Showing posts with label Okinawa Travel Info. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Okinawa Travel Info. Show all posts

June 6, 2014

Taking a Ferry to Islands Around Okinawa

Venture out to the Islands Surrounding Okinawa

take a ferry on okinawa
Ferry to Zamami Island
While Okinawa is a beautiful island, and has many things to see and do, nearby islands also offer unique experiences and adventures. Tokashiki, Ie, Izena, and many more islands are just waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

These islands are just miles off the coast of Okinawa and can usually be reached in an hour or two by ferry. You can go for just a day trip, or turn it into a few days. Accommodations are usually available, but planning ahead is a good idea..

Each of the islands around Okinawa have unique cultural opportunities to experience ranging from foods to language. There are many beautiful sights to see, including some of the best beaches and snorkeling in the world. If you thought Okinawa had great snorkeling, try some of the less touched nearby islands.

What Islands to Visit Around Okinawa

ferry around okinawa
Ie Island
Almost all of the islands surrounding Okinawa are worth visiting. Some islands are more geared to expensive getaways, while others are much more rural. Do a little research on accommodations and information about the island you want to visit before you get there so you have a better idea of what to do.

But if you don't know what island to visit, here is some help for you:

Ie Island - One of the closest islands with just a short ferry ride from Motobu. There are a variety of things to do on this island including renting mopeds, climbing the iconic mountain in the center of the island, camping on the beach, and staying in fancy resorts. Here is some more information getting to Ie island.

Iheya Izena Island - Located a little north-west of Okinawa, these islands are fairly rural, and provide wonderful cultural and traditional experiences. Be sure to make reservations in advance if you plan to stay the night, although a day trip is also possible. Ferry leaves from Nakajin village, north of Nago, daily and takes about an hour.

Kerama Islands - Made up of Tokashiki, Zamami, Aka, and Geruma islands, this is one of the best places in the world for snorkeling and especially scuba diving. There are many tours that go from Okinawa out to the Kerama islands just for diving. The daily ferries leave from Naha port. Each of the islands offers some different opportunities, so look at what each offers, and plan your trip accordingly. 

ferry to islands around okinawa
View of the Ocean around Zamami Island
There are many more options for island adventures around Okinawa, but these are a good start. Information and resources can sometimes be hard to come by, but asking others about their island excursions can yield great information.

If you happen to want a more exclusive getaway, Ishigaki Island and Surrounding Islands can only be reached by a i hour plane flight from Naha, and present a wonderful weekend, or week long vacation.

To get to the islands around Okinawa, there are a variety of ferries that leave from ports around the island. Naha is the main port, but if you are traveling to islands north of Okinawa, the ports on Motobu and beyond are where you will need to go.

We hope this information will help inspire you to go beyond Okinawa, and enjoy some of the exciting adventures on the surrounding islands.

If you're looking for summer activities, look no further than our list of Things to do on Okinawa. You might also find our 7 Essential Words and Phrases useful.

Leave a comment if you have questions.

September 6, 2013

7 Essential Japanese Words and Phrases

7 Japanese Words and Phrases Everyone Can Use

Knowing a few words in Japanese can go a long way in making it easier to live in or visit Japan. While a number of Japanese people do know some English, anyone living in Japan should know these essential words and phrases to make life easier and more fun.

7 essential basic japanese words phrases
Basic Japanese Words and Phrases
Using your Japanese, even if you only know a few words, will go a long way in making the Japanese feel like you care about their country. They will often be more willing to give you good advice and help if you are in need. It shows that you are more savvy than the average traveler, and will often bring a smile to those you try to speak to.

Many American's know a few words of Japanese, so some of these you may already know. But learning all these words and phrases will put you ahead of most foreigners in Japan.

These are just the seven basic words or phrases that are most useful to know. Read them, practice saying them, and eventually practice saying them to Japanese people. It takes practice to learn Japanese, so don't just try to memorize them.

