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The 7 things you never knew (but need to) about Okinawa

The unique charms of Japan’s southern islands make for an alluring proposition indeed.

 

***This article was created in conjunction with our sponsors Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau***

 

1. Okinawans live long lives

Okinawans on average live longer than most people in the world, especially women, who on average live until 90 (for men it’s 84).

It all has to do with diet, staying physically active and having a famously laid-back outlook.

Visit Ogimi, located in the north-west of Okinawa island, known as the Village of Longevity, to learn some of the secrets to living longer.

 

2. Life’s a beach, literally

Okinawa is made up of 160 islands – known as the Ryukyu Islands – so there are endless idyllic beaches to sample and lots of clear blue water to soak in.

Try snorkelling off Ishigaki or cycle to deserted beaches on tiny Taketomi, past wild flowers swarming with butterflies.

 

3. The food is totally brilliant

The Okinawans pride themselves on their individuality, and nowhere is this more evident than in their food.

They have a diet that is not only health giving and totally their own, but it tastes fabulous too.

Try Ishigaki beef, bitter melon, purple sweet potato and salt ice cream. And then there’s freeze dried pig’s face (chiragaa), a delicacy found in markets all over the islands.

 

4. Aloha shirts are all the rage

The Kariyushi shirt, introduced in 1970 to promote tourism, is Okinawa’s own version of the aloha shirt.

Reflecting the relaxed island vibe, when the G8 leaders wore them in 2000 they became a must have item.

 

5. It’s a site to behold

One of the most sacred sites in Okinawa, Sefa-utaki is where the creation goddess Amamikiyo is fabled to have come to earth to create and populate the Ryukyu Islands.

Visit early, before the tourist starts crowding the forest setting.

 

6. Good luck is everywhere

curious little statues called shisa, a cross between a lion and a dog, are everywhere you look.

Placed at the entrance of dwellings to ward off evil spirits, they are A must-have souvenir.

 

7. Karate was invented here

Legend has it that karate developed from the teachings of an Indian monk, Daruma, who travelled to the Shaolin Temple in Honan, China, to instruct the monks in physical and mental conditioning.

An Okinawan traveller brought the teachings back with him, where they developed and adapted into a unique form of martial arts.

 

More information: Go to Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau to find out more.

 

Make Okinawa your next destination and check out:

A closer look at Japan’s island life

– Okinawa: Ultimate Couples Getaway

Authentic Japan: the less-trodden path

All IT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

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This article appeared in issue 29

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