I've been to Okinawa Honto (main island) around 7 times now, and manage discover something new and interesting with each visit. My last visit to Okinawa was in March of this year, but as I was there on a tight work schedule I didn't have time for sightseeing. In 2011 we both went to Okinawa for our first summer holiday since leaving Europe, and we had an amazing time. Last year, we had a blast in Thailand, but this year we decided to explore a little more of Okinawa whilst it's so close, as it's rather difficult to access from Europe.
We planned to spend the entirety of our holiday on the main island, as there is still much to explore, and resorts in the more secluded islands can be rather expensive. Thanks to my friend Sho, we managed to rent a hire-car for around 30% of the price quoted directly from Nissan, which freed up a big part of the budget.
Our first port of call was Cape Maeda, around 1 hour's drive from the main city of Naha. We had 5 nights booked at a cute little guesthouse called Akachichi (the red roof in the opening photo is the traditionally-stylised roof of the guesthouse). The owners, Kenny and Komaki, really made us feel at home within around 5 minutes of our arrival, which meant we could start winding down and get into the holiday mood more easily. Though still Japan, life in Okinawa is very different to that on the mainland, especially that in Tokyo. In Tokyo, everything runs to the minute, without delay. In Okinawa, I don't usually wear a watch. The history of the islands is far too extensive to cover in a single post, but I'll point you in the direction of Okinawa Explorer (written by Kenny). Komaki also has a blog, where she writes about daily live in the area (mostly in Japanese, but with lots of photos).
We were asked what time we wanted breakfast, and and asked for a rather leisurely (especially by Japanese standards) 9am start. Though stereotypes and generalisations can often be wrong or insulting to some people, they must have originated somehow. Here's one for you - many Japanese love to pack their holiday full of more activities than my normal working week, waking up at sunrise, disappearing on tours or hikes, and returning after dark. We planned on lying on the beach, reading a book, and maybe going for a drive to find somewhere for dinner.
"Breakfast at 9, no problem!"
If you stay in a business hotel during your time in Japan, don't get your hopes up regarding breakfast. It'll probably be OK. At Akachichi, we were treated to a home-made feast each morning! The care and attention, variation, and presentation were fantastic. So many people take their camera out before they start a meal that it's almost become the new Grace. I simply could not resist, every morning. When looking through the photos of breakfast, we tried to decide which was our favourite... but there is no winner. Well, there is no loser. They were all fantastic, and were a great start to the day. That and the two-cappuccino habit we started.
The beaches at Cape Maeda are characterised by the beautiful coral reef, and the humans inhabiting it. OK, that's a slight exaggeration. The humans are only visible during the day. If you scroll back up to the beach photo, you may notice a tour group or two, in the sea near the rocks. The area is packed full of fish and marine life, and snorkelling tours make a killing by taking groups of Japanese around and showing them the locations of the most interesting stuff. This worked out to be extremely useful for us, as we could very efficiently locate clown fish, anemones, and hundreds of other species by shrewdly waiting until the group left the area. This [arguably] made for a much more enjoyable experience than in a snorkel tour group, where the number of people outnumber the fish 3:1. One day I'll buy a waterproof camera housing. Until then, it's land-only I'm afraid.
We spent a few days on the beach, exploring the area around Maeda-point, and the nearby pottery village of Yomitan. All-in-all, we had a very relaxing few days. On our final day, we went for a bit of a drive northwards, to sesoko island (location of the above photo). We didn't go on any hiking tours, banana-boat rides, excursions, organised sight-seeing... just chilled out on various beaches and ate copious amounts of Blue Seal ice cream. We were replenishing our energy, and saving it for the next leg of our journey.
To be continued...
Akachichi is conveniently placed for exploration of Okinawa Honto. Kenny and Komaki have excellent knowledge of the island, as well as running a top-notch guesthouse. I'd recommend staying there if visiting Okinawa. If you do visit, please send my regards!