Getting in touch with islanders and different culture to know the “true face of Okinawa”
Okinawa—a subtropical paradise surrounded by the world’s most beautiful sea.
Since the ancient times, people of the island have lived closely with nature, and have fostered the wisdom of the life rooted there. The traditional culture that has been passed down despite many historical backgrounds, is full of uniqueness, unlike other countries and mainland Japan.
Why not experience the extraordinary living culture to your heart’s content to discover the “true face of Okinawa”?
See the lifestyles of Okinawa Main Island, Miyako Island and Kume Island
It is a recommended model course and a travel style that goes one step further in, to experience the extraordinary living culture of unique traditional life that has been passed down for generations and lifestyle harmonized with nature.
Naha city (southern part) first began to develop as the center of Okinawa. In 2015 Irabu-Ohashi Bridge opened, and in 2018 Paantu (an annual festival in Miyako Island) was designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage which made Miyako Island come under the global spotlight. One of the richest natures of Okinawa, Kume Island offers superb healing spots, such as spa using deep sea water. Although Miyako and Kume Islands are both part of Okinawa but each has their own custom and tradition so it is appealing for the visitors to experience different faces of the island and taste local cuisines.
This course will visit above locations and it is coordinated to experience a special journey of real living culture by interacting with local people.
To discover the history of Ryukyu from traditional crafts and food
The journey began from Naha, the southern part of Okinawa Main Island.
While preserving some aspects of the Ryukyu Dynasty, it has been introducing new cultures and is thrived with many people. Traditional handicrafts such as Tsuboya ware, Ryukyu lacquerware and Bingata, and lifestyle that still rely on markets which look like a gigantic maze, all of these confirm that the place once belonged to the Kingdom of Ryukyu. It is said that “Ryukyu” first opened up the magnificent path of trade against the world.
The energetic air that fulfills the city of tropics made me realize the subtle power of the small island.
Interacting with local people in Miyako Island where sparkling sea surrounds
Interacting with local people is one of the real pleasures of traveling. I flew to Miyako Island in search of a deeper experience. Anywhere I went, spectacular views such as Yonaha Maehama Beach also known as “the whitest sandy beach of the East” and East Henna Cape (one of the 100 best sceneries in Japan) welcomed me. A village festival called “Paantu” is held annually on the September of the lunar calendar. Muddy supernatural beings appear and spread mud everywhere – people, cars, houses, etc., to scare away evil spirits.
In a small fisherman’s town of Irabu Island, I visited houses of islanders while wondering narrow alleys that couldn’t be drawn on the map. Their hospitality made me feel warm.
“Kumi no shima” — abundant nature that is still alive to present days
After I enjoyed picking local ingredients and eating local cuisine with women of islanders in Miyako Island, I headed to Kume Island via Okinawa Main Island.
Pure white sandy beach “Hate no hama” is a paradise that floats on the emerald green ocean. The view from the Uegusuku Castle Ruins (the highest castle in Okinawa) was once called “Kumi no shima” and is considered to be the most beautiful among Ryukyu Archipelago.
Eventually, the night came and the tranquilized island was surrounded by sky full of stars.
Experience of Kume Island’s craft that weaves together memories of the beautiful journey
Kume Island has developed its own lifestyle and culture on the land of rich nature by flourishing the trade route between the continent and the kingdom.
I heard a rhythmic sound coming from somewhere, as I was drawn towards that sound and to discover “Kumejima-tsugumi no Sato”, where women weaving to make tsugumi (pongee).
The dyes are only made from the natural plants grown on the island. Flowers and animals, daily commodities that are intimate to their living become motif colors and patterns, and it is said to be producing the most beautiful work among the many tsugumi fabrics in Japan.
To end the journey, I visited a long-established sake brewery of 70 years. I was cherishing the time of once-in-a-lifetime-experience while drinking “Awamori” that made from a clean river water where fireflies still exist.
3 nights 4 days – a journey of discovering living lifestyle of Okinawa and the Ryukyu culture.
By actually seeing and experiencing their senses and spirits that have been cultivated in the rich nature, and the traditional technique that have been passed down for generations, the “true face of Okinawa” I met during this journey reminded me of the important things that I have forgotten.