaved ice)
- Kokuto (Okinawan brown sugar)
The best places to find local foods in one place when traveling through Japan are at the Michi no Eki (roadside stations). My favorite roadside station in Okinawa is the Onna no Eki located in Onna-son.
Awamori is a distilled spirit unique to Okinawa and it is readily found. The alcohol content level is 30% to 40%. Habushu, snake liquor, is an awamori alcohol brewed in Okinawa. It is easily found around the many Kokusai Street shops and various stores throughout Okinawa.
Another noteworthy oddity found all over the Kokusai Street shops are these frog wallets!
There are many creepy crawlies found throughout Okinawa. Much of this is due to Okinawa’s warm weather and landscape. Some of the wildlife that thrive here are:
- Swarms of noisy cicada chatter is heard well into early autumn
- Banana spiders, though not dangerous, are huge and intimidating
- Geckos, lots of geckos
- Gaze up to the sky at night and you are sure to spot some fruit bats hanging on trees or flying about
- Habu snakes are poisonous and will harm you so keep your distance
- Wild boar are said to live on the island though I never saw any
- A whole ecosystem of sea life
There are many signs scattered throughout Okinawa advising to be careful of Habu. There are also signs scattered throughout the expressway warning of crossing wild boar.
Beauty is found everywhere in Okinawa. I never went anywhere without my camera! What you will find around Okinawa is a vibrant display of color, culture, landscape and tradition that is unique to this place. Happy Travels!