The words below are in English - then Japanese - and then the pronunciation
  1. Hello - Konichiwa - (Ko-ni-chi-wa)
  2. Yes/No - Hai/ Iie - (Ha-i/ Ii-e)
  3. Thanks - Domo - (Do-mo)
  4. Excuse Me - Sumimasen - (Su-mi-ma-sen)
  5. Nice to Meet You - Yoroshiku - (Yo-ro-shi-ku)
  6. How Much Is This? - Ikura - (I-ku-ra?) (informal)
  7. Where is the Restroom? - Otearai wa Doko? - (O-te-a-ra-i wa do-ko?) (informal)

How did you do with those words and phrases? If you think you have them down, or already knew them, move on to these two bonus phrases that may prove useful! Also note the '(informal)'
at the end of some of the phrases. Japanese has a variety of levels of formality, and these phrases are meant for more informal situations. Like in a restaurant, store or with friends. For more formal situations, like at a business meeting or when speaking to elderly Japanese, look up the formal form.

Two more phrases that are very useful:

     8. More water please - Moto mizu onegai - (Mo-to mi-zu o-ne-ga-i) (informal)
     9. See you later - Mata ne - (Ma-ta ne) (informal)

Often when one is at a restaurant it is useful to know how to ask for more water. A simple 'Moto mizu onegai' to the waitress with 'Domo' when she comes back will go a long way in getting what you want without blundering around and gesturing at your cup.
basic japanese words and phrases
Japanese - English

Many American's know the Japanese word for goodbye - Sayonara. But this word is not often used in Japan, as it is more formal, or for more long term goodbye situations. Instead use 'Mata ne' which means 'see you later' or 'later'.

Quick Tip: A great resource for when you need to know or look up a word in Japanese, is a Japanese-English Dictionary. It will come in handy if you ever live or travel in Japan!

Now, one more phrase for the overachievers out there. This phrase is really just a direct translation of the English phrase 'have a nice day'. It will often bring a smile to stranger's faces, and can be used in many situations.

Bonus phrase for the overachievers:

Have a good day "have nice day' - Yoi ichi-nichi o - Yo-i I-chi-ni-chi o

Learn these 7 essential Japanese words, and the 3 bonus words, and you will be a head of the majority of foreigners living in Japan.

Remember to practice these words, and learn the correct pronunciation. Ask Japanese friends or coworkers for the correct pronunciation if you need help.

We hope you find this useful and practical. Leave a comment with any thoughts or questions.

If you enjoyed learning these Japanese phrases, you will love our recent post with some of the Basic Words from the Okinawan Dialect.

Also check out our recent guides to Hiking Hiji Falls as well as the Japanese Convenient Store Familymart

And if you plan to enjoy the waters around Okinawa, Learn How to Check the Water Conditions before you go.

August 21, 2013

How To Check Water Conditions Around Okinawa

How To Check Sea Conditions Before Enjoying Water Activities on Okinawa

Okinawa offers a wide variety of water activities in both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan,
which provide an almost endless supply of aquatic options.

water conditions in Okianawa
A Perfect Calm Day in Okinawa
But the water is not always safe for activities, and it is important to know when to enjoy the ocean, and when to keep your distance.

When Typhoons come through, the ocean can become an angry, swelling mass of energy and power that will ruin your day if you try to go snorkeling, scuba diving or other activities.

Even if there isn't a typhoon in the area, the ocean around Okinawa can become dangerous in hours if the right conditions are present.

So how do you know when it is safe to enjoy the beautiful ocean around Okinawa?

Learn from our tips below!

How To Stay Safe While Enjoying Water Activities Around Okinawa

Following these simple tips will help you stay safe while partaking in water sports on Okinawa.

The first tip is to simply check weather conditions online at the many weather websites available. If conditions are stormy, it is likely the water will also be rough and possibly unsafe. Look for clear sunny days, which will also help with water visibility if you are diving or snorkeling.

Next, take a look at the water you are thinking of entering. The water around Okinawa is very accessible and can be seen from most locations on Okinawa. So get near the water, and evaluate the swells, the waves, and how rough it appears. If it isn't calm and there are extra risks involved, such as a coral reef, reconsider your aquatic plans and if you still think it is good to enter the water.

