I’ve spent the last two weeks in Japan, dividing my time evenly between Tokyo and Okinawa and the surrounding islands. The contrasts between the two could not be greater. Everyone knows about Tokyo (girl’s underwear vending machines etc. it’s true!), so let me tell you about Okinawa.
Okinawa prefecture is a series of small islands in the south west of japan. The string of islands stretch all the way from the base of the mainland, reaching almost all the way to Taiwan. In fact, the main island (Okinawa) and it’s capital (Naha city) are closer to Taipei than to mainland Japan.
One important fact about the island, is that Okinawan girls are generally regarded as the best looking in Japan.
Okinawa is generally everything that Tokyo is not, yet it still maintains a uniquely Japanese feel. Life is slow and relaxed, the heat and extreme humidity (it is in the topics) cause the Okinawans to live life slowly. Okinawans were also, by-far, the friendliest Japanese that I met. This was in stark contrast to the isolated, un-approachable anxiety that the kids in Tokyo seem to have, which is another post all together. I think it’s this relaxed attitude (and the awesome diet of fresh fish, vegetables and rice) which contributes to Okinawa having one of the longest life expectancies on the planet. The streets of Okinawa feel more like the backstreets of a lazy Mexican village than suburban japan. Stray cats are everywhere.
I caught a ferry to some smaller surrounding islands, where i had a whole amazing tropical beaches to myself. Some of these smaller islands have populations of 15 people or less, and English is generally not spoken.
One added complexity of the Okinawa region is the added presence of about 40,000 American troops stationed at the Kadena airforce base in the northern part of Okinawa. Whilst it was rare to see the soldiers during the week (they’re generally at their base, which itself is a mini-america, complete with wallmarts, donut kings, the works..) it was definitely a surreal experience to be chiling out on the beach and have fighter jets do formation run-pasts and training exercises in the sky above.