Okinawa for a bit of offbeat Japan

  • Asia & Oceania
  • Monday, 05 Nov 2018

People in Okinawa eat fresh umibudo (sea grapes).

For the month of November, Apple Vacations & Conventions Sdn Bhd has engaged Malaysia Airlines to operate its inclusive tour charter to Okinawa, Japan, offering a 6D/4N package to Malaysians for a year-end holiday at the island destination.

Flying KL-Okinawa by charter means a direct flight with no layover or change of plane en-route.

Sub-tropical island

Okinawa comprises hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands and these islands extend south-west from Kyushu, which form the southernmost prefecture in Japan. Okinawa's capital Naha is in the southern part of Okinawa Island.

Though a part of Japan, Okinawa is an island so distinct that it not only maintains its unique Ryukyuan identity, but is also mixed with influences from China, the United States and South-East Asia.

Okinawa was part of the independent Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th to 19th centuries before it became a territory of Japan for a mere 135 years, with 27 years of American occupation after World War II.

Till today, the legacy of cultural diversity in Okinawa is still evident. Shuri Castle, a Unesco World Heritage Site, served as the proud centre of the Ryukyu kingdom, with architectural influences from both China and Japan.

The Mihama American Village just a short drive from US military bases comprises a vast range of shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities in a California-style setting.

At Okinawa World Culture Kingdom where traditional Ryukyuan culture comes alive, visitors get to experience the Okinawa past, partake in traditional craft workshops and catch the Super Eisa drum show.

Shuri Castle was once the proud centre of the Ryukyu kingdom.

Hotels by the sea

If you stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Okinawa Chatan Resort, you can enjoy the shopping, dining and entertainment options next door at Mihama American Village, or a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk to nearby Sunset Beach.

Southern Beach Resort is one of the nearest hotels to Naha International Airport, with the Bibi Beach just in front of the hotel. They say the beach there is all white sand while the sea has blue gradations.

For those who seek a relaxing onsen (hot spring) bath, Yuinchi Hotel Nanjo is where you can dip into one.

Onsen bath with ocean view at Yuinchi Hotel Nanjo.

Allure of the ocean

Okinawa is famous for its natural subtropical beauty. One landmark not to be missed is Cape Manzamo, a Ryukyu limestone cliff shaped like an elephant's trunk. Here you also have fabulous scenery of the emerald-blue ocean.

At the Churaumi Aquarium which houses one of the world's largest water tanks, you get to see whale sharks, manta rays and migratory fish of the Kuroshio sea almost within reach. You can even interact with dolphins at an outdoor show.

Explore the underground Gyokusendo Cave which stretches 5km from end to end, with plenty of spectacular rock formations. The limestone cave dates back 300,000 years ago and the temperature stays at a constant 21°C all year round.

Churaumi Aquarium, one of the world's largest.

Live long and prosper

Okinawa has the highest number of centenarians in Japan – thanks to a diet of fresh umibudo (sea grapes), tofu, goya (bitter gourd), seaweed and fish.

Okinawan cuisine differs significantly from mainstream Japanese cuisine, a result of location, climate and history.

Fish markets in Okinawa, such as the Makishi Public Market, offer a variety of the freshest, rarest, most colourful and most delicious locally-caught seafood. You can have your purchase from the market cooked for you at the canteen, for a fee of course.

Try making your own souvenir Benimo Sweet Potato Tart. It's a rare experience available only at the Onna store branch of Okashi-Goten – making memories, delicious food and souvenirs all in one place.

People in Okinawa eat fresh umibudo (sea grapes).

The KL-Okinawa-KL flight schedule (local times, subject to change):

Nov 23 (Friday): MH8548 2am departure/8am arrival

Nov 27 (Tuesday): MH8549 10am departure/2.20pm arrival

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