Finally, there are several online resources fro providing you more information about the water around Okinawa, and if it is safe to enjoy.

Kadena Weather provides a simple site with a rating of All Clear, Caution, or Danger to inform you of the water conditions on each side of Okinawa.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is a very good website for tracking and getting information about tropical storms and typhoons, which can quickly cause water conditions to become unsafe.

In the end, Okinawa offers some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, but be sure to stay safe, and know the water conditions before you enter the water.

One final bit of advice is this, if you don't see others in the water at the location you are diving/snorkeling, it might be a sign that the conditions are unsafe. Learn from the locals who know the water better than you.

If you found this useful, you might enjoy some of our other recent posts, such as our Review of FamilyMart, or everything you need to know about Hiking Hiji Falls.

One of our more popular posts: 10 Important Sushi Tips 

Leave a comment with any thoughts or questions, and share with others to help keep everyone on Okinawa safe while enjoying the wonderful water.

April 25, 2013

Best Locations to Live in Okinawa

Where Are the Best Places to Live in Okinawa?

With all the American military bases around Okinawa, there is a continues flow of people moving to Okinawa. So where are the best places to live if you are moving to Okinawa?

Most people move to Okinawa because of the Military, either they are stationed there, or working as a civilian for the military. Some people also move to Okinawa for a variety of other jobs, like teaching English. No matter what the reason for the move, this guide should give you a better understanding of where to live in Okinawa.

where to live in okinawa
Okinawa Houses By Ricymar Photography

Factors that Go into Choosing a Location

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing where to live in Okinawa. So let's take a look at them to help break things down.

First of all, for the majority of people moving to Okinawa, renting is the best option. Buying a house in Okinawa is a challenging process, with a lot of Japanese laws that can be confusing to foreigners. However, for those planning on staying on Okinawa for an extended time, buying, or even building a house, can be done.

The next important factor is, what do you want to be close to? Okinawa offers a lot of diversity.. There are houses for rent with busy shops in easy walking distance, or quite places on a hillside. You can live next to a seawall, or near a beach. You can choose to live next to a base, or far from them if you desire. So it is important to know what you like. If you want to live close to shops and popular areas, you may have to sacrifice space and money. Living further out in more rural areas will give you more for your money, with a larger house.

Another important consideration for those moving to Okinawa because of the military, is whether to live on base or off. It really comes down to personal preference, and what you feel comfortable with. Living on base is easy, but can be somewhat boring if you don't get out and enjoy the island. Living off base has its challenges too, but one major benefit is during a typhoon, everyone on base must stay inside, while off base the Japanese tend to go shopping.

Of course, different people there are other factors that may be important, so perhaps make a list of important factors for where to live in Okinawa, and use that to help guide your decision.

Now let's look st some of the places to live in Okinawa

Where to Live in Okinawa

We begin by examine some of the more popular areas where American's and other foreigners tend to live. Then we will look at other possibilities.

Sunabe, Chatan, Mihama Area
where to live in okinawa mihama area
View of Chatan/Mihama area with Jusco in background
Located very close to Kadena AFB and Camp Foster, this area is popular among the American Military. It has both seawall, and some beaches scattered in between. This area also has a lot of popular shopping places, with many small shops as well as a large Jusco.

Rent in this area tends to be higher than most places around Okinawa(except Naha) because it caters to the American Military. Houses can be found in a variety of sizes, although they tend to be smaller in this area, but with American features. This location is nice for those who want to be close to Kadena or Foster, and enjoy the snorkeling and water activities at Sunabe seawall and the shopping in Mihama.

Yomitan Area
Located north of Kadana AFB, on the west side of the island, north of Sunaba and Mihama area, near Torii Staton, this area is becoming more and more popular. While it is a little further away from the military bases, it offers quieter neighborhoods, great beaches and more authentic feel to living in Okinawa compared to the often Americanized houses around Sunabe seawall.

While rent is typically lower in this area, it depends on the size of the house or apartment, and what kind of features it offers. Many people like living in Yomitan area because it is more quite and secluded compared to other locations.

