Having been on island for one year now, my husband and I have experienced Okinawa in all its glory during different times of year and seasons. Though there aren’t drastic transitions in the weather like we might experience in the States, the passing of time here is marked by an array of changing produce in the farmer’s markets and various local community events.

We made a list of some of our favorite experiences over the past 12 months for newbies to the island. A few of them can be enjoyed any time of year.

Now, I have to admit that we have done so many great things in our first year here that it was hard to come up with a top 5. However, in one way or another, each To Do on our list was meaningful or special in some way to us. Perhaps they offered us some insight to understanding the island and Okinawan people or maybe they were just really fun days for us. I’m sure that lots of you would probably have different things on your list.

Since most of these have been discussed on Okinawahai before, I won’t go into more detail about them here. Please refer to the links for more information and directions. Time goes fast here, so mark them on your calendars and don’t miss out!

1. Naha Tug of War– (Oct 11) Watch an amazing parade that brings out the whole community, pull on a gigantic rope with hundreds of other people, and witness the pandemonium that breaks out when your side wins! Please make plans to visit this event!


2. Hiji Falls and Pizza in the Sky– (anytime) Hike to a beautiful waterfall and from there, drive to another scenic spot to enjoy pizza Okinawan style with a view. The Falls and the pizza are not related in the least, except that it’s just such a nice outing for the day… and okay, I know it’s pizza (not Okinawan), but it’s such a beautiful place to enjoy it!


3. Shrine visit on New Year’s Day– (Jan 1) Start the year off like the locals do and enjoy the carnival like atmosphere at any shrine. Admire women wearing kimono, eat fried noodles, make an offering, and find out your fortune for the year! I’ll recommend the one we visited last year the closer we get to holiday season!


4. Cherry Blossom viewing– (late January and February) Visit Mt Yaedake or Nakijin Castle in Northern Okinawa for a glimpse of these special bright pink flowers. Japanese come all the way from mainland to admire these blossoms, which are different from the ones in Kyoto. The sight of pink flowers against blue sky and blue ocean in the distance is gorgeous!


5. Peace Prayer Park– (anytime) Visit this sacred site to honor the fallen and contemplate the Battle of Okinawa. On the more serious side, this park more than any other place on island helped me realize the enormity of sacrifices of soldiers during the war and made me appreciate our unique opportunity to live here.


What’s on your list of top 5 Okinawan To Dos for island newbies?


  1. Here’s my top five, hard to pick actually:
    1. Take the time to get scuba certified (if you’re into that)- being underwater is surreal- and their isn’t that many experiences you can have as an adult and go whoooooo.
    2. Take walks early in the morning or at night. I love to see locals watering their plants or listening to the quiet sounds of people in their houses.
    3. Eat at Uroko (seawall) and order goya champaru and kimchi fried rice.
    4. Go to Okuma just to get away, unplug from all the modern garbage and be oustide.
    5.Try to do the local world hertiage sites. Just thinking about how old the place is really makes you reflect.
    Enjoy it. It will be gone before you know it

  2. In no particular order:

    1. Snorkeling (Maeda Point or the Seawall are safe bets)
    2. Kaiten Sushi (Sushi-Go-Round)
    3. Local Neighborhood Obon Festival (See the dancers!)
    4. Sunrise on East side of island (Good place is Ikei Island near Big Time Resort)
    5. Pancakes at Jakkepoes!!!

  3. After 2 1/2 years on island, I don’t think I can nail it down to just one thing. If you have kids (and even if you don’t) you should definitely check out some of the cool playgrounds and huge roller slides. The Peace Park is great, but I’d also recommend checking out the Japanese Naval Underground, the two combined make a good day trip. Shurijo Castle is not something to be missed and the Shinike-an Gardens are also very beautiful. And of course a stroll down some of the sides streets of Kokusai Dori can turn up some interesting items. I think truly the most important thing is just to get out there and do things. There’s so much to see, and if you do get lost look at the bright side, you are on a rather small island so you won’t end up two states away and you may find something neat in your wanderings.

  4. We’re almost to our 1 year point here also. My two favorites so far are the Ocean Expo Park (not just the aquarium – try to allot time to check out the Pacific cultural center and the ancient Okinawan village – they are just as amazing as the aquarium, and very affordable – the village portion is FREE) and Ryukyu Mura (we just went there today for the first time and LOVED it).

    I didn’t make it up north this year for the cherry blossoms but I really hope to next season. 🙂