Kitanakagusuku, Okinawa City Area
Located on the East side of Okinawa, out Kadena Gate 2 and 5, this area is close to Kadena and Foster, while not being overly Americanized. The beaches in this area are not quite as good as on the west side of the island, but one great feature of this area is the Comprehensive Park, which is a huge park located next to the ocean. It has plenty to offer for kids, and adults with playgrounds  walking paths, sports facilities, ponds, and so much more.

Houses and prices vary, but you can typically get more for your money in this area, although it is less setup for Americans. With relatively easy access to the Okinawa expressway, traveling to Naha or Nago from the Kitanakagusuku/Kadena Gate 2 area is very quick.

Other Areas Worth Considering
There are several more areas worth considering, including Uruma, Onna, Nakagusuku, and Urosoe. These locations are somewhat further from central Okianwa, with Urosoe and Nakagusuku located between Naha and Okinawa City, and Onna and Uruma located north of Kadena AFB, near Yomitan. They each have benefits and drawbacks, but may be worth investigating if other locations don't meet your needs.

In the end, Okinawa is a beautiful island, and small enough to drive anywhere you want to enjoy it. No matter where you live, there are things to discover in that area and activities to do. There isn't any one 'best' location because it depends on what you are looking for, and what you like to do.

If you need some ideas for activities, check out our Top 10 Things to do In Okinawa, or 7 More Things to do in Okinawa

Be sure to leave a comment with any questions that we can help answer!

January 26, 2013

Vending Machines in Japan

Japanese Vending Machines are the Most Unique in the World

small japanese red coca cola machine
Small Coca-Cola Machine
Vending Machines have become more and more popular around the world for selling not just drinks, but almost anything. Japan is one of the world leaders in vending machine technology, and use. But I don't want to focus on all the different types of things you can find in Japanese vending machines or the flat screen TVs that are showing up in them, I just want to give an overview of the incredible variety of drinks available at nearly every street corner

Don't Be Afraid to Try Something Different from a Japanese Vending Machine

For the majority of Americans who visit Japan and Okinawa, the small kanji symbols mean next to nothing, let alone describe what is in a drink. So it would be easy to pick something like Coke, and never try any of the other drinks with odd bits of confusing English framed by possibly important Japanese words.

But some of my favorite drinks have been just that kind.

variety of japanese vending machines in a row

So when you see a long line of vending machines, don't be afraid to take a chance and try something that looks fun. The drinks in Japanese vending machines range from relatively normal Coke and Pepsi products to tea, coffee, and even health and energy drinks.

vending machines in japan with beer

And yes, Japan does sell Budweiser from a vending machine.

green japanese vending machines

 An example of the huge variety of drinks available. With so many options, it is often hard to pick which drink to try. But get out there and go for it, you might just find a new favorite refreshing beverage.

October 22, 2012

What is the Weather on Okinawa Like?

Weather on Okinawa - What Clothes to Wear for a Visit

Okinawa is a subtropical Pacific island with many beaches and outdoor activities. But what is the weather like and what should people visiting plan to bring and wear?

The Coast of Okinawa - (c) Okinawa Travel Guide

Typical Weather on Okinawa

The weather on Okinawa is very different compared to most parts in the world, especially North America. There is very little fall season, and most people would scoff at calling the colder months on Okinawa, winter.

Generally speaking, the summertime is hot, and the wintertime is cool, but not cold. Here is a breakdown of the average temperatures during the year:

  • Summer - May, June, July, August, September, October - Temperatures in the 80's, with the hottest days reaching the low 90's. Lows in the 70's during these months.
  • Fall - November - Highs in the mid 70's, lows in the mid 60's.
  • Winter - December, January and February - Highs in the 60's and lows in the 50's, almost never below 50 degrees.
  • Spring - March and April - highs in the 70's with lows in the 60's. 
As one can see, the weather on Okinawa is never actually cold, but does cool off during the winter months. 

Okinawa does get plenty of rain year round, with the wettest months being May and June. Average rainfall for these months is around 10 inches per month. 

While the summer is obviously the best time to enjoy the Okinawa beaches, it is also right in the middle of typhoon season which runs from May through November. 

Some years Okinawa gets only a few mild typhoons, but other years I have seen it get hit by 5 or more typhoons in only a few months. To see more about Typhoons, and how to prepare for them, visit the Typhoon Tips Page.

What to Wear when Visiting Okinawa

As one can see from the average temperatures, the winter months do require a few layers and maybe a light jacket to keep warm. Jeans or other long pants are enough to stay comfortably warm.

The summertime, stretching practically from April through October, is warm and worth of shorts and a t-shirt. 

Okinawa tends to be a casual place, with a similar island feel as Hawaii, but without the huge beachfront hotels and excessive tourists. 

For those interested in vacations to Okinawa, I would suggest the fall months as the water temperature is still very warm, as well as the air temperature. But prices and tourists have both reduced from the summer months of June through August.

Water temperature on Okinawa is very comfortable, getting into the 80's in the summer, and down in the 70's in the winter at the surface. While a wet suit is recommended for Scuba Diving, it isn't necessary for snorkeling even in the winter. 

September 5, 2012

Unspoken Traffic Rules on Okinawa

A normal residential street on Okinawa.  Source GoogleMaps
Driving on Okinawa is a different experience.

There are many differences, both obvious and subtle, to how people drive on Okinawa.

One of the obvious differences is that people drive on the left side of the road, compared to driving on the right side in America. The steering wheel is also on the left side of the vehicle, making it sometimes a little strange and unfamiliar.

Upon traveling from Japan to the States, or the opposite, I have often tried to get into the wrong side of the vehicle, often to the amusement of those with me.

The Three Car Rule

A more subtle driving rule on Okinawa is sometimes called the 'three care rule'.

At almost any intersection on Okinawa when the light changes to red, one can often notice about three cars continuing through the intersection. It is hard to tell where this started, or why it is done, but police rarely stop people for running red lights. (that doesn't mean they won't!)

Typically there is a few seconds delay between  a light for one direction turning red, and the light for the other direction turning green. Perhaps people started running the red lights because no one was in the intersection anyway.

No matter the source of this interesting occurrence, it is important to be aware of it for this reason: You may not want to stop at yellow lights, because someone could rear-end you thinking you would go through the light.

This is especially important if there is a large truck, such as a dump truck, following behind you. If this is the case, it might be in your best interest to run the light.

The good new is, people coming from the other direction where the light has just turned green, are usually very accommodating and allow late light runners a little leeway.

Stopping on the Shoulder, when there is no Shoulder

An Example of a Car Parked on the Road.   Source GoogleMap
Most roads on Okinawa are pretty tight. if there is a shoulder on the road, it is often very small, like less than half a car width. On some of the busier roads, such as 330 and 58, there is little to no shoulder.

Yet in Japan, it is common to stop in this halfway-in-the-shoulder, halfway-in-the-road position. In fact, it seems that, as long as you put the hazard lights on, you can stop just about anywhere on the road.

Many people will stop and put their hazard lights on if they receive a phone call. A law was passed int he last few years making it illegal to talk on the phone and drive, so it is common to see cars partially pulled over, with people on the phone.

In these situations, simply look for a way to drive around the parked car. If there is no easy route around, then just wait patiently. Okinawan's don't tend to be impatient when it comes to driving, and they are usually very understanding when it comes to unnatural traffic situations.

A busy intersection on Okinawa.   Source GoogleMaps
Merging - A Warning

This isn't really an unspoken traffic rule, but it is something to keep in mind. Japanese, especially Okinawans, are quite bad at merging. For some reason they struggle with the idea of yielding and joining traffic. This is usually not a problem as most roads have long enough merging areas and not too much traffic. But in a few places I have noticed, one should really be wary.

Conclusions - Take it Easy

Traffic on Okinawa can be a bit unnerving with people changing lanes quickly, stopping, and many small streets. But if you avoid trying to be in a rush, and enjoy the tropical island around you, it should be fun and entertaining to watch how people follow some of these interesting unspoken traffic rules.